Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 10, Luther and Zwingli

We've arrived in Zurich,'s a drab, dreary, rainy day, so thus far Switzerland looks anything but stellar. The ride from Coburg in Germany was long, and it was rain all the way!

The trip to Zurich is to visit the home of Ulrich Zwingli, the leader of the Reformation in the German speaking Swiss Cantons, chiefly centered around Zurich. Of the three Reformers, he, by far, gets the least press.

Luther and Calvin dominate the Reformational scene, but Zwingli should be recognized for the significance of his bringing reform to the Swiss.
He was born two years before Luther, in 1481, and trained classically to be a priest. He eventually became the head of the church in Zurich. As a Catholic priest, he found himself - like Luther - opposing the sale of indulgences (those pay-your-way-out-of-purgatory certificates sold by the church). But, perhaps, what most affected his "re-looking" at Catholic doctrine was in witnessing the deaths of 1000's of Swiss soldiers who were bought by the Pope to fight his wars.

By 1519, two years after Luther's 95 theses were nailed to the church door in Wittenberg; but before Luther was tried at Worms, Zwingli was leading a reform movement in Zurich.

Zwingli had a sort of awakening when he was struck with the plague in 1520. Nearly two-thirds of Zurich's population died (before the plague it was a city of 12,000 and after, only about 3,000 remained). Zwingli somehow survived and after he recovered, he fought for a simple theology:

"If it can't be found in the Bible, don't believe it and don't do it."

He decisively began to reform. He broke the traditional Catholic laws on Lent, having a Sausage party for his students. He took the statutes and paintings of the cross and Mary out of the churches. Eventually he abolished the Mass and replaced it with a simple service that celebrated Communion and the preaching of the Scriptures. He said,

"For God's sake, do not put yourself at odds with the Word of God. For truly it will persist as surely as the Rhine follows its course. One can perhaps dam it up for awhile, but it is impossible to stop it."

The reform in Switzerland took hold as he led the churches in Zurich. Eventually, like the other reformers, he married - a widow with three children, and then went on to have four more of his own.

Two significant events shaped his life, and the reason why He is often forgotten in Reform circles.

1. Phillip of Hesse, the German Prince who saw in the Reformation a cause to defend, felt that the German Reform under Luther, and the Swiss Reform under Zwingli needed to unite. Hesse was certain the Papacy would eventually strike back to seek to take Reform lands by force if need be (and he was right, they did). Hesse called a "colloquy" - a meeting to discuss - matters that pertain to the two reform movements in Margburg, Germany. Zwingli and Luther met at this place and agreed on 13 of the 14 articles. They could not agree on the meaning of the Lord's Supper, and it divided the two movements.

Luther believed Christ's words, "This is my body" meant Jesus was actually present during the sacrament of communion. Zwingli said the phrase meant "This signifies my body", so that the bread and wine were only symbolic. They had agreed on many other doctrines during the conference, from the Trinity to justification by faith to the number of sacraments, but they could not come together on communion. Luther reportedly refused to shake Zwingli's hand at the end of the meetings.

2. The second event is shaped around Zwingli - the ardent Swiss nationalist. The Reformed movement spread among the Cantons (Switzerland is a confederation of small states); but not in all of the Cantons did it take hold. Zwingli decided to put pressure on the ones that wouldn't change and eventually a war broke out. The end result was that Zwingli was killed in battle - it was 1531.

We visited the Church Zwingli preached in, in Zurich.

The rain was falling and yet this simple Protestant church gives testimony almost 500 years later of Zwingli's faithfulness to the Gospel.

Peace to you

Day 9, Wittenberg & Luther's Teaching Ministry

We went to Wittenberg yesterday, what a great day it was. As we arrived, I could see the tower from the original castle, and the Castle church that was right next door.

As we left the coach, we were directly in front of the Castle Church door. It's been replaced since Luther's day, and now has a Brass door with the 95 Theses embossed.

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed the "95 Theses" - a series of statements that were meant to be debated by theologians and Bible teachers. He wanted to start a public debate about the use of indulgences - he ended up beginning the Reformation!

