July 18, from Worms, Germany
Almost 500 years ago, in 1517, Martin Luther posted his now-famous 95 theses on the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church. After reading the document, Pope Leo X declared: “Martin Luther is a drunken German. He will feel different when he is sober.”
Three years later, in 1520, Leo X wrote of Luther: “The wild boar from the forest seeks to destroy [God’s vineyard] and every wild beast feeds upon it,” to which Luther responded with his notorious Against the Execrable Bull of the Antichrist. Apparently religious debates were not as dignified and gracious 500 years ago as those conducted between G. K. Chesterton and his opponents or those involving Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens.
The next year, 1521, found Luther summoned by Emperor Charles V to stand before the Diet of Worms. There he was called upon to either defend or recant his written statements. Luther was said to be sweating and trembling at the end of this experience.
Though he was undoubtedly sober throughout this incident, one account says of him: “Arriving back in his lodging after his two-hour hearing, Luther downed in one gulp a can of Eimbeck beer that had been left for him there by a friend.” Interesting man living in an interesting time.
I believe that 2012 is a pretty fascinating time in history, as well. 491 years later, I find myself, as part of a 2-phase missions trip, spending about 5 days in the town made famous by this interesting man and fascinating event – the quaint city of Worms, Germany.
My purpose in visiting Worms, however, is driven primarily by my role as a missions mobilizer. I feel that it is important that I try to regularly visit various parts of the world to stay in touch with how the Gospel is spreading, to learn what the challenges are confronting the fulfillment of the Great Commission, and to understand how the world and missions is changing.
I am thinking this morning about the passing of the baton of the Christian faith over the centuries as I sit in my sister’s home in Worms. It is a far cry from 16th century Germany to the 21st century. Tammy and her husband, Joe, and their four children have spent almost six years in Germany in the shadow of Martin Luther, doing the work of discipleship. The Thomas family has embarked upon a grassroots, authentic, Kingdom-advancing ministry based in the city of one of Luther’s greatest moments on stage.
I can’t wait to share some over the next couple of days some of the great things that are going on in Worms.