HOLIDAY BLESSINGS, Chapter 8

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

HOLIDAY BLESSINGS, Chapter 8:

Reformation Day

Of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:38)

“Bohemian Goose” and “Saxon Swan”

Faith Foundations for Celebrating the Protestant Reformation

On October the 31st of AD1517—using a hammer, 95 theological argument “theses”, and the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany—Dr. Martin Luther protested the unbiblical doctrines and practices of the Romans Catholic Church.  Although the back-to-the-Bible revival (which eventually became known as the “Protestant Reformation”) was already in motion (due to the Scripture-promotion efforts of evangelical Christians like Dr. John Wycliffe, Master Jan Hus, the Hussites, the Waldensians, and many others), it was Dr. Luther’s hammer that struck the definitive blow for the Protestant Reformation’s “battle cry”.  The Reformation in Germany, led by Dr. Luther and his allies, quickly led to Luther’s Bible  — so German-speaking people could have God’s Word in their mother tongue.    

But to better appreciate the pivotal role of Dr. Martin Luther, as the spearhead of the Protestant Reformation, it is helpful to recall the role of Master Jan Hus of Prague, an earlier Reformer.

A Bohemian Goose (Jan Hus).

Many of this website’s readers are already familiar with the Christian Reformer and martyr, Jan Hus (a/k/a John Huss), for who the Hussites were named. Jan Hus was a Christian Bible scholar and teacher, in Bohemia (e.g., Prague), a land that today is called the Czech Republic. Jan Hus was a Roman Catholic priest whose studies of the Holy Bible led to him to protest against various unbiblical doctrines and practices that dominated the ecclesiastical politics of his generation. Until he was stopped, Jan Hus taught the Holy Bible’s doctrines (like John Wycliffe, whose writings Hus had studied) to the Bethlehem Chapel congregation (of about 3000 worshippers), in Prague. Hus also taught as a Bible professor at Univerzita Karlova (i.e., Charles University) in Prague.

But how is it fair to call Jan Hus a “Bohemian goose”?

Jan Hus was a Christian Bible scholar and teacher, in Bohemia (e.g., Prague), a land that today is called the Czech Republic. Jan Hus was a Roman Catholic priest whose studies of the Holy Bible led to him to protest against various unbiblical doctrines and practices that dominated the ecclesiastical politics of his generation. Until he was stopped, Jan Hus taught the Holy Bible’s doctrines (like John Wycliffe, whose writings Hus had studied) to the Bethlehem Chapel congregation (of about 3000 worshippers), in Prague. Hus also taught as a Bible professor at Univerzita Karlova (i.e., Charles University) in Prague.

Hus 1
JAN HUS monument

The persecution and trial (for “heresy”) of Jan Hus, a “kangaroo court” by today’s Due Process standards, ended in his execution as an enemy of the Roman Catholic Church – Hus was burned to death on July 6th of AD1415. Since his family name was “Hus”, which means “goose” in the Czech (Bohemian) language, it was said that the Church of Rome had “cooked a goose”. [See church historian Ken Curtis, “John Hus: Faithful unto Death”, posted at http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1201-1500/john-hus-faithful-unto-death-11629878.html.]

JAN HUS martyrdom

Yet an interesting detail of Jan Hus’s last day on Earth is reported by an eye-witness, and corroborated by historical sources close in time to the historic event. (The reports contain slight differences in details, as authentic history accounts do.) Although Jan Hus’s accusers used “foul mouth” curses, Jan Hus could be said to have had a “fowl mouth” when he warned of the future:

With such Christian prayers, Hus arrived at the stake, looking at it without fear. He climbed upon it, after two assistants of the hangman had torn his clothes from him and had clad him into a shirt drenched with pitch. At that moment, one of the electors, Prince Ludwig of the Palatinate, rode up and pleaded with Hus to recant, so that he might be spared a death in the flames. But Hus replied: “Today you will roast a lean goose [i.e., Hus], but hundred years from now you will hear a swan sing, whom you will leave unroasted and no trap or net will catch him for you.”

