Reformation 500

October 31, 2017 (All Saints' Eve) will mark the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, which was ignited by Luther's posting of "The 95 Theses" on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517. A small committee is working on commemorative publications, projects, and events for St. Mark's, which will culminate in our own festival worship on the morning of October 29 (Reformation Sunday). The Washington DC Metropolitan Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will sponsor a Reformation Service at 4:00 PM that afternoon (October 29) in Washington National Cathedral—mark it on your calendar! ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton will preach. The previous Sunday, October 22, the National Lutheran Choir under the direction of David Cherwien will present a concert in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington at 7:00 PM—mark it on your calendar!

As other events come to our attention, they will be posted to St. Mark's Web site. If you have ideas or would like to join the committee, please see committee chair Chris Michaelsen. He will be available after Easter services in the Fellowship Hall, or you can contact him via email or telephone (703-507-3817).


In less than four years, Martin Luther took the crucial steps that resulted in the coming of the Protestant Reformation. From his posting of the Ninety-Five Theses on October 31, 1517, to his defiant statement at the Diet of Worms on April 18, 1521, Luther personally framed the major arguments that would shape the larger resistance to the Papacy and the established order of Christianity. Rarely in human history has one individual's views had such an immediate and far-reaching impact. After the debates between Luther and Johann Eck, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V invited the rebellious monk to defend his views before him and the Diet. Luther accepted. At the assembly, he used the opportunity to argue forcefully that scripture did not grant the authority that the Pope had long claimed to rule the medieval church. Luther also called for extensive theological and institutional reforms. Standing before the Emperor and a large gathering of distinguished church officials, he clarified his views point-by-point. When told he must recant them, Luther boldly declared:  "I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise. God help me." The next day, the Emperor labelled him "a notorious heretic" and condemned his followers. He did, however, give Luther safe passage back to Wittenberg as a gesture to Luther's patron, Frederick of Saxony. On April 26, Luther left Worms, traveling with a contingent of guards but also fearful for his safety. He did not know that an astonishing event was about to befall him.

Reformation Reverberations

"Lord, keep us steadfast in thy Word / And curb the Turks' and papists' sword / Who Jesus Christ, thine only Son / Fain would tumble from off thy throne." These original words of Luther are shocking to our ears. They were just as shocking to many people of Luther's day, including many Lutherans, and soon were replaced by a prayer for protection against enemies of the Word (see Hymn #517). In 1541 the Turks defeated King Ferdinand of Austria at Prague. Two months later the imperial fleet was destroyed in a storm off Algiers. Luther likely wrote this hymn in response to these events, as well as to the Elector's request for prayers against the advancing Turks. But protection was also needed from those princes loyal to Rome who were ready to annihilate Lutheranism. It was a turbulent time—danger was on every side. This prayer for peace and unity (see stanza 3) is as valid for the Church and world today as it was 500 years ago. We sing this most popular of Luther's hymns followed by "Grant Peace We Pray, In Mercy Lord" (see Hymn #784), as was the custom in the earliest Lutheran orders (usually sung after the sermon or at the end of the service). The tune can be traced from Veni redemptor gentium (12th cent.) to "Savior of the Nations, Come" (see Hymn #263) to the two hymns we sing this morning during Communion. You will hear the first two melodies as part of the organ introduction. 

Oktoberfest to Celebrate Reformation 500?

Calling all brewers!

Yes, you did read that correctly. No, I'm not talking about baseball. I'm looking for men and women of St. Mark's who brew beer, or would like to learn.

To help celebrate the 500th anniversary of the reformation, home brewers in congregations around our Fairfax Conference are hoping to have an Oktoberfest with great home-brewed beer. Our friends at Lord of Life already have 25-30 brewers in their growing home-brew crew. I know we have some brewers at St. Mark's. (I myself brew.)

So, if you are a brewer or want to learn about it and possibly become one, send me an email at ‪ Someone recently told me that he doesn't brew beer but he does drink it; I responded, "What do you think we do when we brew?" ;-)

In all seriousness, brewing is a great social activity around which some wonderful conversations and relationships take shape. I look forward to receiving your email!

Until then, cheers!

+ Pastor Albert

          Martin Luther (1483-1546)

          Martin Luther (1483-1546)