This Oct. 31 marks 500 years since a young clergyman in Germany named Martin Luther posted a collection of ideas on the door of his church. His thoughts challenged standing assumptions and traditions of the Church. His act was part of a growing, wider conversation that would become the Protestant Reformation. In full public disclosure, I am a “Christian mutt,” having family history in the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Methodist Church, the Baptist Church and I even once dated a Presbyterian. Across this spectrum, it is amazing to me that whatever our differences, we are all shaped by what Martin Luther did so many years ago. His efforts were not essentially new, but brought fresh focus and reflection to what had been forgotten.
One of the central tenets of Luther’s “Ninety-Five Theses” is that we cannot earn, or pay, our way into God’s good graces. He is profoundly clear that our lives are made whole by God’s grace alone. The activity in our lives flows as fruit/indicator of God’s claim upon us, not as “résumé builders” to somehow impress God with our application for a position with God’s organization.
However, Martin Luther did not throw the baby out with the bathwater. He acknowledged that God had established habits that were healthy for Christian disciples to keep. These helped people experience God’s grace in profound ways. He observed that if a person is Christian, they would devote themselves to these ways for the express purpose to better know God. He modeled prayer and fasting, studying the Scriptures, spending time in conversation with other Christians and engaging people in worship and the celebration of baptism and regular communion.
In our own generation, the Church is in a time of great change. Music choice and worship styles are but surface subjects in the conversation. There will always be a question of how to share the good news in the language of the day. There is also a foundational need to model and translate the habits and disciplines of a life-of-faith for each generation.
If we say we love God, it is vital to spend time with God and to share the covenant of kingdom-building with other disciples. Take some time today to let God re-form you as well.
Michael Kendall is lead pastor at Farmville United Methodist Church. His email address is email@example.com.