Dear Members and Friends of Glory!
When I issued my “reformation challenge” to you in the Spring of 2016 to read the Bible every day until October 31st of this year, the idea was to form a habit in us that would slowly but surely influence our lives, our thinking, our faith, our church, and radiate outward into the surrounding community. How hard was that!? I know of one person who has almost read the entire Bible! Some of you said that you struggled, and a few I heard had given up. Habits are difficult to establish and difficult to break, but they are essential. Because we are creatures of habit.
The 500th anniversary of the Reformation this month is an important date marked by many interesting events. But the Reformation itself was not so much an event as it was a process. Martin Luther was certainly an amazing man, and his posting of the famous 95 theses concerning indulgences was an important event. However, the re-formation of Luther’s own life began much earlier, through deliberate and careful study and prayer, and through years of struggle with his conscience. October 31st, 1517 was a milestone, but the process of reforming the church didn’t begin there nor end there.
In the 13th century, a man named Francis of Assisi began a reform movement to restore the ideal of living in Christ-like poverty and of preaching to people about Jesus. In the 14th century a theologian named Catherine of Siena worked to restore unity to the church and helped the exiled pope to return from France to Italy. In the 15th century, Jan Hus of Bohemia began to reform worship in his homeland using the everyday language of the people and restoring holy communion to include bread and wine for everyone. Luther owed a lot to those who came before him. And of course, the Reformation did not end with Luther. Friends like his younger colleague Philip Melanchthon carried on his work after his death. The Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli and the French reformer Jean Calvin took Luther’s initiatives into new and different directions. Most importantly, the reformation involved the everyday lives of people who began to read Scripture in their mother tongue, study and memorize the catechism, renew their devotional and worship life, establish social ministries to help the poor. There were musicians who composed new music for worship, artists who illustrated the catechism, and educators who organized schools for children. Even though the Catholic church split in the 16th century, that part which remained loyal to Rome has gone through a reformation of its own (sometimes called the counter-reformation), starting with the council of Trent in the 16th and continuing with Vatican II in the 20th century. And the church’s reformation continues to this day. “Ecclesia semper reformanda est” is the Latin phrase for this on-going process. The church is always in reformation-mode. Every time you read the Bible, pray, worship, meditate on God’s grace, talk and discuss faith, you are giving God an opportunity to re-form you, and with you the church. Because you are a member of the body of Christ, crucified and risen, and continuing to die and rise again all the time, until we are fully formed in the image of God, the shape of the One who loves us.
I invite you to take advantage of the many events offered in and around our community to learn about and commemorate the 16th century Reformation. More than that, I encourage you to engage in the habits that have the potential to shape us into the people we are meant to be.