Reformation Day is commemorated on October 31, by churches of the reform tradition. It is often transferred to the Sunday before. Here at St. Paul’s, we will commemorate the Reformation on Sunday, October 29. It serves as an opportunity for us to honour Martin Luther and other reformers of the sixteenth century, and I suppose reformers of any time.
The 95 Theses
It was 500 years ago, on October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany. This wasn’t the first attempt at correcting perceived errors of the Church, but Martin Luther’s actions began what became known as the Protestant Reformation.
Luther chose the night before All Saints Day because he knew that many people would be attending church the next day and would read his statements of concern about the church as they entered for worship.
The issues for Luther revolved around three main concerns: first, the power exercised by the church in Rome over the affairs of the church in Germany and other places; secondly, his opposition to the selling of “indulgences” for the forgiveness of sin; thirdly, the concern that too much money was being taken from the church outside of Roman for the building of a lavish cathedral in Rome.
Luther taught that, according to the promises of scripture, the Holy Spirit works in our hearts to speak God’s Word to us and that we receive God’s grace through our faith in Christ. This is the truth that makes us free. Our life in the Body of Christ is shaped by this gift of freedom.
In Canada, the Anglican Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church have been in full communion since 2001. This means that while each church maintains its own autonomy, it also fully recognizes the catholicity and apostolicity of the other. In practical terms, this means that Anglicans and Lutherans in Canada can share the Eucharist together, use each other’s liturgies, and participate in each other’s ordinations. Anglican and Lutheran clergy may also serve interchangeably in either church.