This coming Sunday, October 25, is Reformation Sunday. It is a day widely recognized by Protestant Christians throughout the world, commemorating the act of a young German monk by the name of Martin Luther who, on October 31, 1517, publicly expressed his frustrations with the Church by posting his points of concern (95 Theses) on the doors to the church in Wittenburg. If Luther were alive today, he would probably still have made his post but, rather than using hammer and nail to a door, he would have used a keyboard and posted them to a blog. Nevertheless, his action gained traction with the sentiments of the people, not only in his town, but throughout much of Western Europe. Rather than starting something, as many suppose, Luther merely put words to what many others were also already sensing. His gesture, and his points (known as Theses), ignited a wildfire, like a spark to the kindling of dry spirituality, spreading and fueled by the dead branches of a dead and mere formalistic religion. Consequently, each year, many churches, from a variety of traditions (though perhaps mostly Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Reformed) make note of this day, not so much to set us apart from others as to re-connect with the Church of ages past and to be re-rooted and renewed in the gospel principles that were recovered in what many historians would call the greatest spiritual revival in modern history – a revival second in all of history only to Pentecost.
At Grace Covenant, we are beneficiaries and direct spiritual descendants of the Reformation. We are, in our essence, a Reformed Church. What I mean by that is that we continue to hold to the core values that were recovered in the Reformation; the key biblical principles rescued, reaffirmed, and restored as foundational pillars of the Christian Faith. Among those key principles are:
- The Glory of God is our primary goal in life
- The Scripture of the Old & New Testaments as our only ultimate authority for what we believe and for directing how we should live
- The “Good News” of the Gospel is that we are able to receive salvation and be reconciled to enjoy a relationship with God, our Creator, by God’s Grace, through God’s gift of Faith, in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
These points are not only among our treasured beliefs, they are embedded within the core values of our church, and evident in the daily life an teaching of our church.
With that said, I think what is important is not only that we remember these points, but also that we also realize how we relate to these principles, and to the tradition of which we are a part. I see three ways churches and Christians can – and do – relate to the Reformation:
- We can ignore the Reformation entirely.
- We can live in Light of the Reformation
- We can live in the shadow of the Reformation.
Of these, only one is beneficial.
If we ignore the Reformation entirely, we will gain no great benefit from it. In fact, it is quite likely that we will fall into many of the same errors that the Church experienced during the Dark Ages. The old mantra is true, “Those who forget history are in danger of repeating it.”
To live in the “shadow of the Reformation” is to remember it, but to relate to it in an unhealthy way. It is to celebrate it in such a way that more commemorates the past than benefits anyone in the present. It is like wearing it as a distinctive mark, but not to be shaped by it; or rather, the marks are embraced and worn to be distinguished from others – even other Christians – but not so much for the principles to shape the person or church in such a way that cultivates healthy, holy lives in the present.
But the healthy way to relate to the Reformation is to live in Light of the Reformation. One of the themes of the Reformation was “post tenebras lux” – which is Latin for “After Darkness, Light”! And the Reformation did provide a light for the world. Those principles still shine, especially so where people and churches are continually shaped by these principles. Where these principles are at work, the result is humility, joy, freedom, graciousness – i.e. “Light”.
I write all this because I wanted to seize this date on the calendar to paint a picture. I want to connect us to our tradition, and at the same time point us toward our future. I want us to see that by being faithful to the principles that have always been foundational to Grace Covenant, by being a “Humbly Reformed” church, a church and a people that are continually being shaped or “re-formed” by these gospel principles, we are able to be a Light – a light in an all-too-often dark world; and light for a culture in desperate need of a new Reformation in our own day. In some ways this is an aspiration. But in many ways, it is also already our present reality. And it is because this is both a present reality and an aspiration in our church that I regularly give thanks to God for you all.
OK. Quickly, as I finish up this note…. Don’t Forget: Church Work Day tomorrow morning (October 24). It’s a time when we can come together and take care of some things to prepare our building and grounds for the coming Winter. But more than that, it is a time when we can come together, and enjoy one another. No skills are needed. Just come with a good attitude … and maybe some gloves.
Grace & Peace,
W. Dennis Griffith, Lead Pastor