Reformation At 500

The mission of Reformation at 500 Committee is to work with the Synod, institutions, congregations and interested persons in the Synod territory to prepare to mark the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation

What’s next?


On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the University (Castle) Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  His scholarly invitation to debate began a conversation that reformed the Church and transformed history.

   Luther’s Biblical studies in connection with his teaching and preaching responsibilities, led him to refocus on God’s grace and relook at many church teachings and structures in light of God’s grace.  His writings and teachings had an impact on the fabric of medieval society.

   As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we have an opportunity to reconnect with Luther and his legacy and to reflect on what it means to be a Church that is continually reforming in a radically post-Christendom world.

Our Synod has formed a Committee (Reformation at 500 Committee) to help all of us – leaders, congregations, institutions – find the resources, engage in the discussions, create events and experiences – that will bring Luther and the Reformation alive and relevant for our time.

   Our Committee is planning yearly trips to Wittenberg and other cities connected with Luther and the Reformation.  The first trip will be from June 15 thru June 25, 2014.  See the brochure for “Exploring Lutherland”.

   The hope of the Committee is that this website could serve as a source for networking and sharing.  We will identify and recommend speakers, books, DVD’s, websites, curriculum and teaching materials.  We will share Reformation related events – lectures, concerts, trips, plays – that are taking place in our area.  We will encourage others to share their resources as well.


Luther quotes


When we are in the pulpit, we should nurse people and give them milk to drink; for a new church is growing up daily which needs to know the first principles.  W-T 3, No. 3421

To preach long is no art; but to preach and to teach right and well, hoc opus, hic labor est (this is work, here is labor). W-T 3, No. 3419



“Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”(Ps. 55:22) We should indeed work, but we should let God have the care. After all, our worrying gets us nowhere. Meanwhile, we might have done much good, but our care has kept us from it. (W 48, 268)

Why are we so vexed by thoughts, seeing that the future is not in our power for one moment? Let us, then, be satisfied with the present and commit ourselves to the hand of God, who alone knows and controls the past and the future. W 20, 121. SL 5, 1487)



A new miracle deserves a new song, thanksgiving, and preaching. The new miracle is that God through His Son has parted the read Red, Dead Sea and has redeemed us from the real Pharaoh, Satan. This is singing a new song, that is, the holy Gospel, and thanking God for it. God help us to do so. Amen. W 48, 85f SL 9, 1795

Music is God’s greatest gift. It has often so stimulated and stirred me that I felt the desire to preach. W-T 4, No. 4441



Would you see the holy Christian church painted in living color… and put into one little picture? Then pick up the Psalter, and you have a fine, bright, pure mirror that will show you…your true self, God himself and all creatures.  (Preface to the Psalms)

The Book of Psalms could well be called a “little Bible” since it contains, set out in the briefest and most beautiful form, all that’s to be found in the whole Bible, a book of good examples from among the whole of Christendom and from among the saints, in order that those who could not read the whole Bible through would have almost the whole of it in summary form. (Preface to the Psalms)


Important Events in Luther’s Life

1483 Luther born in Eisleben (November 10)
1501 Luther begins study at University of Erfurt
1505 Enters Augustinian monastery at Erfurt
1507 Ordained priest
1512 Luther receives doctorate in Theology
1514 Becomes priest of Wittenberg’s City Church
1517 October 31- Posts 95 Theses on the castle church door
1520 Luther burns bull and canon law with students (December 10)
1521 Arrives at Diet of Worms (April 16)
1521 Kidnapped by Frederick, taken to Wartburg Castle (May 4)
1525 Bondage of the Will and Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants
Luther marries Katarina von Bora
1546 Death of Luther in Eisleben on February 18


The Reformation at 500 – Resources – Books


Here I Stand

Roland Bainton, book, Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LTD, 2009 (orig. pub. 1950)

This continues to be one of the most readable and comprehensive biographies of Martin Luther.  Rather than getting bogged down in Luther’s theology and too much minutia of Luther’s life, Bainton takes an approachable style to cover Luther from his early years and influence of his family through his personal struggle with faith and the resulting journey through cloisters, university teaching and the profound results that impacted so many dimensions of the church and society in his day as well as ours.  It has stood the test of time for over 50 years and is a book I have recommended to many parishioners who want a good overview of Luther’s life, theology and influence.

Luther and His World

Graham Tomlin, book, Lion Books, 2012, (orig. pub. 2002)

This short 190-page paperback, is an excellent introduction that ably locates Luther in both his historical and theological/philosophical place.  It is richly illustrated with pictures, prints and quotes.  There are many helpful text inserts that provide additional information on important doctrines and people.  The nine chapter book could be used in adult education settings or recommended to parishioners for individual reading. – Steve Godsall-Myers

Still available through Amazon (new paperback $8.96; Kindle, $7.96)


The Mother of the Reformation: The Amazing Life and Story of Katharine Luther

Ernest Kroker (translated by Mark DeGarmaeux), book, Concordia, 2013

Kroker paints an intimate picture of Katie and of family life in the Black Cloister during the formative years of the Reformation, showing how Katie s marriage to Martin Luther was a multifaceted vocation, with such tasks as household brew mistress, cloister landlady, property overseer, gardener, cow- and pig-herder, and fishwife. Indeed, Katie oversaw their home much like a lord in her kingdom, yet in the midst of it all stood the man to whom her work, concern, and duty were directed. For those interested in one of the leading women of Luther’s day.


