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FROM MY STUDY WINDOW - Our Reader writes

Dear Friends

The 31st October marks a very special anniversary: It will be 500 years since

Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in

Wittenburg, Germany, an event which “technically” launched the Reformation.

Over the next month I am sure there will be plenty of media coverage and

debate about the Reformation and Luther’s part in it, but here are a few thoughts

of mine.

I say “technically” because it was one of those occasions when many threads

started to come together, so that Luther lit the blue touch paper to other events

going on in Northern Europe. On that occasion Luther was simply looking to

discuss aspects of theology including the sale of indulgences : Money paid to

reduce the length of time a sinner remained in purgatory after death. The

practise, which had become abused by the church, was being used to fund the

papacy and line the pockets of bishops and rulers, and it has no scriptural basis.

What gave Luther’s writing such impact was the printing press. Although this

invention was 60 years old it had recently developed methods for the rapid and

cheap publication of pamphlets. So it was that within a very short time (2 weeks

it is said) all Germany had read his theses. It is easy to see that this in itself

would have been as revolutionary as the development of email today. It was

through careful study of the books of Romans and Galatians that Luther came

to arguably his greatest insight, that it is through faith, and Faith alone that we

are saved. Indulgences, religious trappings, relics or good works cannot justify

us before God, only our faith and His grace. It is only by God’s loving action

in the death and resurrection of Christ that we are put right with God.

Amidst arguments and discussions, one of the points of agreement made by

Luther and the other reformers; Zwingli in Switzerland and Calvin in France

was the priority and authority of the Bible. God has spoken, and continues to

speak to his people through the words spoken to prophets, apostles and Jesus

himself. It’s a fundamental belief that God’s living Word speaks to each of us

in our own situation. At that time the bible was hardly ever read and then it

was interpreted by the priest, so few people actually knew what it said. The

work of theologians like Luther, who translated the bible into German,

Wycliffe who had earlier translated it into Middle English (handwritten) and

Henry VIII who got it printed and placed in every church , made it possible for

all believers to read it for themselves.

You can see why in reformation churches the pulpit, used for preaching and

bible reading takes pride of place - often centrally in the main body of the

church. I do not think it is any coincidence therefore, that the last Sunday in

Trinity, which falls at the end of October, is celebrated in our churches as “Bible

Sunday”. Our bibles are absolutely fundamental to our faith, teaching God’s

ways, directing our thoughts, giving us strength in times of difficulty and

showing us how to love. Abraham Lincoln wrote: “I am busily engaged in the

study of the Bible. I believe it is God’s word because it finds me where I am.”.

I suppose that is the key to what happened through the reformation: a

development of personal faith, mediated through the bible, in which God finds

us “where we are”.

We dishonour those who gave their lives to ensuring that the Bible is available

to us unless we take Bible reading and bible study seriously. The collect for

Bible Sunday exhorts us to “Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Holy

Scriptures”. It is not an optional extra to our faith. Happy reading!

With love and prayers from your Reader,

Helen Hunter