A once-obscure monk who took an unyielding spiritual stand in antiquity saw his conviction upend the Christian church, literature, music, culture, economics and more — and reverberate through the centuries to be commemorated the world over next month.
Locally, that includes a scholar’s presentations, a feature film and a major concert. Moreover, Germany, the native land of Martin Luther, serves as the host country of Columbus’ Ethnic Expo international festival Oct. 13 to 14 in a significantly Lutheran community.
And Luther’s impact of his break from the Catholic Church 500 years ago in 1517 — when he nailed his 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany — is so broad that even solid Catholics are being urged to participate in the area’s events, some of which have been in the planning stages for four years.
David Kromphardt, a member of the local First Lutheran Church and a man who has extensively studied the history of the Reformation, hopes people will realize anew that Luther, for all of his hero status granted by many, was just a man.
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“He eventually became a rock star of sorts,” Kromphardt said. “But we must remember that, for a long time, he was a wanted man.”
In fact, he narrowly escaped execution after his excommunication.
To help people understand the priest’s personal life and times, First Lutheran has arranged at YES Cinema an Oct. 23 and 24 showing of the 2003 film, “Luther,” starring Joseph Fiennes as the courageous priest who defied society’s most powerful authorities. He stood against the Catholic church’s selling of indulgences, or pardons, for sins.
And he claimed that salvation came only through God’s grace by faith, and that all Christians must have access to Scripture for themselves. That was controversial because only church leaders at the time could read the Bible.
“This film is part of giving people of today a feel for what ordinary folks and what Luther went through,” Kromphardt said. “Because Luther was brilliant, but he also was very troubled. And this (movie) shows that, and the fact that he didn’t feel worthy of God’s love until he was dealing with the book of Romans, when he could understand what God’s grace was about.”
First Lutheran also has organized an event in which Butler University religion instructor Brent Hege will deliver two free, Luther-focused presentations at YES Cinema on Oct. 21. His subjects will be “Luther, the Flawed Giant,” and “Europe at the Time of the Reformation,” both with an emphasis on why the Reformation matters today.
In fact, Columbus Indiana Philharmonic Music Director David Bowden considered the topic recently. And he hit on one element of why it matter so much today: the flourishing of individual creative expression after the Reformation.
“And that includes the fact that there was a literal musical reformation,” Bowden said.
The maestro will lead the local professional orchestra in its Oct. 28 performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Reformation Symphony,” among other works at Judson Erne Auditorium in Columbus. It will mark the first Philharmonic concert sponsored by area Lutheran churches.
Bowden and the Rev. Mark Teike of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church began discussing the concert four years ago. Teike will open the evening with a two-minute bit of background, Bowden said.
Churches such as St. Paul Lutheran have been hosting Reformation-oriented events since the beginning of the year, said the Rev. Doug Bauman, pastor. A final event, a Reformation worship service followed by food and fellowship, will unfold at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 28.
Part of the purpose has been to highlight the Reformation’s broad spectrum.
“It was educational, political and cultural,” Bauman said. “It certainly wasn’t exclusive to religion. That included Luther’s insistence that all children, rich and poor, peasants and lords and ladies, all receive an education and learn how to read. And his establishing of schools certainly was revolutionary.”
So what should good Catholics do amid all this commemoration and/or celebration? Embrace the events, according to the Rev. Clem Davis, pastor of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, the largest faith body in Bartholomew County. In fact, Davis will sing with the Philharmonic Chorus at the Oct. 28 concert.
The priest pointed out that Pope Francis last year signed an agreement with Munib Younan, the president of the Lutheran World Federation, that declared much common ground between the two denominations and “a common journey of reconciliation” as they kicked off a year-long commemoration of the Reformation.
“Catholic scholars have admitted for some time now that our presentations on Luther have been pretty one-sided,” Davis said.
The priest himself believed in bonding with Lutherans long ago. While Davis was in Munich, Germany, in the 1970s, he and a Lutheran military chaplain co-led a Bible study.
“The reform that began with Luther really has continued,” Davis said. “Some of the things that Luther was pleading for in his lifetime have been reforms that have come about in my lifetime.”
- 10 a.m.: Butler University religion instructor Brent Hege leading two presentations. One is Luther, the Flawed Giant” and “Europe at the Time of the Reformation” at YES Cinema, Fourth and Jackson streets in downtown Columbus.
- 6 p.m.: The movie, “Luther” at YES Cinema.
- 6 p.m.: The movie, “Luther” at YES Cinema.
- 2:30 p.m.: Festival Reformation Service at St Paul Lutheran, 6045 E. State St., south of Columbus, with Dean O. Wenthe, former president of Concordia Theological Seminary, preaching.
- 4 to 6:30 p.m.: Food and drinks (for a donation of any amount) and activities for everyone at the church. Craft and children’s activities.
- 5 p.m.: Hymn festival at the church.
- Hackman’s Market, located across the road from church, will have a corn maze, hay rides, a straw maze, and a petting zoo (weather permitting).
- Reformation Walk at the church
- 7:30 p.m.: Columbus Indiana Philharmonic concert, “Celebrating the Reformation,” Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St., Columbus.