From the Pastor’s Pen
On Reformation Day & Church History
Growing up in the Lutheran school system meant that Halloween always had to take a backseat in October, because the true holiday for this month was: Reformation Day. Every year, there would be a field trip for all the other Lutheran Schools in the area to St. Mark’s for their Reformation Day pageant where we would watch Jr. High kids act out the life and times of Martin Luther. It was a pretty big deal. I was actually fortunate enough to be at seminary during the “500th anniversary” celebrations of October 31, 2017 – which as you can imagine was an event that had been talked about and planned with great anticipation since the start of that academic year.
So you can imagine my surprise when one of my professors started to complain in class that we were celebrating 13 years too early. See, while 1517 is a significant year and the 95 Theses did start Luther down the path that would lead to the Reformation, he argued that it didn’t actually occur until the Augsburg Confession was presented June 25, 1530. Now, given that I don’t think I had ever been taught anything abut the Augsburg Confession until I went to seminary, it’s not too surprising that 1530 hasn’t taken much prominence in the minds of the laity. That being said – and while I mean no disrespect to the importance of the 95 Theses – I wanted to take this opportunity to make sure you all know this marvelous document exists.
The Augsburg Confession was commissioned by Emperor Charles V who wanted to know what these “Lutherans” actually believed and taught in the hopes that this whole Reformation business could be settled and European unity restored. So Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, and Justus Jonas put together 28 articles of faith describing what it is we Lutherans confess to be the Christian faith, how it differed from Roman Catholicism (and the other reformers such as Calvin and Zwingli), and how the Scriptures supported our claims. It became the backbone of the Book of Concord, which is the entirety of the Lutheran confessions that every orthodox, Lutheran pastor is sworn to abide by as a right exposition of the doctrines contained in the Holy Bible, and it really is a beautifully laid out ordering of the Church and her mission in the world.
So, while I’m all for celebrating Reformation Day this October 31, as is tradition, I also encourage you to take a look at the Augsburg Confession as well – perhaps you could read through an article and its corresponding explanation in the Apology (Defense) of the Augsburg Confession as a devotional tool throughout this coming month. Both are available online at www.BookofConcord.org
Pastor Chad Biar