Lutherpalooza is sweeping Minnesota this week, as 1 million Protestant faithful wrap up a yearlong celebration of the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation.
“Luther” — the theater production — is playing at Concordia University. The Minnesota Orchestra will premiere its “Reformation Symphony.” The National Lutheran Choir debuts its anniversary “Holy Spirit Mass.”
Pastors across the state are brushing off their sermons for Reformation Sunday, bringing fresh insights into the headstrong 16th century monk.
“The 500th anniversary of the Reformation only comes around once: It’s a very big deal,” said Mary Jane Haemig, a professor at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, which is hosting a two-day “Reformation Festival” ending today.
The festival includes workshops such as a “Crash Course on Luther” world music and perhaps even a bit of Luther’s favored beverage — beer.
The year 2017 put the spotlight on the Protestant Reformation like never before, highlighting the legacy of Luther’s break from the Catholic Church. Minnesota faithful have made pilgrimages to Luther’s German homeland, and made their way to countless choir concerts, hymn festivals, charity runs, academic conferences and theatrical productions.
Mount Olivet Church in Minneapolis has been a leader in igniting interest. It was a major funder of the unprecedented Luther exhibit last year at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, for example, as well as the repair costs for one of Luther’s pulpits that was part of the exhibit.
The year “has been historically enriching and spiritually renewing,” said Mount Olivet Pastor Steve Cornils. “On Sunday, our sermons will talk about how the Reformation is not just a historical event, that the church and individuals are in constant need of reforming.”
There’s also been some reconciliation with the Catholic Church that Luther so famously denounced, ranging from last year’s joint Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of the 500th anniversary in Sweden to events here. On Saturday night, for example, Bishop Ann Svennungsen of the Minneapolis synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will preside over a Catholic-Lutheran choir performance at the Basilica of St. Mary with Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese.
The Basilica also hosted the National Lutheran Choir, which performed its original “The Holy Spirit Mass” on Friday.
It’s been unlike any other year. As Bob Hulteen, Minneapolis ELCA spokesman put it: “This is the most concentrated time of remembering Martin Luther for at least 100 years.”
Tuesday is the anniversary of the day that Luther nailed his famous 95 theses to a church door, laying out the abuses of power in the Catholic Church. Several hundred Lutheran pastors will gather at a suburban church to celebrate the historic day — and do what hardworking ministers do.
“They’ll be looking at [ideas for] the year 501,” said Hulteen.