The Reformation and Sausages?

One of the joys of being a pastor who loves Church History is seeing patterns echoed throughout the life of the Church. There are wonderful examples of pastors who have cared for their sheep, praying for them when they wouldn’t pray for themselves, or when God, in spite of wicked pastors, comforted His people through unexpected ways. When we consider the life of the Church with our eyes wide open, we will notice these patterns. One central pattern is that God’s people are always involved with food. Whether we consider the great Passover Feast in the days of Moses, or the first miracle of Christ occurring at the Wedding at Cana, food has always been involved.

During the time of the Reformation, it was no different. The Protestant Reformation (c. 1517) had several factors that enabled its success, and one of those factors was the printing press. One printer in the town of Zurich, Switzerland named Christopher Froschauer, had been working excessively on printing a new edition of St. Paul’s epistles. In order to celebrate this accomplishment, Froschauer and his men decided to cook up some sausages for supper. This was one of the most unexpected moments of greatness, whereby God began to transform a whole city. In Zurich, Reformation did not come through a hammer, or an army, or even a new book. Reformation came because a group of guys got hungry after work, and wanted sausage for dinner.

You might ask, “What is the big deal about having sausage?” Well, there were several factors that made this scandalous. The year was 1522, and the seeds of the Reformation had begun, but Zurich was still under Roman Catholic influence. And these printers wanted to dine upon sausages on a Friday during Lent. Under Roman Catholic Church Law (even today) you are forbidden to eat meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and any Friday during the season of Lent. People have always felt free to break various rules, but something was unique about this supper. The local priest was present, and didn’t speak out against it, he had the audacity to serve these sausages! This priest’s name was Ulrich Zwingli, priest to the people of Zurich, serving at the church of Grossmünster, or the “Great Church”.

As the scandal bubbled up in his town, Zwingli did what pastors do best; he preached. On March 23, 1522, delivered his sermon, “Concerning Choice and Liberty Respecting Food…” For you and me, this may just seem odd for a sermon topic but it was the most relevant topic for the Swiss Reformer. The food indulged had become a symbol against the Roman Catholic Church. Zwingli preached that Rome had invented rules that were not found in the Bible. They had demanded of God’s people things that God Himself had not demanded of them.

By means of a simple protest, Zwingli had seen a group of men, honor their God-given Christian right of liberty. Zwingli didn’t care about the nutritional benefits of eating vegetarian on Fridays. At the heart of the matter were the words of Christ, “…it is now what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person…” (Matthew 15:11 ESV).

Zwingli reminded the people in his sermon, and in the subsequent public debates with Rome that followed, that “Christ is the only way to salvation of all who were, are now, or shall be.” In addition, Zwingli would continue to teach Zurich that God’s people are called to regard no other teachings of men as equal to or greater than God’s Word. As God’s people hear God in the Scriptures, God reveals Himself clearly so that His people might be conformed into the image of Christ through His Spirt. And only God’s Word can accomplish such an end, meaning then, “Every Christian is free of any of the works which God did not command and is allowed at all times to eat everything.”

Today, as people who are purposefully and joyfully united to the Protestant Reformation, we enjoy sausage any day of the week – and especially on Fridays during Spring. We remember how God can take something as ordinary as meat to remind us, “…that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…” (Galatians 2:16a ESV) May we always seek to embrace only those things which God has revealed in Scripture, never submitting to another master than the Lord.

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