Join us through the end of the church year as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, learning about the influence of the reformers in various parts of Europe. Our celebration will culminate in special Reformation Sunday worship services on October 29.
Bach Cantata for Reformation Sunday
On that Sunday, it is fitting that we include in the service the cantata composed by J. S. Bach based on the Luther hymn tune “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The Redeemer Choir will be singing this work in its original German to capture the strength and spirit of the text expressed so brilliantly by Bach’s music. Our bulletin will include an excellent English translation so listeners can grasp the words, which quote the hymn verses and add commentary that expresses deep theology in poetic and devotional language. Our Divine Service will maintain the usual structure, with the addition of six movements from Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott by J. S. Bach.
As Boyd Pherson has eloquently said: “Bach’s intention was to adorn and showcase the Service of Word and Sacrament musically….” This integration into congregational worship life is even more tightly woven with the “chorale” cantatas, where Bach used melodies that his congregation would probably know well as the basis for his work. (Throughout the Reformation Day service, we will sing several other hymns written by Luther: “From Depths of Woe,” “Holy Is God, the Lord of Sabaoth,” and “Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands.”)
A Year-Long Celebration
Our celebration began in January, with an initial focus on some of those who paved the way for the Protestant Reformation. You can read about them in this publication. Booklet: The Protestant Reformation, Pre-Reformation Period.
Our next stop along the way was a look at the Southern Reformation, specifically John Calvin and those who worked alongside him. Booklet: The Protestant Reformation, In the Time of Calvin.
Next we featured a collection of reformers such as John Knox and John Bunyan, which you can read about in this booklet: Faces of the Reformation: Recovering the Gospel.
Finally, we come to the German Reformation, and study the life and influence of Martin Luther with the booklet: Martin Luther: Father of the Reformation.
[We ar indebted to Associate Pastor Jack Smith for his research and writing of all our Reformation booklets.]
Redeemer’s Reformation Celebration
On October 31, 1517, a young Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed 95 theses (or points for formal disputation) on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This inauspicious act—a normal way of inviting academic debate on important issues—is now popularly considered to be the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Luther wouldn’t break from the Roman Catholic church for four more years; John Calvin wouldn’t show up on the scene until 1536; and there were many reform movements already underway when Luther posted his 95 Theses. So, this anniversary date is more symbolic than actual, but it does provide us, here and now, with an important touchpoint in church history.
As a church that can trace its own lineage back to the Protestant Reformation that Luther helped launch, we have determined to give significant attention to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year. We have an adult Sunday School class this fall on Calvin and Luther taught by Rev. Marcus Serven. We’ll be introducing important books, people, music, and events of the Reformation on our “Reformation Wall” in the foyer of Covenant Hall. On Sunday, October 29, we’ll cap off the year with a special liturgy for our Reformation Sunday worship services.
Although the Reformation, as a historical event, concluded around the time that the Westminster Standards were created and adopted by the English Parliament in the mid-1600’s, we are always in need of reformation. My prayer for us, as a church, is that we would continually return to the light of Scripture as we reform our doctrine, our worship, and our lives according to the Word of God. May our celebration of this anniversary not merely be a time of remembering a fabled “Golden Age” of the church; may it instead be a time when our own hearts are quickened to pursue Christ in a deeper and richer way than we have done in the past as we make use of the resources our mothers and fathers in the faith have passed down to us.
Soli Deo Gloria! Pastor Eric Landry