Reformation Day

Reformation Day has never been a major observance in most United Methodist churches despite its appearance on our program calendars. It is much more important to the Lutherans and Presbyterians than to the Methodists. The reason, of course, is that we trace our heritage back through John and Charles Wesley, both priests in the Church of England, rather than to the branch of Protestantism that comes through the reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin.

That is not to say that there is no place in our worship for remembering and considering the Protestant Reformation. Even without Luther in our family tree, he has had considerable impact upon us; and the principles of the Reformation continue to be ours — salvation, not by works, but by faith; the priesthood of all believers; the primacy of Scripture; worship in the vernacular; and more.

Today, however — approaching 500 years since Luther posted his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517, on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany (where he served as assistant pastor) — we are more likely to incorporate themes of ecumenicalism and cooperation, understanding and mutual appreciation, working toward unity, strengthening and revitalizing the church, as well as the historic themes. Along with "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" (United Methodist Hymnal, 110), and "Lift High the Cross" (United Methodist Hymnal, 159), we might sing "God Is Here" (United Methodist Hymnal, 660), "In Unity We Lift Our Song" (The Faith We Sing, 2221), and "Built on a Rock the Church Doth Stand" (Worship & Song, 3147).

"Built on a Rock the Church Doth Stand"

"Built on a Rock the Church Doth Stand" is a great traditional hymn that incorporates a number of Reformation themes, past and present. It has never appeared in any of our Methodist hymnals. The text is by Nikolai F. S. Grundtvig (1783-1872), considered to be Denmark's greatest hymn writer. He was ordained in 1811, but was denied appointment as a pastor because of the controversy his early sermons stirred. He became a chaplain of a women's home and wrote extensively on Norse mythology. He wrote more than 1000 hymns. In 1861 he became a bishop but never received a diocese.
Nikolai F. S. Grundtvig
The KIRKEN DEN ER ET GAMMELT HUS tune is a favorite of Lutherans but largely unknown to United Methodists. It was composed by Ludwig Lindeman (1812-1887), who studied both theology and music. He became organist of the Vor Frelsers Church in Oslo, today named the Oslo Cathedral. He served in his position for 47 years and became one of Norway's greatest musicians. He published a three-volume set of nearly 2,000 Norwegian folk tunes that he had collected.
Ludwig Lindeman

See these other Reformation Day resources on this site: