Old First is religiously diverse. Some of us are cradle-UCC (that is, have been UCC all their lives). Most not. People around Old First started out mostly other Protestant denominations and Roman Catholic. We have a few folks participating in our community who actually trace or claim a spiritual community outside of the church. Some of us still consider ourselves something else.
We’re that kind of community: no matter who; no matter where… If you have noticed, my invitation to the communion table is simply: “If you feel called to share this meal Jesus has prepared for us…” Deliberately, that inviation affirms what we believe the sacrament is, without suggesting that any human is in a position to say who is welcome at that Table.
So, Reformation Sunday might feel a curious celebration for us — does it put us at risk of having too much “team pride” in ways that discount or dishonor the other teams? Or, in a world where differing identities often harden into cut offs and put downs, how do we honor the history that certainly accounts for how we have come to be the community we are today?
Can we identify the gifts and graces of this spiritual tradition without denying the charisms of others? In other words, can we remember Luther and Zwingli and Calvin (among others) on the last Sunday of the October without risking the drift towards one of the Protestant sins, namely being anti-Catholic? Or the Christian pride that denies the godliness of other faiths?
Folks, no matter what your own identity, history or allegiances, I believe as Christians we are to be thankful for all things — for the blessings our own traditions and history have added to the world right along the blessing that other traditions and faiths have added to the world. In light of Reformation Sunday, your pastor reminds you that both the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant traditions have contributed to the development of the world we know. We can find reasons for thanksgiving… for those who lived before us, and for what the tradition bequeaths our current day.
The Reformation was complex, and far from being without its failings, missteps and limitations. One could certainly say the same about any of the Protestant traditions that the Reformation begot.
Still, it has contributed much to our modern world. One can trace many of our current social, intellectual, political and economic realities, at least in part, to understandings of individuality, authority, free will, education, human frailty and God’s grace that are focused for us through the lens of the Protestant Reformation. One can even make the case for the ways that Protestantism has benefited the Catholic tradition (and visa versa).
Come to church for Reformation Sunday. It’s about more than Luther’s famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is My God.” You might learn something about the Protestant Reformers that reforms, even transforms you, your faith or your role in the world.