500 Years! There are not many times in life that we get the opportunity to commemorate the 500th Anniversary of anything. Yet here we are, on the threshold of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation which began on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses (principles or proposals) for the reform and renewal of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
This 500th Anniversary is a time to give thanks to God for the gifts which Luther and the Reformers have given to the Church. It is also a time to take stock and acknowledge that the history of the Lutheran movement (and all reforming movements) has not been free from shortcomings, failures, and sinful actions in the name of religion.
So we celebrate, yes, but we are not triumphalistic. We remember one of the foundational insights of Lutheranism – that we are simultaneously saints and sinners. We repent of our sinful past and we rejoice in God’s forgiveness and the fact that God has worked and continues to work through us to make known God’s gracious will.
The slogan which our ELCA has been using for this anniversary is “Freed and Renewed in Christ: 500 Years of God’s Grace in Action.” This phrase summarizes our understanding that we, as Reformation People, are free from sin through faith in God yet bound by love to serve the neighbor as we seek to embody in our lives God’s word of radical unconditional love.
This anniversary is so momentous that it will continue to inform our thinking and ministries far into the future. As we continue to live as Reformation People, I propose not 95 Theses but 7 values which characterize the Reformation Tradition past, present, and future. We continue to live as Reformation People:
- promoting equality and empowerment of all people
- promoting spiritual health so faith orients life
- promoting the welfare and well-being of all
- promoting education for all
- valuing human relationships
- valuing children
- promoting equality and freedom.
For the past 500 Years, for the present time, and for all that the future will bring, please join me in saying “Thanks be to God!”
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Wayne Matthias-Long