Martin Luther (1483-1546) and Wittenberg 2017
I have just had an amazing week in Wittenberg, Germany. Accepting a wonderful invitation by the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN UK and TBN USA), I was accompanied by Leon Schoeman, Director of TBN UK, and filmmaker Luke Bradford. I was given an opportunity of a lifetime – a thrill and privilege beyond any offered to me: to preach the Gospel where Martin Luther once stood.
The purpose of this trip was to make a film that will be shown all over the world on October 31st 2017 – to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31st 1517. It was the moment that ended up turning Germany and Europe upside down. The film will be partly a documentary but mostly preaching the Gospel that Luther rediscovered. It seemed to me that the best way we could honor Martin Luther was to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That said, this film shows beautiful scenes not only of the landscape and town of Wittenberg today but also of the lovely surroundings of Wartburg Castle where Luther translated the New Testament into German in 1521-1522.
The filming did not come easily. Whereas 200,000 tourists are expected to come to Wittenberg on the anniversary day of the Ninety-five Theses, we still had to work past hundreds of tourists already coming to Wittenberg who wanted to take pictures of the famous Door. In order to succeed in our mission we got up right after dawn and I managed to preach a few minutes as the sun arose before the crowds moved in. We were also given permission for me to speak in the pulpit inside the Castle Church. Luther preached in this church hundreds of times. Whereas the Eucharist had been the center of worship for centuries, Luther’s unfolding of the Gospel, especially as in Romans and Galatians, made preaching popular. People came from all over Germany just to hear the Bible explained to them – an unprecedented phenomenon at the time. The people did not have Bibles in those days nor did they understand the Gospel.
Wartburg Castle is where Luther spent ten months translating the New Testament into German. People bought copies as fast as they could be printed. The irony of today is, we all have Bibles but we don’t read them! Nor do we, sadly, understand the Gospel. Let us all make a commitment to read our Bibles and witness another reformation. This is partly why I have written a book to be published shortly, Whatever Happened to the Gospel?
I may be known as a Calvinist, but Luther is my hero. One difference between Luther and John Calvin is that if you were going to go on a long holiday, you’d rather go with Luther! Luther was fun, crude, never boring and full of life. The three of us determined to have fun on this trip – and not take ourselves too seriously. I think we succeeded to some degree. Do pray for the production of this film. Pray most of all that many thousands will come to know Jesus Christ through this telecast next October 31st.