500 years ago today, a monk named Martin Luther publicly protested systemic injustice within the Church. That day, he nailed 95 theses protesting the selling of indulgences – which particularly oppressed the poor and those most vulnerable – to the church doors of the Wittenberg Castle. This act eventually led to reform within the Church (with a capital C).
On this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I both celebrate and confess/grieve.
I celebrate the resistance and reforms of past and present reformers that have and continue to free people from injustice and move our Church and society forward.
At the same time, I confess and grieve the divisions and violence that have taken place within the Church since the Reformation. Something we tend to forget is that Luther did not intend to create new Church denominations… He was resisting oppressive Church systems and only sought to reform the Church. (Yet, he – too – was definitely not perfect, made a lot of mistakes, and had a lot of his own horrific prejudices. So I grieve these, today, as well.)
The Reformation 500 reminds us that the Church was being reformed 500 years ago and is always being reformed, and it reminds us of our call – as Christians – to join the past and present reformers of the Church and society in this holy resistance and reformation work.
One thing I have loved about the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is the strengthening of the Lutheran and Catholic collaboration efforts (which have been going on for many years). Today, I celebrate the commitment our churches are making toward healing past divisions and hurts and toward a more ecumenical united Church.
Tonight at Holy Name Roman Catholic Cathedral in Chicago the ELCA Metro-Chicago Synod Bishop and the Chicago Roman Catholic Archbishop will be co-leading an ecumenical prayer service to commemorate the Reformation together and to renew a covenant between the Chicago Catholic and ELCA churches that was originally signed in 1989.
While I am sad to be missing this powerful prayer service tonight, I am grateful I get to celebrate and renew my commitment to joining so many others in this continuous re-forming of the Church and society with friends/colleagues on our annual new pastor’s retreat.
(And yes, I think these t’s and German & Abbey beer are perfect for the occasion!)