In the fall of 1517, Martin Luther had some issues with The Church and wrote to his bishop – he was sure to include with his letter a copy of his now-famous 95 Theses. Luther’s dissertation protested against the Catholic church and clergy selling plenary indulgences and began a movement to try Luther for heresy which eventually ended in his excommunication from the church.
Last year, many churches and organizations celebrated the 500th anniversary of this Reformation; on my own campus we had a celebration with academic speeches and a fair where we could experience the Reformation in all its glory. Each year there is a dedicated ‘Reformation Sunday’ that many mainline protestant churches celebrate year after year which falls on the last Sunday of October.
Being on a seminary campus, the word ‘reformation’ is used rather frequently, especially in the fall when the church history course is being taught. While the subject matter causes intentional dialogue (and some heated debates), it eventually goes to the wayside as new topics and ideas are piled on our plates.
This Reformation thing intrigues me on a personal level because when I stop to think about it, how often do I re-form myself? While it’s good to maintain a certain presence and to be comfortable with who I am, is who I am fully who I can be? How often do I take a good, hard look at myself and acknowledge the things that are not good in my life, and how often do I change or remove them? If I’m honest with myself, I’d have to admit that I don’t re-form myself as much as I should.
I don’t like change – once I find something I’m comfortable with, I’ll stick with it, even if it’s not the best for me. Reform is uncomfortable.
I don’t know how to change – even when I recognize something in my life that needs changing, I usually don’t know where to begin. Reform is daunting.
I don’t want to change – some of the things about me that need re-form are things I really like about myself. Reform is challenging.
I don’t want to admit that I need to change – it’s tough work emotionally and spiritually to say there are things about me that need changed. Reform is agonizing.
Martin Luther knew the importance of reform – he knew that the church needed reformation, but he also knew that people needed reformation: “…we are not yet what we shall be, but we are going toward it; the process is not yet finished, but it is going on; this is not the end, but it is the road…” Reformation of the self is not working to change what is good in our selves, instead, it is to improve on what is there, and to change/remove what is bad in our selves.
This re-forming of our self is hard work, but it is worthy work. We’re meant to be so much more than who we are and we’re meant to live an exemplary life. We’re called to be the people God desires us to be, and to get there requires constant reformation. May God work in us to begin our own re-formation: may we recognize what needs to change in our own lives and may we embrace those changes.
much love. sheth.