Likely, you have been hearing about the ongoing commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
Remember with me that this was not an effort to start a new church. Rather, as its name suggests, it was an attempt to reform the existing church. The purpose of the Reformation was to “put our heads together,” so to speak, for thorough reexamination of our thoughts, beliefs and practices, and to make efforts to bring them closer in alignment with the Word of God as given in the Bible. The need to do that, glaringly evident 500 years ago, has also been quite evident countless times since then.
To recall a few prominent examples, remember with me that there were times when the church endorsed the practice of slavery, times of paternalistic treatment of women, and at one time the sale of indulgences by the church (supposedly to rescue human souls from the bonds of Purgatory, said to be an intermediate place between death and Heaven.)
Remember with me instances where in some quarters some in the church practiced harsh antisemitism and wars against non-Christians and even other Christians who held different views and followed different practices. The need for reformation has been evident in every generation – including our own.
The Protestant Reformation in the 16th century represented the first widespread, ongoing effort to bring about reformation of the church. As time went on, keen leaders of the Reformation began to realize that what was needed was not just a single, one-time reform to be set in stone, never to be further revised or modified, but rather a commitment to ongoing self-examination, reevaluation and further reform in an effort to gain and maintain purity of doctrine and practice of the Christian life.
In time, a phrase representing this purpose developed. “Reformed, always reforming,” reminding us of our need for a continual quest to learn and do the will of God in every era.
All this leads us to recognize that ongoing reform is needed, not only in the church at large, but also in each of our lives individually. We hope that our current commemoration of the Reformation will inspire us to continually seek to be “Reformed, always reforming!”
I pray this blessing for you as for myself!
The Rev. Dr. G. Daniel McCall is minister-emeritus of Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church.