It was 498 years ago, on All Saints Eve,that young Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door, and act that we look back on as the start of the Protestant Reformation. As Lutherans, we have a stake in the Reformation. The reformations Luther proposed, that were refine by others afterward, are the reason that we have a Lutheran Church. Reformation history is our history, for better or for worse.
Mostly, it is for better. Because of the Reformation we focus on grace. It’s not that grace wasn’t a concept before the Reformation. But Luther’s understanding of sin and grace have formed our Lutheran thought and practice today. We understand ourselves as simultaneously sinners and forgiven. That happens through grace. In our recent trip to Bolivia, and our conversations with women, we were struck by how many pointed to grace as the reason they were part of the Lutheran Church. They had experienced pain, they had experienced suffering, they had experienced judgment. It was in the Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Bolivian Lutheran Church where they found grace.
People all over the world will be commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2 years. The Lutheran World Federation is sponsoring events around the globe, to emphasize that the Reformation is not just a period of history, but a living, changing, growing movement. In visits to companion synods in both Bolivia and South Africa, I have found a real interest in learning what the Reformation means to us today.
Of course there will be festivities in Wittenberg, where it all began. Throughout the summer of 2017 there will be ongoing programs and emphases there.
In the Montana Synod we have our own ways to noting the anniversary. We have a team that has been working for about a year and a half on producing resources for all ages. We have a special Reformation 500 place on the Montana Synod web page. Look for the Luther Rose. (www.montanasynod.org/quincentenary.html)
And our 2016 Synod Assembly and Theological Conference will be focused on Reformation. Dr. Mary Jane Haemig, Reformation scholar at Luther Seminary, will be our keynote speaker, and the Reformation 500 Task Force will be designing workshops and a Reformation stole exhibition, as a way to raise awareness about the upcoming anniversary, and to provide resources for congregations.
The ELCA has numerous resources as well at www.elca.org.
We’ll be collecting ideas for congregations to use. Send in what you are doing to the Task Force Chair, Tonya Eza (firstname.lastname@example.org). This Reformation anniversary is a wonderful way to learn more about our history, and to envision our future as people of the Reformation.
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA