500 years of ‘reform’ is good for society
We were privileged to attend a joint service of the three largest Lutheran churches on Sunday at Fredericksburg High School Auditorium. The occasion, apparently the first joint celebration in 130 years, marked a milestone in our collective Christian history.
It is often said that change is hard, and it is. Change is scary. Because, as guest Pastor Monte Marshall noted in his sermon, sometimes resistance to change is fierce and the cost is high.
Much has been written of the bravery of Martin Luther to write his 95 Theses for reform and nail them to a door in Wittenberg, Germany. He was going against the dominant religious institution of the day — the Roman Catholic Church, which at that time had shown its many human frailties, with corrupt leaders accepting money to allow people to get into heaven. (It should be noted many Catholic priests opposed the sale of indulgences and like abuses.)
Luther also translated the Bible into the language of the people, German, and helped disseminate it to the masses via a new invention — the printing press. That led to educational advances and a democratization of the interpretation of religious texts. It wasn’t just about the church officials’ interpretations of The Good Book.
Catholics later adopted many of the reformation tenets. Today, the Christian church — Catholics, Protestants and other — contribute greatly to the moral fabric of our society both in the U.S. and around the globe. In spite of periodic scandals around these churches, and many less-than-savory “leaders” (looking at you, televangelists), the church has done a world of good, from feeding and clothing the poor, to leading people away from their own personal problems, to simply providing a daily or weekly “fill up” of our spiritual tanks.
Sunday’s event was a reminder that so many stalwarts in this county and community were raised in and adhere to the Christian faith. And where everyone falls short of the Christian ideals, the religion serves to keep us on the right path.
One contributor to the Dallas Morning News, seminary student Tom Gehring, recently asked, “Does Christianity need another reformation?” Some contend that the church is dying as membership falls off and ministries end. Others say we put things like our politics ahead of our religion. They wonder if the church will last another 500 years.
But the writer goes on to state unequivocally, YES, the church will last. It is, in fact, still in the process of reformation, spelled out by Luther, but adopted by churches around the globe.
“Instead of waiting for another singular reformer to ‘save’ Christianity, the entire Christian community needs to live into the tradition of reforming the church so that it accomplishes the work the world most desperately needs,” Gehring writes. He then cites several examples of reform still being done in today’s wider “church.”
Rev. Marshall, in his Sunday sermon at the joint service, also gave examples of individuals and churches who are continually working on reform, reaching out to help the community. It was an uplifting message, even though these actions many times take us out of our comfort zones.
On Sunday, we found ourselves grateful to live in a community that still values its Christian heritage. We were thankful that so many people, whether they are wealthy or rich in the volunteer spirit (or both), are willing to share their time, talents and treasures to make this a better place for everyone.
Organized religions will always have “issues” to deal with as they are organized by imperfect humans. But we are glad for messages of constant reform within our churches and ourselves. That makes for a stronger community, in the civic sense and the Christian sense. — K.E.C.
The Reformation began in the 16th century as an attempt to reform the Roman Catholic Church, by priests who opposed what they perceived as false doctrines and ecclesiastic malpractice. They especially objected to the teaching and the sale of indulgences, and the abuses thereof, and to simony, the selling and buying of clerical offices. The reformers saw these practices as evidence of the systemic corruption of the church’s hierarchy.