Luther went to Wittenberg at the invitation of the Elector - the Prince in charge of the territory which was Saxony. The Prince had wanted to build a university and wanted Pastors and Theologians to give the best theological education. Luther came as a young Augustinian Monk with his Doctor's degree in Theology. Eventually he would be joined by a young man named Phillip Melanchthon on the faculty, and he also became the Parish priest - they all preached.

Luther usually preached down from the Castle church. The Church still stands, and is being restored over a 5 year project. Still, the outside looked liked this:

We went inside and I walked around, and noticed the pulpit Luther preached from. I couldn't help but walk up the steps to stand where Martin Luther stood some 500 years ago.

Luther was a remarkable individual. He didn't start off thinking he was going to reform the church. His goal was to check the insane practices of selling indulgences. This money raising gimmick was used by Catholic hucksters to raise money for Rome's building of St. Peter's Cathedral. When the Catholic priest name Tetzel came to Wittenberg, he promised the people that if they threw money into the coffers, their loved ones would get years taken off of purgatory. (Sadly, indulgences have changed, but the principle is still taught in the Catholic Church). It incensed Luther, and the reason why was because of the changes in his understanding of the Gospel that had occurred over the last few years.

When Luther began to teach and preach he started with teaching through Psalms and then Romans. When he got to Psalm 22, he read:

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?"

An Augustinian monk, and doctor of theology, he had only known that Jesus died, but not that he had substituted his life for ours. He wondered, how could the Jesus say these words from the Psalm. Why was he forsaken? Why did God not come to save him? He couldn't understand as of yet what God had done, because he was steeped in a system of "earning" one's salvation through the merits of the church. He had become a Monk almost ten years before because he was convinced he would not be saved without practicing the holy orders. "If anyone was to be saved by monkery, I was him".

In 1516-17 at Wittenberg, in his study at the Monastery, teaching in the classroom, and in the Parish church preaching, the light began to come on. When he arrived in Romans it became clear. He read Romans 1-3 and the words began to sink in.

" it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12 ESV)

No One, Martin read.
No One is righteous in and of themselves...
no one has the ability to come to a righteous God on the basis of their merits - no matter how many of them they have accrued.
There can never be enough to satisfy the righteous character of God. He read and concluded with Paul...

"But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:21-26 ESV)

The truth came in as light streaming through a darkened window, and Luther was giddy with joy. No longer did he feel condemned, even hating God's righteousness. Now he felt the freedom of the Gospel.

He said later of this time, "I felt like I was born again"... He was.

As the Parish pastor and theologian he took on the task of challenging the indulgence practices, and the church condemned him. He stood his ground and when 5 Papal Bulls (letters of condemnation) were fact, he burned them right here.

The Reformation spread like a wild-fire. It spread all over Germany, and into Switzerland and France, and then on to England...and we know it's kept going since then.
As Luther preached the righteousness of God by Grace through Faith, people saw that the merit system of the church was false. One of those institutions was the practice of celibacy. When Priests realized they didn't have to be celibate, they began to marry. Nuns began to leave convents and marry. Luther arranged for 13 nuns to escape a nunnery, and they came to Wittenberg. One of those Nuns wouldn't marry any of the arranged marriages being sought for her. Luther discovered a spunky woman who was not afraid of him, and who he discovered he loved. He married her and I got to see where he lived with his wife Katherine.

The house is a museum of the life and times of Luther in Wittenberg. What a great and memorable day it was.

I'll catch up more later....peace

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day 8, Eisenach and Luther's Ink!

We travelled several hours into the heart of Germany to the village of Eisenach. There is the castle called Wartburg. Luther spent almost two years here, and from the time here translated the scriptures into his native German language.

The story that goes with this is interesting. Luther was tried at the Diet of Worms for his writings. There he said, "Here I stand, I can do no other" when asked if he would or would not recant of his writings. He had been given safe passage by the Emperor to appear -which meant no matter what the outcome of the trial, he was allowed to return home to Wittenberg. But Luther and the Prince were suspicious of the Emperor's safe passage, and well deserved to be so. Jan Hus had been given safe passage and after he was tried he was arrested and burnt at the stake.

