by Kristin Berkey-Abbott
Here we are at another Reformation Sunday. As we celebrate the actions of Martin Luther centuries ago, you may be wondering what we’re experiencing right here.
Maybe you’re in an angry space; maybe you’re saying, “Hey, I have some theses of my own that I’d like to nail to a nearby church door.” It’s been a tough few years for many of us, as we’ve watched our denominations wrestle with various issues.
Maybe you feel that the Church should move more quickly towards fully embracing the idea of same-sex marriage. Or maybe you feel it’s all moving too quickly. Maybe you despair and imagine God asking, “So, enough of these sexuality issues. What are you doing as a church to eliminate childhood hunger?”
Maybe you feel a bit of despair this Reformation Sunday as you think about the Reformations you thought you were witnessing. Maybe you’re wondering what happened to all that reform. Not too long ago, we might have thought that technology would transform us—or maybe we were ancient-future folks, hoping for more contemplative elements in our services, more praying of the liturgy of the hours, more pre-Reformation elements.
Maybe you’re feeling irritated as you wish we could just go back to being the church that we were in the 1950’s, before so many denominations lost their way. Maybe you’re tired of being the only one at work who’s living a liturgical life.
Or maybe you’re feeling joy. Maybe you’re delighting in hearing about different kinds of intentional communities. Maybe you’re seeing a different way to do Christian education which inspires hope for the next generation of believers. Maybe you’re feeling your creativity enhanced by your spiritual practices, or maybe it’s your spiritual life that’s enhanced by your artistic practices.
No matter where you are this Reformation Sunday, take comfort from the knowledge that the Church has always been in the process of Reformation. There are great Reformations, like the one we'll celebrate this Sunday, or the Pentecostal revolution that's only 100 years old, but has transformed the developing world (third worlds and those slightly more advanced) in ways that Capitalism never could. There are smaller ones throughout the ages as well. Movements which seemed earth-shattering at the time (monastic movements of all kinds, liberation theology, ordination of women, lay leadership) may in time come to be seen as something that enriches the larger church. Even gross theological missteps, like the Inquisition, can be survived. The Church learns from past mistakes as it moves forward.
Times of Reformation can enrich us all. Even those of us who reject reform can find our spiritual lives enriched as we take stock and measure what's important to us, what compromises we can make and what we can't. It's good to have these times where we return to the Scriptures as we try to hear what God calls us to do.
Once the dust settles, each of the previous time periods of Reformation has left the Church enriched, but enriched in ways that no one could have predicted--that's what makes it scary, after all. As we approach Reformation Sunday, I'd encourage each of us to tap our own inner Martin Luther. What is the Church doing well? What could be changed for the better? What part can we play?