Let us bring the gifts that differ, And, in splendid, varied ways,
Sing a new church into being, One of faith and love and praise!
– Hymn text by Delores Dufmer OSB
We had another preacher scheduled for this Sunday’s observation of Reformation Day who told me today they had to reschedule. Though I was disappointed, I was also consoled by knowing that though I have less time than usual to prepare as the designated pinch hitter, I also love Reformation Day more than most festivals of the church. As a religion major at Columbia many years ago, I was deeply influenced by Reformation studies (there is such a subdiscipline). Two professors especially who were distinguished in that discipline taught there at the time. They both mentored me and indulged me in my passion for all things Martin Luther, who among other accomplishments introduced hymns into worship of the church. Certainly imperfect, he gave voice and direction to an ambitious dream: that the church – which characterized success by how little things changed – could actually change and become something new and more suitable to a changing world.
Luther loved the Bible and translated it into German. I would love him even if he had accomplished only the innovation of singing in church, although he did a lot more. His reformation became a revolution. Several of us are reading Sue Monk Kidd’s new novel, The Book of Longings. It’s a fascinating re-imagination of the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of his wife, Ana (remember, it’s a novel). She reminds us that Jesus was a fierce advocate for change and advocated for the inclusion of women in an unprecedented way – and that isn’t fiction, though the church is still growing into this vision. As Congregationalists we are in a lineage of Dissenters and Nonconformists, as they are called by historians. Maybe it’s time for a New Reformation….
Rev. Jim Mitulski