Our Lutheran Identity and the Reformation

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis to the Cathedral door in Wittenburg, Germany. 500 years later, we celebrate this immense and bold act to reform the Church and grow together in our relationship with God and with each other.

Some of you may be familiar with the history of the Lutheran Church and are well aware of the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation which we celebrate this year. Others of you may not be so familiar with our history and that’s definitely okay. However, whether you are familiar with the history or not, you may be wondering why we should care or, even better, why our children should care.

Growing up in Northeast Pennsylvania, I was surrounded by a vibrant Catholic community. The local news stations would frequently have segments discussing the issues and events of the Catholic church. Many of my friends were devout Catholics who attended Mass every week. The difference in faith traditions typically was not an issue for me and my friends. However, one day, during lunch at school, one of my Catholic friends said to me, “Hey! You’re Lutheran, right? Where do you go when you die?” I was fairly surprised by this blunt question and I replied that I believe that I go to heaven when I die. He was shocked by this answer and I, in all honesty, was shocked that this conversation was even happening. I was so surprised that I had to talk about it with my family and Pastor. It seemed all too absurd to me.

What does this have to do with the Reformation? Well, also while growing up, I was always interested in the Reformation and what it means to be a Lutheran in our world. What does our Lutheran identity mean for us in our daily lives?

This encounter taught me the importance of standing up for faith and standing up for the Gospel of love and grace. Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis because he struggled with the status quo of the institution of the Church and called for a change back to the message of the Gospel and of Jesus Christ.

In our world today, it is becoming more and more important to have the ability to thoughtfully and authentically question and challenge the status quo. The Reformation teaches us that it is good, holy, and right to do so. As heirs of the Reformation we have a distinct calling to do this work – each and every one of us; elderly, children, and everyone in between.

As I think about the future our children will be inheriting I wonder how we can prepare them to thoughtfully carry on the spirit of the Reformation to continue calling us back to the Christian message – grace and love for all. Every day I wonder how we, as a community and as individuals, model discipleship that encourages open dialogue and progress towards equality and peace for all. How will we teach our kids to stand up for our neighbor and the vulnerable because of their innate understanding of the radical Gospel message that God’s love and grace are for all people, no matter what. This is the spirit of Reformation that has captured the world for 500 years and is, indeed, something to celebrate.

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