On Feb. 15, almost 800 people attended the premiere of A Return to Grace: Luther’s Life and Legacy, a new feature-length film that explores the life of Martin Luther and his quest for truth.
Three congregations—Mount Olive, Appleton, Wis.; Holy Word, Austin, Tex.; and Peace, Mankato, Minn. (an Evangelical Lutheran Synod congregation)—served as pilot locations, hosting screenings in local movie theaters for their congregation and community.
“Having the film shown in the local theater was the perfect venue,” says Rev. Joel Zank, pastor at Mount Olive. “To watch it with our members and hear them humming and softly singing ‘A Mighty Fortress’ together made for a wonderful event.”
Attendees were excited to learn more about Martin Luther, the man who sparked the Lutheran Reformation 500 years ago with the nailing of the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church.
“I grew up in a WELS church and attended our schools. You think you know all about Luther, but the film taught me historical things I was not aware of,” says Mr. Brian Zuberbier, a member at Mount Olive.
At the same time, members were happy to see another emphasis throughout the movie—God’s grace to sinners.
“I was impressed how well it conveyed Lutheran theology through the lens of Luther’s struggle to find God’s grace and his battle to proclaim it freely, all while maintaining the measured tone of a historical documentary,” says Mr. Adam Gould, a member at Holy Word. “It was a real pleasure to see our own WELS pastors sharing our history and God’s grace for us on the screen. It reminded me that God’s Word really is our great heritage and made me proud to be part of a church that clings to it.”
“Even though this was a movie about Martin Luther, it was so much more than that,” says Mrs. Ashley Crane, a member at Holy Word. “It is a movie about our relationship with God, our understanding that it is God who saves and Jesus who makes us worthy, a truth we cling to today and one I cannot imagine living without 500 years ago and beyond.”
Because of that focus, Zuberbier says the film makes a wonderful evangelism tool: “It is a great opportunity to invite people who are not WELS to learn more about our faith.”
Rev. Don Patterson, pastor at Holy Word, says, “The presentation is so clear that anyone who comes finds that it’s all about Jesus and his grace.”
Funding from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans made it possible to produce the movie.
Any WELS or ELS church, or group of churches, can set up a screening of the film in their community—at no cost to the church. More than a dozen congregations have already scheduled a screening for later this year. Learn more about the film and hosting a screening at wels.net/reformation500.
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WELS churches and schools featured in their local media.