So, as the trial ended, Luther was declared a heretic of the church. He was condemned and made an outlaw, subject to death if caught. On the way back to Wittenberg his party was set upon by masked men. Luther was even roughed up to make it look like he was being made a captive. They wisked him away, and took him to Eisenach and the Wartburg Castle.

Here he became Junker George. Here he lived for the next year and some months. During that time he translated the Greek text in a little over 11 weeks into the German New Testament. Besides that he wrote numerous hymns and treatises. It was here that Luther declared, "By my ink I have driven away the devil".

From Eisenach we coached to Luther's birthplace - Eisleben.

Now a landmark, and museum of all things Martin Luther, it is in a small town in Central Germany that this humble German got his start. Raised in a miner's family, his father prospered as an owner of a mine. He wanted Martin to be a lawyer, but God had other plans. The city has a marvelous square - near our hotel with a statue of him.

The picture was taken in late evening after we arrived. It is a tribute to this man who did so much for God. Today we are off to Wittenberg where it all began.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 7, Worms (not that kind)

We've moved about five hours east, well into Germany. We're in Luther country! We're in Pollasch ancestors' country!

The fields are strangely and eerily similar to southern Wisconsin. There is lots of farming here, especially corn and vegetables. I don't know what it would have looked like 500 years ago, but Luther came through these areas in the early 1520's - to go on trial and defend his writings.

Quick history here. In 1517 Luther posted his 95 theses...I'll deal more with that later. By that time the printing press (invented in 1542 by Gutenberg) was being used and Luther's writings hit the road and were known throughout the German kingdoms. Germany wasn't a united nation but a series of smaller kingdoms - palatinates, or electorates. Each had its own prince or nobleman in control. Luther was in Wittenberg as the parish priest and a faculty member of Wittenberg University. He had a pulpit and a classroom to teach from and he did his best to teach the doctrines of grace apart from the merits of the church.

By 1520, the Papacy had had enough. They issued a series of four (five?) "Bulls" - not the animals - but official church documents that gave instruction on matters of faith. Each of these were meant to counter Luther's reformational views. One of them issued in 1520 condemned Luther directly and summoned him to appear before a court of the Empire...which in 1521 would convene at Worms.

Pronounce this "Verms", because if you say worms as we know it, it is hard to comprehend why anyone would name a city Worms. This assembly of the court was a "Diet" (Dee it), and together, if you say the two words, "diet", you really have a weird sounding thing - the Diet of Worms!

Luther traveled overland from Wittenberg to this imperial court and along the way he was cheered and encouraged....the German people loved him. He arrived at Worms in time to preach...the church is still there.

When he arrived at the court it was not so like the journey. He appeared before a Catholic lawyer - a Johann Eck, or John Eck. Luther wanted to have a debate but Eck would have none of it. Instead he demanded that Luther answer a couple of simple questions and those alone..."Are these your writings, and will you recant of them?"

Luther protested..."some of these writings contain universal truths of all Christendom concerning the Trinity, the Virgin Birth, etc...I cannot recant of them, neither would you want me to". He was good! But, Eck forced him into a corner. He piled his tracts and letters onto the table - the reformation tracts - and asked him once again...will you or won't you recant of these?
Luther asked for time to respond. They gave him 24 hours?

It might sound easy looking back; but Martin Luther came from a time when taking a stand against the church would either lead to excommunication (at best) or death (normally). It was no easy thing to take a stand. He was challenging the authority of the church, and most of all, the Pope. One painter captured the look like this.

Luther appeared before the Diet the next day. He gave a lengthy speech about the nature of his's worth the read, but I don't have space here. Eck interrupted him at some point and demanded he answer the question - will you recant?

Luther then replied: "Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God's word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us. On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.
The words still ring strong and true today..."On this (Scripture) I take my stand. I can do no other..."