[citation below]

[Quoting from hostile witness Poggius Florentini, Hus the Heretic, Letter 2 (an eye-witness account written to Leonhard Nikolai), page 60, quoted in Pastor Tom Browning’s “The Goose that Became a Swan” (Arlington Presbyterian Church), pages 6 & 19, at http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/browning/Lesson2.pdf.

The gist of this historic account is substantially corroborated by the research provided in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, which recounts:

When the chain was put about him at the stake, he said, with a smiling countenance, “My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this for my sake, and why then should I be ashamed of this rusty one?” When the fagots [i.e., pieces of wood] were piled up to his very neck, the duke of Bavaria was so officious as to desire him to abjure. “No, (said Huss;) I never preached any doctrine of an evil tendency; and what I taught with my lips I now seal with my blood.” He then said to the executioner, “You are now going to burn a goose, (Huss signifying goose in the Bohemian language:) but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil.” If he were prophetic, he must have meant Martin Luther, who shone about a hundred years after…

[John Foxe citation below]

[Quoting from martyrologist/historian John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Chapter 8, (first translated into English during AD1563), as quoted in Pastor Tom Browning’s “The Goose that Became a Swan” (Arlington Presbyterian Church), pages 6 & 19, posted at http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/browning/Lesson2.pdf][1]

What could this mean?

Did a “swan” arise in place of the cooked “goose”, a hundred years later?

A Saxon Swan (Dr. Martin Luther).

From the region of Germany once called Saxony (or “Saxland”), came Dr. Martin Luther, the colorful leader of Germany’s Protestant Reformation and translator of Germany’s “Luther Bible”. After studying law (without completing law school), Martin Luther became a Roman Catholic priest. After earning four university degrees, that last being a doctorate in Bible, Dr. Luther became troubled by the clash between what the Bible itself taught versus what most of the religious officials taught. Like Hus, his personal studies of the Holy Bible led him to protest various unbiblical doctrines and practices (e.g., the ecclesiastical sale of “indulgences”) that dominated the ecclesiastical politics of his generation.

But how is it fair to call Martin Luther a “Saxon swan”?

On October 31st of AD1517 – 103 years after Hus was burned at Constance — Dr. Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses onto the door of the Wittenberg church, effectively firing a theological “shot heard ‘round the world” (to borrow a phrase from the American Revolution).

DR. MARTIN LUTHER with open Bible (monument)

Although Luther’s friends warned him that Luther might be burned at the stake, like Hus (i.e., “cooked like a goose”), Dr. Luther continued to preach and teach what he believed to be the Bible’s teaching about God, truth, authority, salvation, faith, marriage, and many other important topics. And Luther’s own commentary includes his opinion that he fulfilled Jan Hus’s dying declaration:

However, I, Dr. Martin, have been called to this work and was compelled to become a doctor, without any initiative of my own, but out of pure obedience. Then I had to accept the office of doctor and swear a vow to my most beloved Holy Scriptures that I would preach and teach them faithfully and purely. While engaged in this kind of teaching, the papacy crossed my path and wanted to hinder me in it. How it has fared is obvious to all, and it will fare still worse. It shall not hinder me. In God’s name and call I shall walk on the lion and the adder, and tread on the young lion and dragon with my feet. And this which has been begun during my lifetime will be completed after my death. St. John Huss prophesied of me when he wrote from his prison in Bohemia, “They will roast a goose now (for ‘Huss’ means ‘a goose’), but after a hundred years they will hear a swan sing, and him they will have to endure.” And that is the way it will be, if God wills.

[Dr. Martin Luther citation below]

[Quoting from Martin Luther, in Lutherʹs Works (Vol. 34, Page 103-104). Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999 (from Dr. Martin Luther’s Commentary on the Alleged Imperial Edict Promulgated in the Year 1531, After the Imperial Diet of the Year 1530), as quoted in Tom Browning’s “The Goose that Became a Swan” (supra), page 19, posted at http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/browning/Lesson2.pdf ] Ironically, the word “swan” etymologically connotes one who makes a sound, and the strong voice of Martin Luther would be heard, magnified by the newly invented movable-type printing press.

What an exciting time (and place) it was, during the Protestant Reformation (in Europe)!

What about today?

Jan Hus and Martin Luther were both spiritual pioneers who fearlessly championed God’s truth to a world dominated by hostile opponents.

