Across the Pastor’s Desk: Let’s celebrate Reformation Day

Published 8:00 pm Friday, October 29, 2021

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Don Rose

Though most well known and celebrated as Halloween, Oct. 31 is celebrated by some as Reformation Day as well. This day is unique to the Lutheran Church calendar, though it is also remembered by a few others. In these days, even some Lutherans do not make much of this day, that marks what was considered the beginning of the 16th century reformation of the church, because its remembrance has all too often served as an opportunity to aggravate divisiveness in the life of the church rather than to lift up the renewing work of God’s spirit in the lives of all believers.

Don Rose

To mark Reformation Day is not a time to celebrate the completion of some event in the past, nor to make sectarian claims of any one group being closer to God than another. Both of these have been emphases of this day in the past, and unfortunately, even yet in the present. Reformation Day is rather an opportunity to acknowledge that God continues to renew and reform God’s church in every age.

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The reality is that any and every institution, even the church, needs reform and renewal. Unfortunately, it is also quite clear that anyone who suggests or works to bring about such renewal will face negative backlash from within the institution as it struggles to maintain its position in the status quo. Institutions all too quickly can take on a life of their own and one of their main goals becomes survival. Survival, certainly survival without reform, may not be the best outcome, particularly for those whom the institution is intended to serve.

Martin Luther as well as many of the other early reformers of the 16th century had no interest in starting new denominations within the Christian community. They sought reform and renewal of an institution that was losing sight of its purpose for being. With Jesus as a model, self preservation can never be the primary purpose of the church.

When communities of faith begin to put their existence ahead of their mission, then reform is necessary. When the church takes advantage of those who already have so little, then reform is necessary. When people lose sight of the savior’s call to care for the least in their midst, then reform is necessary.

These are but a few examples of why reformation among God’s people is unfinished business. Left to themselves, even God’s children can get stuck in the mindset of “it’s always been done this way” to the point of becoming ineffectual in a new day that is dawning. Often resistance to renewal in any age is couched in language of “protecting God” from reform, when in fact it is a matter of human institutions and individuals making an effort to protect themselves. God has no need of our protection. God has need of believers’ selfless love and service for the sake of all in God’s creation.

Reformation Day at its best is a call to reform and renewal for all of God’s children through the power of God’s spirit. Celebrate!

Don Rose is a pastor at Mansfield and United Lutheran churches.