Posted on Jul 05, 2017 by Pastor Dave Whetter
As you most likely know, this year we are commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Legend proclaims that, on October 31, 1517, a young German monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. These theses, or statements, were actually a list of 95 propositions that Luther wished to debate to help reform the church. Most historians consider this act the beginning of the Reformation.
However, about 100 years earlier, long before Luther was born, another catholic priest, John Hus, believed that reform was needed. He felt there was a disconnect between the biblical witness and how the church was actually living out its purpose. Worship was only offered in Latin, a language the common people couldn’t understand, which meant that most people couldn’t actually understand the Scripture that was being proclaimed. The people were made to feel unworthy, and were told that their salvation depended on what they did and how much they could give to the church. The church, according to Hus, had become a matter of routine, and the church did little to transform the world as God intended. Even though Hus’ concerns were accurate, on July 6, 1415, John Hus was burned at the stake because the church considered him a heretic. Thankfully, a little over 100 years later, Luther, who had the protection of a German prince, was finally able to highlight these issues again and encourage reform to begin.
Change is never easy, and Lutherans, especially, seem to have a reputation of resisting change; yet, at the very core of our understanding of scripture and the call of the church we are to be constantly seeking change. We aren’t to seek change just for change's sake, though, but so that we better live into our call as disciples of Jesus.
As a church body, the ELCA is often involved in speaking out for and advocating change, and at times we are criticized heavily for it because people believe the church is being political. At our very core, though, the church is to be a witness to the life of Christ and, as such, we are to be constantly considering how our religious practices have become routine. We are to be seeking ways to change from within so that we can be the witnesses we have been created to be. We are to be those that allow God’s word to not only transform our hearts, but the hearts of the world around us.
So often, as a faith community, we focus on our needs and ourselves, but, as important as being together as a congregation is, our actions in the world beyond our own doors are what matters most in the kingdom of God. This week, as we celebrate our nation's independence and as we remember the beginning of the Reformation of the church, I pray that we continue to reform our ways so that, as the body of Christ, we are always seeking to witness to the world the good news that Jesus came to teach us.
Shalom, Pr. Dave