By Cindy Koch

It was strange to see such a man so very proud of a pristine window. It was quite beautiful, in fact. The clear glass sparkled as tiny raindrops glittered the surface. Pretty lace curtains were tucked carefully at each edge. They gently draped to frame a perfectly symmetrical arrangement of vases and flowers. Two identical small cream ceramic vessels took their place on either side of one larger vase trimmed in gold, lavender flowers of plastic positioned gloriously in the center. Just beyond the flawless display, the heart of the house lay exposed, for all to see. A shiny glass dining room table presented four table settings. A crystal chandelier hung directly over the spotless centerpiece. Looking deep into the room behind the shiny glass, not one thing was out of place. Symmetry, cleanliness, order, perfection lay just behind the wide open window.

By Paul Koch

500 years ago. Can you believe it? 500 years ago, an unknown monk and professor of theology at a small university in the town of Wittenberg, Germany let his frustrations with the bureaucracy of the church boil over. See, though the church was always a place where the gifts of Christ were given to the faithful, over the years it had become a place marked by systems of penance and work that obscured the gifts of Christ. To continue the growth and strength of the church, monetary payments were attached to your devotional activities. From viewing relics to buying indulgences the Christian was encouraged to ease their conscience and show their repentance by these acts of faithfulness. But this meant that the conscience of the people was always plagued with doubt. Did they give enough or do enough to be sure of their salvation? Where they good enough Christians? Perhaps just one more payment, one more pilgrimage, one more act of penance is needed. In fact, one more is always needed.

By Bob Hiller

So, are you tired of Martin Luther yet? As you well know by now, next Tuesday marks the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his “95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” to the church door in Wittenberg. And though I’m sure by now you’ve read plenty about how those theses weren’t truly “Lutheran” as such (they are still pretty catholic in their theology), that event seems as good a time as any to mark the beginning of the Reformation. Now, 500 years after that incident, here we stand, rejoicing in and celebrating Luther’s “recovery” of the Gospel for the sake of the Church. Happy Halloween!

By Paul Koch

Hanging on the wall of my study is a framed image (like the one above) of Luther standing before the Imperial Diet at Worms. Across from him is the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, and on a table next to him are many of his works. He had been summoned there to recant of the things that he had written and turn from his heresy. Every Lutheran pastor knows the story well, the story of his defiance in the face of power and influence, the story of his unshakable resolve to make a stand. It is a story we know well for it is our inspiration when times are tough, when the deck seems stacked against our preaching and teaching of the Word of God. It is good for us to remember how Luther stood tall that day, to recall that he said: