Last Sunday was Reformation Sunday. My Lutheran Church wanted to do a skit involving the children. We found this one but it is for high school kids and a bit long for our purpose. So, with apologies to the original author, I rewrote it. Feel free to use it.
SETTING: TV Studio. 4 TV HOSTs and LUTHER sit at a desk.
TV HOST 1: We interrupt this church service to bring you this special report on Reformation Sunday. This is WELC Action News.
TV HOST 2: We have in our studio the key figure in the Reformation, Dr. Martin Luther King.
LUTHER: No, just Dr. Martin Luther. I'm not a king, just a monk. Well, a former monk.
TV HOST 3: Sorry about that mistake. You were a monk?
LUTHER: Well, originally I was a law student. One day I was riding home in a lightning storm.
TV HOST 4: Roll the storm footage, Al.
KIDS: (Make lightning and rain noise, using a sheet of metal for thunder. Continue while Luther is talking.)
LUTHER: (Loudly, over the noise) A bolt of lightning hit a nearby tree and I made a vow to become a monk if I was spared.
KIDS: (Make the sounds louder and louder)
TV HOST 1: STOP THE STORM FOOTAGE, AL!
KIDS: (Stop making noise)
LUTHER: We had the same special effects in the 1500s.
TV HOST 2: Back to your story. So you switch from studying law to becoming a monk? Don't lawyers make a lot more than monks?
LUTHER: Yes. Especially because monks take a vow of poverty. My father wasn't too happy about that.
TV HOST 3: But were you happier as a monk?
LUTHER: No. I was as terrified of God as I was of the lightning. I was all too aware of how sinful I was. I was afraid of God's righteous anger. I used to spend hours confessing every little sin I could think of to the priest. He finally got so upset with me he told me to go out and commit some sins worth confessing!
TV HOST 4: Really?
LUTHER: Really! I was trying to be righteous in God's eyes. But he is perfect and as hard as I tried, I couldn't follow God's laws perfectly.
TV HOST 1: That's quite a problem.
LUTHER: It's the problem we all have when it comes to trying to reconcile with a perfect God. But my mentor at the monastery put me to work teaching the Bible, specifically the books of Romans and Galatians. And in Romans 1:17 I read “The righteous shall live by faith.”
TV HOST 2: What does that mean?
LUTHER: We have to put our faith in God. We can't earn his forgiveness. We simply have to accept it. By faith we receive that wonderful gift free!
TV HOST 3: And just by faith? Just by trusting God? Don't we have to obey God's law to be righteous?
LUTHER: As it says in my beloved Galatians, chapter 5: “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the Law; for 'he who through faith is righteous shall live.'” These verses were the turning point in my life! We are justified by our faith in Christ!
TV HOST 4: Why didn't anybody else know this? Didn't others read the Bible?
LUTHER: In my day, no one but priests had access to the Bible. And it was in Latin, a language most people couldn't read. One of the first things I did when I was excommunicated from the church was translate the Bible from the original languages into my native German so the average people could read it.
TV HOST 1: Wait a minute! We are getting ahead of the story. What got you excommunicated?
LUTHER: It started with a guy named Tetzel. He was another monk but he selling indulgences for the Pope.
TV HOST 2: What is an indulgence?
LUTHER: A piece of paper that said the Pope dismissed all punishment for your sins.
TV HOST 3: We have some footage of Tetzel doing his sales pitch. Roll it, Al!
TETZEL: Hurry, hurry, step right up! Folks, this life is hard. You try to be good but if you die with unconfessed sins you won't go right to heaven. So unless you get run over by a wagon right after you step out of the confession booth, you'll go to purgatory, Hell's little brother, where you will suffer until all your sins are paid for! And what about your mom, or dad, or granny? They could be suffering in purgatory right now! What are you going to do to save them, to save yourself from hundreds of years of suffering?
I'll tell you what you're going to do. You are going to buy one of these indulgences I have right here! These indulgences are signed by the Pope himself and they will dismiss any punishment in the next life! Depending on how much you can give me, I've got indulgences that will take off 2 years, 5 years or–I've got just the ticket for you big time sinners—for the right price, you can get off the hook with God for eternity!
What are you waiting for? You can get granny out today! Because as soon as the coin in coffer rings, (he throws a coin in a metal container) another soul from purgatory springs!
TV HOST 4: Wow! He is a good salesman!
TV HOST 1: But the Bible says we can't earn God's forgiveness. We just have to trust in his...uh...
LUTHER: Grace. That's the word you are looking for. Grace is God's totally undeserved goodness toward us. It is a free gift which we only have to accept on faith. So, no, you can't earn it and you certainly can't buy it! And you don't need a Pope or a priest to give it to you. In fact, even if the Pope did have that kind of power, why wouldn't he just release all those suffering souls from purgatory for free?
TV HOST 2: You sound angry about this!
