Article of lutheran.hu on the service and gala held on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of reformation, which will take place in the Budapest Sport Arena.
Budapest – In the five hundredth anniversary of reformation people around the world and in Hungary commemorate that Martin Luther, the Augustinian German priest and theologian nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg demanding the revival of the church on 31 of October 1517, which started Reformation. The Government of Hungary and the Reformation Memorial Committee invited the worshippers of Protestant churches to a joint commemoration in Papp László Budapest Sport Arena on 31 of October 2017. We have been there.
When approaching Papp László Budapest Sport Arena, we see the buses of evangelical congregations and meet some familiar faces. At the entrance, we are received by a model of the Wittenberg church door, where people greeted each other and quickly took some photographs. People then took their seats; not counting a few blots here and there, the arena was filled. Following the ceremonial entry of bishops, ministers and servicemen, Zoltán Balog, Minister of Human Capacities walked to the microphone and greeted the assembly.
Welcome! – then he added: he hopes that members of the congregations did not come here by accident to a fine programme, but the spirit brought them here to celebrate together. God wants us to be together!
The commemoration of the Reformation is an occasion of pause, repentance and also new power, since, as we know well, Reformation put the liberation of Jesus Christ into the centre of man’s life. The Minister emphasized that there is one more person present here, the one who brought us here. He called the occasion an experiencing of faith and also a cultural event, which originates from Jesus Christ, who connects us, among others, with Christian witnesses, reformists, preachers, churchmen, teachers and priests in our past and with our ancestors.
He emphasized that the guests include the Szeged-Csanád Diocesan Bishop, László Kiss-Rigó, representing the Hungarian Catholic Episcopal Conference, and mentioned that János Áder, President of the Republic, cannot be here, because he is a guest speaker in Wittenberg.
“The entire life of the believers shall be redemption for repentance”
the spiritual introduction of Péter Gáncs, Protestant President-Bishop followed. The Bishop was inspired by the observation of the Psalmist „You have set my feet in a spacious place…” In this spacious place, the Bishop prayed for the creating and recreating Spirit of God with the lines of the ancient liturgical prayer, then quoted from the 95 Theses of Martin Luther: When our Lord and Master said: “Repent!” – he willed that the entire life of believers be one of repentance.
“This provocative call gives a clear and accurate note to our commemoration of the anniversary”, said the Bishop. – Reformation, in its essence, is nothing else, but a movement of repentance and revival, a spiritual revolution. A true celebration of Christ, whereby our Lord and Master calls us to practice repentance and redemption. He calls us here and now to a revival spanning our entire life. First and foremost, he restores and reforms our communion with the Creator, who became our loving heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. The fruit of this is that we can make new relations with other men, who we recognize as our fellows in creation, who are loved by God as much as we are, who accompany, help and work with us along our path. And this conversion reforming our life may bring us into a harmonic relationship with the whole of creation. Since, as Luther said: “when a coachman converts, the first to notice are his horses…” We find our place and home in the created world, where God gave us the mission to happily cultivate it and faithfully protect it for our children, grandchildren and the generations to come.
I am wondering how much have we used or misused this possibility of revival provided by God through repentance.
Practise honest self-examination and repentance! Turn to our Lord and Master with faith, who may provide us everything we need in this festive hour”, said Péter Gáncs; then he prayed with the words of Martin Luther:
Look, Lord, an empty vessel
that needs to be filled.
My Lord, fill it.
I am weak in the faith; strengthen me.
I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent,
that my love may go out to my neighbour.
I do not have a strong and firm faith. At times I doubt and am unable to trust You completely.
O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in You.
I have insured all my treasure in Your name.
I am poor; You are rich
and You did come to be merciful to the poor.
I am a sinner; You are upright.
With me there is an abundance of sin; with You a fullness of righteousness.
Therefore I will remain with You,
from whom I can receive but to whom I may not give.
Bless our celebration today with the gift of our forgiving love, and new life with the enriching freedom of your creating Spirit. Amen. After the moment of repentance, Rev. Károly Fekete, the Bishop of the Transtibiscan Church District of RCH, led the congregation in prayer and thanksgiving by quoting the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism, “That I am not my own, but belong – with body and soul, in life and in death – to my Faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.” Then, reading from the Bible followed (Ezekiel 36:20-28 and John 8:31-36) interpreted by ministers Sarolta Nagy Fodorné and Zsuzsanna János Lindákné.
“The righteous will live by faith.”
