“No good deed goes unpunished.” That is how I felt after arriving in Wittenberg, Germany for the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation right were Martin Luther lived.
Nancy and I left early Monday while Chris and Ruth followed on a separate flight. Then our flight out of DC was cancelled so we had to rebook on a longer route. After 27 hours of travel we arrived. But one of our bags didn’t. Not easy to fill out lost baggage forms or rent a car when your German is rusty.
But there were also unexpected blessings like the Irish couple, John and Cricket, who also waited in line with us for 90 minutes to get new tickets. They were youth leaders in an Anglican Church in Ireland who were concerned to see the Gospel go out more clearly. We prayed together before separating. There was also Liz, a middle-aged Catholic lady, who heard I was a pastor and began to ask good spiritual questions. We invited her to dinner between flights. Discussion continued and we had a chance to explain the gospel and give her the De Roo tract. We found she was a medical doctor with some fears but was open to God’s word. Before parting she insisted on paying for our dinner, hugged us and said she felt like God brought us to her like angels. We hugged and departed with joy.
Another bump in the road was a mistaken lodging reservation for a city of a similar name but different by one letter and three hours away. We tried unsuccessfully to cancel. A local hotel clerk found another lodging only 7 miles from Wittenberg in the middle of beautiful farm country with grazing horses, rolling wheat fields and a forest background. It was overwhelming how good God was to lead us to such a restful and absolutely quiet place.
The first few days here have been powerful as many scholars taught us the story of the Reformation in great depth. The life of Luther had perhaps more impact on the past two thousand years than anyone else except Christ. Now, 500 years later, his influence continues. He was a mixed up Catholic monk who was trying to gain righteousness by his works but was plagued by his conscience with no peace. But his study of Romans led him to challenge the selling of indulgences to build a Catholic church. He wrote down 95 complaints and nailed them to the door of the church he taught in. He thought this would be helpful to the Pope but he was wrong and became a marked man.
Romans 1:17 led him to rediscover the simple Bible teaching that man can only be saved by the grace of God alone without any works. He had to flee but continued to proclaim these truths. We must also proclaim the doctrine of Christ’s simple salvation to a lost world.
We have also had some amazing opportunities to stand where this happened. Chris and I were given special privilege to actually climb the steps and stand in Luther’s church pulpit (by special permission). We walked in the garden area of his home and all of us had the privilege of standing at the foot of his grave in the Castle Church where he taught. Both churches turned from Catholicism to become churches which taught the word without compromise. Luther hit the nail on the head…ninety-five times. May we do the same.
Pastor Mark with Chris, Ruth and Nancy on scene in Wittenberg, Germany