By Tony Oliphant
MILWAUKEE (July 10, 2016) – Lutherans throughout the world will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, recognizing the momentous event when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and set off one of the most important movements in history.
On Sunday, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod officially selected a few ways in which all members are being invited to join in those celebrations for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The delegates gave thanks for the Lord’s work through The Wittenberg Project — a joint effort between the LCMS, Concordia Publishing House and the Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church (SELK) in Germany to renovate the Old Latin School in Wittenberg — in order to prepare a site for education in the history and teachings of the Reformation.
This project provides a base of operations for congregations, districts, universities, seminaries and others to enrich their celebration of the Reformation in the very city where Luther himself preached and taught. All congregations and individuals are invited to visit, pray for and provide financial support for The Wittenberg Project.
With a variety of resources at hand throughout the Synod, there are many ways that congregations can hold their own local celebrations in 2017. The Missouri Synod, both of its seminaries, CPH, Concordia Historical Institute and Lutheran Hour Ministries are all preparing resources to help congregations give thanks for the Reformation and assist in proclaiming the Gospel.
The entry point for location of these resources can be found at a Synod website, lutheranreformation.org, which provides access to bulletin inserts, biographical handouts of important Reformation figures, Bible studies, hymn studies, videos, podcasts and blog articles.
One resource highlighted in this convention is the two-hour documentary on Martin Luther jointly produced by the LCMS, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with funding assistance from Thrivent Financial. The delegates had a unique opportunity to watch an advance trailer of the program. This documentary will be shown by PBS in fall 2017 and also will be distributed through DVDs.
The resolution to use this documentary is just one opportunity to publicize the ongoing significance and importance of the Reformation — not only within congregations already familiar with Luther’s legacy, but also among their communities “so that many might hear the proclamation of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone for the consolation of consciences when and where it pleases God in those who hear the Gospel” (Res. 15-02A).
All members of the LCMS are also encouraged by the convention to commit to grow in the faith by reading through the entire Bible in 2017, recognizing that Luther’s discovery of the Gospel came through his constant immersion in the Word.
The convention also resolved to encourage studying the Augsburg Confession “individually and corporately, formally and informally, among clergy and laity alike” (Res. 15-06). This encouragement is meant to extend not only through 2017, but throughout “the next decade between the 500th anniversaries of the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses (1517) and the presentation of the Augsburg Confession (1530).”
After the convention’s decisions regarding these ways to mark the anniversary of the Reformation, the Rev. Randall Golter, special assistant to the LCMS president, remarked, “I’m very happy to hear how the church recognized the opportunity before us of marking the 500th. What a splendid way to do that with the two-hour documentary, publishing it among us and beyond us; by the reading of Scripture; and by the study of the Augsburg Confession — the basic teachings of the Christian faith.”
These celebrations are all part of the convention’s effort to encourage all pastors, church workers and laity to grow in faith as individuals and as a church body in order to be “humble and effective witnesses to the power of Christ’s forgiveness and mercy in a world that badly needs it,” (Res. 15-04) just as it was boldly and faithfully proclaimed by Luther and the Reformers. Golter explained, “This is really a moment in the life of the Lutheran Church, with an increasing hostility in the culture, to confess and preach the Reformation doctrine.”
The Rev. Tony Oliphant is pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Elmhurst, Ill.
Posted July 10, 2016
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