Reformed Bishop Rev. József Steinbach, President of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Hungary preached on this occasion based on the verses of Romans 1:16-17. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[a] just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17)
The apostle will lead us back to the heart of the Word, to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, started the Bishop. – The apostle and, through him, the Spirit of God tells us that we live and will live, because God is on the side of life, and, what is more, on the side of everlasting life. This is the certainty that can, by itself, recreate and reorder life on Earth, and give meaning, direction, purpose, strength and joy. We live, we have glory, and this is God’s great in our life. New life, as the disciples experienced at the place of glorification, is the greatest good that is far better than anything else. We live and live by faith. This means that we live by Jesus Christ. The world lives by water, the tree by the soil and people by the air. We, Christians live by and through Christ, Solus Christus, from the redeeming love of Christ. This is the Gospel, that God was embodied in him, and the God living in him proved that he exists and how he is. In him, he made the great deed through his crucifixion and redemption, emphasized the Bishop, then asked the question: How can we tell this to the man of this day? Final and lasting solution is only given by Jesus to us, bound and powerless people. We all live on this Earth by the redeeming love and justice of Christ. God views us through the perfection of Jesus Christ, as if through a pair of glasses, sees us righteous through Christ, even if we are not righteous. He makes us righteous, and we are given this power from above. This is the wonder of sanctification, gracious gift of God, so that no one should pride himself, said the Bishop, then added: It is the constant social responsibility and service of the church to testify with certainty, because we know who to believe in this uncertain world. The cause of Jesus Christ is a victorious cause. We testify this with certainty in the community of the universal saint mother-church. We confess together that Jesus Chris is the son of God, the Saviour.
The Bishop said that unity in this question is more important than ever, so do not be ashamed of the Gospel, even though trials. “The cause of Jesus Christ is a victorious cause”, closed Reformed Bishop József Steinbach.
What do we believe in?
The congregation confessed to the faith of the Holy Trinity with Rev. János Papp, President of the Baptist Church in Hungary, Rev. Tamás Fabiny, Bishop of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Hungary, and Rev. Albert Pataky, President of the Pentecostal Church in Hungary. Then, Reformed Bishop Rev. József Csomós told a prayer. The Cistibiscan Reformed Bishop prayed for God to protect the Church from going astray. “To give thanks declares our faith is learned certainty, we now have the knowledge of the salvation of God and we truly hope that our future is anchored in Jesus Christ. To be grateful means we can do what we have not been able to do because of our sins”, said Rev. István Szabó, Bishop of the Danubian Reformed Church District and Presiding Bishop of RCH, based on the second question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism. The Presiding Bishop of the RCH Synod added: the life of a Christian is a grateful life, because through faith, a person meets Jesus Christ and as the person’s hope builds in Christ, he or she does what connects him or her to God, doing the work of love. “Let every minute and hour be spent giving happy thanksgivings to God!” – asked the Pastor.
Transylvanian Reformed Bishop, Béla Kató, Lutheran Bishop, János Szemerei and Hungarian Reformed Bishop from Slovakia, László Fazekas, delivered the benediction. Gergely Finta and László Fassang organists contributed to the church service. The choir was led by Gábor Bence chorister. The wind-instruments were conducted by Gyula Johann. The musical editors were Tamás Bódiss and Zsuzsa Ecsedi. During the church service, separate children’s programmes were held.
Faith is not a private issue
Zoltán Balog, Minister of the Ministry of Human Capacities called everyone not to let his or her faith be privatized, because it is not a private matter. The life of the person who is revived by Reformation became a belief, culture, science, national character and a common faith that connects many nations, because faith does not remain inside a person, but finds a way to the outside to shape and enrich the world that surrounds him or her. He said: true faith never stays inside one’s soul, between the walls of the church, but flows out and shapes and enriches the world around it. True faith always creates culture, and faith always resides in true culture, he said.
Faith is not only a personal spiritual gain, prayer told in private or individual worshipping. Faith and religion are not private matters, but the most personal public affair, which bursts into the public space, demands publicity and has communal, societal and national consequences. Do not let our faith be privatized, give it to others as well, said the Minister, than added: Do not let faith be expelled from the family life, schools, media, the management of countries and settlements, from the institution of marriage, public spaces, from the symbols of the community or even from Europe.
He underlined: Europe wishes to enter into a post-Christianity era, while we, in Central Europe and the Carpathian Basin rediscover the values of Christian and also Reformed, Evangelical, Baptists, Pentecostal or neo-Protestant faith.
