The year is 1522 and the location is Zurich, Switzerland. A Pastor, Ulrich Zwingli, has contracted a printer, Christoph Froschauer, to publish a collection of his sermons on the epistles of St. Paul. Printing in the sixteenth century was an arduous affair and Froschauer had his workers busily engaged well beyond their normal working hours in an effort to get the pages out. When they finally finished for the night, the workers were hungry, and Froschauer invited them, along with Zwingli and other church leaders, to a feast of sausages.
“Well, what of it?”, you might ask. A perfectly natural and gracious thing to do for hungry workers! The problem rested in the fact that the feast of sausages occurred during the season of Lent, when eating meat was prohibited by the church. Not only that, but this prohibition was enshrined in Zurich’s civil law.
Froschauer was duly arrested for breaking the law. Zwingli, though present at the feast, had not actually partaken of the sausages, but he quickly came to Froschauer’s defence, and, in the process, confronted the church’s traditions and edicts. He preached a sermon “Regarding the Choice and Freedom of Foods” in which he argued that, since fasting was not commanded by Scripture, fasting was a matter of personal conscience, not a law of God to be enforced.
Thus, the Reformation had begun in Switzerland. The European Reformations wereprotests against the elevation of religious practices above the Scriptures and spawned Protestant denominations across the globe, including our own.
The Christian Season of Lent begins on Wednesday (Ash Wednesday). At the end of this season, we celebrate the Easter story. One of the church’s traditions is that we give up something for the 40 days of Lent. You may choose to do something along these lines, which may be important to you and your relationship with Jesus. But just remember the Affair of the Sausages and St. Paul’s witness to the Roman church: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…” (Romans 14:17)
Rev. Ross Honey