Why Do We Celebrate Reformation Sunday?
Posted on Oct 24, 2023 by Shari Van Baale
Every year on Oct. 31 (or on the Sunday closest to that date), we commemorate the day Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, October 31, 1517. Luther chose that date, the evening before All-Hallows Day (also known as All Saints Day), because he knew the church would be packed full of worshipers the following day and they would see it on the door when they arrived. It is celebrated in the liturgical calendar on the final Sunday of October. We wear red to represent the Holy Spirit and for the blood of the martyrs of the Christian church (those who died for their beliefs).
CLICK HERE for a link to his 95 Theses in English.
In his 95 Theses, Luther called to question a lot of the current practices of religion. According to Britannica.com, “Luther finds out that another religious leader has supposedly told followers that buying an indulgence (in other words, making a payment to the church) causes God to forgive a person’s sins. Luther writes the Ninety-five Theses, a document that explains why indulgences are wrong. Luther posts the Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church), Wittenberg, on October 31. This event will come to be considered the beginning of the Protestant Reformation — the split of Western Christianity between Roman Catholics and Protestants”
His frustration with this led him to write the 95 Theses. Luther shares that salvation is through grace and not through good works, which was the common belief in those days.
He also sought to bring the Bible to everyone. In 1518, he said the pope was not the only one who can explain the Bible. The pope told him to recant what he said, and Luther refused. After that, he was excommunicated by the pope. While in exile, he translated the New Testament into German. Prior to that, it was only in Latin, understood by few people other than the priests.
In the years following, others rise up to suggest changes in the church, using Luther’s findings as a source for their beliefs.
According to gotquestions.org, “Luther believed the Word of God was the supreme authority for the Christian faith, rather than tradition or papal decrees. In the process of bringing the Scriptures to the common person, Luther translated the Bible into German, published numerous books and sermons of biblical teachings, and composed numerous hymns based on biblical themes. Many of his hymns are still sung today.”
At Salem, we typically have Confirmation on Reformation Sunday. The Sunday before Confirmation our youth read their statements of faith, where they talk about their personal faith journey and choose a Bible verse that is meaningful to them. We celebrate them on Confirmation Day, but this year we will not, as we have no ninth graders.
But we can still celebrate the Reformation. As we reflect this Sunday on what it means to affirm our baptisms, also think about the religious reform that Luther and so many others fought for more than 500 years ago. For we would not be here practicing the religion that we do without them.
Shari Van Baale
Salem Communications Coordinator