“Here We Stand, as one, with united voices to worship God by bringing glory and honor to Him, giving thanks to Him for our heritage and history as Lutheran Christians, giving witness of our salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone; and, through repentance and renewal in Christ, asking God’s blessings upon a new Reformation in our generation.” – Mission Statement of the 500th Worship Service Planning Committee
On Sunday, October 15, 2017, approximately 13,000 Lutherans from all over the state of Michigan gathered at the Breslin Center on the campus of Michigan State University for the once-in-a-lifetime worship event, Here We Stand, Here We Go! This celebration event commemorated the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, which began when Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses—a list of questions and propositions to his colleagues of the Catholic Church—on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany.
As the soloist lyrics faded—This to Thy praise, O Lord, our God, be sung Hallelujah! Hallelujah! —the silence was broken with the mighty sound of a hammer. An actor, portraying Martin Luther, then pointed to the processional cross. Eighty church workers, each carrying water from various parts of Michigan, processed and poured their container into water percussion vessels representing our baptismal waters.
The Christ-centered order of worship from Luther’s German Mass was enriched by a 30-piece orchestra, and 1,100 choir members, singing hymns and spiritual songs. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has been known as the “singing church,” and this worship service did not disappoint.
A pre-service concert included three student honors choirs with a total of 275 voices under the direction of three renowned conductors: Hannah Bingham, Josh Pedde, and Dr. Jerry Blackstone. Later, they joined the festival choir in a selection written for the event by Dr. Scott Hyslop of St. Lorenz, Frankenmuth. The orchestra and festival choir were led by Dr. Brian Altevogt from Concordia University Ann Arbor.
Rev. Dr. Patrick T. Ferry, Ph.D., president of Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor, was the guest preacher. The congregation broke into spontaneous applause as he shared these words: “Ours is a world that desperately needs Jesus.” He further shared, “We may not agree on everything, but certainly we can agree on this—people around us are in trouble … God has seen fit to have us live in this time and this place so that at this moment we would figure out ways to bring others—struggling, suffering, sinking—that faith, that grace, that peace, that hope of the glory of God that Paul preaches; that Word, those Sacraments, that Gospel that marks the Lord’s Church. Luther surely had his moment, and thank the Lord he seized the day. We are all blessed because of the Reformation. But Luther’s moment is not ours. Ours is now, and it is time … Let’s do this. Let’s Go!”
A thanksgiving offering was received in support of the Michigan District’s Here We Stand campaign. The $50,929.63 will go into each of the four campaign initiatives: Church Worker Scholarships, Innovative Missional Ministry, the Michigan District Endowment fund, and International Ministry. The campaign video featured Rev. Dr. David P. E. Maier, who gave this challenge in the final scene: “Here We Stand … secure in God’s love and grace … ready, eager, and equipped to GO forward with the eternal, life-giving message of the Gospel for this generation … and for future generations … so that all whom the Lord our God calls to Himself may experience eternity with our Savior.”
Rev. Mandla Khumalo from St. Peter’s Confessional Lutheran Church in Middelburg, South Africa, commissioned the participants with these words: “Children of God … Rev. Dr. Pat Ferry … reminded me of a time in my own congregation when a young girl, age of 17, started a song [with] on the mark, get set, ready, GO! And she said ‘We are ready for the Kingdom of God!’ It is very true that the stance of [Martin] Luther, which is our stance today, has saved many. In India, in Africa, in Asia, in Latin America this great witness is still standing. This German boy [from] 500 years ago has been able to make a Zulu boy from South Africa … know God by grace alone, faith alone, and Scripture alone … This Word of God caused Luther to stand up and say ‘No, I can’t recant. Here I stand.’ On these words, go in peace my brothers, on the marks, get set, go!”
Martin Luther’s stirring hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God, closed the worship service.
Earlier concourse activities of the day included dancers, children’s activities, a Martin Luther photo op, Concordia Publishing House merchandise, and a Reformation historical exhibit. Decorated doors from District congregations were displayed throughout the concourse, each representing Gospel–rich ministries and community events held throughout the anniversary year. Coordinated by Wellspring Lutheran Services, and in support of the Michigan District’s Great Compassion Ministry, an ingathering of non-perishable food and other items was gathered and distributed to four Lansing-area charities.
The District wishes to thank the Breslin Center staff and workers, as well as all of the volunteers, greeters, ushers, choir directors and singers, the concourse experience teams, the Worship Service Committee, Church Extension Fund, and the District staff for their participation in the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation Worship Service. To God be the Glory!
Photo (c) Michigan District, LCMS/Kelly Cieslak