Reformation and the “New” Printing Press

Did you know there are two ways to refer to the word of God? The first is with a capital W- indicating a personhood- that of Christ himself, such as, “in the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Word with a capital W is Christ.
The second is with a little w and when we use it this way, we are speaking of scripture or the Bible as the word of God. It doesn’t occur to us often since either way both are alive, both reach out and speak to us and teach us- but only one sets us free.

Spending his days immersed in prayer and scripture as a monk, Martin Luther came to understand this difference in the function of the “word”and he felt compelled to share that message with others.  Unfortunately, in his day, to share the word of God in the common language of the people was punishable by death. Worship and reading of the Bible was done only in Latin or original languages and unless you knew those you relied upon what the priest told you to believe it meant.
Martin Luther was so moved by the discovery of what it meant to have the word of God empower himself to know the freedom of Christ, that he knew in his heart of hearts that the people needed the word in their own language. Of course, there was also this new fangled social media technology- the printing press- available so he used it. What few people recall is how risky this was. In fact, in England, William Tyndale followed Luther’s steps and translated the Bible into English- and was repaid by being not only hung to death, but then burned at the stake. John Wycliffe, doing the same, was declared a heretic after his death, and that wasn’t enough- they dug him up to burn him for his crime of translating the scripture, because you know, being dead wasn’t punishment enough for this crime.

What causes such vehement response? Fear. You see, people were afraid; very, very afraid. They understood that there is power in the written word and when we put that power out there into the world, we cannot bring it back- and we cannot stop it from being misused. But Martin Luther knew that the more important gain was the setting free of each and every person who was given the word in their own language.  They were given freedom from the bondage of ignorance and sin. They were given empowering freedom for every person who would read those words and come to know Christ, gaining the ultimate freedom of salvation.

Just like Martin Luther, we are experiencing a revolution- an opportunity to experience the world in new ways- and more importantly, ways to share God’s faithfulness in new ways. Unlike Martin Luther, we assume access to the information we want. In fact, at times, Americans get a little testy when they are told freedom of information has limits. The movement of the internet and the power of social media has taken our society by storm. It is everywhere and we hear of it constantly.

And no different than the printing press was for the folks of Martin Luther’s day, for some, it is frightening. It is new and has power. It has power to bring pain, suffering, and humiliation. You have all heard the stories; from bullying of beautiful teen girls into suicide to teasing of politicians who tweet pics of themself reading a paper in what is obviously a bathroom stall.

It also has power to bring about justice, to lift up the lonely, to connect and empower us; such as autistic teens who can connect with little social anxiety, scared new moms who need nursing advice the middle of the night and connecting stranded travelers with resources like when the volcano erupted in Iceland.

In 2014, a few aspiring folks took this new media and created a national event: Social Media Sunday.  It is meant to connect churches, not just Lutheran, but all churches- to each other and to the world. They saw it as a new way to love and share the freedom of Christ just like Martin Luther did. This year, we are celebrating as part of Social Media Sunday- because as a body of Christ, we believe in God’s faithfulness and that God is revealing Godself to us in new ways all the time. This is a new way for us to see God- to know and understand God’s faithfulness to us. Yes- social media can be used poorly- but it can also bring about good. And  just like Martin Luther, we are going to use our new fangled printing press to bring about good and share the light and freedom of Christ.

It is particularly appropriate that the very weekend we celebrate the Reformation; we also celebrate Social Media Sunday. In the very spirit of Martin Luther we nail the hard questions of our society to the door- the questions of social justice, hunger, economy and power. We just nail them up on facebook or Instagram.

In the very spirit of Martin Luther we come to the foot of the cross, recognizing that we can do so little, but through the Spirit, our actions can be and are blessed to move throughout the world- we just do it through twitter.

We are granted an opportunity, a freedom, to empower not only ourselves, but to change the world, so that we might all know the freedom of the Word of God, in Christ our Lord and Savior.  And if we are free, then let us now go tweet, Instagram, blog, youtube or Facebook BOLDLY.  Amen.


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