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Reformation Sunday and Expectoration Monday


I am double barreled sick. I did the Marysville school route this morning on pain killers, Cold Eaze, and Fisherman's Friend. So watch for the news story about the epidemic cold in the children of Marysville.
So we're going to get more drugs in a few minutes. I'll eat and sleep and see how I am in the morning.

Yesterday was the Reformation Day service. I taught a class on Reformation Day. I'll post the text I wrote for the class behind the cut (it's about 80% close to all of what I actually said.)
This was my plate from the potluck. Note the diet soda.

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Tony and Gina were there which was supremely cool.

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Laurie and I.

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Tulip cookies

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Laurie made coconut squares the day before when we went to visit the Lemoses. That was a really fun night too.

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Okay. Reformation Day class text below the cut because it's very lengthy. I'm sure there aren't enough commas and Laurie says I misspelled Melanchthon, but it is what it is.


I'm addressing the topic of Reformation Day. The other day we were in the car with Tony and his girlfriend Erika. She asked us what Reformation Day is and Tony replied "It's the thing they do against Halloween."
I guess we do have to address Halloween as we all soak in it weather we like it or not. It's all around us, it's the major holiday of America this time of year. It's also not really much of a holiday, you know? If you look into the history of it, it's a mish mash. On October 31st a good deal of the western world celebrates a holiday called Halloween which seems to have devolved into a celebration of unfettered avarice, irresponsible behavior and jocular images of death. Which is a pretty good encapsilation of the collective soul of the world. It's several harvest traditions mashed with some superstitions, mixed with some occult overtones without anything specific really (and I won't debate that. Halloween was adopted by neo-pagans more than it evolved from one.) Throw in some good old fashioned American brash commercialism. You know, my brother says Halloween is about getting free candy for your children. And, in a sense, it really isn't a whole lot more than that although for the Chico State students you might replace candy with alcohol. There's a candy bar I love called the Clark Bar. It's chocolate covering kind of a nutty nugat. I could have a life time supply of Clark Bars and eat one for every meal. I could eat one every time I got hungry. I could eat until I was full of them every time I was hungry and, given a month or so, I would probably die of malnutrition.
You might begin to see where I'm going with this.
If you're anything like me (and I know I am) in this skin deep society we live in you want, in fact you kind of starve for, meaning in your holiday, means by which to glorify God in all that you do, be it in your daily life, your Christian walk, and even in your holidays. Personally, and I'm not speaking on behalf of the church here, I'm not anti-Halloween any more than I'm anti-cotton candy. But it seems very likely I will go the rest of my life never having occasion to have cotton candy again and I don't feel any the poorer for it. When I come home after working a 12 hour shift, as I did on Friday, and I haven't eaten since 2am and my wife gives me the option of having cotton candy before I go to bed or having a huge steak, potatoes au grautin, broccoli smeared in butter and garlic, a big glass of milk and sourdough bread... you get the point. Do you want a meaningless holiday or do you want a holiday about the meaning of everything?

So, what is Reformation Day? Where did it come from? What does it mean?

