Thomas Cranmer would have been labeled a “company man” in the 21st century. His attempt to serve two masters resulted in his own demise. We can be thankful for his sacrifice as he was the principal figure of the English Reformation and was primarily responsible for the 1549 Book of Common Prayer and its revision in 1552.
Cranmer had an abrupt meeting with King Henry VIII that led to the annulment of the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. During the reign of Edward IV, Cranmer had a free hand in reforming the worship, doctrine, and practice of the church. Much of Cranmer’s reform of the church was unpopular, and he was arrested. He was burned at the stake on March 21, 1556.
Scripture: Luke 21:25
“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
This passage from the gospel speaks to the chaos and disruption to take place in England during Cranmer’s time as Archbishop of Canterbury. He was disliked by King Henry VIII and Queen Mary I. Finally, Thomas Cranmer was charged with treason and suffered a martyr’s death by being burned at the stake. Why did this have to happen? Henry VIII had need of a male heir to assure his family’s lineage to the crown, something he had failed to accomplish. A second goal of Henry VIII was to transition England from a Roman Catholic to that of a Protestant country. To do this he needed someone with political and religious stature to effect these changes. Cranmer leaned to the Catholic
side and affirmed the power and influence of the monasteries. Conflict arose between Henry VIIII and Thomas Cranmer, leading to Cranmer’s conviction for treason. Cranmer believed that the King was God’s chosen instrument to lead his nation and church. Often during Henry VIII’s reign,Cranmer felt it was his duty to obey the King and support policies and perform actions that he did not personally approve. Cranmer tried to recant
his words of support for the Catholic cause, but he was taken away in the middle of his message and burned alive. As the flames leaped around his feet, Cranmer stretched down his right hand into the fires and said, “This hand hath offended.” He held it there until it had burned to a stump. As the flames engulfed him, Cranmer prayed “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Merciful God, through the work of Thomas Cranmer you renewed the worship of your Church by restoring the language of the people and through his death you revealed your power in human weakness: Grant that by your Holy Spirit we may always worship you in spirit and truth; through Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and advocate, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. AMEN
The times in Cranmer’s England were troubling and many British were affected. The early English Reformation under Henry VIII was tyrannical and many faithful were martyred or simply disappeared. How would you have remained faithful? Both Jesus and Cranmer had controversies that resulted in their executions; one was on a Cross (Jesus) and the other by being burned at the stake (Cranmer). More broadly, do you believe that the church should become entangled in politics and political acts? Otherwise, how can Christians express their views? If our church community faced this kind of consequences, I would probably become invisible or keep a very low profile or even go into hiding.