Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 31, 2012

October 31, 1517 - October 31, 2012 . . .

Happy Reformation Day!

If there is one truly Protestant holiday, it is Reformation Day. But Reformation Day is about more than just “hammering the theses to the church door” and dressing up like Martin Luther. For those of us with Protestant ancestors and who still practice one of the “Reformation faiths” ourselves, it is a day of liberation, separation, new beginnings, and, of course, grace. It is more than just a silly alternative to Halloween. Many of our contemporaries might not be so keen on watching us celebrate a day of breaking from the norm, but we understand what it meant and means . . .

Freedom of conscience.

I am sure there were always those who did not feel quite right about the established order of the day. Perhaps they were scholars. Perhaps they were common men who for some reason had been given the rare gift of literacy. They did not condemn Catholic belief in others, but rather trekked along for lack of another option. Then suddenly, everything exploded all at once, and the Bible became available in German and in many other languages. Many people said, “This is it! This is what I believe! We are doing something that has never been done before!” Or perhaps they had believed in the ancient Church and had their minds changed by something, whatever it might have been, that became known to them throughout the Reformation.

I often imagine that era. I would not have wanted to live then . . . being Protestant, I doubtless would have anticipated some inglorious fate . . . but to somehow have seen those moments when people were affected by the Gospel and were able to choose their faith for themselves would be incredible. Many people do not give Reformation Day its due. They mourn it as a day of schism, or they attribute the evils that would come in the future to that sudden breaking point. But we should all be proud. Martin Luther’s 95 Theses did not fix things. They did not guarantee that everyone would respect these newfound Protestants, nor that every Protestant would be a model Christian. They did not safeguard against men and women of both sides ignoring the “better angels of their natures” and going haywire in the name of personal faith.

What they did do was introduce the five solas to the world: Faith alone, grace alone, for the glory of God alone, Christ alone, and Scripture alone. They gave people the freedom to choose. They brought a life of personal interpretation, a possibility of something new and daring and beautiful and stunning, into a world that knew only one interpretation. They produced martyrs --- and while the way in which these Protestant witnesses died was horrific, their steadfastness, grace, and love of God inspired all, even to this day. The Protestant work ethic was born. The quiet and sturdy heritage for which the Reformation is so well-known was propelled onto America’s shores and became the bedrock of our spiritual history.

Reformation Day is our heritage, our legacy. Our moment of understanding. Our moment of standing up for Scripture and saying, “This is how I will serve the Lord.” Our breaking away from the established orthodoxy and blazing a new path toward God. Happy Reformation Day!

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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