Travel agents assure us that veritable armies of tourists will descend on Wittenberg, Germany, over the next years, and the “invasion” will start well before 2017, the 500th anniversary of Luther’s nailing the 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church. While that episode ignited the Protestant Reformation, a far more significant site in Luther’s life was Wittenberg’s City Church (ironically named St. Mary’s), where Luther did most of his preachi
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the LCMS and world confessional Lutheranism were somehow represented in Wittenberg during these festival years—and far beyond?
In fact, they will be! Welcome to the Martin Luther Center! Situated just across the church plaza from the City Church where Luther regularly preached, Wittenberg’s historic Old Latin School is being transformed into a world center for Lutheran education, with graduate studies, seminars, and research at the very place where the Reformation began. But it will also offer tremendously effective outreach to the world public visiting Wittenberg.
After seeing the City Church, tourists will hardly fail to notice the Martin Luther Center only steps from its front door, even if they simply want a place to sit down during walking tours of the city. Martin Luther will easily “come to life” again for them in the Center as they view highlights of his dramatic and colorful life in restoring the heart of the Gospel to the church—the only place in Wittenberg where something like this is planned.
Tourists are not the only future visitors to the Martin Luther Center. A new shopping mall is being constructed right across the street on the other side of the Center, which has an entrance also on that side of the school through which today’s general public in Wittenberg also will have access to the building, making it a perfect bridge between the present and the past.
Lutherans, other Christians, secular tourists, and today’s citizens of the Wittenberg area—the world public—may find this one of the very memorable experiences of their visit to Germany, and perhaps an appreciation for the church body that made it all possible through its generous donors—the sorts who don’t want to miss this rare opportunity of alerting the world to the Good News, so magnificently clarified and restored by Dr. Martin Luther. Unlike the displays at world fairs, this one will not be dismantled at the close of the Luther and Reformation anniversaries, but will continue an important ministry far into the future.
—Paul L. Maier