My life right now is pretty surreal because a couple three times a day I have the sense that God set this whole thing up for me to be here at this time. Part of the plan was to get me away from some of the battles I’d been in – influencing culture/regions, church/state stuff. And so what does God do, he gives me opportunity to rest and reflect but yet he Providentially set me right in the heart of the best and most notable example in Church History of a local pastor inextricably involved in the politics of state – –Ulrich Zwingli. It’s like I can’t escape it, it finds me.
Note in this pic of his statue in Zurich how Zwingli has a Bible and a sword.
Reading of the plots and counterplots against his life, the attacks on his home at night, rioting mobs… he and those around him were armed which was unusual for a cleric (though Jesus’ band of followers carried swords). In the middle of the night when stones were flung through his windows Zwingli got up and ran to his sword. Some say the tragic end to his life is a testimony to what happens when we “close the book on the Prince of Peace” and “preach war” and “wield an arm that God had forbidden.” Zwingli died in a battle with his sword in it’s sheath at his side. As a Swiss troop chaplain he was required to don a sword but interestingly he did not make use of it when that time came. Zwingli taught how the Word of God fully authorizes an armed intervention. (I do think his harsh treatment of the Anabaptists is a notable, but explainable, blight on his memory.)
Much like King Josiah, Zwingli sought to rid the land under his jurisdiction of idols and offenses to God. How could God favor a people who tolerated offenses to Him? Zwingli’s followers broke icons, relics, statues of saints, Mary, etc. Zwingli made sure these things were outlawed by the city council of Zurich.
Because priests and monks were “uttering shamelessly from the pulpit whatever came into their heads” Zwingli saw to it that the council passed laws forbidding them to preach nothing in their sermons “that they had not drawn from the sacred fountains of the Old and New Testaments.” The monks were confounded at being ordered to preach only the Word of God because “most of them had never read it.”
Imagine someone legislating what one can preach from the pulpit? I’ll help those of you who aren’t connecting the dots, there are those today who want to legislate what can/cannot get preached from the pulpit. Obviously Zwingli was controversial then and this stuff stirs up great debates even today.
In several ways Zwingli is a forgotten and despised Reformer. You’ve all heard of Luther and Calvin because after them were Lutheran’s and Calvinists. There weren’t Zwingli-ists per se. Unlike Luther, Zwingli wasn’t merely concerned with a reformation of the Church. He sought to be as salt and light and reform all of society as the kingdom yeast permeates the entire loaf of society. In an earlier post I noted I’m more like Zwingli than Luther (no surprise to the bulk of you reading this).
One can understand Zwingli better when one realizes that for him there was no difference between being the shepherd of the church in Zurich and being a shepherd of all the citizens of that city. Zwingli, like most of the reformers, still believed in the union of church and state. There was no difference between church and city – Zwingli was pastor of all. [p. 268 of Merle d’Aubigne’s For God and His People: Ulrich Zwingli]
Today’s only 3% of Zwingli’s city would be considered confessing Christian and that is part of why God is calling us to raise up new kingdom leaders in these Europeans cities.