Come with me back to Germany in the early 1500s.
One could make an argument that the Reformation started as a response to greed. The flashpoint of the whole ideological war was Albrecht of Mainz. Put simply, dude wanted to be one of the electors of the next Pope when Popes would die (kind of like our modern electoral college.) To be an elector you had to be one of the crown princes of the Holy Roman Empire. Albrecht was a crown prince and a bishop of two diosese but not an elector yet as of the year 1515. If he could become the archbishop of Mainz he could become an elector. To become the archbishop of Mainz it was going to cost him hecka money to be paid to Rome for the position.
Now we need to go back in time about fifteen years earlier to introduce the man around whom the early Reformation revolved. Martin Luther was the son of a coal miner. They were very very poor but Hans Luther held onto every penny to try to make a better life for his son and, to be honest, in hopes that his son having a better life might lead to Hans and his wife having an easier old age. So he put Martin into law school. Martin Luther wasn't terribly interested in law, but he liked scholastic life and there was one thing in particular about it that he absolutely loved. The Library. He would wander the stacks and open books just to learn the names of the people who had written them. He adored books and there was one in particular that he discovered in a corner. A little red book that was chained to the wall so that no one could remove it from the library. A book that no one he knew owned, in fact it was highly discouraged to own a copy of the Bible as the church and specifically the Pope were supposed to be the chief interpreters of the Bible. Luther would sit and read the Bible for hours. Until then he had always thought that the Bible was a series of wise sayings and prohibitions because that's about all anyone ever heard from it from the pulpit. He was amazed to find that scripture contained so many stories.
At Law School they had an outbreak of the plague which took the lives of several of his fellow students as well as his chief examiner. Also, a very close friend of Luther's was murdered in his stay there. Needless to say, mortality is most likely something Luther thought about and scripture mixed with seeing death around him may explain a very strange reaction he had to an act of Divine Providence that changed the world.
In 1505, Luther was travelling home and found himself caught out in a terrible storm. Lightning struck trees right next to him. It's unclear but some say that the student was struck my lightning, some say he just fell off his spooked horse. Being struck by lightning would be a lot more poetic and I like to pretend that that's what happened. And really, when it comes down to it, isn't that what history is all about? So, anyway, laying on the field with smoke coming out of his ears, the law student prayed that if he were to survive this storm he would become a monk. He did survive and although his friends tried to talk him out of it, he gave away his possessions and two weeks later entered the Augustinian monastery. And then told his father. And you think there was thunder and lightning before, you should have seen Hans Luther when he heard that news!
Martin Luther's major problem with monastic life was that he took it seriously. He would confess seven days a week sometimes up to six hours straight things like "I coveted another monk's potato today" or "I felt pride over how much I've been confessing." One time the monks broke down Luther's door after he'd locked himself in his cell for three days and they found him mumbling confessions on the floor incoherantly, dehydrated, and crazed. He would throw things across the room when he'd get dark thoughts and shout "Get out of here, Satan! You have no place here! I've been baptised!" He was rabid over how much every little thing he did was a sin and, according to the church at the time, if he were struck dead at any given moment he would burn in Purgatory for his sin. Needless to say, this made things a little uncomfortable for his fellow monks.
They sent him on a pilgrimage to Rome and that made things much worse. He saw priests getting drunk on communion wine. When he went to pray at holy relics he would be rushed along because of the long line behind him. And there was a staircase in Rome which was said to be the staircase from Pilate's home where he had tried Christ. How did it get to Rome, you ask? I'm not making this up, apparently angels flew it there. So, if you crawled up the stairs, and this was a big staircase made of marble, if you said a prayer on your knee at each step and there were steps with crosses that counted extra, your act of prayer could reduce a dead relative's time in Purgatory by thousands of years. Luther got to the top of the staircase, saw the poor and infirm crawling up the stairs behind him and thought "who knows if this is true."
Before we go any further, it might be helpful at this point to go briefly into what the church taught about sin. Take a bottle of water. The water inside represents sin and you are full of it like the bottle is full of water. If you were unbaptized into the Christian faith, you wouldn't even have the cap off of the top and when you die you would go to Hell. Unless you're Dante, you're never going to get out of there and you're going to suffer for your sins forevermore.
If you were baptized, the cap comes off and you can have sin poured out. The reason you can, they believed, that Christ had purchased a sort of mystical bank called The Treasury of Merit. They would not say that Christ's sacrifice was sufficient to attone for one's temporal sins. The Treasury of Merit was full of good works that the saints perfomed above and beyond what it took to get themselves into heaven. So, say you visit a widow or a holy relic, you get a little water poured out. Of course, being people we also have a steady influx of water coming in each day. Who held the key to the vault? The Pope of course. And suppose you have a little water left in the bottom when you died. Then you get to go to Purgatory and burn off the rest of your sins in great agony and torture before going to Heaven.
Then the church began to have Crusades in Jerusalem or Turkey and they needed crusaders. They needed to build an army. So it was decided that if you, Joe Farmer, were to go on a Crusade and fight the church's fights and you died, because you died in the service of the church, you would go right to Heaven.
"But wait a minute," I hear you cry "I'm an 81 year old man and goats have eaten off both of my arms while I slept. I can't go on a Crusade. But I do sleep on sacks on money."
This is where indulgences came from. If you paid for the work of the church, it would count against your sins and you would get a little paper saying how much you'd paid off. Now, if you're living, you're going to continue to sin, so it became normal for people to buy indulgences for dead loved ones who were, presumably, burning in Purgatory and then hopefully because you're such a swell guy someone will do that for you when you're dead.. Entirely works based, you see. And entirely in the hands of humans. So you can see why Luther would be so obsessed with works and sins like coveting another monk's potato.
Not surprisingly it soon went beyond the Crusades and you could help pay for St. Peter's Basilica or, oh say, paying off Albrecht's debt to Rome for taking up the Electorate of Mainz. Which is where our story really starts.