Today we journey to where he ended up immediately after this - hidden away in a castle, he was now a wanted man. I'll get to that tomorrow.
For now, let it sink in...this is our model, our focus, our fidelity...God's word.
"Sola Scriptura" - Scripture alone is the basis of our faith. In the picture I took below, Luther stands at the head of the Reformation, with nothing in his hand but the Bible. The shape of the area is like a fortress, and when we stood there yesterday, we sang together "A Might Fortress Is Our God".

Peace to you,

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day 6, Strasbourg's Reformers

The Reformation lecture tour I'm on is a visual history come alive. Yesterday we took the morning and afternoon to explore the inner - old - city of Strasbourg. This city on the French/German border was Calvin's destination when forced to flee from Paris because he not only embraced the Reformation but was teaching it's principles publicly and many were embracing it with him.
Roman Catholicism was powerful with its institutional religious control, and the power it extended over civil rulers, including Kings and Princes. If Calvin had stayed in Paris he would have been killed. So he fled Paris with his brother and sister and headed for Strasbourg...but he didn't make it then. A war was being fought in that same area I blogged yesterday between the King of France and the Holy Roman Empire's armies and the way to Strasbourg was blocked. So, Calvin headed to Geneva, intending on staying one night, until William Farel found out he was in the city. Farel, who was a pastor attempting to lead the Reformation in Geneva, had read Calvin's 1st edition of the Institutes of Christian Religion. Calvin had written this short treatise, a kind of tract if you will, to explain the principles of the Reformation. There are five basic ones, and it's good to review them.
Sola Scriptura - that the scriptures alone were the source of authority for the church's teachings and beliefs and define all essentials for holiness also.
Sola fide - that faith alone is the necessary requirement of coming to God. Not works, not merits, not anything...simply by faith.
Sola Gratia - That by grace alone we receive the ability to believe and come to God. It is not our religion, or works, or knowledge, or lack thereof that determines God's acceptance, and adoption of us, but grace alone.
Solus Christos - By Christ alone we are redeemed. Not in the sacraments, nor the church as an institution, not in our religious confessions, nor in our good works...but Christ alone is our savior and redeemer.
Soli Gloria Deo - To the Glory of God alone. Our purpose in life and in death is this confidence that God is glorified in his redemption, and in his creation. All of creation and the redeemed of God especially point to His glory for the basis of all that we do in our churches and in our lives.
Calvin stayed in Geneva for a while, but then the authorities of Geneva were not yet ready to embrace the Reformation and he left - going on to Strasbourg - the city we have been in.
Here, with Martin Bucer, Calvin led the Reformation. He preached several times a week, and wrote - a lot. He re-wrote, expanding upon it, the Institutes for a second time (there would be one more expansion later).
He wrote the psalter, putting the words of the Psalms into music that could be sung by "the pastor and the fishmonger".
He even married here - to a widow who had come with her children fleeing persecution in Belguim.
We visited the church he preached in yesterday. St. Nicholas Church still stands today:

The Reformers grasp the great need of the day, that our faith in God's finished work in Jesus still stands as the source of our confidence and hope in God's salvation.
Paul said it this way:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love, 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the richest of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding."
Amen! Peace to all,

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 5, Fields of Poppies

Yesterday we spent was a long bus day, the longest we will be on. Our bus ride took us from Noyon, France (Calvin's birthplace) to Strasbourg...the city on the border between France and Germany.

This section of France saw two world wars in a little over 30 years last century. It is beautiful country of rolling hills with farm fields of barley, wheat, corn and Hops. In many ways it reminds me of Wisconsin. The hills and valleys are perhaps a bit more like western Wisconsin but the country side makes me think of home.

Perhaps the most notable part of the day was not connected to the Reformation, but to the battles fought here in World War I at the Argonne forests and the city area around Verdun. The battle of Verdun was the costliest battle of the war. Over 700,000 soldiers from France and its Allies, and Germany were killed. The roadways leading to the sites that commemorate the battle weaved through wooded countrysides with inundations in the land covered over by grasses and trees that hide the signs of bombardments and mines. Even to this day there are signs along the roads telling those who wander through the area to stay on marked paths because even today - 100 years later - there are unexploded ordinance buried in the fields and forests surrounding it. We were told of a farmer who decided to open a field and thought it best to let the sheep in there first only to have one of the sheep step on a mine and blow up killing several other sheep besides.

