TURNING POINTS IN LUTHER'S LIFE, by Rev. Dr. Arthur Puotinen
A “turning point” happens when a decisive change in a situation occurs, especially one with beneficial results. As an introduction to the story of Martin Luther, I highlight here the top ten turning points in the Protestant reformer’s life and ministry. I also encourage you to develop your own “top ten list.”
1. Luther turns from becoming a lawyer to entering the monastery and the priesthood. I see his dramatic decision on the road in a thunder storm and his first time leading worship as key events to know and serve God.
2. In his “Tower Experience,” Luther turns to Paul’s letter to the Romans. He discovers that people receive justice through the grace of God in Jesus Christ, not through good works. "The one who is righteous will live by faith."
3. Martin Luther posts his 95 theses that criticize the church’s practice of indulgences. His bold statement becomes his first step toward reformation (i.e. the act or process of improving something or someone by removing or correcting faults, problems, etc.)
4. In 1520-1521, Luther writes his three great works "Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation," "The Babylonian Captivity," and "The Freedom of the Christian Man," resulting in his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church.
5. At the Imperial Diet of Worms, Luther defends his writings and refuses to recant them. The Emperor and Church declare him to be a heretic and outlaw.
6. Luther is kidnapped and taken to the secluded Wartburg castle. He lives incognito there and devotes himself to a new task, translating the New Testament from its original Greek into German within eleven weeks. This turning point contributes to the development of a standardized written German language.
7. Martin Luther returns to Wittenberg as a dominant leader in the Reformation movement. From 1522-1524 Luther's pastoral duties extend into preaching trips throughout central Germany while he adds his reforms in the worship service liturgy. In his work – "To the Councilmen of all Cities within German Territories; Christian Schools Ought to be Kept Up" – Luther advocates that authorities are obligated to guarantee a good education for the youth.
8. On June 13, 1525, Luther marries Katharina von Bora, a nun who had fled from a convent and taken refuge in Wittenberg. He becomes a champion for marriage and family life. Luther's household includes not only his wife and six children, but also one of Katharina's relatives and, after 1529, six of Luther's sister’s children. Luther also houses students in his home to help the families’ financial situations and his counsel to them becomes his popular Table Talk.
9. Luther seeks to strengthen families and cultural life. His books at this time include the Baptismal Book and Wedding Book and, in 1529, the Small Catechism and Large Catechism. He creates the Smart Songbook and the choral "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" in 1527.
10. Martin Luther believes in the priesthood of all believers and affirms that Christians have a calling to serve God and one’s neighbor in various occupations. This turning point perspective gives new importance to the home, church, education, economy, and politics, as orders of creation from God and blessings for the common good.
This top ten list of turning points gives a glimpse of Martin Luther-courageous and faithful leader, active reformer of church and society, and contributor to the cultural life of his time and beyond. In this centennial year, we celebrate his legacy and continue the ministries of love and justice.