2017: The Year of Luther
Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This is considered the beginning of the Reformation, the greatest religious movement in western Christianity. Throughout 2017, we will be learning and celebrating our heritage and history as part of the Lutheran movement.
One of the driving visions of the Reformation was the emphasis on scripture. Whereas many were unfamiliar with scripture, it was Luther translating the Bible into German that allowed regular people to read the Bible for themselves. So, this year we will be offering different ways for you to engage the scripture.
We have a group that plan to read the entire Bible during 2017. There are such One-Year Bibles available for purchase and if you’d like to join this group, you can either purchase such Bible or go to www.oneyearbibleonline.com to see the reading plan and use your own Bible.
Another Reformation vision was the “priesthood of all believers” and this emphasized the laity leading with each other in ministry. I am excited that we will be offering Disciple I and Disciple IV with lay leaders this year as part of our Luther 500 observance. Look for information on these courses which will begin after the new year.
There will be a lay-led “Luther Book Club” throughout the year as well. The first book that our group will be reading is Luther: The Reformer by James Kittleson.
As lead teacher and pastor, I will be leading various Lutheran themed studies throughout the year, including Together By Grace: Introducing the Lutherans, How Lutherans Interpret the Bible, and a study of The 95 Theses. Some of these will take place on weeknights, in homes, and perhaps even as part of a weekend learning conference.
Throughout the year, in Adult Forum, we will be exploring key themes and history of the Reformation, our Lutheran theology, and how this applies to our continuing witness as Lutheran Christians today. I will be using a learning guide developed by the North Carolina Synod for this special purpose. Themes will include: Reformation History, Martin Luther, Lutheran Theology, Worship and Liturgy, Lutheran Ethics, Lutherans in American and the World.
During our midweek Lenten services, we will be gathering around the theme of the Small Catechism, which Luther wrote to help teach the faith in the home. Each week we will consider the key learnings of the catechism – the 10 Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
We will have some special music concerts during the year as well. On Friday, March 10, the Thiel College choir, an ELCA college in Greenville, Pennsylvania, will be singing at Bethel as part of their Spring break music tour. Additionally, our own Richard Jeric will be performing a Reformation themed concert on Sunday, October 8.
Each of our ministry board areas will be considering how they can make our Luther 500 observance a part of their ministry area. Be on the lookout for ways that we will be serving, praying, worshiping, and playing as part of the Reformation year celebration.
Bryan Jaster, our youth minister, is also looking at the ways that our youth will be involved in this observance as well. From “Luther” comic-books to servant events to Cross-Generational learning, our youth will be very active as well in our year-long study.
Also, 19 of us will be heading to Germany in late August for a 12-day tour of Germany and other Reformation sites, including Wittenberg, Wartburg, Erfurt, Prague, Munich, and Berlin. The trip is entitled, “In the Footsteps of Martin Luther and Dietrich Bonhoeffer” because we will learn not only about Luther and the Reformation, but Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and even J.S. Bach.
Over the weekend of October 7-8, we will be having a “Bethel Octoberfest” in our Bethel Park.
The best part of being a Lutheran Christian is that we are “ever-reforming”, meaning that the activity of God’s Holy Spirit is always at work, leading and guiding us toward God’s preferred future for our lives and the world.
I will be keeping this vision at the forefront of all that we do this year and ask your prayers as we move into our future with courage, faith, and eager anticipation of God’s surprises!
Sola fides, Sola gratis, Sola scriptura!