We made our journey to a memorial site called Fort Douaumont...a place that was especially tragic. Here the burial site of tens of thousands of soldiers, plus the remains of 100's of thousands of bones that cannot be identified are entombed in a memorial.

As we traveled along I could not help but reflect upon the ways of man versus the Kingdom of God. Not once, but several times these grounds have been fought for in the name of religion. Religion is fed on pride, the rights and privileges of those who are "in" against the rest. It is man-centered and almost always results in hatred and strife, devoid of the love of God.
The writer of Proverbs muses the truth....

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 16:25 ESV)"

Along the trip our bus past fields and fields of poppies.

Poppies are the symbols of the end of the war, the great armistice and the pronouncement that this was "the war that ends all wars"...such is the wisdom of man. It has been 100 years since this war and yet wars continue on.
Peace, Peace when there is no peace!
Religion cannot produce peace, neither can any philosophy or government.

Peter says it best, "In Christ Jesus, he is our peace".
Don't we realize that apart from the Gospel, there will never be peace?

In Strasbourg, Peace to You

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 4, John Calvin 's home

One of the delights of Europe's cities and towns is that it is not unusual to hear Church bells ringing morning, noon and night. As I began this blog the bells of the local church in this village called Pierrefonds began to ring. It's a beautiful little village. As we drove into the village we caught sight of this magnificent castle -

I plan on taking a walk after breakfast (when I'm writing this) and walking around it.
We are very near John Calvin's birthplace of Noyon, France. Noyon is notable for more than Calvin as it was a contested battle field place in WWII. The church John Calvin grew up in has pieces of the side of the church that show the affects of bombings and machine gun fire.

I had recently read a biography of Calvin by a man name Godfrey that I would heartily recommend. He is well versed in Calvin's life. Calvin was born in 1509, just 8 years old when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg. His father was a church administrator, essentially working for the local Bishop. The church was also an Abbey, which meant Monastics lived in one section of the church grounds. The old cloister (covered walkway) still exists, and this picture is from the rear of the church which shows the original posts and beams made of wood that the cloister would have been made from.

Calvin was a church kid. Because of the buying and selling of offices, at age 12 he was made a Chaplain. This was probably an arrangement between his Father and the local Bishop to raise money for Calvin's education. His mother died when he was a young boy - tragic to us, but all too common in those days.
His birthplace is modest, and now reconstructed as a museum.

This is only his birthplace and not the place where his reform passions began. That would occur when he would leave home and travel to Paris to get his education at age 14. By the time he was in his early 20's he would be converted and begin the writings that would cause him to become hunted by the Catholic authorities and cause him to flee to Switzerland.

One notable act of his early days was after he was converted. In his early 20's he came back to his hometown of Noyon. He went to the Bishop who had given him his chaplaincy to make his money, and he would tell him that he wanted to give all of it back to him. He gave to the Bishop all the money he had been given, and penniless walked away to continue the reform he felt God had called him too.

Jesus said "you cannot serve God and money..." and Calvin knew this all too well.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Day 3, Destroying the Romantic Vision

It's Sunday morning as I write and we're off (in an hour) to Notre Dame and worship services in French! Yesterday was a busy walking day. I don't have a pedometer but I swear we covered 4-5 miles of Paris.

John Calvin came to Paris as a 14 year old boy. He entered university here to better be equipped with Latin and Greek. He came because his father had sent him to get an education - at first it was to be a lawyer. The place where he first came is still a part of the University here - University of Sorbonne is the University of Paris.

Looking at it today you wouldn't understand what it meant to be a mideaval student in Calvin's day. A 14 year old boy was under the tutelage of a master and the master's job was to prepare him in the classical languages in whatever means possible. It meant rote repetition, beatings when not correct, and berating. Students had it tough. John Calvin was an exceptional student. In two years he had mastered Latin and Greek and he moved on to the college Montague, which is just behind where I took this picture. Today it is covered with a building that was erected by one of the King Louis of France after he recovered from an illness...sort of payback to God for his recovery. Later during the French Revolution the spiritual, church part of it was destroyed and it was made into a monument for Man! I'd say that has been a failed endeavor.

