|Martin Luther Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin|
In 1517, Martin Luther knew that All Saints Church in Wittenburg, Germany, would be filled with worshipers on November 1 for All Saints Day celebrations. For this reason he posted his ninety-five theses on the door of the church the night before to publicize his disgust with the Catholic practice of collecting indulgences from sinners seeking salvation. Little did Luther know that his protest on October 31, All Hallow's Eve, would start a revolution within the church. Today, Protestants around the world commemorate this event every October 31 as Reformation Day.
Johann Sebastian Bach, the musical voice of the Reformation in the Baroque period, wrote the following cantata for Reformation Day 1725:
God the Lord is sun and shield. The Lord gives grace and honor, He will allow no good to be lacking from the righteous.
2. Aria A
God is our sun and shield!
Therefore this goodness
shall be praised by our grateful heart,
which He protects like His little flock.
For He will protect us from now on,
although the enemy sharpens his arrows
and a vicious hound already barks.
Now let everyone thank God
with hearts, mouths, and hands,
Who does great things
for us and to all ends,
Who has done for us from our mother's wombs
and childhood on
many uncountable good things
and does so still today.
4. Recitative B
Praise God, we know
the right way to blessedness;
for, Jesus, You have revealed it to us through Your word,
therefore Your name shall be praised for all time.
Since, however, many yet
at this time
must labor under a foreign yoke
out of blindness,
ah! then have mercy
also on them graciously,
so that they recognize the right way
and simply call You their Intercessor.
5. Aria (Duet) S B
God, ah God, abandon Your own ones
Let Your word shine brightly for us;
against us the enemy rages,
yet our mouths shall praise You.
Uphold us in the truth,
grant eternal freedom,
to praise Your name
through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason--I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other--my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.
With Luther's statement, attempts at reforming the Christian Church has reached a tipping point. There would be no turning back .
Photos and Illustrations:
Conrad Schmitt Studios, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Bach translation, emmanuelmusic,org