1God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the heart of the sea;
3Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah
4There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High.
5God is in the midst of her, she shall not be shaken;
God shall help her, just at the turning of the morning.
6The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved;
He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
7The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
8Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
9He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
10Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
11The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
New King James Version (NKJV®) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
I'm blogging late because I've been wondering how on earth I can write or say anything about Reformation Day and the church's ongoing reformation through and beyond close to two years of COVID-19. We've got masks and we have vaccines; infections have been declining as we gradually ease out from the pandemic, yet its fallout surrounds and overwhelms us.
Along with the day of Pentecost, Reformation is a major "wear red" festival. The church uses red for celebrations of the Holy Spirit and for commemorations of prophets, martyrs, and renewers of the church like Martin Luther, John XXIII, Jonathan Edwards, Ulrich Zwingli, Oscar Romero… for ordinations! During October 2017 we celebrated Reformation 500; we continue in a church that's still reforming and now includes the Roman Catholic branch of Christianity.
Aside from readings the Revised Common Lectionary specifies for Reformation, if we study scripture and talk about, when we write about the prolific pouring out of God's transforming Spirit of creation, re-creation, new creation, we'd start at the beginning of Genesis and wouldn't be finished by the end of Revelation because dreams, visions, hopes, newness, and resurrection keep on keeping' on and will keep on until Jesus returns.
The Church Has Left the Building…
…was a common social media update during spring 2020. The church always leaves the brick and mortar, steel and glass gathering place after worship and those other meetings that prepare us for ministry in the world outside the building. We always aspire to continue the lives of service Word and Sacrament model for us. However, for the past eighteen months we've stayed outside the building most of the time, so we've been experimenting with new ways of being church.
Fortunately(?) this pandemic has happened during a time digital connections are easy to come by, when almost everyone has a minimal online presence beyond email. Zoom and YouTube worship, committee meetings, and bible studies have become commonplace through the electronic amazement of the internet.
My sudden anxiety over what to blog was laughable. Many of us have been reading books and articles about church identity, "growth," member retention, program possibilities, and multicultural authenticity almost forever; since COVID more have appeared, not a single one claiming to have a solution. So what can I do? Remind myself. Remind my readers. Trust the Spirit of Reformation that's the Spirit of Resurrection.
Spirit of Reformation
Martin Luther insisted worship and hymn-singing in the vernacular (the common, ordinary, speech of regular people) was a mark of the true church. We can present Christianity with vocabulary and with symbols everyday people understand. We also can be a vernacular church that speaks the cultural language of the people.
We are Jesus' presence in the world. Meet people where they are as Jesus did. Be love. Be mercy. Show grace. Shower kindness. Learn people's spoken and cultural languages / practice translating your spoken and read language into theirs. Explain your ethnic background! Make yourself at home in their homes—if not at their street address, in other ways. Food is a wonderful, exciting, opportunity for connection and understanding! Take risks! Make mistakes!
Defy empire. Live locally. Moderate your consumption. Remember! God has been to the future. God waits for us there.
In his "Mighty Fortress" hymn paraphrase of Psalm 46, Martin Luther announced:
That Word above all earthly powers
no thanks to them abideth
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
through him who with us sideth.
Spirit is a-moving all over the land!