The Gustavus Adolphus plaque at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
Orycteropus Afer over on Aardvark Alley has some great daily posts for feast days and commemorations, especially as regards people important to the history of the early Church and the Reformation. Today happens to be the commemoration of King Gustavus II Adolphus of Sweden, who fought valiantly during the Thirty Years’ War “so that the Lutheran Reformation might live.” He left his mark on Germany and northern Europe during the war, not only extending Sweden’s world-influence (the Swedish Empire became a world power under Gustavus Adolphus’ reign, and stayed so for about 100 years until the Karl XII’s defeat at Poltava at the hands of the Russians under Peter the Great), but also making great gains for the spread of Lutheranism in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Orycteropus has put up a nice biography of “der Löwe von Mitternacht”, as well as suggested readings for his commemoration. Read a selection from the commemoration after the jump:
+ Gustavus Adolphus, King and Confessor + 6 November AD 1632
Gustavus Adolphus pioneered the use of fast-firing musketeers and extreme mobility of troops and flexibility in engagements. His artillery was much more mobile than others’ and he treated all branches of his army equally, refusing to favor cavalry over infantry or musketeers over pikemen. Indeed, he cross-trained as many of his soldiers as possible, so much of his infantry could ride and his pikemen could also use muskets.
Yet we Christians, in particular we Lutherans, most of all remember and give thanks for a man who used his intellect and leadership in political and military defense of the religious gains of the Reformation. And while not all in Sweden, Germany, or elsewhere continue to staunchly believe in justification by grace through faith, or to trust in Scripture’s veracity and the truth of the Lutheran Confessions, it’s nowhere the fault of godly King Gustavus Adolphus Magnus.
Almighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of Your love in the heart of Gustav Adolf, who inspired his kingship under Jesus, the King of kings, and who led him to bold confession and humble service, grant to us, Your people, like faith and humble service, that we who rejoice in his triumphs may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
King Gustavus II Adolphus
The font and graphic design choices displayed here make this a much more exciting event than it probably was.
Today marks an important day in the church calendar for Lutherans and many Protestants in the United States and around the world, and is especially notable this year as preparations are underway for the Reformation 2017 Celebration (in, you guessed it, 2017). “Why?” ask the uninitiated. In Lutheran and Protestant circles, the last Sunday of the month of October is often celebrated as Reformation Day in commemoration of Martin Luther’s posting of his “Ninety-Five Theses” on the door (which at the time was more or less the community bulletin-board) of the Castle Church at Wittenberg in Germany on the Eve of All Saints in 1517. These theses were, in essence, a set of debate points concerning the theological and ethical implications of the sale of indulgences (reprieves from purgatory granted by the Church for payment) by church officials in Germany. After he posted his debate points, someone took them and copied them, proliferating the copies all throughout the German states, which were being financially exploited to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. What Luther had intended to be a relatively quiet scholarly debate between university professors turned into a religio-political firestorm seemingly overnight, the seed of what we call the Reformation, and the rest is history.
Thus, we celebrate this seemingly innocuous event–a scholar posting a debate notice on a public bulletin board–each year to commemorate what it began, the act of the reformation of the Catholic Church in the West, and the theological and doctrinal clarity that came with it. It is also a time when many Lutherans take pride in their religious and ethnic (often German) heritage, so many congregations celebrate Reformation Sunday as an Oktoberfest, with food, music, and games for the church and surrounding community. If you are curious about Reformation Day celebrations and the history and theology behind them, feel free to visit your local Lutheran church. They’ll be more than happy to talk with you (and save you a beer and a sausage).
The Collect for Reformation Sunday (LSB, via http://www.sanctus.org):
O Lord, keep Your household the Church in continual godliness that through Your protection she may be free from all adversities and devoutly given to serve You in good works; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.