Lutherans and other Christian traditions worldwide have directed their attention toward the meaning of the Reformation, which has been marked as a 500th anniversary year in 2017 (culminating this week). The Reformation was a perfect quake of ideas, politics, media, and language that changed the course of the Church and the world. Martin Luther was at the epicenter of that quake. Some people recognize this day and time with 500-year old German hymns. Martin Luther both taught about God’s love in Christ, and built up the Church through writing hymns (some of them we still use today). But the Reformation is far more than a type of music or worship.
In one of his most widely used texts, The Small Catechism, Luther taught the basics of Christian faith that were not the exclusive possessions of priests and pastors, but a tool for Christians to pass on the faith at home and in their communities. The Catechism taught the 10 Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer were to be part of daily living, in the language of the people, and focused on God’s love, the Bible, and neighbor.
I believe that what continues to make the Reformation important today is that Luther emphasized worship and teaching in the language of the people, and directed our attention toward our neighbor. For centuries, the Church had (and has) emphasized its own power. Luther redirected followers of Jesus away from fear of the power of the Church, and toward their neighbor. This neighbor focus is especially reflected in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which poses the question, “Who is my neighbor?” This teaching directs me as a Christian and as a pastor in my actions at church, and with my household. It is not so important that we at St. John’s build a church full of Lutherans. What is important is that with a congregation that is called Lutheran, we welcome our neighbor in building a community in Christ that continues to welcome neighbors, no matter who they are.