As we near Easter Sunday, it is always a good time to think back on the famous event that helped spark the Swiss Reformation. While the German Reformation was making progress under Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli was causing a stir in Switzerland. As is a current need in the mainstream evangelical church, the preaching from the pulpits during that time was in dire need of being completely tethered to scripture alone. Zwingli carried such a torch and began preaching against many of the practices of the Catholic Church. It was his sermon on March 23, 1522, Concerning Choice and Liberty Respecting Food, that hit a chord with a few of the locals and precipitated the well-known “affair of sausages”.[i]
Zwingli’s sermon inspired a couple of his supporters to eat sausage at the home of Christoph Froschauer, a nearby printer at Zurich,. It may seem silly to us, but this occurred during the season of Lent and breaking the Lenten fast directly challenged the authority of the Church. Froschauer was arrested. While Zwingli did not join the others in breaking the Lenten fast, he did condone their actions in light of scripture and the concept of Christian liberty. This eventually led to a public disputation or debate in January of 1523.
There were two important characteristics of the debate. First, it was to be carried out in German. This ensured that the locals could follow the arguments. The ideas were not to be held hostage and out of reach of the layman. The ideas were to be discussed openly in the hearing of those who would most bear their consequences. Second, the dialogue was carried out with the Bible in Hebrew, Greek and Latin as the only accessible references. This illustrated his poignant words, “I am ready to be instructed and corrected, but only from…Scripture”.[ii] He was victorious and as one author declared, “Zwingli’s triumph sent the Reformation fervor through Switzerland and into southern Germany. Preaching was to be based on Scripture alone.”
Certainly the battle above was directly related to the church but the events had almost immediate and drastic ramifications for all of life in Switzerland. Within a couple of years, the Mass was abolished in Zurich but the commitment to God’s sovereignty and primacy of his Word throughout the region unleashed a transformation in the West and in time, the whole world.
I often wonder what it would be like if we took the same approach to current day challenges and events. What if all Christians marched boldly into the battle of ideas armed with a commitment to scripture as our standard for all of life? I actually think more of us would were it not for the one, central prerequisite. We have to actually study God’s Word. Perhaps many who grew up in the mainstream evangelical church can identify with the familiar routine called a “quite time”. This ten-minute a day ritual, the occasional Bible study among our peers, along with a Sunday morning in the pew once a week comprised the extent of our Bible study. Somehow we thought this was sufficient. Unfortunately it was not. We were products of our time and we were undoubtedly (along with generations before us) living in our own self-inflicted Dark ages. We could read. We had Bibles. Beyond this, we had a Bible for every stage and station in life. Yet, we were not engrossed in them.
The good news is, today we have more tools at our disposal to study scripture then we ever could imagine. With an understanding of the power of God’s Word and the commitment and discipline to study it, we can make up for lost time. It is perhaps the only time in history when a whole generation (or generations) can do this. As we do it, we will be better prepared to breakdown the strongholds of humanism that still exist all around us. We will look at current events and challenges in every area of society through the lenses of Scripture. We will say confidently,
Oh how I love your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
for it is ever with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation.
(Psalm 119:97-99 ESV)
Any progress of the church in history has been a result of her conforming to scripture. Progress in all of life is in proportion to conformity to the word of God. As we Christians do less “hat-tipping” to sola scriptura and become more rigorously committed to the Word of God as the only rule for living, the church at large will witness the blessings promised.
So, as we approach this Easter, get some Jimmy Dean or find some fresh, local sausage. Cook up a nice pan of links or patties and dig in. While you are enjoying the fare, think back to the Affair and contemplate the current expansion of Christ’s Kingdom on earth.