95 Verses: The Reformation in 19 limericks

October 31st is marked by at least some churches as ‘Reformation Day’, it being the day on which, in 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 theses questioning the practice of selling indulgences. Next year will be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Next year we will properly celebrate and evaluate the contribution of Luther. Next year we will necessarily look again at the divisive doctrinal divisions, reflect, repent, and seek renewal. Next year we will mourn the brokenness of Christ’s body and recommit ourselves to unity in truth. Next year we will ask whether we have lost sight of the gospel just as our forebears once did. That’s all for next year. This year, surely, a somewhat more saturnalian attitude is required of us…   Wittenburg 1. A grace-pedlar happened to flit Through a small German city named Witt- -enburg where young Martin The Reformation was startin’ By saying ‘Your theology’s shockingly poor.’   2. A brash Roman preacher called Tetzel Said ‘I know all your sins and your debts’ll Disappear in a trice If you just pay the price!’ Said Luther (German accent) ‘Thet’s bull!’   3. The lustre of faith was sadly gone And the papal office was badly done Or so it then seemed To a monk who then deemed That the church was in exile in Babylon   4. Justification, if of a Lutheran bent, is The articulus statis vel cadentis Which means that the church Will be left in the lurch If it once forgets truth so momentous.     Wurms 5. ’We have summoned a diet of Worms,’ The Pope said, ‘Ensure Luther squirms!’ But it did not go as planned: When Martin said, ‘Here I stand On all that the Bible affirms.’     Rotterdam 6. A young Dutch scholar said ‘Eek! I’ve just published the gospel in Greek, And I’ll tell you what– All this penance is rot; Promoted by some Roman clique.’     Luther’s bondage of the will: 7. There once was a donkey in Rotterdam Who said ‘I must be free to be thought a man!’ But I say of course Each of us is just a horse Which is ridden by Satan or the Lamb.     Rome: exsurge Domine 8. We have asked the professors and priors Who say you reformers are liars Rome alone knows What Scripture shows And your obedience she now requires.     Geneva 9. A Frenchman said ‘Do you not see? What is is what God meant to be. Salvation or hell Both have been well Planned in God’s perfect decree.’   10. Geneva’s a place that’s quite dreary, in Which they dreamed up a new theory on How the church should be run: When all’s said and done The only right way’s presbyterian.     Zurich 11. A versifier despaired reading li- -sts ‘I’ve been all through the dictionary in Engli- -sh. It happens I’ve found An impossible sound Not one single word rhymes with Zwingli.’   12. Some Anabaptists said, ‘You’ll never appease us And even if your soldiers should seize us We won’t be deterred From obeying the Word And following the true way of Jesus.’     Prague 13. A Czech man said ‘why all this fuss About Luther? He’s just a wuss It all started with me The previous century You should all be celebrating Jan Hus!’     Edinburgh 14. A Scots lad called John from the glen Blew a first blast o’the trumpet, but when Told that the gospel call Must mean freedom for all, He said ‘Och, it means all men, ye ken!’     Westminster 15. King Henry said ‘I want a divorce! We’ll have reformation by force So the gospel gets heard, And I get my bird, (And all the monks’ money of course)’     Trent 16. You must understand that you need Not just faith, but also some deed So we who were sent To council at Trent Infallibly now have decreed.   17. Of sacraments there must now be seven All needed to get you to heaven If you have even six Your chances are nix Of having transgressions forgiven.     Today 18. A preacher called Luther was told ‘Your perspective has got rather old; We’re not really sure When you talk of the law That you get those of Abraham’s fold.’     19. Our scholars on justification Have issued a Joint Declaration. They have given new light To show both sides were right— So that’s that for the great Reformation....

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