Since you really listened and you were taught how the truth is in Jesus, change the former way of life that was part of the person you once were, corrupted by deceitful desires. Instead, renew the thinking in your mind by the Spirit and clothe yourself with the new person created according to God’s image in justice and true holiness. – Ephesians 4:21-24
So here’s a fun fact. Enter the word “Reformation” in Google and the first item that pops up is a super-chic, environmentally friendly, ridiculously expensive clothing manufacturer based in Los Angeles. Here’s how they see themselves: “It is our mission to lead and inspire a sustainable way to be fashionable.”
That’s right, folks, Reformation is all about being sustainable and fashionable.
Actually, that’s not a bad place to begin our conversaton for this weekend. If we’re talking about the Protestant Reformation, then we need to talk about the sustainability of a movement that should by definition remain in flux. As of this weekend, we’re 500 years in, and (deep irony) it’s the churches who identify themselves as “Reformed” who tend to be the most resistent to change.
The other word – fashionable – may not be correct, but the idea is spot on. It’s critical that we present a gospel that is always relevant, and always responsive. Not to the dictates of fashion but to the language and the needs and the challenges – and the people (God’s children) – of any given generation.
Tell everyone God’s message. Be ready at all times to do whatever is needed. Tell people what they need to do, tell them when they are doing wrong, and encourage them. Do this with great patience and careful teaching. – 2 Timothy 4:2
That’s why it’s so absurd when Christians insist Jesus would want everyone to think and act and respond as if it were still circa 1950 in middle America (or 1517 in Luther’s Germany… or the 18th Century in Wesley’s England). Let’s not confuse Christian faith with cultural nostalgia (narrowly focused white, middle-class, men-in-charge, everyone needs to know their place nostalgia, to be more accurate). Such ideology has little to do with the Good News about Jesus.
The key idea in “Reformation” is reforming – reformation is a constant value or it is nothing at all. Reformation strips away the institutional and cultural overlays and rebuilds from the essential Jesus principle. The Jesus principle is the promise that Christ is an open gate – our invitation – that we can be reconciled to God, and that there is absolutely no reason to close the door on any of God’s children.
Can we hear that? Martin Luther nailed his protest to the door of the church in Wittenburg because he wanted to see an end to every practice that sought to place barriers between God’s children and entry into God’s Kingdom.
What makes Reformation sustainable is this constant invitation. If we are to move forward from this historic marker as people who find our identity in the idea that launched this movement in 1517, then we must continue to reform, and we must continually root our reformation in Christ’s wide open invitation to “Follow me.”
Reformation strips away the institutional and cultural overlays and rebuilds from the essential Jesus principle. The Jesus principle is the promise that Christ is an open gate – our invitation – that we can be reconciled to God, and that there is absolutely no reason to close the door on any of God’s children.