Albrecht wanted to pay off his debt quickly, so he brought in the best salesman around. John Tetzel was a sleazy man by anyone's account. He would roll into town with his troupe, a monk who made his bastard children (I mean that literally and not as an insult to his children. Remember he was a monk) carry bits of his pyrotechnics show from town to town. Tetzel would set up in the villiage square preaching about how even now your dear departed mother who raised and cared for you is burning in agony that could be extinguished pulling her out of the teeth of God's Wrath and into the soothing balm of God's Grace if only you would part with a few coins, a small sum against burning off a lifetime's worth of sins, here today in her name, friend. Tetzel had price sheets like menus telling you how much certain sins cost to be forgiven. Tetzel even had songs like, and I'm not making this up, "As soon a coin in coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs."
Meanwhile back at the monastery news came that they were hiring professors at a newish college in Wittenberg. They were looking for a scholar to teach classes. It just so happened that the Augustinians had someone they were more than willing to part with. And Luther became a favorite of theology students in Wittenberg because of his rants against unethical and unbiblical Church practices.
Tetzel had to preach just outside of city limits because Frederick the Wise who was the crown prince in Wittenberg only had indulgences available one day a year (November 1st, All Saint's Day.) Frederick didn't want the competition of a crowd riler like John Tetzel when he was trying to sell his indulgences. But that didn't deter a lot of the people of Wittenberg travelling for a day to go throw money at Tetzel for their sins. Luther saw his poor and his sick congregation giving money they couldn't afford to spare to Tetzel out of fear. Luther's reaction to this state of things was in character with what we've already seen of Luther.
A lot of people were in Wittenberg on October 31st, 1517 in preparation for All Saint's Day. A lot of people were there when that sickly thin, pasty, high strung little monk walked up to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church. He only meant for the document he nailed to the door to start a conversation in the church among scholars over weather or not indulgences might be a bit corrupt maybe. He wrote it in Latin for that reason so that it would be for scholars and not common people. He wrote things like "Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?"
"Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial."
"The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men."
Oops.
What he didn't count on was how quickly his word spread thanks to a brand new invention and some industrious townsfolk who knew how to run a printing press and how to translate from Latin into common German. Before the week was out, all of Germany knew Luther's words and arguments. He was an unwitting celebrity and national hero overnight. Before the next month was over he was one of the most famous men currently living in Western Civilization. And there was no joy in Rome that day. The people were asking questions. Luther's words struck a very large, unspoken discontent in the collective unconscious and brought it roaring to the surface.
Besides nailing a copy to the church door, he also sent a copy to the local archbishop so that that saintly man might be made aware of these very serious theological issues. Of course, Albrecht of Mainz knew (and cared) nothing about theology and considering his position and how he aquired it, he sent the letter directly to Rome.
Rome sent back a summons for Luther to appear in Rome in 60 days. This was not good. This was like being a tech support guy for Microsoft, writing on your blog that Microsoft's methods of aquiring new product may be immoral and unfair to programmers and then getting an email to appear in Bill Gates' office (or whoever took over for Bill Gates.)
Frederick the Wise stepped in and asked Rome if, since this was a German matter, couldn't he be examined in Germany. He probably asked this because a) events were still early and hadn't escalated and b) Frederick would like to keep the most popular teacher at his university thank you very much. And Rome agreed. They sent a cardinal to meet with Luther and, well, that didn't go well. They screamed at each other. Luther demanded to be shown where he was in error. The cardinal would only say that he needed to recant. The cardinal apparently eventually mentioned that Luther denied the authority of the pope and counsils. Luther repsonded that counsils were above the pope and scripture was above all.
At the end the cardinal pulled Luther's abbot aside and told him that he needed to get Luther to recant. Joseph Von Staupitz (who was Luther's abbot) became suddenly aware of the temperature of the situation. That night he took Luther aside and released him from his vows as an Augustinian monk so that Luther could disappear and Von Staupitz could say to Rome "I'm not responsible for Luther. He is no longer an Augustinian monk. I cannot produce him and I have no idea where he might be."
At first the argument was about Indulgences. The church didn't really want a fight (a lot of powerful, wealthy men were trying to protect Luther, mainly because he was good for the Wittenberg school) or certainly not a martyr (a lot of the German proletariat were very keen on what Luther was suggesting.) The church tried to make a few concessions like denouncing and offering to punish John Tetzel (even with the suggestion of burning Tetzel at the stake. No one liked that cat's style.) The church even sent Frederick the Wise a rose made of 22 carat gold which was a sign that they were seriously considering him for the next pope. They also offered Frederick a cardinalship for Luther if Luther would only recant. I imagine you may have an idea of the sort of man Frederick the Wise was and how he responded by the simple fact that you are sitting here in a Protestant church today.
While the Church was scrambling, Luther was studying the doctrine of penance. He found that the church's idea of penance was on account of a mistranslation of scripture. What it really said was that sinners needed to change their mind, not do penance. Salvation was from faith alone in Christ alone, not from doing good things on earth or, rather, funding good things. Luther was a little surprised that the church wasn't relieved and overjoyed at this discovery. Really the whole Reformation was a battle over where righteousness comes from. Does it come to the people from God (Luther would say that scripture, being the infallible word of God, is above the Pope or any earthly institution) or does it come to the people from God by way of the Pope? In short, God, being a good and merciful God, provides a means of salvation. Who wants to trust another sinful, fallen human with that, when they can have it from God.
Although Luther himself would have spun it a little differently. He would have said the whole Reformation was over human kind's inability to come to God or understand the scripture at all on their own understanding, but only by the help of a sovereign God. Truth is from God, not from the church. One of the other main points Luther came to was the authority of scripture as the word of God. He translated the Bible into the common German language so that the people, not just the preists, could read God's word. Sola Scriptura, the word of God alone.
Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, " THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
Galatians 3:11

