Category Archives: community

The Reformations of 1517 and a Prayer

It was 500 years ago that a monk, pastor and theologian names Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses for debate on the Wittenburg Door ay his university. His intent was purifying and reforming the abuses connected with indulgences. The unforeseen consequences? The division of Western Christianity into Protestant vs. Roman Catholic – and the Protestant themselves continuing their divisions.

There were actually five reformations during the next 50 years after Brother Martin’s posting. The first was the Lutheran one that spread throughout parts of Germany and Scandinavia and influenced Christian traditions everywhere. Luther’s great cry that salvation was sola fide (faith alone) united all Protestants, even as his views on the sacraments and church structure were not always popular.

The second reformation originated in Zurich, under the leadership of priest and humanist scholar Zwingli. He agreed with Luther on grace, but his zeal led to different views on communion, church order and certain theological emphases.

The second Reformed stream in Switzerland was in Geneva, led by John Calvin, the most influential theologian in Protestant history. Calvin was a scholar and his Geneva became the missionary training center for Reformed leaders throughout Europe and the New World.

The third stream was the Anglican tradition. Beginning with King Henry VIII in 1532-34 and stabilized by Elizabeth I in 1559, the Church of England represented a via media between Protestant and Roman Catholic structures and theologies. The Anglican church itself would be torn by conflict for over a century and a half between High Church traditionalists and Puritan reformers and (later) Methodist enthusiasts.

The Anabaptist communities represent the most radical reformers of all. Unlike their Magisterial counterparts (who advocated one religion for each nation), Anabaptist believed that church membership was voluntary and the ecclesial and secular powers must remain separate. They also affirmed that baptism was reserved for those who has a personal experience of conversion; therefore, no infant baptism. They were also pacifists, declaring the incompatibility of true Christianity and the exercise of military power. They were unpopular among all the other traditions, with over 100,000 martyrs in the 16th century.

The final reforming impulse is found in the Roman Catholic church. At the on-again, off-again Council of Trent (1545-1564), the worst moral and political abuses were addressed and traditional doctrines and disciplines reaffirmed. The new Jesuit order led the charge for reform under the inspired leadership of Ignatius of Loyola.

As we reflect on this moment, both lament and celebration are in order. Sober thinking leaders of all traditions acknowledge some of the zealous excesses of all traditions and even Roman Catholic leader affirm that is would have been wise to listen to Luther and not merely resist his ideas. The good news is that out of both the affirmations of faith and the ashes of conflict, many of the key ideas underpinning Western Civilization are strengthened, from the importance of the individual, freedom of conscience (after the exhaustion of more than a century of war), the rule of la (Lex Rex) and the goodness of all work, bother clerical and lay occupations.

Celebrating Today

Today. Let’s celebrate:
Today, millions of families welcome new children.
Today, many future spouses will say, “Yes!” to proposals of marriage.
Today, thousands of agencies are working for clean water, justice for the poor and community flourishing.
Today, the gospel is being preached, churches are being planted and many martyrs are receiving their eternal reward.
Today, neighbors of all faiths or none are helping each other.
Today, young women and men are discovering and dreaming of medical cures, technology serving humankind and spaceships to the stars.
Yes, there is divorce, famine, injustice, oppression and war…but sometimes we need celebration and gratitude.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Wisdom Amidst the Noise, Part 4

Over the years, I have been labeled, “Messenger to the Thoughtful.” This is not, “messenger to the academic elites or people that are rich and smart.” Thoughtfulness is the privilege of every person, regardless of class or race, economics or education. If we approach God and the world with humility and wonder and treat people, with love and respect, we will enjoy a lifetime of learning and grow in wisdom. Here are a few more reflections – please help me keep learning!

Courage is loving instead of hating, responding instead of reacting and serving while others compete for power.

When possible, look for “both/and” instead of the “either/or” limitations. This does not work for moral absolutes, but is desperately needed in practical decisions, public policy and community flourishing.

There will always be others smarter and stronger than us; but we can reach the full measure of the divine intention for our lives.

Thank you, friends, for the good you bring to the world every day.

Thank you to every parent rushing to your kid’s cultural and sporting events today. Yes, it is worth it as you nourish their bodies and minds. Some of you are single, some married, some in blended situations…thank you for caring deeply for your children and nurturing the next generation.

Three Monday thoughts:
Decide ahead of time to make the right ethical choices;
Think deeply and prayerfully;
Act decisively for God’s glory and the good of others.
And inner peace and positive impact will follow.

May today bring tears of intercession, shouts of grateful joy, profound reflection on important matters, delightful laughter as we watch people and a chance to serve someone who cannot return the favor.

Lord, give me a critical mind and tender heart, evaluating ideas and principles without passing sentence on persons. Amen.