This week we raise and hopefully answer the question: Why do we pause to remember the Protestant Reformation each year? Let me suggest three reasons why. First, we do so to emphasize our catholicity. To answer the question like that is somewhat ironic because historically the Reformation was the watershed event that severed the Protestants from the Roman Catholics. By catholicity I don’t mean “Roman Catholic.” Rather, I mean, in the most rudimentary definition of the word, unity. That is what “catholic” means. When I became the pastor of New Life in October 2005, the Reformation service was one of the first things that I organized. Each year we host an evening worship service in which like-minded churches join together to celebrate their unity centered around the truths of the Reformation as codified in the reformed confessions and around the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The second reason we remember the Reformation is that we might emphasize our diversity. This takes place on at least two levels. The most obvious is that in so doing we make it clear that we are not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. The next level is a bit more nuanced than, and equally ironic as, the first point. In so emphasizing the Reformation we emphasize on the one hand that we are a reformed congregation and that we are not Anglican, Lutheran or Anabaptist. The irony is that, to one degree or another, all of the above are products of the Reformation. Nevertheless, they are not reformed churches. Lutherans are Lutherans; Anglican are Anglicans; Anabaptists are, well, Evangelicals. Therefore, by remembering our history we are able to remember and appreciate the rich history and robust theological expression that our forefathers died to preserve.
Third, in remembering the Reformation we tie ourselves to a long tradition of the Christian faith, one that didn’t start with us. We might call this historicity. There is great comfort that can be drawn from this truth. Our church didn’t spring up last week, last year, last decade. Our pastor didn’t invent it. Instead we are tied to a great stream of faithful Christians, one whose theology we share. As such, we can derive great comfort from this for we know that it is bigger than us and it will not end with us. We are a part of something bigger than La Mesa; something bigger than San Diego; something bigger than the USA. We are part of the advance of the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Therefore, as we remember the truths of the Reformation let us return thanks to God for his good mercy to us. Let us be humbled by the gospel. And let us stand as those who are just passing through. There were those before and there will be those afterward. In all this we pray that God would be receiving all the glory forever and ever. Amen.