Martin Luther

October 29, 2008 at 3:33 pm Leave a comment

When October 31 rolls around we have visions of dark streets filled with tiny costumed creatures rushing to and fro carrying bags of goodies that they have collected from behind decorated doorways. Funny how this one night it’s OK to take candy from strangers but the tiny goblins are indoctrinated the other 364 days to do the opposite. Go figure…

October 31 is also a significant date for another reason. On that date about 500 years ago, Martin Luther took a hammer and nailed his 95 theses concerning indulgences to the Castle Church door in Wittenburg. The ring of his hammer strokes still echo today as a reminder of other hammer strokes heard about 1500 years earlier on the cross that Jesus was killed on. Those earlier strokes heralded a change about to come in religion where people began to follow the teachings and example of the Christ. As that religion became ‘the Church’ over those first 1500 years, it edged off course more and more, finally causing Luther’s hammer to call the church back to its original way. Luther’s enlightenment was historic but, in tandem with an historic invention, it enjoyed greater power than anything before.

The invention of the printing press in the late 1400’s allowed the Church to mass produce the forms that were used to sell indulgences (for money, sins of those living, or even dead, would be remitted and pardoned). The system evolved to be nothing more than a money mill for the Church. Hired professional ‘pardoners’ went door-to-door, playing on the occupants fear of eternal damnation to sell a certified pardon, quickly filled out one of those new printed forms. The money raised helped the church to bathe itself in a lavish, even royal, lifestyle, separating it even further from its parishioners. Luther was disgusted by this and called the Church to account. Of course he was persecuted. This possibly may have faded to a footnote in history except for one thing; the printing press.

While Luther was the spark plug, the engine that drove the ensuing reformation was the printing press. Luther’s tracts exposing the state of the Church could now be easily duplicated with the printing press and circulated to a very wide audience. The press had given volume to the protest. However, beyond those tracts, Luther’s greatest achievement was made truly historic by the printing press. He translated the Bible into German. Now, easily and quickly reproduced, anyone who could read German was able to purchase or borrow a Bible for themselves to study and interpret it. Luther and the printing press started a movement that began to chip away at the bloated, arrogant Church. People began to realize they were capable of a direct relationship with the Spirit. They started to realize that the ‘middle man’ priesthood was not needed; the true priesthood was of the people; the ministry of all believers. That realization is still happening today, but it may become a moot point. A new realization is emerging that could eclipse the old.

The Emerging Church would make Martin Luther smile. It is steering religion, or belief in Spirit, back to what Jesus was teaching: love and inclusion within all of Creation. Although there are many figures proclaiming the realization of this universalism of Spirit, there has not yet been a central figure such as Martin Luther to spark today’s engine of change. And what an engine it is. Beyond the power of the printing press, today we have instant mass communication in the form of radio, television and the Internet. It is quite possible for an idea to spread around the world in minutes. Can you imagine this powerful engine being used to unite all of humanity in the Spirit? All we need is the spark. Are you it?



Entry filed under: Wrestling With God.

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