Getting Ready for Reformation Sunday: A Resource Guide

The days are ticking down to the 500th anniversary of the event that led to Protestantism, the Presbyterian tradition and, ultimately, to Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church itself.

On Oct. 31, 1517, Martin Luther, a professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg in Germany, (in)famously nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church. Historians mark this event, and this date, as the start of the Protestant Reformation.

As the anniversary date approaches, are you ready to celebrate your Reformed heritage? Sure, FAPC’s CREDO series devoted four weeks to Luther, John Calvin and other leading reformers last spring. But that was months ago!

If you’re feeling the need to ready yourself for Reformation Sunday, here are some handy resources:

500 Years in 3.5 Minutes

The Presbyterian Foundation gets us started with a handsome video on the start of the Reformation. If nothing else, you get a glimpse of Wittenberg, Germany.

Contemporary Commentary

Christian Century magazine has published multiple articles in the past year as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation draws near. Here are two excellent ones still outside the paywall.

In “On Luther and his lies,” Rabbi Noam Marans takes on Luther’s notorious anti-Semitism and finds a measure of hope.

“On the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation,” he writes, “the story of Luther and the Jews in the context of Christian-Jewish relations is a narrative of how bad things were, how much better they are today, and how it may yet be possible to complete the journey of reconciliation.”

For a deeper dive into John Calvin, Michelle Sanchez of Harvard Divinity School offers an illuminating essay on “The logic of Calvin’s reform.” 

“Calvin,” she asserts, “defined the true church as marked by its perfor­mance of practices instituted by Christ: preaching and the observance of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In this view, the church isn’t legitimate because it traces its existence to the apostles; rather, the apostles were legitimate because they observed these practices in obedience to Christ.”

We Presbyterians 

Five centuries into the Reformation, we have witnessed the rise and (some would argue) the fall of Protestant denominations—the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, etc. Some say we are entering an era of post-denominational Christianity.

A few years ago we invite our parish associate, the Rev. J.C. Austin, to address this issue in FAPC’s magazine The VOICE. This might be a good time to revisit J.C.’s response to our question, “Does it matter that we’re Presbyterian?

The Cardinal 

How many Reformed churches ask a Roman Catholic archbishop to preach on Reformation Sunday? 

That’s just one of many ways that FAPC stands out. On Oct. 29, His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, will stand in our pulpit. His sermon is titled “The Reformation Continues …”

You can learn a good deal about Cardinal Dolan from his official biography. You can learn even more from his Wikipedia page. Get to know our Catholic neighbor, then come welcome him to FAPC on Reformation Sunday.

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