2017 marks the 500th commemoration of the Reformation which is traditionally dated October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg to protest what he saw as abuses in the church at the time.

Synods and churches throughout the ELCA are planning different ways to mark this year.

The Northeastern Iowa Synod chose to begin this celebration two years ago, in 2015, to lift six important reformers, each of whom represent an important quality in the spirit of Reformation.

In 2015, we began with Jan Hus who represents bold leadership.  Although he lived a hundred years before Luther, Luther saw many similarities between his ideas and Luther’s own message.  “We are all Hussite’s” Luther exclaimed when he read his writings.

We are ending this year’s focus on Elizabeth of Hungary as we lift up service and the vital role it plays in renewal.

When 2017 comes to a close we will continue our celebration of reformation for another three years as we focus on Philip Melanchthon who represents education, Katie Luther and family life, and we end with Joannes Buchenwald and a focus on parish life.

During this Reformation Year, though, we take a closer look at the life and message of Martin Luther himself.  Our focus is on the Gospel, which was the heart of Luther’s message.

The Gospel is the good news of God’s love and acceptance of all people through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  As we live in a time of change and transition in not just the church, but society and the world in general, it is crucial we recognize and preserve what is essential about our message and that is the Gospel.

So, this year we will examine the Gospel, what it is, how we proclaim it, in Word, deed, sacraments, education, arts and music.

To that end we have invited several people in our synod to write a brief devotion each month for our newsletter, focusing on a parable of Jesus and what it teaches us about the Gospel.  Be sure to look at your January STAR for a reflection from former ELCA bishop, H. George Anderson.

Also, coming in January, Bishop Ullestad explains some of the basic tenants of the Lutheran understanding of the Gospel from the confessions.  These teachings are just as meaningful as ever.

Our task is to find new ways to interpret and share these teachings in ways that make the good news of God’s grace clear and as freeing as they were when Martin Luther shared them 500 years ago.

We believe the Reformation is as relevant today as it has ever been.  The challenge is the same as it has ever been, to show that relevance.   So, join us this year, and the next three as we encourage and share ways we can do that so that we might “Go therefore and make disciples of all people” (Matthew 28:19).

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.




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