"When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, 'Repent,' (Matthew 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance."
The 95 Theses (1517)
Can any of us really imagine how exciting it must have been on that first Reformation Day, October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther had the audacious gonads to challenge the Pope and the authority of the Roman Church? With the posting of the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany (posting on the church door was kind of the facebook of the sixteenth century), Luther drove a nail into the coffin of the Middle Ages. From that point on, Christians in Europe would be free to read and interpret the scriptures on their own. They would be free from the social and economic tyranny of the Church hierarchy, and free from the stultifying fear of their own sinfulness. I mean, how cool was that?
Luther let out the secret:
"For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law."
No longer did a Christian feel the guilty need to earn God's love. This love is free, a gift, manifest in the crucified Savior, Jesus Christ. We can't even begin to guess what this revelation must have meant to those who heard it for the first time.
But sometimes, I wonder where the fire of the Reformation went. After a few centuries of state-sponsored Lutheranism in Europe the coals might not be glowing quite so brightly as they did back in 1517. Even here in the US it seems freedom from sin means freedom from religious observance of any kind. Or, we have swapped one set of dogma for another. We feel we have arrived at the correct theology, the correct liturgy, found our favorite hymns, sit in our favorite pews, and--once we get that youngest child through Confirmation class--we will be free to spend our Sunday mornings with our newspaper and coffee. After all, we are justified by our faith, not by our works.
Sometimes I think that if Luther could see how well the Reformation has succeeded, he'd spit up.
But John's gospel teaches us that we are to continue (ie: abide, pitch our tents with) Jesus' word. Luther taught that our whole lives should be constantly changing, growing, learning, and evolving as followers of the Way. It's not a destination where once we've agreed on the right doctrine we can quit searching. It's a journey of faith: constantly changing as the world changes and as we ourselves grow and mature.
Where is the fire of the Reformation? Check out a few of these very innovative churches:
As Luther himself migh've said (because he was a smart guy and he knew Latin), "Ecclesia semper reformanda est!" The Church is always reforming. And that's a blessed thought.
Keep the fire burning, my friends. Thanks for stopping by.