*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 20th of April 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
We don’t do serialized shows around here- you never have to listen to one to understand another- but when themes and certain events are swirling on consecutive days, I like to mention.
Yesterday we talked about Philipp Melanchthon and his relationship with Luther. As his systematizer, as his friend, as his sounding board and ally. It was a special relationship in Wittenberg at that time- that, along with the printer and artist Lucas Cranach, drove the earliest movement in the Reformation. But I was remiss in not adding a 4th character to this town’s cast of reformation characters- so today we remember the pastor to the Reformers- the man who preached to Luther and Melanchthon and Cranach on Sunday mornings from the Wittenberg Stadkirche: Johannes Bugenhagen.
Bugenhagen died on this the 20th of April in 1558, so let’s honor his part of the Reformation story on this anniversary.
Bugenhagen wanted a fancy Latin name like Melanchthon (remember old Schwartzerd), and he tried to give himself the name Johannes Pomeranus (he was from Pomerania). Still, it hasn’t stuck in the historical record.
He was born in 1485 and given a thoroughly Catholic Humanist education- something very common for many would-be Reformers. Let me lay out Humanism real quick.
It is an educational aspiration. The desire to free the self by reflecting on the past and present in all of its diversity includes many languages and many kinds of texts. It’s not identical- but think “Liberal Arts” today, and you get closer to what Humanism was.
But Bugenhagen was initially cool to Luther’s reform. In 1520 he began a correspondence with Luther and received an early copy of his early treatises (On the Freedom of the Christian and the Babylonian Captivity of the Church). This convinced Johannes to make his way to Wittenberg, but Luther would have fled to the Wartburg Castle after the Diet of Worms.
So Bugenhagen studied with Melanchthon- received his doctorate in Theology, and was a coveted Reformer for many cities with open positions. Bugenhagen was amongst the earliest Reformers to get married, and this seems to have been a boon for Wittenberg, as Bugenhagen’s marriage led some to remind their call to him.
He was the preacher at the Stadkirche. He was Luther’s confessor and the author of Church Orders- that is, think of a hymnal with an order of service, small Catechism, etc. He helped perform the Saxon visitations with Luther in the late 1520s and went on to help establish churches in the North-Eastern German and Danish lands- not far from his native Pomerania.
Bugenhagen also translated Luther’s version of the German New Testament into Low German- (think of it like the Message or the Living Bible today- a handy tool for many just learning to read).
Bugenhagen’s life- at its best- can be seen as a testimony to the hard work of the parish pastor. Luther and Melanchthon and Cranach get a lot of the glory- but imagine the work of the man whose job was to keep the fire of the Gospel burning through the pulpit- to feed the people who would then take the message out to the ends of the world.
It should also be noted that when Luther died, Bugenhagen preached the funeral sermon. Bugenhagen and his family took in a newly widowed Katy Luther.
Johannes Bugenhagen, born in 1485, was 72 when he died on this the 20th of April in 1558
The last word for today comes from the daily lectionary, which is keeping us in the easter mood- this is from Luke.
9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 20th of April 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who also tried unsuccessfully to get a few nicknames to stick: names like Iceman, the dagger, and Señor Guapo. He is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man Sam Pepke calls Dutch… Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.