Sunday, October 25, 2009

How to Celebrate Reformation Sunday

I'm biased. I think the best way to celebrate Reformation Sunday is to go to your local Lutheran church, sing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," and celebrate the Eucharist. Then you could come home, listen to Garrison Keillor's show (if your local NPR station rebroadcasts it at lunch, as mine does), drink some German beer, and take a nap.

Even when I wasn't a member of a church, I've always been intently aware of the liturgical season and the holidays that the Church celebrates. I grew up in a Lutheran family that went to church every time the doors were open--and that included when we were on vacation. So those rhythms imprinted themselves into my brain.

I love to celebrate, and I love that I have additional things to celebrate by being liturgical. But I know that not everyone is good at creating celebrations.

So, for those of you who are on your own this Reformation Sunday, here are some things you can do to celebrate.

--Go to a German restaurant and eat a German meal. Think about Martin Luther, who ate this food. Drink a German beer. Think about Martin Luther, who was not inhibited about the earthly delights.

--As you're drinking that German beer, write your own hymns. Not a musician, you say? Use popular drinking songs as your base! Lutheran legend has it that some of our greatest hymns have tunes that originated as drinking songs. So, the melody is already created for you--write a hymn.

--Not in a songwriting mood? Write your own 95 theses. What do you see as wrong with the Church? Do you have any suggestions? Extra points if you can back them up with Scripture.

--One of the Church's actions that outraged Luther was the selling of indulgences, which he saw as victimizing the poor. We like to think that the modern church has moved beyond the selling of indulgences, but history suggests that we're fooling ourselves. In what ways do you see the Church selling indulgences? Another way of thinking about this question: in what ways does the Church abuse its power?

--If you want to follow in the footsteps of Luther, indulge in some guilt. Luther held himself to some stringent standards, especially in his early life. Think about all the ways you've let God down--and then remember Luther's teaching about Grace, and feel better.

--Read the Bible. Rejoice in the fact that you can read it in your own language. Thank Luther for being one of the earliest translators of the Bible into the common language.

--You don't want to worship at a Lutheran church today? Go to a Catholic church. Remind yourself of where you'd be if Luther hadn't started the Reformation.

I'm being a bit facetious with this one. I know that if there had been no Luther, there'd have been others to lead us down the Reformation road.

And in all seriousness, one of my most memorable Reformation Sundays was spent with a Lutheran friend and an Episcopalian friend during our retreat at Mepkin Abbey, a Trappist monastery. We got in touch with Christian roots that are much more ancient than the roots that we usually celebrate during Reformation Sunday.

And another memorable Reformation Sunday was spent on a South Carolina beach with some of my best friends from graduate school (we had a reunion on one of the barrier islands in 2006, 16 years after the last time we'd been together in South Carolina). One friend was raised Southern Baptist and has gone on to find joy in a Unitarian church, but at the time she thought she wanted nothing to do with church. My other friend was very active in her local Church of England congregation, but she felt strongly called to become a Quaker. And I was part of a Lutheran congregation that left me desperate for more spiritual nourishment. We spent that Reformation Sunday talking about our spiritual struggles and our desire to find a group where we felt more at home.

I'm rather startled to reflect that each one of us has found her heart's desire. I give credit to the Reformation process of being able to talk about what we yearn for, about where the Church has fallen short, about being able to have a vision for the future.

Our Reformation Sunday Gospel finds Jesus promising that we will know the truth and the truth shall set us free. The truth can be terrifying and send us hurtling down paths that seem dark and dangerous. At times we may not know whether we're heretics or whether we're struggling to birth something new and inspiring. If we keep ourselves rooted in church traditions, we're less likely to flirt with the heretical. Yet, as the life of Luther reminds us, sometimes there are traditions that have gone completely rotten.

On this Reformation Sunday, I pray for us all to renew the Church the way that Luther did. I pray that God will show us the truth. I pray for us to be set free.


Mrs. M said...

Really love this. I've got a big ol' pile of Reformation books on my rocking chair right now (NO idea why that's the location of choice for library items), and like you, I'm thinking about the way reformation is a continual process, rather than a singular event.

A. Amos Love said...

Just wondering...

Good, or, er,
just another religious alternative “form?”
Solved some problems but created a whole bunch more.

There are now 38,000 denominations according to wikipedia. Wow!!!
Most still look a lot like Rome.

Jesus warned us about making “the word of God”
of non effect through our traditions; Yes?
Mk 7:14

KJV - Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition...
ASV - Making “void” the word of God by your tradition...
NIV - Thus you “nullify” the word of God by your tradition...

What if "The Whole Religious system," for the past 1700 years,
has been/is totally corrupt?

Corrupt - Dictionary

1- having or showing a willingness to act dishonestly
in return for money or personal gain.

2- in a state of decay; rotten or putrid.

3- debased or made unreliable by errors or alterations.

Don’t condemn the messenger just yet.

Why was there a reformation?
Rome was/is corrupt according to scripture. Yes?
People wanted to serve and worship Jesus in truth. Yes?
Any Popes as the head of “The Church of God” in the Bible?

Why were there Pilgrims and the Puritans coming to the USA?
Church of England was/is corrupt according to scripture. Yes?
People wanted to serve and worship Jesus in truth. Yes?
Any Monarchs as the head of “The Church of God” in the Bible?

And every denomination since, tries to tweek Romes version of doing religion.

wikipedia says there are now 38,000 denominations. Wow!!!
Does that sound like a “tradition of men” to you?

Oh, you can change a few “titles,” pastors intead of priests,
suits and ties instead of collars and robes,
Presidents instead of Popes,
but basically it’s still Rome
still, “Tradition of men.”

Was “the Reformation” a dangerous detour, leading people away from;
“Jesus being the “head” of the body, the Church,”
and “those led by the Spirit, those are the sons of God?”
Is Religion the system, and NOT the relationship?

Did Jesus reform “the Jewish Religious Sytem” He etablished?

Or did He leave it?

When Jesus left “The Religious System,”
He called others out of ”The System” with Him. Didn’t He?

Jesus is the head of the body (the ekklesia, the called out), the church.

“Disciples of Christ” were “called out” of the religious system,
into a relationship with Jesus.

They are “called out” of the worlds system,
into the Kingdom of God.

They are "called out” of self,
into the body of Christ.

They are “called out” of sin,
into righteousness.

They are “called out” of bondage,
into liberty.

They are “called out” of darkness,
into light.

They are “called out” of death
into life.

Doesn’t “Religious” reform mean to take one “religious” form
and change it, make it different?

Isn’t it still a form, still religion, NOT a relationship?

2Ti 3:5 Having a form of godliness...