Today Protestants around the world celebrate and commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, remembering the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and in doing so, set in motion a revolution that would dramatically impact the church and history.
Today is a day of looking back in admiration and gratitude at a man who, led by the Holy Spirit, courageously took a tremendous leap of faith. Not only did Martin Luther recognize where he and his fellow Christians were falling short of God’s vision for his kingdom on earth, he determined to do his part in righting the wrongs he witnessed.
It’s easy for us to look back at sixteenth-century Europe as a time of upheaval, corruption, and chaos, a time in which the church was in dire need of reformation. But the truth is, the reformation isn’t over. We face different battles than our sixteenth-century sisters and brothers, but our world in still very much in need of reconciliation, reform, and renewal. The same Holy Spirit that moved in and through Martin Luther is moving in us and through us. We are called to love not only with words, but with actions and in truth.
I don’t know what reformation looks like for you. Half the time, I don’t know what reformation looks like for me. It seems there is so much wrong with the world, it’s hard to know where and how to begin. I do know, though, that God isn’t necessarily calling us to love with action and in truth on the global stage, but right where we are – in the quiet corners of our own homes and schools, workplaces and neighborhoods.
You might not have 95 points of contention like Martin Luther did. But I’m willing to bet there are one or two issues that light a fire in you, places in your small corner of the world where you could wield a hammer and nail.
Tonight our Iraqi friends will come over to our house. The four kids will transform into three princesses and a Spider Man, we’ll hand them each a plastic pumpkin, and together with their mom and dad we’ll go trick-or-treating from house to house in our neighborhood. This is their first Halloween. A year ago they were living desperate and terrified, on the run from ISIS in their worn-torn homeland. Tonight they’ll wear tulle and crowns and Spider Man muscles. They’ll ring door bells and fill their plastic pumpkins full of Milky Ways and M&Ms, and there will be laughter and pretend spookiness instead of sorrow and real fear.
Our Iraqi friends and people like them are maligned and feared by some in our government and many in our nation and around the world. Welcoming them to our country, sharing meals and laughter, and even something as silly as trick or treating are gestures of hospitality, friendship, and love. But they are also our own small steps toward revolution and reform, the way we quietly but resolutely wield our hammer and nail. Sharing a plate of dolma or a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with our Iraqi friends won’t change the world, but it might make a small difference in six precious lives.
Maybe, like me, you’ve looked to others to be our modern-day reformers. Maybe, like me, you consider yourself too ordinary to be a revolutionary. But let me remind you, Martin Luther was an ordinary fellow at one time, too – a no-name monk living in a no-name town. He saw wrongs that needed righting, and he took up a hammer and a nail in his corner of the world.
The reformation is not over. The Spirit is still moving, calling each one of us to participate in God’s ongoing reconciliation and renewal, calling each one of us to take up our hammer and nail. Reformation continues today, with me and you.