October is Lutheran heritage month. We celebrate the birth of the Reformation movement on October 31st. That's the day a Roman Catholic priest and theologian named Martin Luther began to question the authority of Rome in matters of Christian doctrine and faith.
Luther had no intention of leaving the Church in Rome. He was simply raising theological questions and objections to the religious institution of his day. Under the Emperor Constantine, Christianity consolidated its social and political legitimacy. It no longer was the religion of the persecuted and oppressed. It became the religion of the Empire, and began the process of legitimizing power in the hands of the few.
The masses were ruled by the so-called "divine right" of the monarchs, and the priests controlled access to heaven's blessings. The Church in Rome kept education and literacy for itself, and the peasants were indoctrinated by both Church and State into an unquestioning obedience to authority. The monarchy determined one's place in this life; and the papacy determined one's place in the next.
As a priest, Luther was eventually confronted with the reality that even he was excluded from heaven's gate by the doctrines of Rome. He began to question authority. He asked the most revolutionary question of any era: "Why?" "Why must it be this way?" Luther began to teach the masses that Christianity was an egalitarian, not hierarchical, religion; that all people are created equal before God.
Luther's message of radical equality before God empowered the masses to begin throwing off the oppressive social, economic, and political systems legitimized by the Church in Rome. His ideas paved the way for both democratic and proletarian revolutionary movements in the last 500 years; even up to the Arab Spring of today.
Luther dared to stand before the powers of his day and ask "Why?" He questioned the assumptions of those who called for blind submission to both religious and political authority. He empowered the masses of his time to read for themselves, seek the equality that liberated their lives, and work for the common good.
At Mount Tabor, we strive to continue this reforming spirit in our mission and in our community. We aspire to embody the Lutheran values of equality, inclusivity, and critical reflection in our life together.
That's something we can all lift a pint to celebrate at Oktoberfest!