Across the Pastor’s Desk: Reforming of God’s people is ongoing

Published 9:44 pm Thursday, October 19, 2017

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Don Rose

On Oct. 31, many within the Christian community will be acknowledging, if not celebrating, the 500th anniversary of what has been chosen as the beginning of the 16th century reformation of the Church. It is important to note that this reformation was neither the first nor was it the last period of reform in the life of God’s people. A number of different elements worked together in the early 16th century to make it possible for reform to take root and flourish. Several things are important to note in reflecting upon this anniversary of reformation.

Don Rose

First, there is no room for pride or self-satisfaction in this event. The reformation that began so long ago is not only a matter of history as if the reformers of that day got it right for all times and places. Too often the celebration of the reformation movement has simply been an opportunity to bash other believers of other traditions. This attitude suggests that some reformers had all of the answers for all time and any who claim to follow in their footsteps are equally right all of the time.The reformation that began in the early 1500s is to be an ongoing movement of reform that where the church finds itself in error and no longer being faithful to the Gospel message, the Spirit will move in its midst to bring about faithful change and renewal. The church in every age has the opportunity for faithfulness in its mission as well as the risk of becoming self-protective and self-serving rather than open to its mission in the world.

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Secondly, the truth that was so much the focus of the reformation movement is not human truth but rather the truth of God. This truth is that human beings cannot in fact work out their own salvation. This truth is that all fall short of the glory of God and that God’s redeeming love was not conditional to human improvement but rather came in the midst of sin and brokenness. The truth is that people are broken and in bondage to sin, and freedom comes only in the good news revealed in the incarnation of God’s Word. In that truth, as challenging as it may be to accept, is promise of redemption and restoration. When people acknowledge their needs, they will then begin to be open to what God can do for them.

Thirdly, the reforming of God’s people/God’s church is a never-ending process. In the face of pride and a spirit of judgement, the Spirt of God  moves when and where it wills to bring God’s gifts of forgivenss, grace and acceptance to fruition. In these times as in any other, God’s people are reminded that God’s work will be done with them or without them. God’s people pray that they might be a part of the life-giving work that God is doing in these times and places. That is the spirit of reformation that all of God’s people are called to celebrate.

The church and its reformation are in God’s hands, and in that God’s people can freely rejoice.

Don Rose is the pastor of Mansfield Lutheran Church in Alden and United Lutheran Church in Walters.