Next Sunday we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther began an extended discourse about what he saw as corruption in the church and the need for a return to a more authentic scriptural faith. It is because of this movement that we call ourselves a Reformed church.
But to see the Reformation as a one-time event misses the entire point and causes us to fall into stagnation and apathy. A common saying among Reformed churches is “Reformed, and always reforming” – or, more appropriately, “Reformed, and always being reformed.” This means that we should constantly be seeking Christ’s guidance and accepting His work to remold and rebuild us into His church. Our God is a living God, and so too we must be a living church, constantly reforming according to His Word and purpose, keeping our eyes and ears open to the call and work of the Spirit.
Just as it was 500 years ago, the church is at a pivotal point in its life. Attendance numbers are dwindling almost universally, and the busy-ness of modern-day life has made church less than a priority for many. Yet evil seems to be running wild, with racism, white nationalism, humanitarian crises, and inequality at an alarming point worldwide. Now more than ever, the church is needed in the world, and we must seek God’s guidance to reform ourselves and be the church He calls us to be in this difficult time.
Our closing hymn this past Sunday, The Church of Christ in Every Age by the prolific modern hymn-writer Fred Pratt Green, speaks of the church’s need to seek a life of mission and service. But the first voice makes an interesting statement – that the church “must claim and test its heritage and keep on rising from the dead.” First, this means we must stand firm in the fundamentals of its faith and its call to be the body of Christ in the world, despite whatever trials it may face.
But to “keep on rising from the dead” means a difficult truth – that we must sometimes die, but we will – and MUST – continue to rise from the ashes. Right now many consider the church to be a dying, or even dead, force in the world. But if we keep our eyes and ears open to the voice of the Spirit, living a life of service and mission, we can rise again. This is our call, and no matter what evil we face, the church can be reformed to be a relevant force in the world, while still standing firm in our faith that brought us this far.