Revelation 14:6-7 – “Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
Devotion: Reformation Sunday is coming. It is the annual day Protestants commemorate the audacity of a local believer to question – and even challenge – the church’s religious practices. The day before, All Saints Day, the Rev. Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis (objections) on the chapel door in Wittenberg 494 years ago. Scholars agree that Luther did not intend to start a new church (and thereby succumb to the heresy of schism; fracturing the Body of Christ) but desired to start a dialogue among Christians about returning the faithful to the Word of God.
Luther was inspired by Revelation 14, where the Word acted as God’s reforming agent through three angels. The angels, each representing the triune God-head, were commissioned to: first, announce the Gospel proclaimed to all who live on the earth; second, announce the fall of Babylon (and all counterfeit gods); and, third, to call for the patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus. The people of God knew dark times would come when persons would question the presence of the Lord on earth. However, the faithful heard the Word of the Lord spoken through the Prophet Isaiah: “my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” No person or power prevents God from accomplishing the Divine will of world-wide-evangelism and the restoration of all of creation.
The slogan, ecclesia semper reformanda (“the church always being reformed”), became the rally cry of the Reformers to remain faithful to the Holy Spirit’s renewing work. This reforming of the church was not aimed at cultural accommodation to the latest fades and fancies, or musical preference. Instead, as Karl Barth accurately noted, the phrase, “always reforming,” was connected to the rest of the slogan, “according to the Word of God.” The Word of God was the standard for measuring and motivating reformation, not the changing sea of societies.
The Reformation rejects the assumptions of other movements (i.e., the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement) that deny the providential work of the Holy Spirit throughout the centuries. How can the church be restored to the first century without passing through the reforming work of God in every succeeding century? The historical revelation of God proves the Lord was not making something new (i.e., distinct) but reforming the old into something anew.
As we prepare to celebrate Reformation Sunday, let us lay ourselves before the reforming Word and Spirit, again. What thesis would God nail to the door of the contemporary church? What 95 objections would God nail to the door of our hearts? Let us hear anew the Word of the Lord!
Prayer: God our Father, you have spoken through prophets, priests and saints, but most assuredly through your Son, Jesus Christ. Reforming Spirit, speak to us again. Make your church anew! Amen.
Prayer Exercise: “Tongsung Kido,” page 204, in Patricia D. Brown, “Paths to Prayer: Finding Your Own Way to the Presence of God,” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN: 0-779-6565-0. Copyright © 2003 by Patricia D. Brown. All rights reserved.