Ulrich Zwingli was a mercenary, a pastor, and the leader of the Reformation in Switzerland. Under his leadership, many in Zurich were leaving the Roman Catholic Church and becoming Protestants. However, Zurich was still a city divided regarding many important matters.
On March 9, 1522, several friends put everything on the table at a sausage supper during Lent.
Lent is a religious tradition, wherein Christians fast from eating meat for 40 days (46, but Sundays do not count) before and up until Easter Sunday. This tradition arose, like many other traditions, in the ritual-laden Roman Catholic Church. Of course, the tradition itself is not commanded in the Bible, but many Roman Catholics practiced the observance. And the legalistic bent of humans can easily move any tradition into the realm of divine law.
Zwingli’s friend, a book publisher by the name of Christopher Froschauer, got together with some other men on March 9, 1522, to eat a sausage dinner during Lent.
This dinner was a scandal to Zurich’s society of Roman Catholic adherents. Even if one was not Roman Catholic anymore, the cultural traditions still stuck. Christopher and his friends had consulted with pastor Zwingli before eating their sausage dinner, and Zwingli approved of their expression of personal freedom. He even prepared a sermon on the subject for the following Sunday morning.
Zwingli preached “On the Choice and Freedom of Foods.” He pointed to the reality that “Lent” (both the word and the tradition) were found nowhere in Scripture. Therefore, to bind the conscience of any person by expecting them to participate in this tradition was legalism and anti-Gospel.
Zwingli boldly reminded his congregation that day of something that every Christian from every generation should constantly remember: religious traditions are utterly meaningless unless they are grounded and commanded from the Word of God.
Scripture alone is able to bind the conscience, and the trappings of tradition will only serve to confuse and obstruct those who need to know and believe the Gospel.