The Burning of a Dead Man’s Bones and the Reformation

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the door of the Roman Catholic Church and started the Reformation… well, according to legend. There’s a lot more to this story I did not know until recently, while taking a Church History class.

Often when we look to historical events, we tend to give credit to one person, when in reality, there were several people who were involved. So goes the story of Martin Luther and the Reformation.  I thought it would be appropriate today, to look at those who surround this infamous story.

First, I’d like to talk about a man named John Wycliffe. There isn’t a lot we know about this guy, even his exact birth and death aren’t fully set in stone by Church historians.





                                                    Wycliffe, yes, the guy that shows us what Steve Buscemi would look like with white hair and in religious garb… in case anyone was curious about that…

In the fourteenth century, the only Bible available was in Latin, and Wycliffe studied it! Some of Wycliffe’s theology included:  Christ is the head of the Church and not the Pope, a priest was not to be a mediator between God and man but rather a spiritual leader who preaches and teaches the Word of God, the Church system is not what is important but rather one’s relationship with God, and God’s grace is through Christ’s work on the cross and was not of mankind’s good works.

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Hey, I’ve heard of the Wycliffe Bible! Does that have anything to do with this dude?”  And my response is, “Yes.  Exactly!”  Wycliffe felt it was necessary to have The Bible translated into people’s own languages so that people could read it for themselves.  This was actually quite rebellious.  Why?  Because previously, the Pope could say, “Well according to God…” and people would blindly follow because most people didn’t know Hebrew, Greek, or Latin.  So, basically, Wycliffe took power away from the Catholic Church, however, he was not martyred for it until after his death.  He actually died naturally, according to legend, during a worship service.  Now, that had to be quite the worship service people witnessed that day.

Next, we have someone named Jan Hus. Now, Jan Hus was a man, which could be misleading by thinking he’s a woman cause “Jan” seems like a woman’s name.  But don’t be silly!  Although, there are a lot of women who contributed to Church History, we can’t talk about them, because well… because that might lead women today to get this silly notion that they have something to contribute to the Church, and that would be emasculating to some men.  (Kind of like when a man vacuum’s my floor, I totally think, “He just took my femininity right away from me!  That masculine jerk!” ;-) )

So, anyways, back to the point, Jan Hus…

If this guy doesn't look like a rebel, I don't know who does!

If this guy doesn’t look like a rebel, I don’t know who does!

…during the early 1400s popularizes Wycliffe’s theology and continues the belief that The Bible should be translated to people’s native tongue!  He was adamant about teaching against the Roman Catholic Church traditions that were NOT found in The Bible.  As a result, Hus ends up getting burned alive at the stake, which actually makes sense when you’re trying to threaten someone. What doesn’t make sense, is that next, the Catholic Church dug up Wycliffe’s bones and burned them.  I guess the reason is that nothing shows a guy he’s wrong like burning him at the stake AFTER he’s dead??

…Don’t ask, it perplexes me too…

Then along comes this guy named Johann Tetzel…

"Hi, I'm Tetzel!  I liked to write television commercial jingles before writing television jingles were cool!"

“Hi, I’m Tetzel! I liked to write television commercial jingles before writing television jingles were cool!”

Now, there were these things called Indulgences in the Catholic Church. Indulgences were payments made to a Catholic person to free a spirit from earth and/or purgatory.  More or less, you had to pay your soul into Heaven, all the while, the Catholic Church is getting extremely wealthy.  In fact Tetzel had this little jingle he wrote, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”

This makes Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk who studied Wycliffe and Hus, a hot mess!  (Although, in all fairness, Luther was a hot mess whether or not he studied Wycliffe or Hus, but we’ll save that story for another time.)

So, Luther does this…

"STOP!  It's Hammer time!" "But Brother Martin, I forgot my parachute pants!" "You disgust me, Friar!"

“STOP! It’s Hammer time!”
“But Brother Martin, I forgot my parachute pants!”
“You disgust me, Friar!”

He nails the 95 Theses (many of them he popularized from Wycliffe’s and Hus’ theology) to the door of the Church.  However, contrary to popular belief, Luther did this for two or three years straight, and no one gave a hoot. There is actually no response whatsoever from anyone, and Luther does not gain the attention he wants.

Then Johannes Gutenberg’s greatest invention came into play–the printing press!  Luther starts mass producing the 95 Theses and distributes them for people to read.  Now, the Roman Catholic Church gets angry and calls for Luther’s presence at a meeting known as the Diet of Worms in 1521.  It was there  they force Luther to eat a diet of worms for his penance, instead of saying Hail Mary’s.

No, I'm totally kidding!

No, I’m totally kidding!

There really was an event called The Diet of Worms though, which was a meeting in a town called Worms, where Luther was sent to recant his books, writings, and beliefs.

The more accurate and boring picture of the Diet of Worms.

The more accurate and boring picture of the Diet of Worms.

Luther asked for 24 hours to think over his answer. Mainly, because he knew what happened to Wycliffe’s dead bones and Hus’ living bones when they disagreed with the Roman Catholic Church.  And I’m sure he was more threatened by Hus’ persecution than Wycliffe’s…  Just sayin…  Anyways, after 24 hours, Luther returned and refused to recant his beliefs, by saying, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God.  Thus I cannot and will not recant, for going against conscience is neither safe nor right.  I can do no other, here I stand, God help me.”

Luther was free for 21 days after refusing to recant his beliefs.  Then they captured him to kill him, but his good buddies (under the direction of a prince) kidnap him.  Luther spends the rest of his days translating the Latin Bible into German.

