Skip to main content


Showing posts from June, 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

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 fa

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

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

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

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 ov

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 a

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

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 bus

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 ref

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: Clement Ignatius Tertullian Polycarp Irenaeus Ambrose Augustine Anselm Aquinas Wycliffe Luther Melanchthon Zwingli Calvin Bucer Menno Simons Arminius Wesley Edwards Spurgeon Moody 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.