Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870
Oct 2017 - For the past year the 500th anniversary of the Reformation has been commemorated in various ways across the church and also in the wider culture. (Public TV had an excellent program on Luther in September; if you didn’t see it, watch it if it’s offered again!) The observance will more or less culminate on the 31st of this month, the day in 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses, statements that questioned what Luther saw as abuses taking place in the Catholic Church at that time. Reformation Sunday will be observed in church on the Sunday before that, October 29th.
During this Reformation 500 year, people have been careful to call it an observance or commemoration rather than a celebration because, as has been said, you don’t celebrate a divorce; it might be a good thing, even a necessary thing, but still, you don’t celebrate. Plus, any honest and objective study of the Reformation will note that there were positive and negative outcomes, things perhaps worthy of celebration, but others much less so. 500 years later it could be argued that that is still the case.
For better or for worse, Martin Luther and others brought change to the Church (Church with a capital C). What’s important to note is that the Church survived the change; it was different with many varying expressions of Christianity evolving out of what Luther started, but it survived and, in many ways, both Christianity and the Church thrived. What we’re reminded of 500 years later is that what Luther started continues, change continues. Living through the present evolution of the church, it doesn’t seem so cataclysmic, more of a slow drift as opposed to what happened in the 1500’s, but perhaps history will ultimately show that what is happening now is just as momentous.
In her writings, ELCA Churchwide Bishop Elizabeth Eaton has made note of the fact that the church is changing and our new Northern Great Lakes Synod bishop, Katherine Finegan has echoed that as she has assumed the office. For many people the changing church is a source of discomfort and even despair because the primary change they see is smaller numbers. That’s true, but remember, the Church will survive. It may be different, but it will survive. For all of our churches, it’s important to be faithful to our Lutheran tradition but also to be open to change and new possibilities rather than getting bogged down in longing for what used to be. The “good old days” are gone, and they’re not coming back.
The Church will survive as it always has. In the meantime we are to be about the work of being disciples and followers of Jesus Christ in both word and deed. We continue to be focused on the Bible and interpreting it through Luther’s lens of justification by grace through faith. Having received God’s gift of grace and forgiveness, we are called follow in faith, open to where the Spirit is leading us, trusting that the Church is and always will be in God’s hands.
Worship Sunday at 10:30