I assisted at the service yesterday...a last-minute scheduling change which worked out beautifully, because I had to find someone to sub for me next Sunday while I'm at Fellow Traveler's and my retreat.
Throughout my childhood and into my college years, Reformation Sunday was always a big deal at church -- thunderous renditions of "A Mighty Fortress" with brass accompaniment and choral descants; "Yay, Team!" sermons; a feeling that we, as Lutherans, had been part of an astounding moment in history.
Things change. Today in these ecumenical times many Lutherans and other children of the Reformation are uncomfortable with Reformation Day; "Yay, Team!" has given way to a more introspective and even self-critical assessment of Luther and his legacy.
But there's something else. I assisted yesterday morning at our quite modest Reformation Sunday service; as the pastor gave a brief explanation of the significance of this day on the Church calendar, and as I looked out into the congregation and saw blank faces looking back at me, it occurred to me that we as a faith community -- and I mean all Lutherans, not just my congregation -- have lost so much of our shared narrative; our common understanding of Church history, of the wheel of the Church year, of the basics of our theology. That saddens me. I think we are diminished by that.
Also disheartening is the reaction of so many contemporary Christians to the Reformation message of God's unmerited grace -- the good news that our relationship with God isn't predicated by our "earning points by doing stuff"; that God always comes down to rescue and befriend us. This concept is as offensive now as it's always been, in the Christian community. The need for a Reformation is as timely now as it was in 1517.