31.10.12

Reformation Day, 1917

I still remember that cloudy, misty Autumn morning in northern Germany. The Divine Service in the open air would be for many of those present their last celebration of holy communion. Straight after the celebration, we were plunged into one of the bloodiest battles of Flanders..Surely that Jubilee deserved something better. But with it there arose a new appreciation of the central article of faith of the Lutheran Reformation. It is as though the tremendous gravity of war, the encounter with death and the experience of God's judgment that it brought, were needed for modern man to grasp again the message of the Reformation: the justification of the ungodly by faith alone.

Note - Sasse is writing in 1942, reminiscing about Reformation Day, 1917, the 400th anniversary of the Reformation. There were three great battles in Flanders during WW1; Sasse is referring to what is known to English speakers as The Battle of Passchendaele, which concluded in early November, 1917 with half a million casualties on both sides. During this battle, Sasse, a sergeant in the German infantry, earned the Iron Cross (2nd Class), the second highest battle honour in Germany at the time.
Since soldiers of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) were heavily involved at Passchendaele, it is possible that Sasse saw action against his future countrymen.

From The Message of the Reformation in Changing Times, a talk given in Erlangen, Germany on 10th November, 1942.

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