By ELLEN TIAMU
LUTHERANS of the Papua District are set to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Faith in Port Moresby next month, in line with the Lutheran World Federation’s celebration of the same worldwide.
In Port Moresby, a three-day programme of events has been planned to start rolling on Friday October 27 till Sunday October 29. The actual date of the worldwide celebration is October 31, which falls on a Tuesday.
At the launch of a anniversary banner and theme song at the Sir John Guise Stadium last Sunday morning, Lutheran Church members from all over Port Moresby congregated at the outdoor stadium for church service before the unveiling of the banner by the Governor General Sir Bob Dadae who was accompanied by Member for Moresby North East John Kaupa who represented the Prime Minister.
To mark the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation, the Lutheran World Federation has also outlined a series of events, with the main theme, “Liberated by God’s Grace.” In PNG, the same theme translates to Tok Pisin as, “Kamap Fri long Marimari Bilong God.”
The four sub-themes are:
- Liberated for service,
- Salvation not for sale,
- Human not for sale, and
- Environment not for sale.
All Lutherans in the city and neighbouring areas in Central are being encouraged to join the rolling events.
How the church began
The 500th year anniversary is said to mark the year, 1517, when a young German Augustinian friar and biblical theologian, Martin Luther, disagreed with some of the teachings of the Catholic Church.
His protest was against the practice of indulgences in the Church and challenged the sacramental and penitential systems of the medieval Church. He was especially critical of the Pope’s use of indulgences to build St. Peter’s basilica in Rome in the early 1500s.
Indulgences were official church documents that could be purchased by common people to supposedly eliminate their need to stay in purgatory after they died. The Catholic Church taught that purgatory was a place of cleansing where believers atoned for their sins before going on to heaven.
Luther came up with the Ninety-Five Theses which was a list of complaints that he publicly nailed to the Castle Church door in Wittenburg on October 31, 1517. That action set in motion the so-called Protestant Reformation and marked the end of Medieval Christendom.
“In 1521, Luther was excommunicated by the church. Holy Roman emperor Charles V declared Luther a public outlaw. Eventually a bounty would be put on Luther’s head. His action changed the face of Christianity forever.
“However, as he was forced to defend his positions over the next several years, Luther eventually hammered out a theology that was at non-negotiable odds with Catholicism. His doctrine that salvation came by grace through faith in the atoning death of Jesus Christ, and not by works, became a pillar of several Protestant denominations.
“He believed that human beings do not earn their salvation by doing good works, but rather God freely offers salvation to all who believe.
“Most importantly, Luther made the Bible — “sola scriptura” or Scripture alone — the only authority for what Christians are to believe, a model nearly all Protestants follow today,” according to several articles written on him on the internet.
“Luther was a well-educated priest and monk. He enjoyed the privileges of classical learning from his youth. But a series of frightening spiritual experiences, which greatly troubled him, led him to the doorsteps of monastic life. With the encouragement of his spiritual counsellor, he took to the study of Scripture and earned his doctorate in 1512, at the age of 29, from the University of Wittenberg.
“For the following four years, he lectured on Psalms, Genesis, and the Pauline epistles in the same university. Later in life, Luther had other spiritual experiences, which altered his thinking and provided a centering point for his personal and theological reflections. Luther felt the awesome powerful presence of God in the monastery and this experience liberated him from what he felt was the righteous God’s harsh condemnation of sinful, unrighteous man. He began to have a different understanding of God, which significantly impacted his view of the gamut of the Christian life.”
“Luther’s understanding of Romans 1:17 ‘The just shall live by faith’ helped to resolve the tension he experienced within the Church and within himself. It is alleged that Luther was so moved by this verse that he inserted sola (alone) after the word “faith” in his Latin Vulgate.”
“This was Luther’s conversion, his enlightenment, the answer for which he had long struggled. Now he knew that salvation depended not on what he could offer God, but on what God had offered him in Jesus Christ. This new insight was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Luther wanted to debate the issues of indulgences, how we are saved, and what this meant for papal authority. That was the origin of his ninety-five theses.”
“The ensuing debates caused great turmoil in the Church and Luther was finally asked to recant his position at the Diet of Worms in 1521 before the emperor and Church representatives. He refused to do so with his famous reply: ‘I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me, Amen.”’
“The Reformation was, first and foremost, all about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was then, and it still is now. The task of reformation never ends, for every person, in every generation, needs to hear the good news of their Saviour from sin and eternal death, in its essence and unchanging purity.
“Liberated by God’s Grace,” is the theme of celebrations as outlined by the Lutheran World Federation.
For Lutherans, all celebrations, worship, study and engagement over the next three years will focus on how the gracious love of God, through the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, opens up opportunities for us as faithful Christians to reach out as healers and reconcilers to a world torn apart by strife and inequality.
The beginnings of Lutheran Church
Luther translated the New Testament into German in 1522, making it accessible to common people for the first time.
“By 1525, Luther had married a former nun, conducted the first Lutheran worship service, and ordained the first Lutheran minister. Luther did not want his name used for the new church; he proposed calling it Evangelical,” one article said.
“Martin Luther died in 1546. For the next several decades, the Roman Catholic Church attempted to stamp out Protestantism, but by then Henry VIII had established the Church of England and John Calvin had started the Reformed Church in Geneva, Switzerland.”
“In the 17th and 18th centuries, European and Scandinavian Lutherans began to migrate to the New World, establishing churches in what would become the United States. Today, due to missionary efforts, Lutheran congregations can be found throughout the world.”
Even though Luther is called the Father of the Reformation, he has also been dubbed the Reluctant Reformer. He did not intend to split from the Catholic Church and start a new denomination.
Reformation Day has been commemorated since 1567. Exact dates for the holiday varied until after the two hundredth celebration in 1717 when October 31 became the official date of celebration in Germany and later expanded internationally.”
Editors Note: The Lutheran Christian Faith arrived in PNG (Simbang in Morobe) in 1886, about 369 years after Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517.