LUTHER: I was angry. Tetzel and the Pope were going against everything I had learned from reading the Bible. They were running a money-making scheme to rebuild St. Peter's, the Pope's church in Rome, and to help an archbishop pay off the debts he had for buying his position in the church. But more importantly they were perverting the gospel, the good news about God offering us grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ, and they were leading the common people astray.
TV HOST 3: What did you do?
LUTHER: I wrote up 95 theses.
TV HOST 4: Theses?
LUTHER: Points that I wanted to debate about the whole practice of selling indulgences. I sent them to my bishop and, as was customary when requesting a debate, I nailed them to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, the town where I taught the Bible and theology. I wanted the truth to get out.
TV HOST 1: And everyone read what you put on the door.
LUTHER: Not at first. Those scholars and clergy who could read Latin, the language in which things were debated, did. But then someone translated them into German so that soon everyone knew what I objected to.
TV HOST 2: What happened?
LUTHER: The church tried to get me to take them back. I refused. The whole thing came to a head at the Diet of Worms.
All TV HOSTs: They made you eat a diet of worms!?!
LUTHER: No, in this case, “diet” means a council with the emperor. And the German city we met in was named Worms. There was also a man there, Johann Eck, who was opposed to everything I wrote. He stated the case the church had against my teachings.
TV HOST 3: So you finally got your debate?
LUTHER: Not really. They didn't let me tell my side. They simply put all my writings on a table and then asked me only 2 questions. Did I write them and would I take back what I wrote?
TV HOST 4: What did you say?
LUTHER: (moves from the desk to stand) I wrote them. And unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves, I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand. God help me. Amen.
TV HOST 1: (after a dramatic pause. Excited) Then what happened?
LUTHER: (sitting down again) I was excommunicated and declared an outlaw. No one was to give me food or shelter and no one would be punished if they killed me.
TV HOST 3: Wow! How did you survive?
LUTHER: My local prince, Duke Frederick, was a supporter of mine. He arranged to have me “kidnapped” as I left the Diet. He hid me in a castle while I decided what to do.
TV HOST 4: Which was?
LUTHER: Well, if I couldn't reform the Roman Catholic Church I would have to start another church where the gospel could be clearly preached and heard. The first step was to translate the Bible into the language of the people. And because not everyone could read back then, especially children, I wrote the Small Catechism so parents could teach their children the basics of the faith. I wrote the Large Catechism for pastors to use in their teaching.
TV HOST 1: So you started the Lutheran church?
LUTHER: Actually, I didn't want it named after me. I preferred the word Evangelical, because it comes from the Greek word for “gospel.” But you don't always get your way.
TV HOST 2: Besides the Diet of Worms, what other time did you not get your way?
LUTHER: When I tried to find a suitable husband for a certain stubborn nun!
KATE: And it's a good thing for you that you didn't get your way! And I did get a suitable husband!
TV HOST 1: I believe Dr. Luther's wife has just entered the studio.
LUTHER: Katie, do you want to tell the story of how we got married?
KATE: Yes, because you never remember things correctly. I was sent to a convent as a teenager because my parents couldn't afford to keep me at home. When I and the other nuns read what Martin wrote, we believed the gospel and wanted to leave. But it was dangerous to follow his teachings. So we wrote him for help in escaping the convent.
LUTHER: So I arranged for a certain herring merchant to make a nighttime delivery to the convent on Easter Eve.
KATE: So all 12 of us hid among the barrels of stinking fish as we were smuggled to Wittenberg in a covered wagon.
LUTHER: And I arranged to find husbands or positions for all the women. All but one. Kate turned down everyone I suggested.
KATE: I had a counter-proposal for Martin.
LUTHER: I thought it was better to stay unmarried. I had a lot of work to do and my life was in danger. But my friends thought I should marry.
KATE: And so we did. We were married for 21 years and had 6 children.
LUTHER: As well as 11 orphaned nephews and nieces which you raised.
KATE: Not to mention, the 12 students of yours who lodged with us and the constant stream of visitors.
LUTHER: Katie, my rib, you were a blessing to me and the family. When money was tight, you planted gardens and raised pigs and you even converted a space into a brewery. You made excellent beer.
KATE: And I still found time to read my Bible.
LUTHER: I think it helped that I promised you 50 coins if you completed the whole Bible by Easter.
KATE: It helped me when we suffered trials, such as when we lost our daughter Magdalena. (LUTHER nods sadly) And I was always worried about your health. But we had happy times, too. Like when you played your lute after dinner.
LUTHER: Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise! When I grew up there wasn't a lot of singing in church. So I wrote hymns for the new church God had brought about. Sometimes I would borrow tunes from drinking songs and add words from the Bible so people could sing the gospel as well as read it. I wonder if they still sing them?
TV HOST 3: That sounds like a good place to end our coverage of Reformation Sunday. We thank our guests Dr. Martin and Kate Luther.
TV HOST 4: And that's it for WELC Action News. We now return to your regularly schedule worship service.