On this episode of 5 Minutes in Church History we’re going to go back to one of our favorite topics, the Reformation, and we’re going to talk about what I think is one of the most interesting events in all of church history. This is the famous sausage supper of 1522.
We need to set the stage for you. Christopher Froschauer is the printer in the city of Zurich in Switzerland. The printer was a very prestigious person in the 16th century. This was a person of some wealth, a person of some influence and power, and a very respected citizen. Christopher Froschauer and his understudies and his apprentices had all been very busy. They just completed a new edition of Saint Paul’s epistles, and they wanted to celebrate. So they decided to have a sausage supper.
Now, what we need to know is this was on a Friday, and it was in the spring, and it was during Lent. So yes, you can connect the dots here—this was not allowed according to church law. You could not eat meat on Fridays during Lent. But here’s Christopher Froschauer, a respectable citizen of the city, not only is he a respectable citizen but he also invites the town priest Ulrich Zwingli to come to the sausage supper.
Legend has it that Zwingli was there, that he might have even helped serve to sausage but he himself did not eat. But nevertheless, there he was and these citizens were eating and had this sausage supper and this caused quite a scandal.
Now if we go up to Germany we remember that the Reformation came to Germany when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the church door. But here, down in Zurich, in Switzerland, the Reformation comes to Switzerland when a bunch of middle-aged guys were sitting around and had a sausage supper.
Well, not only did they have the sausage supper, but after the sausage supper, Zwingli ascended the pulpit at the Grossmünster, or the “Great Church” there at Zurich, and he preached a sermon. And I think this is one of the best sermon titles of all time, and it’s simply this: On the Choice and Freedom of Foods. In this sermon, Zwingli makes a very simple argument. He can’t find Lent in Scripture. He’s looked far and wide and he can’t find these restrictions that the church has imposed upon people. And not only is it about Lent, but Zwingli’s beginning to see that there’s this almost like a scaffolding that is being built around the gospel of all these regulations, all of these things that we are to be doing to somehow earn God’s favor, or earn God’s merit, or somehow achieve some level of righteousness.
Well, Zwingli basically says listen, this isn’t in Scripture. And in that sermon, Zwingli focuses the congregation on a beautiful text—a text in Matthew. These are the words of Christ that comes at the end of Matthew chapter 11. And this is what Christ says: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Zwingli made a remarkable discovery. He made a remarkable discovery of the liberating power of the Word of God. Well after the sausage supper, and after the sermon, things happened very rapidly at Zurich. A swift change came to the city of Zurich. In the next year, there was the disputation at Zurich; in fact there were two of them. And at these disputations, the town council, the sort of rulers of the town, had on the one side the Roman Catholic officials and they listened to them. And on the other side was Zwingli and they listened to him. And at both the first disputation, and the second disputation the town council voted to go with Zwingli, and Zurich became a Reformed city. Now, this is very crucial because this is the first Reformed city in Switzerland. So after Zurich, next comes Bazel, and then comes Geneva, and then we see the Reformation spreading across these Swiss city states, and in the land of Switzerland, and it all goes back to the sausage supper and Zwingli’s sermon. And of course it ultimately goes back to this text—to Jesus’ words, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”