On Monday of this week I was in a conversation with someone and in the midst of our conversation I asked if they were aware that tomorrow (Tuesday) was the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. They answered, “No, but I know it’s Halloween!” I suspect this is the reality for many!
I got to thinking about this and the possible implications for the Church. And what I’ve come to as I have been pondering, is that, for the Church it’s critical that we know both. Here’s why.
We need to know about the Reformation because it is a core component of who we are. I read a great article in the Washington Post outlining the fact that whether you know much of anything about the Reformation, it has affected life in some very significant ways across cultures during the last 500 years. And that’s important. But we of the Church need to hold onto, celebrate, and remember the Reformation because it sets our theological perspective in place. While John Wesley certainly developed our branch of theology out of the core components of the Reformation, without it we would not have our Church or our faith understanding. Our deep appreciation of grace as the cornerstone of the Gospel and so many other aspects of who we are flows out of the 1517 declarations that Luther put upon the Wittenberg Chapel door. So it is crucial that we affirm, remember and give thanks for the Reformation.
But we need to know about Halloween too! By that I mean we need to connect with our culture. We need to be outside the church, in our communities, engaging with people who have no idea that Tuesday was the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. We need to connect to our culture in ways that live out our Reformation faith in relevant and real life ways. We need to be clear that while our history is rich and deep, what we bring to the marketplace of ideas is an expression of genuine practical hope that is up to date and life giving today, in every setting of life. It is a faith that makes a real difference. One that is centered not just in the head or even in the heart, but is expressed through the hands as well.
So I’m grateful for the opportunity we’ve had this week to remember our roots. To celebrate the gift of grace and faith so wonderfully integrated into the Reformation and its impact upon the Church right up to today.
And I’m grateful for Halloween! For it too, along with so many other events and aspects of our culture, provides us the opportunity to again, in practical and real ways, connect that old time message with today’s people living in today’s world.