"then wilt thou not be loath to leave this Paradise, but shalt possess a paradise within thee, happier far. Let us descend now therefore from this top of speculation; for the hour precise exacts our parting hence" Paradise Lost, Book XII, lines585-590

Monday, October 31, 2011

Reformation Day

In many Lutheran churches, yesterday was Reformation Sunday and today is Reformation Day which is the celebration of Martin Luther posting his 95 Theses and the beginnings of the 16th century Reformation.  At seminary, we are close partners with Trinity Lutheran Seminary and we live as two seminaries but one community.  By and large we make few distinctions; taking classes together, worshiping together, hanging out together, sharing our lives together.  It is a wonderful example of an ecumenical relationship.  I have learned a lot from my Lutheran friends and professors; it's been especially helpful in forming my understanding of Anglicanism.  This year I've been especially honored to be the Sacristan for the Trinity Lutheran (sort of a one-person altar guild) and to be deeply involved in the worship life of the community.  I would highly recommend to anyone who thought about going to seminary to check out Bexley Hall because of our relationship with Trinity.

I love this community and the people Lutheran, Episcopalian, and other who are among it.  But I won't be celebrating Reformation Day today in chapel.  It is far too celebratory and self-congratulating and I think it does a disservice to the depth of grace, spirit and humility which the Lutherans I know usually exhibit.  The medieval Roman church was undoubtedly corrupt and overly concerned with its temporal power and wealth.  It also created a two-tier society split between the holy people(clerics, monks, nuns, etc) and everyone else which was structured so that the lay people suffered and struggled in order to support the holy people who interceded with God on behalf of the society.  At its heart, the Reformation was an attempt to break that two-tier system and open people's eyes to Jesus' message that God is present and available to everyone and anyone; it was an attempt to allow everyone to be a holy person.  For that, we should be thankful and honor the efforts of those who came before us.

But the Reformation was also the introduction of a terrible Schism, a wound, an amputation in the body of Christ.  And set it a precedent that continues to this day so that whenever some group within the church is aggrieved it feels justified in just leaving and setting up shop somewhere else. It has led to the atomization of our church and of our culture to the point where our faith tradition(s) have little to say to the larger culture except maybe "sorry for the mess we unleashed."
Protestantism Explained (h/t Bosco Peters)

So I won't be celebrating Reformation Day today.  However, I will still be loving and living with my Lutheran friends and working together for the Gospel.  I will still celebrate what our different traditions have built here in this seminary community and I will keep invitng others to join us here.


  1. As a Lutheran TLS student, I too would like to echo the importance that the TLS/BH community and cooperation has had on my formation. Our relationship is a great gift.

    But you stole the idea for my next blog post. Thanks a lot, friend. Now I have to rethink it!

  2. Ken, I'm sure our 3 readers would be interested to hear your perspective as well!

  3. Why yes, yes I would enjoy hearing more Ken! Thank you Jon for a good look at Reformation from outside the typical Lutheran celebration. I will openly admit, being a cradle Lutheran, it was weird for me not to celebrate Reformation in church yesterday as I am serving a Catholic church. Thanks again! ~Debbie

  4. Isn't it amazing how people can take something and twist it around? We say we want unity, then focus on those things that make us different. Oy...

    Thanks, Jon, for sharing your thoughts. It helps keep us Lutherans in line. ;)