If you're playing along at home, you might be aware that today is Maundy Thursday, a/k/a Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Thursday of Mysteries, which is oooh...spooky!, and sometimes Sheer Thursday. Also, Sunday is Easter! That got me thinking about religion in my life, growing up in a German Lutheran church (services were in German up until World War II), in central Ohio.
When I was in college, there was a course taught in the German Department on "Luther and the Philosophy of Faith." I didn't take that class because, since I grew up going to a Lutheran Church, I was pretty already well-versed in the theological underpinnings of the reformation. I didn't really feel like re-doing catechism class for college credit. But I had a friend who took the course, and when she needed an extension to turn in her final paper late, she ingeniously nailed it to the door of the professor's office. Hilarious.
If you attend a Lutheran church, or even if you're just a big history buff, you might know that 2017 marks the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Way back in 1517, a friar named Johan Tetzel started selling "indulgences"--i.e. forgiveness of sins--in order to pay for renovations to St. Peter's in Rome. That got Martin Luther thinking about a new philosophy--that salvation should be rooted in faith, rather than in doing good deeds or buying forgiveness from the Catholic Church for cash money. Apparently, Luther actually came up with his 95 Theses while sitting on the toilet. Seriously. I saw that on the History Channel, so it's definitely true. Plus, he didn't just write about the bible being more important than the decrees of the pope. He also wrote quite a bit about his chronic constipation.
Maybe I just crossed a line in an article about faith-based travel.
On the other hand, maybe this is the year that you might want to take a trip to Germany to delve into the history of the Reformation. A trip like this can be really transformative. It builds fellowship with other members of your congregation, it deepens your faith, it enriches the spiritual journey you've already developed, and it blends faith with fun. I mean, you're not just visiting religious sites, you're also touring other cultural and historic sites and connecting deeply with the local cultures.
So, just to scratch the surface, here are a few places you could go.
- Wittenberg is the obvious place to visit on a tour like this. Wittenberg is where Luther developed his 95 Theses, and where he nailed them to the door of the church. You can see where it all happened, and also tour a museum about the Reformation.
- Worms is where Luther was summoned for his heresy trial before the Diet of Worms. Yeah, that's what the emperor was called. They didn't actually make him eat worms. There's a beautiful Romanesque cathedral, and you can see the square where Luther made his final testimony.
- Erfurt was where Luther spent a lot of his early life. He went to university there, and took his vows there to become an Augustine monk. While there, you could check out the castle, or the charming medieval bridge lined with stores (kind of like the Ponte Vecchio in Florence)
The actual anniversary is October 31 of this year, so you still have time to plan your trip if you're interested in being there on the actual anniversary. But I wouldn't wait too long--time is short! And of course, we'd be happy to find the right itinerary for you!