A stage play about Martin Luther is making stops in several cities this fall to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
October 31 marks 500 years since the German monk and professor nailed his 95 theses on the door of a Wittenburg church, challenging Rome to a theological debate over redemption and forgiveness.
"When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent," reads Luther's first thesis, "he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."
After a successful run in New York City, "Martin Luther on Trial" will kick off in Cleveland later this month. It then moves on to Cincinnati and Houston in October, then Dallas, Minneapolis, and Tulsa in November.
"Martin" producer and co-writer Max McLean says the "huge personality" of Luther deserves to be told on the stage.
"And not only was [Luther] a huge personality," he says, "but he was placed, and I think by God, at a very pivotal moment in western civilization."
McLean oversees the New York City-based Fellowship for Performing Arts, which produces live theater from a Christian worldview. His production on Luther comes after an off-Broadway run of "The Screwtape Letters," adapted from the C.S. Lewis book.
Luther fought against forces that tried to suppress the idea of a "priesthood of the believer" and a personal relationship with God, says McLean, but at the same time Luther was a flawed Christian. So the play is an attempt, he says, to examine Luther's legacy from a 21st century perspective, which is done in a courtroom setting with Satan as prosecutor.
The "witnesses" for Luther include Pope Francis, Adolf Hitler, and Luther's wife Katarina among others – all of them cross-examined by Satan.
"In many ways the play is examining the extent of God's grace," says McLean, "because if Luther is found guilty on his merits then so are we. And that should have all of us going to the cross."