The final Sunday of October marks our annual observance of Reformation Sunday. On Reformation Sunday, we celebrate the tradition that grounds our faith. This year is the 500th anniversary of the day on October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Church. This symbolic act marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. A short while later, John Calvin, the spiritual father of the Presbyterian Church (USA), became another early voice calling for reform in the church. On the last Sunday in October, we remember these leaders and many others that sought to change the church for the better.
The Reformation is often framed in theological terms. Luther, Calvin, and others called for changes in the way that the church thought about the bible, salvation, communion, and more. They made many theological arguments and wrote many thoughtful books. Their core concern, however, was pastoral. How could the average person be assured of their salvation? How could the person in the pew know God if the bible and mass were in a language they did not understand? How could believers experience the imminence of God if the bread and wine were reserved only for the priest? The reformers were motivated by a love for their brothers and sisters in Christ. They wanted them to know that it is through faith that they are saved, that the bible and liturgy should be in their native tongue, and that Jesus Christ is present with them as they eat and drink at the Lord’s Supper.
One of the other battlegrounds of the Reformation was what was called the “priesthood of all believers”. They believed, as we do today, that in our baptism we are called to service in the church and world. Each of us is called and equipped uniquely and personally to do ministry. Some are indeed called to be ministers, but all are called to do something in the name of God. In that call to service, we are all equal and all priests. It is a priesthood of all believers, not just some.
As we mark Reformation Sunday and the 500th anniversary of the start of the Reformation, I call you to remember your baptism and your faith. Where is God calling you? How is God calling you to service? I also call you to a deeper faith. Generations of people fought and often died so that you could participate in this journey of faith more fully. They died so that you might know Jesus Christ in a fuller way. When was the last time that you read your bible? When was the last time that you discussed your faith or asked questions to dig deeper? When was the last time you enjoyed a prayer or song in worship?
We exist because of the reformers before us. Our faith and our ability to discover what our faith is comes to us because of Luther, Calvin, and many more. Celebrate by believing!