We erect statues for Luther, Calvin, Bocskai, while in the city of Calvin, Geneva, the Calvinists are in decay, and churches are closed in great numbers in Germany, he added. Well, then why should be swim against the tide? – he raised the question. Stubborn Hungarian Christians do not ask such questions, he responded. He emphasized: If we want to maintain and extend the Hungarian world, then we will need the strength we were given by Reformation even in the 21st century.
The Prime Minister emphasized Christian values
Viktor Orbán, took the podium as a Calvinist Prime Minister, and expressed his happiness for the invitation from heads of churches, so that he can tell his views on what Reformation means in public matters, state affairs and nation-building. The Prime Minister told that although serving people is a difficult task, but he is grateful for the support and prayers of Protestants and Catholics. He stressed that there is a stronger power than that of the governments. The world started not with politics but with God, he created life and space. However, he added that the Word of God teaches us not to see chance or the destiny in the fact that a Christian government is leading Hungary now, but feel the grace of God manifested in it. “We believe and accept that after anti-Christian and internationalist governments in Hungary, the nation needed a Christian and national government, which set the direction towards we are heading after many years of drifting.” The Prime Minister considered it a privilege that they were used by divine dispensation in this revival.
“The grace of God supplemented us in our weaknesses and cleared our mistakes. We see the help of God in the fact that we are still standing in the opposition of global forces.” He also added that what the government said were not religious teachings. He reinforced their commitment to the protection of church life, human dignity, religious communities, families and the nation as a whole not only as a task, but a profession on their side, which they must fulfil to the best of their knowledge. The Prime Minister, who is also the President of the Reformation Memorial Committee, said that Hungarians and Christian Europe needs spiritual and intellectual revival, and the government assumes his role in this.
The Scriptures teach us not to deceive the soul for the body, said Viktor Orbán. – Spiritual growth should be deceived by material growth. But, the Prime Minister is of the view that any kind of work is a service for the glory of God. The government works to ensure that Hungarians live well, and strives to make sure that the life of Hungarians is peaceful, just, joyful and richer, while keeping their heads up. Certain steps have been taken to ensure this: bridges are built over the Danube, Hungarian universities are established in Transylvania, hundreds of kindergartens in the Carpathian Basin, and even today, Upper Hungary, Carpathian Ruthenia, Vojvodina and Transylvania are celebrating together. We can see the peaceful coexistence across the borders become a reality, he said, then added: The recognized truth liberates us, we experienced this in spiritual turmoil and trials. But how can the recognized truth be followed together in unity, needs to be practised. For the final and great national unification, we will need the truth that not only liberates us, but also keeps us together, and not only links parts of the nation, but Hungarian souls as well.
We fight and pray together for God’s blessing on the Hungarians. (…) May God defend Hungary! Soli Deo gloria, closed Viktor Orbán.
Gala in the presence of God
After the speech Ferenc Molnár Caramel appeared, then Protestant Hymns ‘Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations’ and ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’ were sung together with the jazz improvisation of László Fassang and Balázs Szokolay Dongó.
Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, President of the German Protestant Church and Gottfried Locher, President of the Swiss Reformed Churches Association greeted Hungarian Protestant in a video message. In addition, they remembered the main events and programmes of the anniversary year organized by the Reformation Memorial Committee – the grand opening on 6 January in the Palace of Arts, the premiere of the Händel oratory, the Ige-Idők (Word Times) Exhibiton of the National Museum, the public installation at Calvin Square, the Concert Session of Musical Creeds, the educational competition for secondary-school students or even the memorial spring in Buda Castle. Following the lunch break the Keresztmetszet band had a concert and Beni Bánki performed. We could experience God’s presence during afternoon’s high-quality gala show conveying much cultural value. Ildikó Bényi and Gábor Gundel Takács moderators and ambassadors of Reformation led the afternoon, where the Kaláka band as well as János Pálúr and Ágoston Tóka organists played a great part. They were joined by performers Misi Mező, Balázs Szabó, Máté Török, Irén Lovász, Dániel Gryllus and friends, Experidance, Vox Ioventus Children’s Choir of Debrecen, and Pentecostal Music Mission. We heard beautiful poems performed by actors and actresses, including Zoltán Rajkai, Ádám Lux, Konrád Quintus and Katalin Pap. In addition, actress Ági Kökényessy presented parts from the memoirs of Kata Árva Bethlen.