I originally started this post the day after Reformation. Then I came across a proposed modern day list of 95 Theses in a blog piece shared on Facebook. I thought, yup, this says it better than me. So I put this blog entry aside. But it keeps pulling me back…or maybe the Holy Spirit keeps pulling me back to it and is telling me to finish my thoughts. So…
According to Merriam-Webster…
The simple definition of reformation:
…the act or process of improving something or someone by removing or correcting faults, problems, etc.
It’s late evening Halloween Day or All Hallow’s Eve or, being Lutheran, Reformation Day as I start this post. The neighborhood youth have stopped trick-or-treating for a while now, I still have a couple of handfuls of candy, and the house is quiet.
Yesterday afternoon I attended the Reformation service at the National Cathedral in DC as we marked the 499th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses on the church door. Built in the style of the Gothic cathedrals, the cathedral impresses with its soaring vaults, flying buttresses, countless gargoyles, and of course a rose window. The service was simple and beautiful, the music joyous. The sunlight was playing through the stained glass windows. I suspect simple will not be the word to describe next year’s service for the 500th anniversary.
This morning I watched the live streaming of the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation in Sweden at the Lund Cathedral and then at the Malmo Arena. The Lund Cathedral was started in 1080 and is Romanesque in style (read solid). This service was also simple and beautiful, and the music was certainly joyous. But this was not just an annual service marking the anniversary of the Reformation. This was a joint Catholic and Lutheran service…with Pope Francis as one of the presiders. I don’t know the details, but I do know there’s been significant progress in the “re-membering” of the catholic (universal) church. It really was a beautiful service to watch.
Maybe the day is not too far off that such a service would happen again with the addition of Holy Communion. That is the kind of reform that should be worked towards. Reforms that unify and heal. Yet, as the church works to welcome all and be a place of peace, forgiveness, and love, I’m thinking it’s important for the church to remember its roots, its heritage. In our hyped up consumer culture, some of us, young, old, and in between, are looking for the countercultural. Jesus was totally countercultural…values and norms of behavior differ substantially from those of mainstream society.
In a culture that is saturated with the latest and greatest, with shinier models available every few months, with faster and more efficient ways of getting things done, with schedules packed with the latest trends that are going to improve our lives…some of us are looking for a little countercultural side to things. So Church, maybe “reforming” yourself by following the latest trends is not what is needed…or wanted. I know I’m not looking for fast food worship or the newest praise song or a multi-media presentation. I’d rather have the time pass more slowly with chants in Latin, candles, and periods of silence. Church, I need you to be countercultural in your offering…values and norms of behavior that differ substantially from those of mainstream society. Be the place of refuge from our crazy paced lives, in part so we can face the craziness outside your walls because we have had the opportunity to stop and be refreshed within your space.
Most of us are pretty good at being the sister Martha, the one with the to do list a mile long. We need the time and space to be the sister Mary, the one who opts for sitting and listening. So while the Church needs to keep reforming to correct injustice, remove barriers, and strive towards unity, the Church needs to retain a sense of being countercultural, a way of helping us remain grounded, giving me and others a sanctuary to find renewal and refreshment from the “normal” culture.
Be the avenue that connects the ancient, our yesterdays of so long ago, to this hour even as we move into our tomorrows. Be the respite we so need from our high speed world, so that we might experience a divine embrace. Be countercultural so we might BE.