In the time of the Renaissance, the Catholic Church observed November 1 as a day to honor the saints of the church, along with those who had died and hopefully pressed on to heaven. In case you had any doubt that your loved one had entered the pearly gates, you could purchase an “indulgence” which would limit their time in purgatory. This was only one of the 95 points Martin Luther was addressing when he posted his litany on the church door on October 31, 1517. It is noteworthy that he posted his thesis on that particular day. It was the night before All Saints Day and many would be attending the church the next day and be sure to read them.
This was a time of superstition – a time when fear of death was a reality, because of the plague which ravaged Europe. People were very vulnerable to any kind of hope for the future. Witch craft and the evil arts of the devil offered some of them satisfaction, but no real hope. They were seeking spiritual help wherever they could find it. The church should’ve been their sanctuary, but it had become corrupt with time and was more interested in filling its coffers than offering free forgiveness. In a way, our time today is much like that. People seem to be searching for something spiritual to overcome their daily struggles. Many are simply looking for a life preserver to save them. Most folks seek something to hang onto – something greater than they are.
The Renaissance was moving across Europe. In England, King Henry, the Eighth, dissolved his connection with the Roman Catholic Church because of their stand on divorce. It wasn’t convenient for his particular life style to be held captive to these rules. In Germany, Martin Luther was a monk in the church – dedicated to prayer and repentance. Nothing seemed to calm his spirit. He didn’t feel worthy enough to approach God, much less to confess his sins. He prayed constantly and attended confession every day with a list of sins that would go on for hours.
I’m a Lutheran. I’m not particularly proud of some of the things Luther said during his time on earth. He was often stoic and retained some of his feelings of never being good enough. Even his wife wondered why Luther was going around with such a long face. She asked him if God had died and that was the reason.
I’m a Lutheran who grew up feeling unforgiven. Like Luther, I never felt I was good enough. My sins seemed to great to be taken from me. No matter how hard I prayed, I felt my prayers were in vain, because of the image of God was shrouded in anger.
I’m a Lutheran still. I now believe that my sins have already been forgiven, not by anything I have done, but by the grace of God. That fact brings me great joy. I am finally at peace that heaven waits for me when I die. Instead of an angry judge, I now view God as a loving Father.
Luther was just a piece of the machinery that set about change in what had become corruption in the church. In a way, he was a renaissance peaceful protester with a point to make. He made religion available to the common man through the printing press. He accomplished many things, but he was simply a man devoted to the truth of God’s Word.
I will die a Lutheran, but really it doesn’t matter. I’m just a follower of Christ – redeemed by Him alone. His Word, the Bible, reminds me that through Him I am free from my sins. I will at last join all the saints that have gone before me.
HAPPY ALL SAINTS DAY AND REFORMATION DAY TOO!