Reformation

3 Things to Remember when Teaching about the Reformation

Pete Jurchen Teaching in the Parish Leave a Comment

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Reformation season is upon us! It is a great time to be a Lutheran, as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses on October 31. Many of our congregations have found their own ways to celebrate this occasion, including special meals, dramas, events, and worship services.

Perhaps you’re wanting to do something special for teaching the Reformation in a Bible class or in Sunday School over the next couple of weeks. Now’s the time to do it, right? Take a look at the free downloadable resources CPH has produced for use in the congregation. These can be found here. Really, check them out (there are good, useful activities and resources).

I guess the question now is, how do we do this right? How do we go about teaching the fundamental truths of the Reformation without confusing people or getting off track? After all, in most of our parishes, many learners don’t have the kind of historical background knowledge of sixteenth-century German theology and politics as, say, LCMS pastors. What can we do to celebrate cultural and historical heritage while remaining true to the original message of the Reformation? I’ve written down three food-for-thought statements to consider.

The Reformation is about Christ.

Yes, we can remember the work and life of the great reformer Luther and the others that followed. It’s important to do so. But let’s not forget that Luther wanted people to look to Christ, not to himself. And for good reason, right? The Reformation was all about refocusing people on the Gospel. The point of the movement was to reveal the true message of Christ’s mission to reclaim the world. Salvation by grace, through faith, not through works. A message of hope and joy in the midst of a broken world full of people who were oppressed by false teachings that pointed to human works for the assurance of salvation. Let’s remember, in the midst of the celebration, that the Reformation was, and still is, all about Jesus.

The Reformation is about the Word of God.

Let’s remember that the Reformation was all about reclaiming the Word of God.  In our teaching and in our words from the lecterns, pedestals, and pulpits, do the people in our pews hear this? Do they realize that the Reformation is about God’s Word for their lives? God’s Word of Law and Gospel? God’s Word that shines light on their daily responsibilities? God’s Word to be held in their hands, read with their eyes, listened to with their ears? Is our message during the Reformation emphasizing this, or are people hearing only about historical documents and events? Luther translated the Scriptures into the common language so that everyone could read, hear, and touch them for themselves. Does our teaching reflect the same passion for the Word?

The Reformation is about the kingdom of God.

Please hear me out on this. Luther and the reformers wanted to focus people back on Christ and His mission to die for the sins of the world. We can and should celebrate the Reformation in fun and creative ways, and there’s nothing wrong with including some historical German food and fun in the mix. We need to remember, though, that being of German heritage isn’t equal to being Christian. Of course we know that, but are our actions in our parishes teaching a hidden curriculum instead? If all we do to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is to hold a German meal, then we’re really teaching something different from Christ and His mission to restore all of creation through the cross. The Reformation was about God’s plan to save all those who have faith in His promises, and this mission is still active throughout the world today. In fact, there are many more Lutheran Christians living in Africa than in the USA or Europe. Let’s not confuse people by making Reformation celebrations all about German history when the Lutheran message is so much greater than one ethnic group or one moment in time.

There you go, a basic list of things to keep in mind as you go about teaching the Reformation in the weeks ahead. Have fun, celebrate, remember, and rejoice. Also, keep your eyes fixed on what’s most important, Christ crucified for you!

Peace:

Pete

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About the Author

Pete Jurchen

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Rev. Pete Jurchen is Editor of Curriculum Resources at CPH. In addition to his MDiv, he has a MS Ed. in Curriculum Leadership and enjoys the pursuit of lifelong learning. He is honored to serve the congregations of the LCMS by equipping and partnering with its households in engaging their God-given vocations. He lives in Imperial, MO, with his wife, Deb, and his four children. You can read his latest posts here.

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