A Quick Study: Reformation, Part109, October 15, 2017

 
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This quick study on Reformation History was given at the end of service at St. Peter–Immanuel Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, WI, on October 15, 2017. The text of the study is included and you may play the audio of the study here.
Luther was only supposed to say one word, “revoco,” I recant. But he couldn’t say it to Cardinal Cajetan. It just couldn’t happen. Luther wasn’t able to betray all of the Scriptural truth he had encountered and written about for the sake of making up with the pope. Cajetan was furious, having been assured that Luther would recant, but Luther was steadfast. Cajetan was set to put him in chains, but before that could, Luther’s father confessor and good friend, released him from his monastic vows and sent him back under cover to Wittenberg.
Releasing someone from their vows was no small feat. This really meant that Luther couldn’t make it as a monk. Yet, Staupitz did this in the hope of saving Luther’s life. If Luther was not a monk, the pope really had no ecclesiastical authority over him anymore. This meant that the pope couldn’t force him to obey anything, except by threat. It’d be like Pastor Harrison, our Synodical President, trying to come into the church and tell you that you have to learn Greek and Hebrew or be punished. It wouldn’t work.
However, though Luther’s friends snuck him back to Wittenberg, not for the last time, and Luther didn’t have to be afraid of the pope theologically, he was still under threat of force from him. People still wanted to do his bidding. So, discovering that Luther had returned to Wittenberg, the pope and his envoys wrote and demanded that Luther be turned over to be punished and killed.
Thankfully, Luther had an elector, Frederick the Wise, who refused. Frederick the Wise. An elector is kind of like a combination between a prince, a governor, and a member of the electoral college. He would rule a certain area or state, but he also would serve in electing the emperor when the need arose. (As it happens, Frederick the Wise would elect a new emperor in 1519 after the death of Maximillian–that’ll come up next week.) Once the emperor was elected, he was set in that role for the rest of his life, yet the emperor would know he always would owe a great debt and great fidelity to these electors.
But Frederick the Wise, earning the monicker, was kind of a force to be reckoned with. He was a man of great faith. In fact, he collected relics of the saints from all over the world. An inventory from 1518 said that he had over 17000 different relics. Fingers, twigs from the burning bush, all relics that were said to reduce time of Purgatory. If anyone was afraid of that suffering as much as Luther, it might have been Frederick.
Frederick wanted to serve the church, so in 1502 he founded the University of Wittenberg. He wanted the best and the brightest minds of the empire there, and so when the opportunity came to have Luther reside there, he jumped. Ever since Luther’s arrival, he had been pleased with Luther and tried to protect him in every ay he could. After all, Luther was a great professor and brought the university money and prestige. But now, Frederick’s protection of Luther would go beyond just the academic protection of theological efforts, but into defending Luther’s life. When Frederick refused to hand Luther over, he took a step against the pope that no politician had ever done. Thankfully, many more would follow.

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