As we walked I came across two very interesting buildings.
The first was where John Calvin lived after his conversion, and from where he fled Paris from when his friends lowered him down on bed sheets as the officers of the courts came to arrest him for preaching the Gospel.

The second building was less than a mile away, but it's significance for me is that from it the Gospel was first proclaimed in Paris some 1200 years ago. The country of France has existed since 250 B.C., but France as we know it came to be when the Franks began a more permanent rule around 900 AD.

The role of the church in early France was established strongly when Charlemagne was declared the first "Holy Roman Emperor" - title given by the Pope at the time to declare his intention to make all of Europe Christian through both political and Papal rule. As you can imagine the combination of political power, with armies to fight, and the authority of Rome to rule the lives of the people; there was much corruption and abuses, along with immoral religious rulers.

One of the attempts to live out the gospel more purely occurred when the Monastic order of Benedictines came to Cluny and established the Cluny monastery. Committed to live the Benedictine disciplines they served the area's people by being a place of worship, but also the local hospital and place of education.
We walked to the site of the 12th century Cluny Monastery in Paris...strange to be on ground that was established for God's work over 1000 years ago.

It is easy to romanticize this all, but just thinking about it makes me realize how primitive, unhealthy conditions, and difficult living really was.
Students were treated harshly.
Half of all babies did not survive birth.
Of those that survived another 20-25% did not survive to adulthood.
Life spans were around 45-50 years of age at best.
Disease was a natural part of people's lives.
If one lived to be an adult they usually suffered from intestinal illnesses, or gout, or some other condition throughout their life.

It's easy to be romantic about it all in the 21st century, but I wouldn't want to go back and live then! Still, the gospel has not survived, but thrived in spite of all the opponents of it.

It's sad to note that Paris is largely devoid of it's spiritual heritage. Church's while magnificent are more of a museum, and although France is still Catholic in it's heritage, not many of it's people even faithfully go to church. The so called French Revolution declared the "end of Christianity"...well I would say they were badly mistaken.
The atheist French philosopher of the Revolution said that within 100 years Christianity would cease to be. His house is now occupied by the International Bible Society.

Peace to you.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Day 2 - Place Maubert

We took a walk yesterday to a landmark about a mile and a half from the hotel. It is called Place Maubert. Paris is full of "places"'s the french designation of an area of a city that has a convergence of many different avenues, or streets, and today it usually has a small park or outdoor market area that fills up space. In other words, its a larger space within the city that can serve a larger group of public.

Paris is like most major cities, crowded and busy. There is traffic noise, police sirens, cars honking, and people everywhere. Coming from a small town it's over stimulating and can be nerve wracking after a while.

Paris in the 16th century, especially in the early 1500's was still a large cosmopolitan city. Then it was some 200-300 thousand people. Today it's over 2.5 million. While that's large, the 200,000+ number in the 1500's must have been overwhelming. Think of the needs for sanitation, water, how to move around without buses or cars, etc...

Yet here is where the Reformation began. A small group of people became convinced of the need for reform. They were within the Catholic Church but saw the abuses and power structures as nothing more than human beings desiring money and power (and the sexual power too). Bishop, ArchBishop, even positions of Cardinals and Pope were bought with money and political favors. Families controlled the power structures and emperors were either in control of Popes or Popes were in control of Emperors.

The reformers were people of faith who wanted the church to be purified of that abuse. They sought a return to the scriptures, and the reading of the Bible in the language of their people. They sought a church that preached and believed in a Gospel of Grace in Jesus Christ - plus nothing, minus nothing.

Many had tried to bring about Reform for a couple of hundred years before, only to see the attempts to be squashed by the power of the church's hierarchy. John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and others were either driven away or martyred.

Then in the early 1500's a group of reformers came together in Paris. Eventually they would be called "Hugenots". The derivation of the name is not completely known, but they were believers, faithful to God and desirous of a more pure church, who simply wanted to live out their faith in community. They gathered together in secret, worshipping together and preaching the word. They evangelized and sought to bring about a movement for reform within the church in France.

