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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

REFORMATION IN GERMANY #2 LUTHER'S WITTENBERG

                                       WITTENBERG


Stadtkirche- Wittenberg
On our way back  to Biskirchen from Berlin  (by common consent of our family- the most fascinating city in Germany) we decided  to  take  a detour  to Wittenberg - the  town where Luther  (an Augustinian monk) had lectured at the University, and more significantly, where he had nailed his famous  "95 Theses" , to the  door of the Schlosskirche.
This event began the Protestant Reformation.
Schlosskirche - Wittenberg
I find it always  awesome to stand in a place where so much history had been made.  Although  much of what  one sees is not 'original', since a number of wars  and the "2nd law of Thermodynamics" have, since then caused much  damage to these structures,  it is nevertheless  a humbling thing  to walk where the great men have walked.
The door of the Schlosskirche , where the 95 theses were nailed
                                           LUTHER'S 95 THESES
Luther's Ninety-Five Theses, essentially  focus on  the nature of true repentance. Luther  took  the Roman Catholic practice of the sale of indulgences to task. Indulgences  were  guarantees of the forgiveness of sins  in exchange for money. These guarantees were provided by the Pope.   Confession and forgiveness  therefore became  a financial transaction rather than a matter of  genuine contrition. Luther's theses argued that the sale of indulgences was a gross violation of the original intention of confession and penance, and that Christians were being falsely told that they could find  absolution  through the purchase of indulgences.
The  Castle Church  in Wittenberg  also held one of Europe's largest collections of  holy  relics  that had been collected   by Frederik III of Saxony. At that time  the  veneration  or viewing  of relics was purported to allow the viewer to receive relief from temporal punishment for sins in purgatory. By 1509 Frederick had collected  apparently  over 5,000 relics, purportedly including vials of the milk of the Virgin Mary, straw from the manger [of Jesus], and the body of one of the  babies  massacred  by King Herod.
As part of a fund-raising campaign commissioned by Pope Leo X to finance the renovation of  St Peter's Basilica in Rome, Johann Tetzel, a Dominican  priest  started to sell indulgences in the German territory.   Even though Luther's prince, Frederick III, and the prince of the neighboring territory, George , Duke of Saxony  forbade the sale in their lands, Luther's parishioners traveled to purchase them anyway. When these people came to confession  they presented their  indulgences which they had paid for, claiming they no longer had to repent of their sins, since the document promised to forgive all their sins.
Luther became very angry  that they had paid money for what was theirs by right as a free gift from God. He felt compelled to expose the fraud that was being sold to these uneducated and superstitious people.  The Ninety-five Theses outlined the items to be discussed and issued the challenge to any and all comers.
               WITTENBERG  TODAY

Wittenberg  today is a  town of about 50 000 inhabitants, and even though Wittenberg has  an enormous spiritual  history,  and even though tens of thousands  of vistors visit Wittenberg  every year  (Wittenberg  and Wartburg  are  recognised World Heritage Sites)  one doesn't get the impression that this town is abuzz with spiritual vitality.
I  got the  impression  that the town  really  reflected   the ethos of the   buyers and sellers in the temple precincts  in Jerusalem. Way back then in the days when the Lord Jesus walked upon the face of this earth,  the temple had ceased to be the great spiritual renewal center for which it was designed by God. The big buzz in the temple  then  was commerce  - not  prayer  or worship. It appears that modern Wittenberg is trading  on its past, making money out of history  and selling Luther  relics  without embracing the red hot  faith of Luther .
"Oh Lord , in your wrath remember mercy ! "  (Habakkuk  3:2)
 

The majestic  pulpit of the Schlosskirche





"O land, land , land hear the Word of the Lord."    - Jeremiah 22:29

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