Reformation

What a different place the church would be if Luther hadn’t done something really drastic. Imagine the daring it took for him to list all things he found wrong with the church and then nail it to the church’s front door for all to read! What started out as a simple act of truth-telling became a revolution for the Christian church. Rome was no longer the power house of ‘truth.’ The Reformation started hundreds of years of new ways to follow Jesus. On Sunday, October 25th we celebrate the Reformation.

Church historian and author, Phyllis Tickle, predicted that we are now in another time of reformation. Like a 500 year rummage sale, the Christian church is setting on the curb all the expired sell-by-dated ideas that no longer define who we are. We realize things like the virgin birth, blood atonement, bodily resurrection, and divine inerrancy no longer make the church stronger, but disenfranchise those generations who are witnessing catastrophic climate change, and unimaginable violence.

Even our own congregational ancestors, who acted on their Protestant (“those who protest”) roots by leaving the homeland, have left their mark on our practices. The straight-backed wood pews were meant to keep you awake during the hour-long sermon. If you nodded off, there was a deacon with a long stick who’d come around and give you a whack. The two rows of pews were meant to separate men and women. They all face forward so you won’t be distracted by looking at others. Over the decades of American industrialism, church mirrored the social strata of society – a colored entrance with seating in the balcony and the big givers sat up front in places of honor. As a child I remember gawking at the women who wore big hats and fur coats to church. It seemed like church was more of a social club than the rag-tag group of misfits we read about in the gospels.

So what is church for us and what should it be? Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers, UCC pastor and author of “Saving Jesus From The Church,” writes: “If the church is to survive as a place where head and heart are equal partners in faith, then we will need to commit ourselves once again not to the worship of Christ, but to the imitation of Jesus. His invitation was not to believe, but to follow. Since it was dangerous to be a follower of The Way, the church can rightly assume that it will never be on the right track again until the risks associated with being a follower of Jesus outnumber the comforts of being a fan of Christ.”

In this Stewardship season, what does being a follower of Jesus on The Way look like to you?

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