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."
2 Timothy 3:16-17

Luther's entire argument was over who controls salvation, is it God or is it humankind and God? Luther knew and taught very vocally that scripture teaches that salvation comes by faith alone in Christ alone and that faith is a gift that God gives to his elect. On the subject of election and the meaning of the Reformation, Luther wrote to Erasumus in The Bondage of the Will "In this, moreover, I give you great praise and proclaim it- you alone in pre-eminent distinction from all others, have entered upon the thing itself; that is, the grand turning point of the cause; and have not wearied me with those irrelevant points about popery, purgatory, indulgences, and other like baubles, rather than causes, with which all have hitherto tried to hunt me down,- though in vain! You, and you alone saw, what was the grand hinge upon which the whole turned, and therefore you attacked the vital part at once; for which, from my heart, I thank you. For in this kind of discussion I willingly engage, as far as time and leisure permit me. Had those who have heretofore attacked me done the same, and would those still do the same, who are now basting of new spirits, and new revelations, we should have less sedition and sectarianism, and more peace and concord. - But thus God, by the instrumentality of Satan, avenged our ingratitude!"
Luther was tried again in Leipzig with similar results. The counsil accused Luther of being a follower of John Hus who was burned at the stake by the church alomst 100 years prior for speaking out against indulgences. Luther took a day, read up on Hus, came back to the counsil and said that he thought John Hus had been right. So, Pope Leo X excommunicated Luther. And then Pope Leo X died. Had he not died at that point, things may have gone in a very different direction. In April of 1521, there was a meeting of the electors in Worms (I'm sure you've heard of the Diet of Worms. Diet means meeting of electors) where Luther was tried for the last time before Charles V who was emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
Frederick the Wise was promised safe passage to and from Worms for Luther. Bear in mind, this is a rather rustic monk who had never seen a Holy Roman Emperor. Worms was packed with people to see Luther's trial. This was to be not only one of the defining moments in his life, but in fact one of the most defining moments in all of church history. When Luther showed up, here's what happened. Johannes Eck stood in front of a table which was covered with the collected works of Martin Luther. All of his books were spread out on the table. Eck said, "Martin Luther, are these your books?"
Luther said "yes, they are."
Eck said, "Do you recant what is written in them?"
Luther said that he would need to consider the matter. They gave him until the next morning.
Luther came back the next day and Eck repeated the two questions of the first day. Luther responded "They are mine, but they are not all of one sort." Some were devotional readings, expositions on Psalms and the Lord's Prayer and certainly he would not, could not recant of those. Some were attacks on specific people, detractors and those against his Thesis, and Luther said that he was sorry for his sometimes harsh tone and if he could be shown in scripture where he was in error he would reject them. And some were about abuses and lies of the Church and he would by no means recant of what he said against those lies and abuses.
And before all of those people, the electors, the emperor, the common folk and clergy, Luther lifted his eyes and said,
"Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me, Amen!"
