Posted: September 28, 2017
We are commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this month. That’s a big deal for a number of reasons. For one, we wouldn’t be SOTV Lutheran Church without it. More than that, the Reformation actually changed Christianity. The hierarchical system of the church was cracked wide open. The scriptures were translated into the language of the people. The wine of the Lord’s Supper was made available not just to priests but to everyone. Scripture was emphasized over tradition, grace over works, faith over demand. As a priesthood of believers, we realized helping our neighbor was as holy to God as the priest at the altar saying mass.
Martin Luther was the key leader in this movement, of course, and the impact of his thought and work went well beyond the reformation of the church. His writing, as a whole, is prodigious and impressive, earthy and practical simultaneously. His quill was sometimes a little too sharp. It has been necessary for the church that bears his name to repudiate a few of his writings.
But, while all of this is worth remembering and celebrating, I think we also must be careful not to idolize or idealize the past. We live now. Five-hundred years later. It’s not the same world in which Luther walked, nor the same culture. He had the printing press (revolutionary in its time); we have computers that we hold in our hands.
Our message is still good news. Perhaps needed more than ever. Grace. Mercy. Peace. Serving our neighbors. Loving as we have been loved. You get the idea. But to be truly faithful to the Reformation (noun), we need to always be reforming (verb). Guided by the living Spirit, the church is called to be always reforming, seeking fresh and new ways to be faithful. If people don’t easily come through our front doors anymore, we must discover ways to welcome them through the side and back and basement doors.
I firmly believe that Luther himself would be encouraging us in this direction. He was horrified when he learned that churches had started being identified as “Lutheran.” He said, “Who am I, poor stinking maggot fodder that I am, that a church should be called by my name?” As always, Luther pointed to Christ as the one who is and always needs to be at the center of the church.
Let’s remember the Reformation and all the good that it did. History needs to be recalled or the worst parts of it will be repeated. But let’s embrace the verb and be a reforming church. Always.
P.S. I believe that our upcoming Community Chest event would have tickled Luther’s fancy. He wasn’t afraid to have some fun. He loved music. And he was involved in his fair share of shenanigans. But he also deeply cared about his community. Our event will support our community in a critical way by directing all the funds raised to the Dakota County Homelessness Initiative. I hope to see you there!