29 October 2005

Reformation Reflections

Tonight and tomorrow St. Paul's will mark Reformation.

I recently heard a pastor suggest that the appropriate color for Reformation is not red, but violet. This in recognition that the Reformation had the sad result of fracturing the Western Church. Those who beat their rah-rah Go Lutheran! drums on this day are pure sectarians.

Someone recently put it this way: Picture Martin Luther looking forward - 30,000+ denominations. Picture Martin Luther looking backwards - 2 "denominations" (at least of the Chalcedonian variety).

No Christian can look at the schism in the Christian Church with glee. It remains a tragedy for the saving Gospel and a triumph of Satan.

Reformation seems a very good day, then, to pray for the Church and her unity, and we know that what we ask may be impossible from the human point of view - but what does that matter? It is not impossible to God!

As we so often sing:

"Give Thy Church,
Lord, to see
Days of peace
And unity.
O Lord, have mercy!"

Ut unum sint! Amen!


McCain said...

So, are you guys having an imposition of ashes or something to mark the occasion? Will there not even be a prayer of thanks at all for Luther's work and the great Reformation that resulted as a blessing of God?

Or would that be too "rah-rah go Lutheranism" for you?

William Weedon said...

Paul, behave yourself!

Of course there is no imposition of ashes. We haven't even celebrated Christmas yet! But there will be a prayer for the unity of Christ's holy Church.

As I said in a study on the texts for Reformation:

Lutheran liturgics, essentially quite conservative, made only two changes to the Church Year. The first was the transferal of Transfiguration from a fixed observation on August 6th to a Sunday observance at the tail-end of Epiphany. The second was observing a day in honor of the Reformation itself. At first it was quite undecided when this Day would be celebrated, and truthfully June 25 seems the much better choice. But gradually after the 30 Years War, the Lutheran Churches settled on Oct 31st when Dr. Luther first posted (either nailed, or mailed, they were still posted!) the 95 Theses. Such a day is not to be observed as a “Lutheran” Independence Day celebration – for the true Lutheran sentiment is grief at the fracturing of the Western Church. It is rather a celebration that what sustains the very life of Christ’s Church is the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that the Lord of the Church will never permit the light of this Gospel to be destroyed. Whereas other communions heard in the promise of Christ about the Church “the gates of hell will never prevail against her” a guarantee of the Church’s institutional structure, the Lutheran Reformation heard in it the promise that the Gospel promise would never fail to be spoken, believed, and rejoiced in, creating and sustaining Christ’s holy people.

How's that?

McCain said...

I think it is quite a bit better. Home from serving as late night taxi to/from events for two sons. Happy for an "extra" hour tonight.

And, I will wish you a Happy Reformation Day, well, A Happy Reformation Day Eve's Eve.

Chaz said...

I'm even quoting Luther twice in the sermon, Pr. McCain. Don't worry. ;-)

Once from the Large Catechism, once from the Smalcald Articles. Concordia translation. ;-)

Bob Waters said...

And not even a hint of joy at the recovery of what you yourself agree sustains the Church in its very life and mission?

Red is appropriate. Even white. Never violet.

William Weedon said...

Dear Bob,

But recall that the Reformation began (if you are counting Oct 31 as the start) with a call primarily to repentance. "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said Repent! He meant that the entire life of the Christian should be one of penitence." Or as Garrison Keiler said years later: "For Lutherans it is always Lent." There's deep truth to that. For the record, I think violet is the perfect color for a Reformation that seeks to be a call of repentance. It's only when Lutherans imagine themselves beyond repentance that the trouble starts...

Eric Phillips said...

If it's always Lent, then you should always wear purple.

Wearing purple for Reformation Sunday is like mourning the beginning of chemotherapy. Yes, the split in the Church is tragic. Yes, the fight against cancer is bitter and painful. But in both cases, the thing to be mourned is the pre-existing cancer, not the day you started striving to free your body from it!

William Weedon said...

Ah, Eric, the question is has the chemo worked?

Eric Phillips said...

It's worked with us, hasn't it? Us and millions more healthy happy cells. You can mourn the fact that it hasn't saved the whole body just about any other day you choose. On Oct. 31 at least, couldn't you focus on the success? Or do you wear purple on the Sunday of the Fulfillment also, to mourn all those souls who will be excluded from the Eternal Kingdom?