By Dr. Jeffrey Leininger
Both the Church and society link the beginning of the Reformation to All-Hallows Eve, 1517, when Martin Luther is said to have nailed 95 theses (or propositions) to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany.
Although some historians dispute the historicity of this particular event, 2017 has been heralded by individual Christians, congregations and even entire countries as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
For Lutherans, the October 31st date must be seen as the beginning, but certainly not the end. We observe the 500th not simply because an Augustinian monk offered some provocative ideas for public debate. More importantly, the questions raised and the uproar unleashed forced Martin Luther to wrestle with the ecclesiastical authorities, the scriptures, with himself, and even with God.
The resulting struggle (anfectung in German) led him to renew the Church’s understanding of faith, grace, scripture, and the work of Christ. It raised in him the most important of all questions: Where can I find a gracious God?
For Lutheran Christians the greatest significance of the anniversary of the Reformation will always be found in Luther’s recovery of the Christian gospel: the grace and love of God revealed only in the work of Christ and given freely for all.
Concordia-Chicago has filled the anniversary year with a series of engaging events on behalf of the Church. On Monday, March 20, a Reformation Symposium will be held at 7 p.m. on campus and is open to all.
Nationally known experts in the fields of history, theology, catechesis, the fine arts, education and politics will lead an informed discussion on the Reformation’s impact and ongoing legacy.
A collegium of scholars will be on campus, including President Larry Rast (CTSFW), Mickey Mattox (Marquette University), Mary Jane Haemig (Luther Seminary, St. Paul), Ron Rittgers (Valparaiso University), Vincent Bacote (Wheaton College), and moderated by Kurt Stadtwald (CUC).
It is appropriate that Concordia holds such an event. The Reformation began at a university. Martin Luther was a popular professor of theology at Wittenberg in 1517 and remained so his whole life. It was also in the university setting where the movement was debated, challenged, but ultimately sustained and propagated globally. The life of the Church and of higher education have been inexorably linked for 500 years.
There are activities planned on campus throughout the anniversary year for all: congregations, families, schools, children of all ages, academics and laypeople. Let’s celebrate, learn, discuss, and engage with each other as we remember not just one of the most important events in human history, but God’s gifts to us of enduring faith, abiding grace and abounding love.
Concordia University Chicago is at 7400 Augusta, in River Forest, Illinois. The Symposium will be held in the Chapel of Our Lord. For more information and directions, go to cuchicago.edu/reformation and click on “Reformation 500 Symposium.”
Watch for Reformation 500 Events Coming Up This Year
Concordia University Chicago is opening its campus to everyone for Reformation 500 events on campus in River Forest, Illinois. Join in, learn, and let’s celebrate together.
- Reformation Symposium – Monday, March 20, 7 p.m.
- Let the Books Tell the Story: J.S. Bach’s Bible and Reformation-era Rare Books on Display during October 2017
- Reformation 500 Congregational Celebration Day co-hosted by NID – Saturday, October 28, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; festival worship begins at 2 p.m.
- The Reformation at 500: A Public Conversation with President Matthew Harrison (LCMS), President Philip Ryken (Wheaton College) and Cardinal Blase Cupich (Archbishop of Chicago) – Monday, October 30, 7:30 p.m.
Watch for more details here and at CUChicago.edu/reformation.