EKD Press Releases
Margot Käßmann inducted as EKD Ambassador for the Reformation Quincentenary in 2017
Nikolaus Schneider: "Bringing home the substantive concerns of the Reformation 'to all people' - through sermons, lectures, services of worship"
April 27, 2012
In a service today in the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, Margot Käßmann was inducted into her new office as "ambassador of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) for the Reformation quincentenary in 2017".
The induction was performed by the Chair of the EKD Council, Church President Nikolaus Schneider. In his address he took up the verse "So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20). "The message of reconciliation was and is the crucial thing," said Schneider. "Reconciliation with God means that, through Christ, heaven has opened up for all people. Heaven and Earth met in Jesus Christ. Reconciled through Christ, we can experience God's presence on earth, become new human beings and pass on this good news to other people."
According to Schneider, Paul and later also the Reformers, had been able to distinguish "between the message and the people entrusted with spreading the message". God's Word was "effective" of and by itself. But it called and empowered people to "bear witness to his living Word". The calling of Margot Käßmann was to a "quite specific ambassadorial ministry" - not just to remind people of an important historical event but also to bring home the substantive concerns of the Reformation "to all people".
Starting from Wittenberg, Schneider continued, the Reformation had spread first to the whole of Europe and finally all over the world. Schneider: "Much of what people take for granted today is founded in the Reformation, e.g. many decisions constitutive for our democratic state and many ideas that have taken our state educational system forward." As ambassador of the EKD Council, Nikolaus Schneider concluded, Margot Käßmann would be taking on many commitments - "services and sermons, lectures and speeches on the topics of the Luther Decade and the Reformation quincentenary in 2017".
After the induction, the former Bishop of Hanover and EKD Council chair Margot Käßmann preached on the motto of the Luther Decade, which was launched in 2008. The motto is taken from the first verse of St. John's Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word". The path of faith, said Käßmann, was not a "path of paternalism" but a "way of encouragement". The light of Jesus Christ enlightened all people and opened the way to each individual to become a child of God and "understand oneself, ask questions and comprehend".
The core message of the Reformation quincentenary "against any form of fundamentalism" was: "Think for yourself! Be subject to no one in your conscience: free from dogma, religious conditions, authorities in matters of faith. And yet be subject to everyone, responsible for the community, called to commitment to the whole of God's creation." This, Käßmann added, was one of the most important contributions of the Reformation, the fact that it was about "educated faith", a faith that wanted to understand and be able to ask questions - "also about the Book of Christian faith, the Bible." The fact that faith cannot be understood as moral authority but as "the radical freedom to intervene in the world", would be one of the central messages of the Reformation quincentenary in 2017, Käßmann stated.
Furthermore, Käßmann expressed appreciation of the power of music. The spirituality of the Reformation, she claimed, had been alive in song from the start: "Luther's hymns spread Reformation thinking further than many of his writings. Paul Gerhardt enabled Reformation theology to sing with all its senses, and Bach became the fifth evangelist for many people."
However, to quote Käßmann, the central formula of John's Gospel, "the Word became flesh", was of far deeper significance. Christians believed, she claimed, that all ideologies - with their rhetoric, superficial emotional responses and fundamentalist appeal - have less power than Jesus Christ, the Word that became flesh "and that we recognize dying on the Cross". Käßmann: "There is God. There God suffers too. With you. With me. With those who are humiliated and hurt, with people who are suffering and dying. And because they experience and recognize this Word, Christians will again and again rise up against humiliation, destruction and language that is humanly degrading. In Jesus' name."
The service also featured a performance of all twelve verses of the famous chorale "Befiehl Du Deine Wege" by Paul Gerhardt. The whole congregation sang alternately with singer Sarah Kaiser and her band and the choir of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, conducted by Helmut Hoeft. The first words of the twelve verses are taken from Psalm 37:5: "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will act."
Berlin/Hanover, 27 April 2012
EKD Press Office