By FREDAH TAIMBARI
On 31st of October every year, Lutherans around the world including Papua New Guinea organize small activities within their congregations to commemorate Reformation Day. This year was a bit different and significant as it marked the 500th anniversary of the reforms by Martin Luther.
Reformation began in 1517, when Dr. Martin Luther, a Professor of Theology at the University of Witternberg nailed 95 theses on a church door in Witternberg to debate and correct the teachings of indulgences and purgatory based on the word of God in Romans 3: 19-22.
Luther argued that using the scripture or the word of God to conduct businesses like indulgence, or to commercialize the work of God for greed of money was unbiblical and that man cannot pay for their sins and obtain the Grace of God. That is the purpose Dr. Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to lay the foundation of truth and correct the wrong teachings and practices within the church.
But the impact of these 95 theses was enormous for that time and led to Reformation. It was not Luther’s initial plan or intention to break away and form a new church. However, it was the movement and division of people that finally became the deciding factor of reforming a church.
On Tuesday this week (31st October, 2017) celebrations were held across the globe to commemorate 500 Years of Reformation.
In Germany, where it all began in 1517, activities such as exhibitions, festivals, concerts etc, were staged to give prominence to this historical event.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea (ELCPNG) also joined 142 Lutheran World Federation Member churches to observe this occasion.
Its 17 districts organized lead up activities which culminated in main celebrations on Sunday.
In Port Moresby, the 500 Years Reformation Anniversary Committee of the Papua District under the leadership of Kingston Alu consolidated a 3-day program for its 12 Congregations which began on Friday Oct 27 to Sunday Oct 29.
The 3-day program featured various colourful performances by children, youth and women ministries and a bible study presentation was held on Friday at the Sir John Guise Stadium.
On Saturday, it was sports and item presentations (choir, mime dancing, traditional singsing) at the Kirap Bek Congregation Church at Gerehu . The main celebration was held on Sunday at Stadium, the highlight of which was the formation of Luther’s Rose, or Luther Seal as it is also called.
All celebrations of the 500th Anniversary around the world have been centred around the main theme: “Liberated By God’s Grace” supported by three sub-themes: Creation Not for Sale and Salvation Not for Sale; and Human Beings Not for Sale.
In his sermon to hundreds that gathered at the stadium on Sunday, Guest Preacher Pastor Sere Muhuyu shared that Reformation was all about being set free in the Word of God.
“We have been liberated in God’s words. Nogat man bai tok nogat long dispela (No man can deny this),” he said.
Narrowing his speech to the three sub-themes, Pastor Sere said creation is something that people depend on but because of development it is being sold as a commodity.
“We talk about injustice and this is injustice to the society,” he added.
Salvation he said is a free gift from God and should not be bought adding that for someone to become righteous it is through his/her faith in Jesus.
On the third sub-theme, he stressed that human beings were made in God’s image yet many endure a lot of suffering.
“We are to value another person just as we are valued by God, “he added.
The outgoing President of the Papua District, Reverend Qogi Zonggoreng shared similar sentiments saying 500 years of reformation is the celebration of Jesus.
“We are liberated by God’s Grace and our celebration today is to say thank you for what God has done, “Reverend Qogi said.
One of the main benefits of Reformation has been the translation of the bible in different vernaculars. Previously, only those who spoke Latin could read the bible. But when Luther translated the bible into the German language, it enabled many more people to read the bible in their own languages.
This was something that Governor General Grand Chief Sir Bob Dadae was appreciative off stating, “We must say thank you to God because one of the benefits of reformation is we can read the word of God in our own language and have direct communication with God.”
Reformation is not just about celebrating an occasion that occurred 500 years ago but also the ongoing practice of bringing the gospel to others.
- The writer is a freelance journalist.