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We the People

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Politics and civil commentary with community columnist John Eyster.

John W. Eyster: 500th anniversary of "95 Theses"

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By John W. Eyster
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tradition teaches that on October 31, 1517, Dr. Martin Luther, posted “95 Theses” on the door of the All Saints' Church, Wittenberg, Germany. October 31 is All Saints Eve, the evening before All Saints' Day in the Christian year. (Our popular culture uses the contraction, “Halloween.”)

It is important to note that the “95 Theses” were academic statements for disputation/debate and not worded, in general (perhaps Thesis #86 is an exception) as confrontational to the Roman Catholic Church. I encourage you to read the “95 Theses.” The theses were focused on the selling of indulgences by the Roman Catholic Church. This practice was being abused in Germany, especially by Dominican friar and papal commissioner, Johann Tetzel. There was a kickback scheme for the benefit of Albrecht von Brandenburg, Archbishop of Mainz which added to Luther's opposition.

World Lutheran Leaders and Pope Francis led a Prayer Service at Lund Cathedral, Sweden 1-year ago launching this 500th year of observance and celebration. October 2017 has been a special time of 500th year celebrations with several planned here in WI. Lutheran and Roman Catholic bishops will share a Prayer Service at Ascension Lutheran Church, Milwaukee from 7 – 8:30 pm on Tuesday, October 31. For details, check Prayer Service to Commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. The Janesville Gazette provided information about celebrations in Janesville with Catherine W. Idzerda's article, “Faith and grace alone: 500th anniversary of the Reformation commemorated Sunday” with details about South-Central Synod of Wisconsin's celebration on Saturday, November 4 at 7 pm at First Lutheran Church, Janesville.

Serving as Guest Pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Janesville on Sunday, October 15, I had the special privilege of a dialogue with Dr. Martin Luther as portrayed by Dr. James Horton. Dr. Horton was costumed as Luther. With the benefits of his in-depth study of Luther, Dr. Horton responded to my questions as we shared with the congregation Dr. Luther's thoughts and actions. Dr. Horton enriched the portrayal with his dramatic articulation and gestures.

The message notes distributed to the congregation reviewed the chronology of Dr. Martin Luther's life from the segment of Luther's life chosen by Dr. Horton and myself.

Dr. Martin Luther (Nov. 10, 1483 – Feb. 18, 1546) age 63.

1511 – Luther sent to Rome as a representative of the Augustinian Order on business. Age: 28.

Shocking luxury of the Pope. Lack of spiritual significance. Luther disenchanted by the “Holy City” and repeated the Italian proverb, “If there is a hell, Rome is built over it.”

1517 – Oct. 31 – 95 Theses – Age: 34.

1518 – Salvation by grace alone – Romans 1:17 – Age: 35.

Debate in Augsburg rather than Rome.

1519 – Martin Luther – Johann Eck debate.

1520 – 6/15 - Luther excommunicated by Papal Bull from Pope Leo – Age: 37.

12/10 – Luther burned Papal Bull in bonfire. Age 38. (Birthdate: 11/10.)

1521 – 1/3 – Luther declared a heretic.

4/17 – Diet of Worms – repudiate – Luther, “Here I stand…”

Escape to Wartburg Castle incognito – translate NT into German (vernacular)

Anyone and everyone able to read New Testament!

After the dialog, I briefly shared the message of the day based on The Apostle Paul's Letter to the Galatians (4:4a) where it is asserted, “when the fullness of time had come” Jesus was born to be the Messiah/Christ. I asserted that Martin Luther was among the persons whom God called “in the fullness of time.” I cited examples of these persons who responded to God's call “in the fullness of time” both in the Bible Old Testament, including: Abraham, Joseph, Isaiah and New Testament, including: Mary, Joseph, Jesus, John the Baptist, Peter, Mark, Saul/Paul, Christian faith, including: Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, Billy Sunday, Pope John XXIII, George Docherty, Pope Francis and our American history, including: George Washington, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. I underscored my conviction that God is will speaking and working so each of us must be prepared to respond to God's call IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME.

I join Christians of various traditions, including: Lutherans, Roman Catholics, United Church of Christ people, United Methodists in the prayer of Jesus as reported by the Apostle John in his Gospel (17:21) as part of the “high priestly prayer,” “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”


John W. Eyster lives in the Edgerton area. He is an adjunct professor assigned with the online/distance education faculty of Viterbo University, LaCrosse. He continues his personal mission supporting democracy/civics education in Wisconsin K-12 schools through Project Citizen, We the People, Discovering Democracy (Milton HS). John is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff or management.


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