The church at the time of Luther, was of course what we call the Roman Catholic Church and ... it was quite rotten, with a rot that began at the top and filtered down. This is generally the nature of rot in any organization ... and in the church at that time, the rot was in the leadership ... and as God always does, He raised up someone to point it out to the leadership. In a new book by Nelson Mandela (and completed by his co-writer Mandla Langa) and released this week (buy Dare Not Linger: The Presidential Years here), Mandela points out that leadership should always be listening not only to its praise singers but also to its critics; and leadership should constantly be self-critical. The RCC in 1500's failed miserably in these two areas. But are we any better today?
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God –
but the righteous person will live by faith
We praise and thank God on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation for raising up a man like Martin Luther. But remember, a fish rots from the head down ... was there any rot in Luther? Well, yes, he was fiercely antisemitic. Luther urged the destruction of Jews. He outlined his ideas in his book On the Jews and Their Lies which included setting fire to synagogues and schools, the confiscation of Jewish books, burning their homes to the ground, rabbis banned from teaching on pain of death, cash and jewelry confiscated and expulsion of Jews from German lands (read from his works here). Luther’s wishes would eventually materialise four hundred years later in 1938, which became known as Kristallnacht or the Night of the Broken Glass. This state sponsored persecution occurred on Luther’s birthday. At that time Lutheran Bishop Martin Sasse quoted Luther in a pamphlet inciting the people against the Jews. His views conformed with those of Goebbels—similar to what Luther preached in his penultimate sermon. Many of Sasse’s church colleagues claimed that the swastika on church altars was a source of inspiration and Lutheran clergy were given the task to complete Luther’s mission against “world enemy”, the Jews.
As we've seen recently in our Old Old Stories series, we all have our dark side ... last week we saw Noah's, this week we see Luther's. But what is your dark side (your rot), and does your church have a dark side? And if you are in a position of leadership (in your home, church, workplace) is your rot affecting your home, your church, your workplace?
On the anniversary of 500 years of Reformation, I call the church of Jesus Christ and every Christian, to ongoing re-formation (more on that next Sunday evening).