Many Christians of the sixteenth century desired Church renewal. Their return to sacred Scripture and writings of the early church led to what some have described as “another Pentecost” or “Light after darkness.” Nearly five centuries later, we call it the Protestant Reformation.
Martin Luther sounded the opening salvo of the Reformation. The nailing of his Ninety-Five Theses (1517) and his famous “Stand” at the Diet of Worms (1521) symbolize the daring spirit of the movement. What began as opposition to the sale of indulgences (a remission of temporal punishment by paying money to the church) became an exposé of church corruption, even to the point of challenging the pope’s authority. It was at this time when Huldrych Zwingli started preaching reform in Zurich, followed by Martin Bucer in Strasbourg. In a few short years, the disciples of this first generation of Reformers would emerge from the shadows, men such as Philip Melanchthon, Heinrich Bullinger, John Calvin, Peter Martyr Vermigli, and Thomas Cranmer.
On Reformation Sunday 2015, New Covenant Church was personally visited by one of these reformers: Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562… brought to life by the temerity of Pastor Chris Castaldo). Born in Florence before having to flee Italy in 1542 on account of the Catholic Inquisition, Peter Martyr first taught Old Testament in Strasbourg before fleeing to Oxford University where he lectured in theology. In 1553 he escaped Queen Mary’s persecution of evangelicals in England, returning once again to Strasbourg. This is the time period in which we find Vermigli speaking to us (c. 1555), just two days after receiving his famous letter from his friend and soon-to-be martyr, Thomas Cranmer. The sermon is from Philippians 1:18-26.