The Reformation turns 500


The Reformation turns 500

“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40

“He asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.'”

Luke 10:29-37

“We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not for himself, but in Christ and the neighbor. He lives in Christ through faith, and in his neighbor through love.”

Martin Luther, “Freedom of a Christian,” LW 31:371





Illustration: Greg Copeland/Concordia Publishing House

Friends in Christ,

We are blessed this day to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, a watershed moment in history of the Protestant Reformation. As Lutherans, we are both inheritors and ongoing interpreters of this tradition. Luther probably couldn’t have imagined how this single act would shape the church and the world in the ensuing centuries, much less that his legacy would shape the advocacy work in which we participate today!

In the gospels, Jesus Christ repeatedly calls us to be attentive to the needs of our neighbors. Now, unlike any time in history, we have the tools to attune ourselves to the needs of neighbors both near and far, and to see how unjust systems are at work in preventing our neighbors from being fed, clothed, housed, and made healthy. Luther advocated for the needs of his most vulnerable neighbors with the powers and principalities of his day, primarily within the church itself, which held significant political power. Today, in Colorado and on a national level, we face a very different political system than Luther did, but we encounter the same needs in our neighbors.

On this momentous anniversary, let us remember how God frees us and renews us daily to take up this work of loving our neighbors. May we claim the gifts of the Reformation and see how God is always making things new. May we as God’s people find ways to speak faithfully into the realities of our time. And may our hearts be uplifted by the words of Psalm 46: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Or, in Luther’s paraphrase, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott. A mighty fortress, indeed!

In God’s ever-reforming spirit,


Peter Severson

Director, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-Colorado

7375 Samuel Drive, Denver, CO 80221 • • 303-777-6700

Rocky Mountain Synod, ELCA • A Reconciling in Christ synod • Christ’s Church, Better Together

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