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A well-known story of Martin Luther says that when he was asked what he would do if God's final judgment were to arrive the next day, he replied that he would plant an apple tree.
As ELCA Bishop, and Chair of Lutheran World Federation, Mark Hanson wrote, "Although the story is likely a legend, it reflects the confidence that the life lived in Christ can be lived in evangelical repentance that is both joyfully attentive to life in this creation and joyously hopeful for life in the new creation."
So, in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, to take place in 2017, a Luther Garden, which will hold 500 trees, is emerging in the city of Wittenberg, Germany. In conjunction, 500 trees are being planted worldwide, marking the widespread influence and significance of the Reformation.
The project, initiated by Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Geneva, states on its website that it hopes to "highlight ecumenical solidarity amongst churches worldwide."
On Reformation Day 2011, Luther Seminary became the eighth U.S. sponsor to take part in the Luther Garden project by planting an oak tree on campus.
Luther Seminary President Richard Bliese said, "Luther feels honored to be able to participate in this celebration of the Reformation. By planting two trees at the same time, in Wittenberg and in St. Paul, we at Luther Seminary are tied to the events of Wittenberg on multiple levels."
"We are tied to city of Wittenberg and the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation; we are tied to the deep impact of the Reformation on Lutheran churches worldwide and the church universal; and this action symbolizes our commitments to the faith of the Reformers."
The Luther Seminary tree was placed near a newly installed rain garden and will be marked with a plaque honoring the significance of the Reformation and the Luther Garden project.
Luther Seminary professor of church history and director of the Thrivent Reformation Research Program, Mary Jane Haemig, said of the significance of the upcoming 500th anniversary, "Martin Luther's reformatory breakthrough—a rediscovery of the biblical message of how God relates to humans—continues to resonate in many ways in our world today. With Lutherans around the world, we at Luther Seminary are pleased to celebrate with other Christians the 500th anniversary of the Reformation."
She notes, "We are not simply celebrating an anniversary, we are celebrating a message. God's word, the gospel of Jesus Christ, continues to be discovered and preached today. As Lutherans, we see Luther's rediscovery of the gospel as a gift that has—and will continue to—enliven the whole Christian church."
In addition to the tree planting at Luther Seminary, 13 other trees were planted around the world on October 31. To date, 102 of the 500 total tree pairs have been planted. When the project is complete, worldwide sponsors will have planted 1,000 trees.
Luther Seminary alum, Arden Haug, '87, '02, ELCA Regional Representative for Europe and Director of the ELCA Wittenberg Center, has been present for many of the tree plantings in Wittenberg, including those on October 31. Haug said, "It has been exciting to watch the Luther Garden emerge from a desolate open field on the edge of the city. The Luther Garden is a witness and sign of our living Lutheran worldwide communion."
To learn more about the Luther Garden project visit their website
See photos of the event.
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