That was my best Reformation festival in Wittenberg so far. It´s just getting better all along. What a rich heritage we have and great that the Saxony-Anhalt people celebrate it with a special holiday too. From early in the morning, when our house visitors started off the commemoration at the Castle church door – reading Luther´s 95 Thesis – and thanking the triune God for the blessings of the Lutheran Reformation, which brought the gospel back to light and put on a high pedestal in the heart of Europe so that it would shine across the globe – right until late in the evening, when the market had quieted down, visitors returned home and we closed off the evening with good Lutheran friends in the local “Brauhaus”.
It still seems strange to me, that at prime-time P. Martin Schmidt (Kirchenratspräsident der Evang.-ref. Kirche des Kantons St. Gallen, Switzerland) would preach in St. Marys and elaborate the various reformations in Switzerland and how St. Gallen was somewhat closer to Luther´s Wittenberg than Zwingli´s Geneva. However, if you recall, that at the big celebrations in 2017 it was a Methodist Bishop from Zimbabwe, who got that spot. It´s not so surprising, if you recall, that since 1817 this really is a union church – combining both Lutheran and Reformed confessions in one institution. Well, he was preaching to a full house. I thought, that only happens Christmas. So, I was rather surprised to land up somewhere in the side isles as the center isles were all occupied when we arrived in good time. Still, I had a good view of the pulpit and of the many people in church singing strong Lutheran Hymns accompanied by our friend Reichenberger on the organ.
We sang Psalm 46, which is the basis for Luther´s “A mighty fortress is our God…”, as Introit responsively and then Luther´s version after the sermon alternately with the choir. To confess our creed, we used Luther´s “Glaubenslied”: “We all believe in one true God…” and during the offering the remarkable conversion story of our Reformer juxtaposed with the doctrine of Justification: “Nun freut euch lieben Christen g´mein”. We actually sang all ten stanzas – and that was special too. After this service, we strolled through Wittenberg, which was bustling with the Reformation fair on the market square. Lots to see, eat and drink. Plenty people and most lovely atmosphere.
In the afternoon, we joined about 100+ people in the Bugenhagenhaus for a basic refresher on Luther´s life and work: “Luther für Einsteiger.” Dr. Johannes Block introduced 38 stations of Luther´s life depicted by Gustav König in 1851, whilst Professor Michael Stolle interspersed little jewels on a grand piano and accompanied us singing some Lutheran treasures like “Die beste Zeit im Jahr ist mein…” and a lector played “Luther´s voice” – reading a running commentary by the Reformer. All in all it reminded me very much of my father-in-law´s “Christenlehre” on two consecutive Sundays commemorating the Reformation and going through P.Johannes Schnackenberg´s reader on this pivotal period, person and place. There was enough food for thought to keep us well through the festive concert in the evening before we finally go to the celebrants in the Brauhaus. All in all – a perfect Reformation Festival for sure.