Jan Hus was “excommunicated” and executed, being burned at the stake – as a “cooked goose”.

Martin Luther too was “excommunicated”; however, he was neither boiled nor burned. In fact, Dr. Luther married a good wife, raised many children with her, taught his family and others in his home and in various churches, pioneered new traditions in sacred music and Christian education, translated the Bible into German, wrote books and booklets (often demonstrating a merry and satirical wit), etc., — and eventually he died of natural causes.

Both Hus and Luther are appreciated by those who value the “sola Scriptura” principle (i.e., Scripture alone is the final authority) of the Protestant Reformation. Unsurprisingly, those who reject the Bible as the ultimate truth authority are often severe critics of both Jan Hus and Martin Luther (illustrating the saying that a man is known not only by his friends, but also by his enemies!).

Pioneers for God’s truth receive opposition nowadays as well, albeit on a less grand scale and in less dramatic confrontations than the “goose cooking” of AD1415 or Wittenberg’s 95 Theses of AD1517. Many who pioneer God’s truth in uncharted (worldview arena) territories will never be as famous as Jan Hus or Martin Luther, yet their brave efforts – swimming against the tides of popular idolatries — are well-known to the God they serve. The ongoing persecution that they suffer is expected, of course, because Paul forewarned us that “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2nd Timothy 3:12).

[See also, in an earlier posting, James J. S. Johnson, “A Bohemian Goose and a Saxon Swan”, posted at http://leesbird.com/2014/12/10/a-bohemian-goose-and-a-saxon-swan/ .]

Festivals Celebrated Near and Far

So how is Reformation Day celebrated? Lamentably, Reformation Day is not often celebrated nowadays. Many on that day — as a secular substitute — celebrate “Halloween”, in ways that glorify death and horror and falsity, in total opposition to the Protestant Reformation’s commitment to truth, life, revival, goodness, and God’s glory, — yet some Lutheran churches have special sacred music events on or near the 31st of October.

Family, Friends, Fellowship, and Fun

Some folks (especially those especially appreciative of Dr. Luther’s leadership role in the Protestant Reformation) invent and implement creative ways to celebrate the holy revival that God worked, about a half-millennium ago, via what became known as the Protestant Reformation. Some Reformation-commemorating activities might include eating sausage (a German cuisine favorite!), singing A MIGHTY FORTRESS IS OUR GOD (lyrics authored by Dr. Martin Luther), reading Psalm 46 before a meal (because it is the psalm on which “A Mighty Fortress” is based), playing Lutheran church music (as background music during a meal.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

PSALM 46:1-3
See the source image
DR. MARTIN LUTHER (with open Bible) statue

Foods to Match Holidays and Festivals

One organization (German Foods) has used creative cuisine, informed by Providential history, to remind us of our Protestant Reformation heritage.

It’s the end of a year-long anniversary celebration dedicated to Martin Luther and his Reformation Day. We feature three regional culinary specialties from Saxony-Anhalt – Luther Cake, Luther Cookies, and Luther Bread – created in recent years as a culinary homage to this historical figure. On October 30, on Hallow’s Eve, the party is on to commemorate …

Reformation Day: The 95 theses

[citation given below]

500 years ago, on October 31, 1517, the priest and scholar Martin Luther sent a letter to the Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz and Magdeburg. The letter contained 95 theses stating Luther’s opposition to a clerical fundraising method of the day, the sale of indulgences. The sale of these indulgences was used to finance the renovation of the Basilica in Rome. Purportedly, he also posted those theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg (located halfway between the cities of Halle and Berlin). …. Recently, bakers in the state of Saxony Anhalt, where Luther lived and preached, created some unique specialties to celebrate. After all, Reformation Day is a storied date in Germany! These sweet treats include Luther Bread, Luther Cookies and Luther Cake! Here’s an introduction. … Luther Bread, (Lutherbrodt) is a round, sweet milk bread, similar to Christmas Stollen. Based on a very old recipe that contains many ingredients, this sweet bread is a delicious treat. These ingredients include nuts, almonds, honey, raisins, candied oranges and lemons, apricot preserves chocolate shavings and sugar glaze. While it may sound like a lot of ingredients, it is a great homemade sweet treat! 

