Pastor’s Page October
David Bowie once sang:
(Turn and face the strange)
Don’t want to be a richer man
(Turn and face the strange)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
Of course, the song was entitled Changes. It’s an apt song for this season. After all, it is autumn when the leaves of the trees change colors and fall away, fields are swept of their bountiful produce, and the nip returns to the evening air.
Just as equally, that song could have been for this season of our church. There are ch-ch-changes among us. We have had staff resign to move on to other positions, ministries are shifting and taking new forms, and new faces are filling our pews, our classrooms and our leadership positions. An old French proverb says, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Perhaps, that would be better words to hang onto than Bowie’s lyrics. Yes, change is among us. We need to acknowledge that change can be scary for some and anxiety-inducing for others, but as an old saw goes: “Change is inevitable.” As inevitable as it may be, it is often odd to me that so many resist it. In my studies of leadership principles and pastoral/ psychological counselling, I have discovered another principle: People (as individuals and groups) will resist change until the reward of change is greater than the pain for staying the same. In other words, people will not seek change or receive change until they see a clear benefit to changing. If they do not see the reward, even though it may be right there in front of them, they will not change even when staying the same may mean hurt, harm or pain for themselves and those around them. All that serves as introduction to the great anniversary that is marked at the end of this month. This grand day is not a holiday marked with costumed masqueraders, carved pumpkins, or children soliciting treats while threatening pranks. No, the 31st day of October is Reformation Day, and this year marks its 500th Anniversary.
Reformation Day changed so much. It created fear and anxiety for so many. It gave hope to so many more while it freed many who were oppressed by a tyranny to control God, His Word, and His people. Because of the original Reformation Day on 31 October 1517, empires fell while new ones arose. [In fact, American prosperity as well as that of other nations can be traced to the Protestant Work Ethic, which is something I will leave for you research on your own as space is limited here.]
While much changed, nothing really changed at all. This was a Reformation, not a new creation. Personally, I describe my Christian faith and theology as Reformed— for those keeping score at home, I am a 5-point Calvinist and wholehearted hold to the tenets of TULIP, another thing you will have to discover for yourself due to space limitations. On that fateful—or was it preordained? day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety- Five Theses on the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and it unleashed a series of events that have cascaded down through the ages since.
But again, this was nothing new. There were other movements prior to Protestantism, the child birthed from the Reformation, that had caused the Catholic Church to amend her ways and to change her way of operating without creating new denominations. (Type Waldensian Movement into a search engine to discover one such time.)
The Reformation was not to break apart the Church—the body of Christ—that is to stand as one holy, catholic (small ‘c’ meaning universal) entity. While the Reformation led to the creation of denomination after denomination (and I believe this grieves the heart of God at one level), it also gave us the core of our faith that should remain inviolate. That core, built on the Five Solas, provide Christians with a center around which their faith— individually, locally, and denominationally—should be built.
Those Five Solas are our guiding star that leads us to the Promised Land. When we veer off course, however slightly, they correct us. Even when sin enters in and we mar the imago Dei—the image of God that is ours at our creation— the Five Solas lead us back to our hope where we find restoration. The Five Solas take us back to what we are to be.
Therefore, we can never fall to far away from God that we become irredeemable. Rather, God demonstrates His faithfulness to us in that He calls us and re-calls us, and willingly calls us again and again if need be back into His presence. In His presence, we (re)discover the power of Scripture, Faith, Grace, Christ, and God’s Glory, to (re)form us.
In an instant, we are changed. If we forget what it means to stand in Christ and be clothed with His righteousness, this can seem scary or anxiety-inducing, but it is never meant to
be there. Rather, it is to be restorative. If you have ever been so sick, that even the aroma of food can be nauseating, you know a bit of what I am talking about. That aroma that is to bring delight instead brings revulsion. To get back that hunger and desire for good food can seem like forever away, but a bit of nasty tasting medicine reforms the old neural pathways that delight in aromas and tastes once again.
Reformation does that for our souls. It gives us a renewed hunger and desire for God. We want our first and true love, Christ, to come and be one with our souls. We want to know God and be known by Him. We strip away the artifice of religion to seek a true and pure relationship God unadulterated by human and sinful clutches. Instead, we want the Holy Spirit to break in—as the Spirit did at Creation, as the Spirit did with prophets and priests and (some) kings in the Old Testament, as the Spirit did in birthing the Church on Pentecost, as the Spirit did in Reforming the Church 500 years ago, and—oh so thankfully—as the Holy Spirit continues to do for God’s people and churches and communities today.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. May we see God’s Reforming presence and power sweep through lives here at St. John’s, through churches near and far, and through this community and world. The power that reformed the Church 500 years ago is alive and active still changing us back into our originally meant sinless state and moving us forward into a new and brilliant future.
Grace and peace,