A Message from Pastor Harvey
In contemplating the calendar year, October stands out as the month I recall the Reformation. Back in the 1500s, the church was corrupt. Even though many bishops and priests saw the corruption and wanted change, many others were chasing after wealth and secular political power. Additionally, the church’s theology had also been corrupted, in some cases, by well-meaning church leaders.
For example, if you did something that hurt your relationship with your spouse, you might buy a gift along with your apology, in order to show how bad you felt about what you did. The corruption crept in when the church took that concept to the next step and figured you could show how bad you felt by doing a “good work” like giving money to the church. It might have been a logical next step, but what happened was forgiveness was being sold. And in order to enhance and encourage the sale of forgiveness, the church preached a God of Wrath, instead of a God of Love. Fear brings in more money than love.
But the Reformation that started in 1517 didn’t set everything right. Even after Luther’s efforts at reforming the church, the institutional church continued to make mistakes of theology and practice and purposeful errors in order to hold on to wealth and power. The church continued in it’s anti-Semitism, for example. The church was responsible for the Doctrine of Discovery that essentially blessed the enslavement of Africans and Indigenous Peoples. The church continued teaching the subjugation of women. The church took Native children from their parents and abused them.
My point is that the Reformation of the church that was accredited to Martin Luther didn’t end with Luther. And the truth is it didn’t begin with Luther either. Throughout the history of the Christian church, God has called enlightened leaders, often ordinary pastors and laypersons, to speak truth to power.
In the early centuries of the church, the Desert Fathers and Mothers resisted the church’s pursuit of wealth and political power. Much later, a few Christians denounced the pre-emptive wars of the Crusades at great cost to their reputations. Some leaders and churches opposed the evil of slavery. And later, some churches and church leaders supported equality and civil rights for minorities, for women, and for LGBTQ+ communities.
These are, of course, political issues. All these issues are political because politics is simply how a community (town, state, and nation) self-determines how they will live and work together. Opposition to slavery, the Crusades, anti-Semitism; all these are political issues too. These issues are also, all of them, theological issues – because they all involve loving your neighbor. All these issues involve Jesus’ teaching: Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
The Reformation is not over. It is not done. As long as there are parts of the Christian church that seek after power, and wealth and do not teach and live out the Golden Rule and the truth that God is love, God will continue to call prophets, enlightened ordinary people, to leadership roles in order to reform the church.
I celebrate the Reformation each year, not only to remember Martin Luther and all the historical Reformers of the church but also as an acknowledgment and encouragement to all those Reformers that God continues to call in order to reform God’s church.
Your Servant in Christ,