March 4, 2022

On Christian Freedom: The Sausage Affair

The Affair of the Sausages is as historically significant among the Reformed churches as Luther’s Nailing of the 95 Theses is among the Lutherans. On Ash Wednesday in 1522, Christoph Froschauer and his publishing team were physically tired after printing a new edition of the Letters of Paul. So Froschauer served his famished crew what he had on hand: hard meat sausages.

However, the medieval church’s laws regarding Lent required Christians to fast from eating meat, eggs, and cheese. When the Catholic authorities found out, Froschauer was arrested. Ulrich Zwingli, the preaching pastor at the Grossmünster in Zürich, had been at Froschauer’s place when this all happened. He had not himself participated but was ready to defend the freedom of others to participate.

Zwingli’s sermon, On Rejecting Lent and Protecting Christian Liberty from Man-Made Obligations, addressed the crisis. For Zwingli, the eating of meat at Lent is a matter of Christian freedom, as is choosing not to eat meat. The gospel of Jesus Christ frees people from self-justification. This includes the tradition of fasting for 40 days prior to the celebration of Easter.

For Zwingli, the choice to participate in Lent is a matter of “Christian Liberty.” The Good News sets the believer free from any effort to make himself or herself acceptable before God.

Zwingli’s passionate defense of Christian liberty in the practice (or not) of the Lent tradition led to the First Disputation, which in turn sparked the Swiss Reformation. Switzerland long remained the center of Reformed Christianity. The Anabaptists and the Baptists emerged primarily from the Reformed and related churches, so the theological lessons learned in 1522 belong to those traditions, too.

I agree with Zwingli in this matter: Observe Lent if you feel led to do so, but do not demand others observe Lent. Don’t observe Lent if you feel so led, but do not demand that others reject Lent to satisfy your own conscience. Celebrating Lent won’t help save you; neither will rejecting Lent save you. 

Trusting in the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone saves you. Everything else in the Christian life is free gravy, including sausage gravy on your biscuits, if you like.


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