Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Celebrating Reformation Sunday October 30, 2011

The steeple of Vista Evangelical Lutheran Church near New Richland, not to be confused with St. John's Lutheran Church in Vesta, with an "e" and located in Redwood County.


No, I don’t drink coffee in the church basement; only rarely anywhere. No, I don’t eat lutefisk. No, I don’t especially like red Jell-O.

Yes, I eat hotdish. Yes, I studied Luther’s Small Catechism. Yes, I’m proud of my German Lutheran heritage.

And, yes, today I sang “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

Today marks Reformation Sunday, that Sunday when all good Lutherans commemorate the Reformation led by Martin Luther.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret here. When I was a wee girl attending St. John’s Lutheran Church in Vesta, memorizing the Ten Commandments and all the parts of the Catechism, I was confused by Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr. It took me awhile to realize the teacher and pastor weren’t talking about the same man.

There, got that out of the way. So back to today and church services…

We sang all those wonderful old hymns like “A Mighty Fortress,” “Just As I Am” (which always reminds me of Billy Graham), “The Church’s One Foundation,” “Take My Life and Let It Be” and “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” (which was unfamiliar to me, but apparently is a tent revival song).

I take comfort in singing those hymns of old, so deep and rich and soul-connecting. Accompanied by string instruments and a piano during this morning’s worship service at Trinity Lutheran Church in Faribault, the words seemed almost poetic. Lovely. Just lovely to sing.

And the pastor’s words were reaffirming as he preached that the Reformation is about “God’s amazing grace in Jesus Christ,” a message that has been around since the days of Adam and Eve, way before Martin Luther.

Reformist Luther, he said, “chose to follow the Scriptures,” that salvation comes through Christ and not by anything we can do.

And in the middle of that sermon, the preacher said something that surprised me, coming from a Lutheran pastor and all. “We’re not talking denominations, but the way to salvation. It comes through Jesus Christ alone.”

The salvation part didn’t surprise me; it was the “denominations” part.

But I was glad to hear it said out loud in church because—even though I’m a deeply-rooted Lutheran—I know there won’t be any signs in heaven directing Lutherans one way, Catholics another, Methodists that direction…

I would do well to always remember the words of the old hymn:

Just as I am without one plea

But that Thy blood was shed for me.

And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee

O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “Celebrating Reformation Sunday”

  1. PJ Says:

    Well said. My folks celebrated the day with a supper of sauerkraut, potatoes, and sausage. One of my favorite quotes: “Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.”
    – Martin Luther

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Now that is quite the Martin Luther quote. Is that for real? I thought perhaps you were sinning by telling a little fib. But then I decided if you have parents who ate a German meal on Reformation Sunday, then you must be telling the truth.

  2. ceciliag Says:

    When i was a kid i used to love singing in church, you could really go for it!! c

  3. mdott922 Says:

    What a wonderful post! I haven’t been able to make it to church since the end of September–due to sick kids, company and the like. But I made a special effort to be there today, just for Reformation Sunday!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Do you hear that pastors? A special effort to be there on Reformation Sunday. So glad you could make it to church today and I hope the kids are all feeling better.

  4. Amy Says:

    While I entirely agree with you when it comes to hymns of old in church, or anytime, I have one more thing to add to your bucket list. You must travel to one of our seminaries (Fort Wayne is preferred for obvious reasons, but St. Louis is closer!) for a Reformation day chapel service. There is nothing more moving than an acoustically sound room filled with grown men’s voices belting out “A Mighty Fortress,” often accompanied with instruments of some sort (brass is especially beautiful!). I have a hard time singing for a few reasons: 1. The harmonizing mens’ voices drown out my soprano. 2. It is such a thunderously awesome sound, I have goosebumps and can’t focus because I am almost to the point of tears. I would offer to record it tomorrow for you, but a recording will not do it justice! It is so beautiful and awe inspiring to be in the midst of such beautiful sound….

    Happy Reformation!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I can only imagine those voices, only imagine. I like “A Mighty Fortress” played on our church organ, when Hub the organist practically makes the church building tremble. It’s powerful and moving and gives me goosebumps, too.

      Happy Reformation Day to you and your future Lutheran pastor husband also!

  5. I love those old hymns, too. I’m not Lutheran – I grew up non-denominational – but now I attend a Covenant church. I wish we sang MORE hymns, though – too many “choruses”…which, some of them, have their place…but the theology is so much deeper in hymns!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      There’s nothing like the comfort of an old familiar hymn…

      Yet, I realize that for young people, modern music is more appealing. I’m OK with some of it. But I just can’t listen to drums or anything loud early in the morning.

      • LOL! Yes, early morning noise is never appreciated!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Ever since I suffered a sudden sensory hearing loss in my right ear last March, I’m hyper sensitive to certain sounds. I now have only 30 percent of my hearing in my right ear, meaning I can’t hear voices. The little I do hear is a jumble of meaningless noise. Unfortunately a hearing aid will not help with this type of unexplained hearing loss. One minute I could hear; the next minute I couldn’t.

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