The Reformation at 500 – Resources – Videos/DVD’s


Luther  dir. Eric Till, film, MGM (2003),   

This is one of the most recent Luther films, produced with funds from Thrivent and was first shown in major movie houses.  It is likely that many congregations have the DVD in their church library.  It is difficult to recommend this well-produced film with its stunning visuals (none actually filmed in Wittenberg) because of its many historical inaccuracies that go beyond poetic license or historical fictionalization.  It is a good movie — the main characters and main events are here, but not always presented with precision or even a concern for chronological or casual accuracy.  Too much ‘unteaching’ required for this to be a good teaching tool.

Through Amazon:


“The Morning Star of Wittenberg: The Life of Katie Luther,” DVD, ELCA production, (2001).

This is a 27-minute documentary on the unique life and role of Martin Luther’s wife, the ex-nun Katharina von Bora.  Location shots from significant sites in Germany, photos of art works, and re-enactments of real-life scenes from the Luthers’ life alternate with narration based on the documented history of the life of Martin Luther and his family. We have a glimpse of the amazing personality and strong role of Katharina Luther, very unusual for a woman of her time. The narration mentions names of events and historic figures associated with the Reformation, but the story of the Luther family is also made understandable for those less familiar with the history. Short enough to show during a coffee hour or group meeting, this DVD may help to stir up curiosity about the events of the Reformation and the life led by Martin and Katharina Luther.

distributed by Vision Video, PO Box 540, Worcester, PA 19490,



The Reformation at 500 – Resources – Websites


95 Theses website: 

As the humanist Philipp Melanchthon would urge – “go back to the sources”.  If you will be studying various aspects of the Reformation as you move to 2017, it is good to read the “original document” – Luther’s 95 Theses that started the process.  An English version can be found at:   A German version:  Most scholars will tell you that it was Luther’s sermon (or tract) on indulgences and grace, written in German, that did so much more to get his message to the people.  A project to publish translations of some of Luther’s important works that will include this tract is underway.


ELCA Reformation website

As we move closer to 2017, the ELCA will be collecting and sharing resources for observing the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.  The primary context for the ELCA’s observance of the Anniversary will be its North American religious and cultural experience.  However, the ELCA has rich and important global and ecumenical relationships that will also be reflected in its deliberations.  The ELCA, for example, will be in close communication with the Lutheran World Federation.  The current website for the ELCA is:


Lutheran World Federation websites: 

The LWF has already begun its deliberations as to how it will commemorate the 500th Anniversary.  The LWF has three aims:  to strengthen the communion among member churches, to explore the meaning of Lutheran identity and to strengthen its ecumenical commitment.   The LWF began the commemoration with a unique ‘monument’ – the establishment of the Luther Garden in Wittenberg.  It would include 500 trees by 2017.  You can learn more about this at this LWF site:

The LWF with the Pontifical Council Promoting Christian Unity released a major study document, From Conflict to Communion:  Lutheran Catholic Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017.  The documents reflects on the history of Reformation commemoration and has recommendations for the upcoming 2017 Commemoration.  It can be downloaded at this web site:


EKD (Evangelical Church of Germany) websites:

The EKD began the lead up to 2017 in 2008 by establishing a Luther Decade.  For each of the 10 years, the EKD would focus on a theme and encourage those in the church to examine the theme in the coming year.  In 2013, for example, the theme is Luther and Tolerance.  This has provided an opportunity to look at some of Luther’s most challenging writings and as well as 21st century societal issues of tolerance and intolerance.  More information about the Luther Decade can be found at this site: (note: this is the English website, the German version has even more information)

The EKD does have some English articles and descriptions on its website.  The Reformation anniversary materials can be found at this website:


Wittenberg websites:

Luther lived and taught and preached in Wittenberg.  The 95 Theses were posted here.  There are some links to give one a glimpse of Wittenberg and the historical sites:  A general website of Wittenberg is

A quick way to learn about any German city is to type –  Then you can push a button for ‘Tourismus’ or English.


Luther Memorials Foundation website:

This is the organization that has the stewardship of the Luther and Melanchthon Houses in Wittenberg and Luther’s Birth and Death Houses in Eisleben.  If you friend them on Facebook you will get interesting updates and information.  Much is in German, but they do translate into English.  They have been ‘collecting’ Luther Roses from around the world via pictures.  They also have a new site with materials for youth – these pages have not yet been translated into English. The basic English website for the Foundation is:


Melanchthon website: 

This site has some information with pictures about Lutehr’s colleague, Philipp Melanchthon:


Katarina von Bora website:

This is not the most sophisticated website and most of the information is in German, but it does have some information about Luther’s wife and Reformation partner, Herr Katie:


Women and the Reformation website:

Although this website is in German , it can give even an English speaking researcher a good starting point to identify women who played a role in the unfolding Reformation.


Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg website:
In the summer of 2102, the Institute had a seminar with the title: What to Do about 2017? The Challenge of an Ecumenical Anniversary.  A series of papers were presented reflecting points of view from a variety of Christian faith communities.  Some of the papers are available on the site – some are in German, but many are in English.

Upcoming Events

  1. Helping Hands Day

    April 26
  2. 2014 Synod Assembly

    May 2 @ 8:00 am - May 3 @ 4:00 pm
  3. SEPA Synod Staff Meeting

    May 12 @ 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
  4. Communicators Network Gathering

    May 17 @ 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
  5. SEPA Synod Council Meeting

    June 5 @ 4:00 pm - 8:00 pm