The Diet of Worms issued and Edict which read "For this reason we forbid anyone from this time forward to dare, either by words or by deeds, to receive, defend, sustain, or favor the said Martin Luther. On the contrary, we want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic, as he deserves, to be brought personally before us, or to be securely guarded until those who have captured him inform us, whereupon we will order the appropriate manner of proceeding against the said Luther. Those who will help in his capture will be rewarded generously for their good work."
Of course, Luther was promised safe passage to and from Worms, but on the way back he was abducted. His carriage was besieged and he was kidnapped. By Frederick the Wise who hid Luther in safety for two years. Luther used that time to do another thing that would forever change the world. He used those two years to translate the Bible into German, the language of the common people. No more would the Bible be hidden in libraries in esoteric language and chained to the wall. It would be in the hands of the people.
There is a lot more and I've only focused on Luther because he was the one who nailed the paper to the door on that day in 1517. I highly encourage you to look into more of the rich heritage and history of the Reformation. After this came John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, John Knox, Philip Melanchton, and many many other Reformers. They bicker and fight, they have a lot of flaws, some are killed by the Catholics, some live a very long time to the consternation of the Catholics. There were different views of baptism, communion, liturgy, music, ministry and any number of other issues that profit any Christian to know about in detail. There are Puritans. There is a wonderful heritage. Read about the Reformers. You will be so blessed when you do.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Salvation belongs to the Lord. He calls us to Him. He forgives us our sins. We have no works of our own to boast in. We were walking dead people and God, in His infinite mercy, raised us through Christ from the dead and into eternal life. We are not saved through our works, we are saved through Christ's sacrifice for us, that even while we were all equally undeserving sinners, He attoned for the sins of the believer forever.
Rejoice, fellow believer. Celebrate Reformation Day.




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Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
pdxgroucho
Oct. 28th, 2008 06:43 pm (UTC)
Good write up.

I liked "goats have eaten off both of my arms while I slept."
(Anonymous)
Oct. 28th, 2008 07:55 pm (UTC)
WHAT!?!? no one saved me a coconut square!!!!!
-Gina
(Anonymous)
Oct. 29th, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC)
Paul, I don't know if this question--"Do you want a meaningless holiday or do you want a holiday about the meaning of everything?"--is original to you or not, but it sure is a good one! I would like to borrow it for the next 20 years, if I may.

This is a very good talk/article on the Reformation, and one I hope to share with friends and family. You're a good writer, and so is your wife. What a great team!

Hope you are feeling better. Blessings to you.
possumbane
Oct. 30th, 2008 02:06 am (UTC)
Wow, thanks! Yeah, that's my line. Use it freely!
(Anonymous)
Oct. 29th, 2008 08:07 pm (UTC)
from Jeri...sorry!
couragetotremble.wordpress.com
Oct. 29th, 2008 10:52 pm (UTC)
Good biography
A good biography of Luther that is simple and fun to read. But is packed with information at the same time. There is enough in this article for God to use to open someone's heart, and there is plenty to encourage God's people. May I submit it for publishing in a monthly magazine of a group here in Auckland? Laurie can email the yes or no to me. :)
possumbane
Oct. 30th, 2008 02:06 am (UTC)
Re: Good biography
Laurie will also send you an email I'm sure, but yes, please do submit it. And thank you!
(Anonymous)
Oct. 31st, 2008 03:07 am (UTC)
Thanks for coming over. It was fun! Laurie, those squares were GREAT!!!
(Anonymous)
Oct. 31st, 2008 03:08 am (UTC)
Whoops.

That was me. :-)

Ashley L.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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