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…



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.




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.’




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.




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.




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.’




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!’




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!’




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)’




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.




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.



  1. C harles Twombly
    Oct 29, 2016

    Tour de force! Bravo!

  2. David
    Nov 2, 2016

    Rhymes with Zwingli, to a degree: Bingley (as in Bradford), kingly, tingly !!

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