October brings a mixed bag of emotions for me. I am mostly a warm weather person but I also like the fall. Cool mornings that turn into comfortable days, changing leaves from green to gold, yellow and red, people gathering for tailgate parties, and kids getting off of the school bus laughing and shouting to one another as they walk away in different directions. There is something about fall that feels, smells and looks celebratory. Maybe it’s for parents when children go back to school, maybe it’s the beginning of football season—ECU, UNC, NC State, Duke, Wake Forest or whichever school you hail from.
October 31, 1517 is another reason to celebrate fall of 2017. This date is pivotal to what we know as the Protestant Reformation. Just imagine what it may have been like prior to this time. If you “sinned” you could only be forgiven if you presented yourself to the priest and paid penance. If the priest, bishop or even the pope wanted to achieve a certain goal they could sell indulgences as a way to be reimbursed. The religious structure was such that members were subservient to the authorities. “I scratch your back, you scratch mine.” Are we not sure this isn’t Washington, DC?
Maybe I am over simplifying this important historical event in church history. What I am not simplifying is the importance this event in 1517 had on us as Protestants. Martin Luther didn’t intend nor could he have imagined the impact his personal struggle would have on church history. He wanted to bring reform from within the Catholic Church but instead he became the lightning rod for a simmering discontent. No doubt there were many priests and parishioners who wondered why they couldn’t talk directly to God and ask for forgiveness. For us it seems talking with God and certainly asking for forgiveness has always been there. In fact, we may take this concept for granted that absolution becomes a rote response. How often have we read the prayer of forgiveness in worship and then heard the absolution proclaimed without an internal reflection? I confess I have—now I am looking for absolution—how much is it going to cost me?
During the month of October you may hear much more about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Some of the Wednesday evening studies in October will include viewing a DVD on Luther and a Sunday school class or two will discuss this topic. Sunday October 29 we will celebrate Reformation Sunday in worship.
Presbyterians are celebrating the 500th anniversary of reform. Our motto is “reform and being reformed.” What this means is that we are never complete but always in process. God continues to forgive and to claim us through his grace. Thank you FPCRM for who you are and for what you will continue to become.
Peace and blessings,