October is the month that I find myself celebrating the Reformation branches of the Christian tree of faith and practice. As a Protestant, I am a son of the protest vein of the family of faith that emerged out of the 15-16th century spiritual upheaval known as the Reformation. In fact my pilgrim ancestors were part of the very Mayflower, one of the fruits of the Reformation chaos. I have family blood that flows deep into the history of the Reformation and the lives that busted loose and found their way here and forged new lives in this great land. Part of who I am and what many Christians consider the sacred work of God in the flow of time, history and church is shaped by the drama and vision of the wild boars of the Reformation.
But even though I stand on the limb of the Reformation, I claim the same tree that the Catholic tradition is grown up and out of. Though pruned as this tree has been many times in history, it is one. I am often shoulder to shoulder with papists in the witness of the Gospel, the work of common good and the defense of the faith. I am not ashamed of our shared histories. I truly believe in what C.S. Lewis said:
“The faith preached by the Apostles,
attested by the Martyrs,
embodied in the Creeds,
expounded by the Fathers.”
And in the confession of unity that the Apostle Paul penned:
“One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:5-7)
But in America such celebration is under cold scrutiny as our nation sifts through the rubble, ruin and wrong of the past religious reformation and the American experiment and it seems many forget, edit and silence the good. The stories of people of faith that found friendship, freedom and faith in the America wilds and indigenous people of this land is part of our story and my story of America. The sins of the fathers and the faith of the fathers are both realities that still influence the faith of their children but so does the good work, witness and worship. I am not ashamed to be a son of the Reformation or the revolution. I stand convinced and convicted of both the truth and the tragedy of my people’s history. One can honor and learn from the past and allow it’s lessons guide the future.
The reformers fought for the principles that Scripture alone is our final authority, Christ alone is the head of the church and justification is by God’s grace alone, on the basis of the finished work of Christ, received by faith alone for God’s glory alone.
The these five compass points are powerful renewals of faith that clarify, redirect and plow up the spiritual ground for a harvest of life enriching faith. But the impact of the Reformation truth also reshapes and releases believers into a life of worship that reclaims the gift of wholeness. It brings back together the cloven halves of life that were wrongly labeled secular and sacred by religious teaching and cultural values that were shaped by the institutionalization of the church.
The Protestant Reformation set in motion ideas and values that paved the way for people to detach themselves from powers that kept them prisoners to church, country and customs. It broke a cultural dam that sprung streams of innovation, literacy, mass production and reimagined views of government, law and freedom. It launched a movement of reclaiming day to day work life and baptized afresh the lives of all people to reclaim the gift of vocation in all things. Music and the Scriptures were wrenched from the hands of the clergy and the gift of community was equalized for all.
When I stand singing choruses in our church services…I thank the reformers.
When I read the bible in my own language…I thank the reformers.
When I preach the bible in a church we helped plant nine years ago…I thank the reformers.
When I hang the American flag on my house in the morning…I thank the Reformation.
When I step up to minister with my wife as my partner….I thank the reformers.
So this October, I will open my bible, kiss my wife, bellow some common choruses and offer a prayer of gratitude over a dark fall beer for the faith and courage of my reformation fathers and mothers. And just to keep the protest spirit alive…I will celebrate Halloween for Christ is Lord over all…even Ghosts, Goblins, Potters and Pilgrims.