AND, for that they were crushed. Tens of thousands of them were killed, driven from France, or fled on their own. They were among the many martyrs that fulfilled the old saying - "the blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of the church".

This is where I came to Place Maubert

It looks like a small park, and if you look across the street beyond the cars you can see the outdoor market that still sets up today.

Here in the early 1500's Hugenot believers were publicly burned alive for not renouncing their faith in the Gospel of Grace alone. Here, the King of France brought together his court and the leading officials of his Kingdom, as well as 1000's of people to watch Hugenot believers be martyred - burnt alive - and warned all of those watching and listening that this is what would happen to anyone who would seek to step away from the Catholic Church and his Kingdom authority.

I was struck by the fountain that exists there today.

Jesus is the fountain of Life. From him comes Living Water.
"If anyone would come after me, let him renounce his life..."
"Come unto me all you that are thirsty and find rest for your soul..."
"I am the living water, whoever drinks of me will never thirst again..."

The early Hugenot reformers drank of the Gospel of Grace and nothing else could satisfy their souls than that Grace. And for that they gave their lives.
Those early believers in Reform did not shrink from the death that would come to them - believing that there was a better reward for their faithfulness to Jesus Christ and the Gospel of Grace.

Place Maubert...a reminder that the present can change, but never erase the past, and its from the past that our legacy comes.

May we have the same desire of heart to be faithful to him as these Hugenot believers did in all ways - no matter what may come our way.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Day 1, Calvin began in Paris

Today is the first day of our trip. We are in Paris and this is where it began for Calvin. John Calvin was not the firebrand that Martin Luther was. Luther saw the abuses of the Roman system and got mad. He wrote against the abuses of the church - primarily in relation to the practices of indulgences, which involved the selling of forgiveness and escape from purgatory for family members when purchased from the church. It wasn't the beginning of the Reformation, but it was the straw that broke the camel's back.

John Calvin was a scholarly reformer. He came to the place of belief not through a radical encounter, but rather through a decision based on his reasoned faith. I think of C.S. Lewis' description of his own coming to faith and think it a lot alike Calvin's.
Calvin was a student in Paris when he came to believe. His descriptions are quite limited so it leaves one to guess all that occurred in his encounter - but it was enough to cause him to embrace the reform and begin to preach for that reform in Paris.

France was and still is thoroughly Catholic in its faith. Calvin did not last long in Paris before he became an object of attention and then attempts to arrest him. Had he been arrested the great reformer would not have lived. But he was not, and that is why the story of the reformation became great in almost all of Europe - and eventually came to America with colonists who by and large were Protestants.

I just finished reading a great biography of John Calvin, and have to admire this man's ardent faith in Christ.

David in Psalm 43 says, "You are God my stronghold."
That would be an apt description of the way Calvin lived out his faith. We are so use to the idea of the Reformation that we do not realize the boldness, courage and perseverance that it took for these men to proclaim their faith in Christ alone. They truly put their lives in God's hands.
And why?

David says in that Psalm, "Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.
Only here can any of us do anything for God. It must be for that single purpose that we find in God great Joy and great Delight. He is the purpose for living, and in Christ alone we find ALL that is necessary for life.

From Paris, Day 1, Peace to all

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day - Honoring our Church Fathers

With the U.S. and England both celebrating Father's Day today, I thought it would be good to say a word about some Father's we often ignore.  The Church's Father's are extensive:
Menno Simons
and, those are only a few well known ones up to the 20th century.

Fathers of faith are men who have stood for the truth of the Gospel and sought to advance the Kingdom of God through the hard work of study, writing, teaching, discipling and in many cases, pastoring.
We who are Christians have a great legacy...people who have fought the good fight, hung on to the faith and lived out their lives in dependence upon, and great trust in almighty God.

I leave today for a two week trip to visit the countries of several of these.  I'll leave some notes and hopefully some pictures along the way.
Your prayers are greatly appreciated.