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Dear Lord of Life,

Grace and peace be with you all!

It is so good to be back after my summer travels and an unexpected bout with COVID. I am feeling good as new and wish to share some of my reflections from my recent travels to the historic city of Rome. It was a journey filled with wonder, awe, and a deep sense of connection to our Christian roots. I want to share with you some of the transformative experiences I had, particularly as we explored the ancient landmarks that carry both historical and spiritual significance.

Among the most striking monuments in Rome is the renowned Colosseum. Standing in its shadow, I couldn't help but marvel at its grandeur and magnificence. However, beneath the surface of this iconic tourist spot lies a history of great sacrifice. It is a place where countless Christian martyrs once met their untimely demise, enduring persecution for their faith. The Colosseum's present splendor serves as a powerful reminder of our Christian ancestors' resilience and steadfastness in the face of adversity. Their courage and devotion to God continue to inspire us today as we strive to live out our faith in a world that sometimes challenges our beliefs.

I also had the opportunity to explore the sacred catacombs. These subterranean burial sites hold the remains of early Christians and offer profound insights into the roots of our faith. As I wandered through these dimly lit passageways, some  that even go five stories down, I couldn't help but feel a sense of awe and reverence. The catacombs bear witness to a transformative period in the early Christian Church, where believers embraced a revolutionary concept of equality and inclusivity that they were willing to die for.

In a society deeply divided by class structure and the marginalization of certain groups, the early Christian Church stood as a beacon of hope and love. It recognized the inherent worth and dignity of every human being, regardless of their background or status. This radical notion of equality was a stark contrast to the prevailing attitudes of Roman society, which often oppressed the poor, women, and anyone who was different. Today, we continue to carry this message forward, seeking to promote justice, compassion, and understanding in our own time.

Lastly, another awe-inspiring landmark I visited in Rome was St. Peter's Basilica. The basilica, the heart of Vatican City, is a marvel of architectural beauty and spiritual significance. As I walked through the different opulent areas of the basilica, I was reminded of the history of St. Peter's Basilica that we are tied to as Lutherans. Beneath its splendor lies a controversial episode in history.

During the Renaissance era, St. Peter's Basilica underwent a massive renovation, turning it into the awe-inspiring edifice we see today. The financing of such an ambitious project posed a considerable challenge. To fund the construction, the church authorities resorted to the sale of indulgences - certificates purported to grant remission of temporal punishment for sins committed.

Martin Luther, a prominent figure in the Reformation movement, made a pilgrimage to Rome where he saw firsthand the contradictions of the church. The practice of selling indulgences was one of the key issues that Martin Luther spoke out against. Luther strongly opposed the idea that one could "purchase" forgiveness or reduce punishment for sins through financial transactions. He believed that true repentance and faith in Christ were the means of attaining God's grace, rather than monetary contributions.

The sale of indulgences became emblematic of the corruption and spiritual malaise within the church at that time. Martin Luther's 95 Theses, famously nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg in 1517, criticized this practice and sparked a movement that led to profound changes within Christianity, ultimately giving rise to the Protestant Reformation.

While we look back at this historical period with a critical eye, it is essential to recognize that the church has undergone significant reform and self-reflection since those times and we ourselves are not perfect. The Catholic Church itself acknowledges past mistakes and has taken steps to address them.

Today, as a Lutheran congregation, we continue to uphold the principles of transparency, accountability, and the centrality of God's grace in our lives. We strive to be a community that places our faith in the transformative power of God's love and forgiveness, without the need for any transaction or privilege.

As we contemplate the history of St. Peter's Basilica and its renovation, let us also reflect on our own practices and ensure that we uphold the true spirit of the Gospel in all that we do. Let us remain committed to fostering a community where all are welcomed, loved, and celebrated, irrespective of their backgrounds or circumstances.

May our journey as a congregation be guided by the Holy Spirit, and may we continue to seek the wisdom and courage to address any challenges with humility and grace.


Pastor Adam