500 years in Luther’s Theses
The period known as the Reformation begun when Martin Luther published his ninety-five theses against the sale of indulgences on 31 October 1517.
Five hundred years after the publication of these theses, we are celebrating a worldwide Anniversary of the Reformation. In Finland and in overseas Finnish communities the anniversary celebrations take place between 31 October 2016 and 5 November 2017. The occasion is commemorated together with the centenary of Finland’s independence in 2017.
The anniversary will make known the significance of the Reformation before, now, and in the future.
An individual may perceive their own culture only from the inside. Therefore its central characteristics may be difficult to recognise. In Finland we have lived for centuries in a culture fashioned by the Reformation. Starting with Mikael Agricola, the Reformation has had an impact in the language, ecclesiastical life, schooling system, societal safety nets, international relations, customs, art, calendar, and many other aspects of our culture. Some of the effects may go unnoticed for having such a deeply rooted place in our lives. The Anniversary of the Reformation provides an opportunity to think about the relationship of the Reformation to one’s own personal identity.
The anniversary opens up new perspectives on the effects that the Reformation has had all over the world. Migration and missionary work have spread the message and the effects of the Reformation to all continents. By crossing geographical and cultural boundaries, the Reformation has been a dynamic force of change.
The Many Readings of the Reformation
The Reformation was as much a spiritual, church political, societal, historical, and a cultural phenomenon. At different times and across the boundaries formed by the Reformation, understandings of the phenomenon have varied.
In 2017 the history of the Reformation and its significance may be observed together in an ecumenical fashion and in the light of most recent research. This provides an opportunity for shaping views and attitudes. We have moved from a position of confrontation towards union.
Calling the year 2017 – the Anniversary of the Reformation – tells about growing unity. Repentance and reconciliation are part of this anniversary.
2017 a Year of Grace
The title given to the anniversary is Grace 2017! The title is at the same time an announcement and a request. Placing an emphasis on the importance of grace arises from Luther’s thought. Grace is also a universal part of Christian faith. God’s grace and mercy amongst people is at the center of all Christian communities.
The anniversary challenges us to think about the meaning of grace and mercy, how they can be seen in twenty-first century life, and what should be done so that they would have an even stronger influence.
The Anniversary of the Reformation is an ecumenical event open to all Christians. However, the effects of the Reformation are not limited to churches or different Christian communities alone. This occasion is also an anniversary for the whole society and therefore open to everyone.
Many organisations have anniversary projects underway. The Church Council has begun the Grace 2017! project, which on its part prepares and coordinates the celebrations of the anniversary. Grace2017! is ecumenical and involves the wider society as well. Information about the coordination of the project can be found here.