First a Soldier of Christ
Yahoo! We’ve reached our second level in the sesquicentennial service challenge – a combined total of 80,000 minutes our church members have volunteered – and this level is named in honor of Huldrych (Ulrich) Zwingli.
Zwingli was a Swiss reformer in the early 1500s. His work predated Calvin’s by a few years and led to the formation of the Reformed Church in Zurich.
Zwingli was super smart. He spoke multiple languages, attended multiple universities, and excelled in areas of humanist studies and philosophy. At age 35 he became a priest, much to the chagrin of his family who no doubt expected him to have a more lucrative career. He was later inspired by the work of fellow reformer and former Catholic priest Martin Luther.
Like Luther, Zwingli strongly opposed the Catholic practice of indulgences and supported the theological idea of the priesthood of all believers. Zwingli also took issue with the adoration of the saints and relics. This guy wanted to strip down the church and its worship practices to the bare essentials. He said no to things like fasting, icons, pictures, and the use of music in worship (although he was a fan of music outside the church walls). He believed in a theology of “unconditional election” and that one’s election actually preceded one’s faith in God, meaning our faith in God was inspired in God’s choosing of us.
Zwingli and Luther could not come to an agreement on the presence of Christ at the sacrament of communion. It’s the reason the Reformed and Lutheran churches never joined up together. In his view, while the Lord’s Supper was indeed divinely instituted, the bread and wine were merely symbols of God’s presence and the taking of communion was an exercise in faith, rather than a literal communion with Christ.
His life came to a bloody and abrupt end at the Second Battle of Kappel. It is said that Zwingli considered himself first a soldier of Christ; second a defender of his country; and third a leader of the city of Zurich. You could argue that he died for all three.
When Zurich was attacked in October of 1531 he was one of 500 causalities. He died on the battlefield and his enemies in the Catholic church had the former priest’s body drawn, quartered, and burned, which is pretty darn depressing if you ask me.
So here’s to Zwingli, who helped paved the way as one our first Protestant leaders – a respected reformer who gave his life for his city and his faith.
Rev. Kelly Staples is Associate Pastor and Director of Youth Ministries for NorthPark Presbyterian. She grew up a member of First Presbyterian Church of Shreveport, received her Bachelor's degree from Middle Tennessee State University and her Masters of Divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.