Go back to normal view
There is no evading a prevailing current fashion towards using social media. Whether for good or otherwise, millions have jumped on a bandwagon so that they can express personal thoughts, say what they want ( usually without first engaging their intellect ) or simply bore everyone with their effete lifestyle. It is all just a bit too ‘instant’ for me. There’s too much ‘knee-jerk reaction’ and an uncomfortable amount of ‘gut-feeling’ for my liking. But there has always been some form of social media.
One form of social media from the 16th century had a major impact then and it shaped the way we are now. A monk who lived in central Germany pinned up a document on the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg. He was simply following the conventions of social media in that town. If someone had paid a lot to the vintner for wine then found it was sour or if one family was fed up with another family whose dog’s perpetual yapping disturbed their peace then it was common practice to write a notice and attach it to the church door where passers-by could read it. I imagine that many such notices went unheeded. One notice was not dismissed though and, in fact, it started a revolution which we know best as The Reformation.
Martin Luther was the author whose document caused such a furore. He had a good way with words because he had attended university and gained a doctorate which was to have led him into the legal profession. Theology had always held a fascination for him, though, and law seemed increasingly unsatisfactory. Moreover, one of his tutors impressed upon young Martin a need to test everything for himself rather than accept what others told him.
In a strange event when a thunderbolt landed on the road a few feet away from where he was riding his horse, Martin felt convinced that God had spared his life for better things than the legal profession and he made up his mind to become a monk. Entering a monastic life in 1505 enabled him to spend many hours studying Scripture amongst an influential group of men who felt that less time should be spent thinking about personal sins but more time ought to be taken up with considering the life and work of Jesus. Eventually it led him to conclude that true repentance did not involve self-inflicted penances and punishments but rather arose from a change of heart.
When Pope Leo Xth needed money to build St Peter’s Church in Rome he sent out agents who encouraged people to buy an indulgence ( forgiveness ). This angered Luther so much that he wrote the "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences", which came to be known as the Ninety-five Theses. Townsfolk in Wittenberg who normally paid little attention to notices pinned on their church door were unusually interested in Luther’s document and the seeds of change were sown.
You and I are beneficiaries of that legacy. As with other churches across the world we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther’s action on the first Sunday of November. In your prayers remember those like Luther who have steered the Church to be nearer to Jesus and ask how you may be part of that same process today.
Your Minister and friend,