November, 2016, church newsletter column for St. Peter Lutheran Church, Greene, Iowa.
We are a Church of the Reformation
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
– 1 Corinthians 12:13
One of the sad truths about the Christian Church over the last two thousand years is that it has split over almost every conceivable issue (and many inconceivable!). One of the most significant splits, of course, is the Protestant Reformation.
The Reformation began on October 31, 1517, when a German monk by the name of Martin Luther posted 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, looking to start a debate about the exploitative selling of indulgences by some agents of the Roman Catholic Church. Although he considered himself a Roman Catholic until his death, his “Evangelical” followers became known as “Lutherans.”
This year, we commemorate the 499th anniversary of the Reformation, and Lutherans around the world (Did you know there are over 75 million of us? And globally, Lutheranism is growing!) are kicking off a year of commemorations around the world leading up to the 500th anniversary in October, 2017.
Looking back at the Reformation, we celebrate what God has done and continues to do through the Church, but we must not celebrate that the Church is divided. We commemorate Reformation Day; we don’t celebrate it. Check out ELCA500.org and 2017.lutheranworld.org to see some of the commemorations around the world.
One cause for celebration is the ongoing dialogue and cooperation between Roman Catholic and Lutheran church bodies. On October 31, 2016, the Lutheran World Federation president bishop and general secretary will preside with Pope Francis at a common prayer service in Lund, Switzerland, something unimaginable during much of the last 500 years. While we still have a long way to go, it is encouraging to note where unity is in the Church. Our own ecumenical Vacation Bible School program is a great local example of doing ministry together!
We will have a number of opportunities as we approach next year’s 500th anniversary to learn more about our heritage as a church of the Reformation and how that equips us for ministry today. The Reformation book fair at the beginning of November is one example. We’ll also have monthly bulletin inserts this year about the Reformation, and maybe even take some time to read together from Luther’s Small Catechism.
As we celebrate our Lutheran heritage, let’s remember that God isn’t anywhere close to done with us yet. We are a church that is always reforming, guided by the work of the Holy Spirit, and trusting in God’s grace in our savior, Jesus Christ.
Pastor Daniel Flucke
“Agnus Day appears with the permission of www.agnusday.org“