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Reformation 2017 Artwork: The Diet of Worms

July 17, 2017 No Comment

Editor’s Note: Kelly Klages has agreed to prepare six pieces of original art for Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. Each piece of art will be featured on the covers of this year’s issues of The Canadian Lutheran magazine.

In addition, each piece of art is being made available to LCC congregations as a free, downloadable poster. You can print out the posters, along with accompanying artist’s statement, as they become available at www.reformation2017.ca/resources/posters/.

by Kelly Klages

Reformation-Poster-Diet-of-Worms-web“Here I stand.” These words are traditionally attributed to Martin Luther as he stood trial at the Diet of Worms and was ordered to recant his writings before Charles V—and refused. Although those specific words may be spurious, they nonetheless encapsulate his conviction and defense of the Gospel as he held forth at that game-changing event. Indeed, few phrases seem to sum up the spirit of the early Lutheran reformers, and the courage of confessional faith, with such iconic flair. This is what “speaking truth to power” looks like.

These words are not just for famous theologians standing before kings. They are for each of us. In our era, pretenses of tolerance and diversity are falling by the wayside, and there is more pressure than ever to “choose a side” in nearly every aspect of life. For Christians, in Luther’s time as well as today, the stand we are called to make is for our consciences to remain captive to the Word of God. In 1521 Germany, this move would confirm Luther’s status as an outlaw. After Worms, despite official promises of safe conduct back to Germany, he could have been killed on sight by any who met him without repercussion. Do our churches today have such principled devotion to God’s Word?

In our era, pretenses of tolerance and diversity are falling by the wayside, and there is more pressure than ever to “choose a side” in nearly every aspect of life. For Christians, in Luther’s time as well as today, the stand we are called to make is for our consciences to remain captive to the Word of God.

At the Edict of Worms, Luther stood before a table of his writings. The painting shows a small table, and the writings Luther defends are undergirded by a large Bible. Who is he addressing in this painting, as he looks up to the viewer? In the historical context, it could be the emperor Charles, a hostile party with a truly unique perspective of Luther’s famous refusal to recant. Or the image could be seen as Luther raising his eyes upwards to heaven, pledging before God to preach and teach only that which aligns with His Word. Ultimately, his gaze falls to us, the viewer, and we must decide where we stand as well.

I wanted to get something of the setting of my own church (Trinity Lutheran in Winkler, Manitoba) in the composition of this painting. To get a sense of how the shadows and lighting would work, I stood on a chair in various spots in the sanctuary to get some photos while a model posed. For again, this stance, this call for boldness, is really for every one of us—in our own homes, churches, neighbourhoods, and communities. And who can say what changes, and what courage, just one Christian can inspire by standing firm on God’s Word in defense of the Gospel?

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Kelly Klages is an artist and member of Lutheran Church–Canada living in Morden, Manitoba.