The last Sunday in October in many Protestant churches has been celebrated as Reformation Sunday. It’s meant to remind us that it was on October 31, 1517 that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses as an Invitation to a Disputation on the Power of Indulgences. As a university professor, what he wanted was a debate. What he got was a schism that rocked the Christian church in the west and reshaped European (and global) politics for centuries to come.
For years it has sort of bothered me that the UCC in its planning calendar marks the day as “Reconciliation Sunday/Reformation Sunday.” I mean, come on, make up your mind. Was it a good thing or not that initiated these hundreds of years of refusing to play in each other’s sandboxes? Ah the irony. I have finally gotten over my frustration with the UCC wanting to have it both ways. After all, our motto is based on words Jesus uttered in his prayer for those of us who follow him. In John 17:21, Jesus prays, “…that they may all be one.”
Of course part of our problem with that is this little human tendency to think that unity means uniformity, and that uniformity means conformity to my way of doing and thinking. In light of all the divides, great and small, which have us fighting with each other in the world today, I am thinking that what we really need to learn is how to love each other across our differences. We can’t make anybody else play with us, but that doesn’t mean we have to throw them out of the sandbox.
The Lutherans and the Catholics are working on that. Not so long ago, Pope Francis told worshippers at a Lutheran convocation in Sweden that more unites the two Christian groups than separates them. And as part of the kick-off for this year long 500th Anniversary celebration of Martin Luther’s audacity, the Roman Catholic Church and the World Federation of Lutherans signed a joint declaration about the doctrine of justification.
So tell me, after all these years of dragging my feet, why does it bug me that this year’s planning calendar omits the reconciliation part and designates October 29 only as Reformation Sunday?
Oh well, for us here it is Youth Alive Sunday. A celebration of one of our best efforts to be inclusive and reach out to all. See you there!
Grace and peace,