Luther Bread

A sweet baked treasure made with wheat flour, nuts, almonds, candied citrus fruits, raisins, milk, honey, apricot jam and chocolate shavings. Reportedly created by Katharina von Bora, the wife of Martin Luther. In Saxony, this sweet specialty bread is baked one a year in honor of Reformation Day.CourseSide DishCook Time50 minutesTotal Time50 minutesServings8

Ingredients

Dry Ingredients

  • 8 cups wheat flour
  • 1 cup sugar granulated
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 2 packs dry yeast
  • 1-1/3 cups golden sultana raisins
  • 1-1/3 cups candied oranges or candied lemons

Liquid Ingredients

  • 13-1/2 fl. oz. milk 2%
  • 14 tbsp butter (2 sticks)
  • 5 tbsp honey
  • 4 drops lemon juice concentrated
  • 1 egg medium size

Glaze

  • 3 tbsp apricot preserve
  • 2 cups chocolate shavings

Instructions

  • Mix all dry ingredients well in a large bowl
  • Warm milk in a small pot on the stove (don’t bring to a boil) Add all liquid ingredients to the warm milk
  • Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Add the egg at the end. Stir and knead all ingredients well until the dough separates from the edges of the bowl.
  • Cover dough with a towel and let rise for 30 min at a warm place. If you do not find a warm place. heat oven to 150 F, let dough rise inside.
  • Grease 10-inch baking pan and dust with flour. Knead dough one more time for 5 minutes and add to the baking pan. Let rise again for 30 minutes.Pre-heat oven to 380 F.
  • Bake the Lutherbread for 50-60 minutes. Test the bread by “knocking” on the top. If it sounds “hollow” the bread is done. While still warm, glaze the bread with apricot preserve and sprinkle with the chocolate shavings

[Adopted from the German “Kidsweb Spezial”]

… A new invention by Kathi, a producer of cake mixes based in Halle, Germany, is the Luther cake. This cake is made with cocoa powder and chocolate shavings, a cream layer with cherries or berries and topped with a chocolate glaze and powdered sugar outlining the silhouette of Martin Luther .

[Quoting https://germanfoods.org/german-food-facts/reformation-day-celebration/#:~:text=Reformation%20Day%20Celebration%20It%E2%80%99s%20the%20end%20of%20a,as%20a%20culinary%20homage%20to%20this%20historical%20figure. .]

Final Thoughts on Reformation Day

But until the time comes when all knees bow to God and His truth, and all tongues confess that the Lord Jesus is the Creator-Lord of all, we can expect to see persecutions of God’s messengers – some of them famous (like Hus and Luther) and some of them not-so-famous (like Mark Armitage and Randy Guliuzza).

Like the prophets of old, the obligation is the same – tell God’s truth to those who have “ears to hear”, and don’t let unpopularity or persecution censor God’s message. Don’t expect applause from worldly-minded people, whether they be theists (like the Pharisees) or atheists (like many evolutionists). The world is not worthy of God’s message, so it gives no welcome to God’s messengers.

Of whom the world was not worthy: they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:38)

The goal, of course, is the live as witnesses for God’s truth, with the courage and commitment of the Bohemian Goose and the Saxon Swan, who both faithfully opposed enemies — like Nehemiah of old — for God’s glory.

Like Nehemiah, Martin Luther Broke Darkness by Restoring God’s Word to the People

                   By hammer and nails Christ was hung on the cross,

                   But the truth of that day by many was lost;

                             Then Dr. Luther, with hammer,

                             Shunning pope, pyre, and slammer,

                   Nailed down the truth, that once was lost. [2]


[1] The slight differences in reported detail may result from translation/paraphrase limitations, and/or may be due to Hus making his prediction more than once, during his last hours, using slightly different words. Soon after a coin was minted, paraphrasing Hus’ strange prediction.

[2] Limerick reprinted from James J. S. Johnson, “Like Nehemiah, Martin Luther Broke Darkness by Restoring God’s Word to the People”, Limerick Legacy series (Cross Timbers Institute, Short Paper # AD2013-08-08-C; © AD2013 James J. S. Johnson, used by permission). 


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