And there you have it folks, the starting of the Reformation…

Now, why is this important?  First of all, thanks to the Reformation, we start to see The Bible translated into various languages for the common people, and The Bible starts to become the rule of faith and practice, instead of the tradition of the Church.  Secondly, we start to see justification by faith through grace become the center of salvation, instead of Indulgences and good works.

Here’s some unimportant yet fun facts:

+Martin Luther did not like the beginning of the Protestant Church being referred to as “The Reformation”, rather, he wanted to reserve that title for the New Heaven and the New Earth when Christ returns.

+Martin Luther was a hot tempered mess of a man! Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!

+Martin Luther also got married to a nun, and thus changed the course of history by stating that marriage and family is just as valid as celibacy and singleness in the service of the Church.

+The word ‘theses’ rhymes with ‘feces’.


+ Here’s a “Reformation Polka” for anyone looking for special music for your next Church Service.  Just take note, Luther never spoke against Transubstantiation, nor did he ever nail the Theses to a wall, or liked the word “reformation” to describe the beginning of the Protestant Church.  So don’t sing the chorus of this song, and you’ll actually be accurate to Luther’s story.

+Check out these women and read their amazing contributions to Church History! Remember men, this is not emasculating, so feel free to vacuum my floors anytime! ;-)

Hildegard of Bingen

Hildegard of Bingen

Saint Brigit of Kildare

Saint Brigit of Kildare

Catherine of Silena

Catherine of Silena

Doctor of the Church, Teresa of Avila

Doctor of the Church, Teresa of Avila


8 Ways to Honor Your Pastor

Welcome to October, the month of falling leaves, pumpkin spice everything, scary costumes, and ridiculous amounts of candy. It’s also Clergy Appreciation Month, a reminder to take some time to say thank you to your pastor and other clergy members in your life. As someone who has recently resigned from the pastorate, I can tell you first hand how meaningful any message of thanks is during Clergy Appreciation Month, or any time of the year. I urge you to take some time to remember your pastor this month and encourage him or her. If you are a pastor, think about the people in your life that have mentored you and supported you, chances are one of them is a pastor. Take some time to think about past pastors in your life. Are you still in contact with any of them? A quick “you made a difference in my life” will not go unnoticed.

If you’re stumped about what exactly you can do for your pastor, here are a few suggestions.

1. A Card This is the simplest and easiest way to honor your pastor, no matter what kind of personality they have, no matter how close you are to them, or how much you dislike their sermons or choice of carpet color, your pastor will appreciate a card with a heartfelt message of thanks. This one also doesn’t take much time. You also don’t have to spend much money, you can even make your own card or just send a short letter of appreciation. Trust me, your pastor has been told by someone that they’re not doing it right, that they’re not good enough, that they’re failing as a pastor. Give them a reminder that they are enough and what they do makes a difference.

2. A Gift Card These are flexible and convenient and any pastor with their busy schedule and stressful work would be grateful for a gift card. It also doesn’t have to be expensive. Even $5 would be appreciated. Or pool your money with other congregation members to give a larger amount. If you know your pastor well, choose a gift card to a place they already shop. If you don’t know which gift card to purchase, try a coffee shop or a restaurant.

3. A Homemade Gift One of the best gifts I ever received as a pastor was a hand made quilt from one of the quilters in my congregation. A gift you make yourself will mean even more to your pastor. So, give them a hand knitted scarf, a crocheted blanket, a hand made candle, a personalized scrapbook, a wood carving, a painting, whatever it is that you make. However, if your pastor is trying to eat healthy, maybe you shouldn’t give them a batch of your famous double chocolate brownies.

4. A Gift If you don’t like giving gift cards, and you don’t make your own gifts, and you still want to give something more than a card, try giving a simple gift. This works best when you know your pastor. What are their hobbies? What do they enjoy doing on their day off? Just as a caution, unless you know for sure your pastor wants one of these, they probably do not need figurines, plaques, books, Bibles, or crosses. They already have more than enough. Perhaps a mug if they enjoy coffee or tea, golf balls for the golfer, a bookmark for the reader, or a key chain with their team’s mascot.pastor-appreciation-mug

5. An Act of Service Here’s a gift that doesn’t have to cost any money: volunteer to do something for your pastor. Maybe you can babysit their kids for a night to give them a night off. Is there any church duty you can volunteer to do so they won’t have to? Perhaps whisk them away from the office for a pedicure or a round of golf or an afternoon at the movie theatre. An act of service might be worth more than any gift card, because you’re taking the time and effort to do something special.

6. Social Media Shout Out Tell your Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Youtube/Snapchat/Periscope followers how awesome your pastor is, followed by an invite to your church. You can even write a blog about your pastor such as this one or this one. Just be conscious that not everyone likes the spotlight. Don’t intentionally embarrass your pastor; that would have the opposite effect.iheartpastor

7. Remember Last Week’s Sermon This may seem insignificant, but it’s a huge one. You can usually remember the sermon while you’re shaking hands on your way out saying, “Great sermon, Pastor.” But what would really make a difference is giving your pastor a call in the middle of the week saying “Thanks again for the message on grace. Here’s how it had impacted my life this week…” Pastors spend many hours a week preparing for their message. If you can acknowledge that hard work, they will be grateful.

8. Prayer Last, but certainly not least, remember to pray for your pastor. They fight spiritual battles everyday. They are often weary from their multiple responsibilities, perhaps taking care of their family as well as their church, expected to interact in the community regularly, and the rewards are often not tangible. Pray for your pastor, tell them you are praying for them, and ask what you can pray for.

Hopefully these ideas have inspired you to do something to honor your pastor this month. What are you planning to do for your pastor? As a pastor, would you add anything to this list?