Why does the Reformation Matter?

Lutherans are pretty excited about the Reformation celebrating it's 500th Anniversary. On the 31st of October it will be 500 years since Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church in Wittenberg. When Luther set in a motion a Reformation that would alter not only the Church but all of western culture. The question remains now as it did for Luther 500 years ago. What are we doing? Why does it matter that we continue to call ourselves Lutheran? Why do we continue to fight for a Reformation that seems to be long past. Are we not 500 years past these issues? Are we merely arguing about issues from long ago and not dealing with issues that are current and relevant to the Church of the 21st Century? These are the questions Lutherans have been digging into over the last few years as this 500th Anniversary inches closer. Now that we are here, what have we discovered. I want to pose two possible discoveries 500 years after Luther. 

The Church is an absolute mess! This is not just some metaphorical mess of 'sin'. I don't just mean, 'yeah our Church is filled with sinners.' No. I mean the entire Christian Church is in shambles. In fact, there are some 33,000 Different denominations in the world. If that does not make you want to cry, you need to get yourself checked. It seems to be a symptom of our individualistic obsession not just in America but all over the world. It also seems to be a reaction that the Church has had to the world's sudden hatred of it. Every group and every individual appears to have discovered the true and real Church. Everyone seems to have the right faith, the right belief. It seems that when we should be reflecting on the Reformation as a great success it seems to only make us more aware of our inability to be unified on anything. That our answer to Reforming the Church is to make our own. The Reformation with all of it's great gifts that it gave and all the  good news that was given to people because of it. there still remains one horrible truth. The Church is a mess. No one is unified, no one is on the same page. Hear the words of St Paul, "I appeal to you brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." 1 Corinthians 1:10

Those words, for so long as a Lutheran were like an ideal that I wanted and desired for my self and my own Church. Words that I could say we fought for that we went for. However, the longer I am in the Church those words become a slap to my face. It stands as a conviction to Christ's Church, his bride. The Reformation is a celebration of Freedom and yet, it also remains a realization that the Church is broken. A realization that at it's fundamental level it is in bondage. That the Church is in slavery to lies, deceit, selfishness, personal vendettas, relational issues, hardened hearts and theological cockiness. Why does the Reformation Matter? It matters because our Church is broken into pieces and maybe, just maybe, we might be a part of that broken Church.The Reformation matters because it reveals our inner most problems that we cover with our fantasy of being perfect. 

The second realization I have had about this 500th Anniversary is that, Luther's desire for the Church should be ours too. As Luther journeyed to the Churches of the Reformation he found that people knew nothing about Jesus, nothing about the faith. Pastors knew nothing, and the laity were even worse. Luther made it his goal to make the word of God and the faith accessible to people. He wanted to educate the laity on the basics of the faith. He wanted to catechize  or teach the people. he wrote his Catechism with the purpose of giving the parents something to teach their kids. 

Luther writes at the beginning of his Catechism, "As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household." Luther saw and the same is true today., parents are the MOST important part of a Child's education. Not teachers. Not Pastors. Not coaches. PARENTS! The Church today has a gigantic problem of Biblical Illiteracy. People who have spent their entire lives in the Church that no nothing in the Bible. That is a problem. In fact, it is the same problem Luther saw as well. Luther saw the parents as the answer to that problem, but it seems we have lost what Luther said. 

One of the most well known Pastors in the country is Timothy Keller, recently released for the Church a book called The New City Catechism. Even a prevalent non Lutheran sees what Luther was saying. Luther was ahead of his time you might say. The education of the family is still a critical area for the Church that is terribly lacking. Luther's Catechism is a great place to start.

The Reformation matters because the things that the Reformation started, uniting the Church around the true faith and the teaching of that faith in the home are what Luther and the  Reformers were all about. It is ironic that those issue remain to this day the most important and most critical for us to address, even in the Lutheran Church. 

Remaining Connected in a Digital World

It has become apparent since the birth of the iPhone that people are less connected. Not just on a conversational level, but the ways of communicated have increased exponentially. At the beginning of the Email people believed it to be a similar way of communicating and connecting. In truth, it has added another form of communication. After text messaging and social media apps such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram connections were not simplified, but multiplied. As any company will tell you, trying to communicate a message today is near impossible at least a message that reaches all people and not just certain demographics. 

This has caused the Church to question it's methods of connecting with not only it's members, but also to non-members. Should we spend our time on these new modes of media in order to remain connected. Some have argued we should avoid it at all costs. The question remains, how can we use this new form of communication in the life of Church? There continues to be debates as to whether these forms of communication are good, or whether they are leading to the deterioration of culture and society.

It can seem that for many who grew up before the technological explosion, that the negatives of technology and Smartphones are all we see. The youth of today function almost exclusively through their smart phones. For a Pastor who grew up in the age of Smartphones, I will often focus on the positives and how Smartphones allow family connections and friendship connections that distance would have normally taken away, or the benefits of being a parent and remaining connected with their spouse and children and knowing they are safe.

It can be easy to claim that anything involving technology is bad and there are of course plenty of problems with smartphones, but one of the most devastating for the Church is that people are no longer connected as they used to be. People have lost a connection with their communities. Where most people would find their connections with their local schools, businesses, and neighbors. We avoid connecting with our communities by creating a virtual community through online shopping, social media and online news. The smartphone has disconnected people from their geographical locations from the actual community. 

What are we left to do? Well it seems that whether we attempt to create a virtual community over the phone or not, their is a human necessity for community that technology cannot provide. It reveals itself in the birth of Craft breweries, small coffee shops, restaurants who focus on local ingredients from local farms that have become popular. The ability to connect with our community is something that even the smartphone generation desires. These young people are clearly not finding such a community on their phones so they have found it in food and drink or at the very least a glimpse of what they are missing, a restaurant or coffee shop that allows them to love where they are and connect with their community. This leaves the Church in a unique position. 

The Church provides this very basic human necessity. The Church provides community. A place in which people are connected not only with other people in the body of Christ through baptism, but we find community in our united purpose as the Body of Christ to those who live in our local community. The Church has an opportunity to fulfill a need that our young people are looking for. A life in the Church that is grounded in their community, the church, and that gives them a sense of community that is not superficial. It is a community that is more then a new craft beer, or a sleek coffee chop. It is a community centered around Jesus who gives people salvation and a purpose in this life. Ironically the Church provides a food that provides more than just community. It is meal that unites us with the Lord Jesus. A meal the focuses on our unity with one another a meal that celebrates community!

In the Church, we can provide a sense of connection that unites people in a smartphone age. We should embrace this gift and learn to express it and not simply condemn the practices of the world. the Church exists to find the need and show how Jesus and his church can fulfill that need. The Church is the community that the world has been looking for!