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WHAT HAPPENED IN THE REFORMATION? 

 

Martin Luther posted his “Ninety-Five Theses” in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517 and the resulting debate about Christian teaching and practice led to changes that have shaped the course of Western Christianity for almost 500 years. At the heart of these wide-reaching changes was a deep conviction that God’s mercy or grace in Jesus is given freely to all. When Luther and others learned to trust God’s mercy with “a living, daring confidence,” they discovered in that faith the freedom to give themselves generously, lovingly in all of life’s undertakings with everyone they met.

 

The changes began with a critical look at confession and forgiveness, preaching and the sacraments — what Luther called the “means of grace.” The sale of indulgences, the practice of penance, the content of preaching, the administration of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper — all the restrictions that impeded the message of God’s mercy from being heard and received fully by all came under close scrutiny. Repeatedly, Luther made changes and took initiatives to give full and free expression to the gospel, the message of God’s liberating mercy in Jesus Christ. He translated the Scriptures into German so that ordinary believers could hear the Word of God in their everyday language. He composed many hymns including “A Mighty Fortress” (based on Psalm 46) that put the Word of God to music, the language of the heart. He preached for the people in Wittenberg in simple, everyday terms, and he used those sermons as the basis for teaching resources that parents and local pastors could use — his Small and Large Catechisms.

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