“Source of all life, we confess that we have not allowed your grace to set us free. We fear that we are not good enough. We hear your word of love freely given to us, yet we expect others to earn it. God we turn the church inward, rather than moving it outward. Forgive us. Stir us. Reform us to be a church powered by love, willing to speak for what is right, act for what is just, and seek the healing of your whole creation. Amen”
~Sundays and Seasons Copyright 2016
Each week during this fall season as part of our confession and forgiveness we have been asking God to forgive us, to stir us, and to reform us.
As we begin to get ready to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this Sunday, I keep wondering what ways God might still be reforming us.
Reformation is sort of a tricky subject. When we excitedly proclaim the celebration of this anniversary, we are also called to recognize all the brokenness that the Reformation brings with it.
Yes, there is freedom in the new life of faith that was found by the reform that took place. And there has been schisms, heartache, violence, and harmful division.
And we can’t leave this stuff out of it.
Because to do so would be to ignore the entire history of how we have been formed and reformed.
And to do so would be to ignore that we are still asking God to reform us.
God is still reforming the church
God is guiding us back together, maybe not theologically, but within our relationships. It’s kind of odd the way we celebrate this huge schism in the Body of Christ. Yes, all of the denominations of Christianity are different, but rather than us looking at this difference as impassible walls. Why can we see some of these differences like different parts of a body. As different parts of the Body.
Unity in our diversity
And sometimes we can celebrate our differences, especially when we find a faith tradition that speaks to us and our understanding of God and Jesus in our lives.
But we are also called to love one another, as sisters and brothers in Christ, and as neighbors in this world. And that’s not an easy thing to do.
But God is working in all kinds of ways to help bring us together. In our own denomination, the ELCA, has been devoted to their their ecumenical work, and as being part of the work of the Lutheran World Federation.
Reforming into something new
God is also reforming us into new churches and congregations. The people sitting in our pews don’t and shouldn’t look like they did sixty years ago. And although for some this a point of grief, for me this a point of joy, for several reasons.
If the church isn’t changing, if isn’t forming and reforming, then I don’t know if we’re living into Christ’s call to participate in God’s mission in this world. The church should be living and breathing, the breath of life given to us through the Spirit. And when we get caught up in making things stay exactly the same, that’s when the life seems to leave.
For me this continuing change in our churches is a point of joy, because without it I wouldn’t be here. I look at myself and I know that in some denominations, and in any Lutheran church sixty years ago, I could never be an ordained person sharing God’s Word from the pulpit. Because of my gender, because of my appearance, because because because. But because of God’s reforming power, today I get to live out my calling, and get to experience this incredible grace to truly be who I am and who I am called to be.
And there are still others whose voices are just now being heard in God’s reforming church. And these are voices the Holy Spirit is now free to bring to us. These are just some of the ways God reforms God’s church.
God guides us to each other. God frees us to hear the Gospel in new places, in new ways, by new voices.
God is also changing us. And thank God for that. God is opening our hearts to the new possibilities of ministry, of relationships, of grace. Reform isn’t easy, it didn’t end for Luther at the nailing of his 95 Theses, that was only the beginning.
And like the nailing of those 95 Theses was a beginning, each day is a new beginning for us. A new beginning of being made new. A new beginning of being reformed by God, to not just be a church powered by love, but to be people powered by love.
How have you experienced reformation in your church? In your life? What are ways God might be working to stir you, to reform you, right now?