On reformation and reflection
Reformation Sunday (the last Sunday in October) and All Saints’ Sunday (the first Sunday in November) have become, for me, the “high holy days” of my Lutheran identity. In part this is true because what had been important holidays — Christmas and Easter, for example — have been so co-opted by commercial culture that they really don’t seem like holy days at all. Thus far, Wal-Mart hasn’t seemed interested in commemorating Reformation history.
But my commercial critique of other holidays is not the only reason I have come to love Reformation Day and All Saints’ Day. The linkage between these festivals reminds me of basic theological truths toward which Martin Luther pointed us more than 450 years ago. These days remind us of the corruption within ourselves, our very bodies, and our church. And, paradoxically, we are reminded of God’s gracious activity in our lives that means that the corruption is not the final story. We are as recognizably wheat as weed, saint as sinner.
Reformation Day is our reminder — perhaps like New Year’s Day is a time for resolutions — of our need for re-forming our lives and our church. (The state of the “union” of the Lutheran community at this moment makes this an important time of real reflection on the gifts and the shortcomings of the reforming spirit.)
In the midst of this reflection, it is probably right that we will also quickly be reminded of the lives of the saints and martyrs — not the “big name” saints, but those faithful people of every time and space, the holy “cloud of witnesses” we join at the eucharist table across barriers of space and time. Through grace, we — broken as we are — are numbered among these saints.
The origin of this festival is not clear. There is some debate about its relationship on the calendar to earlier pagan festivals. But, in its earliest Christian manifestations, it seems to emphasize the lives of those who were martyred for their beliefs. At some point many servants of the church who had not been killed for their faith were added to the commemoration. (As the pantheon of saints officially recognized by the church grew, the minor saints couldn’t each have a unique feast day, so many were lumped together on a common day — All Saints’ Day.)
As reformers re-examined the special vocation of the priesthood and emphasized a “priesthood of all believers,” reformist theologians challenged the existence of a separate class of saints. So, post-Reformation, All Saints’ Day has become much more inclusive of all believers.
All Saints’ Sunday has become a liturgical opportunity to be specially mindful of those who have finished their earthly service in the previous year. Inevitably it thus also becomes an opportunity for the living to examine our own lives. This year, may we all have the courage to examine our own motivations and responses with the same critical eye we take in evaluating our neighbors. If we are able to do so, the day will indeed be holy.
“TWITTERS” AND WEB SITES AND BLOGS, OH MY!
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The launch of the Web site and the blog will be delayed as the site is still under construction. Check again after Thanksgiving.]
Careful, and even careless, observers of the publishing industry know that it is in great transition and change. Certainly, most media organizations are in a chaotic time of reorganization and re-evaluation.
Some newspapers across the country are choosing to shut up their shops. Others are going exclusively to online editions. And many, the most creative in my opinion, are finding ways to re-invent themselves without losing the print editions of their newspapers.
Metro Lutheran is similarly evaluating our publishing options. Don’t worry, we are committed to printing a hard copy edition that you can hold in your hands and take with you to foreign countries (to be “caught reading”). But, Jason Scherschligt, chair of the Editorial Committee of the Metro Lutheran Board, reminds us that we are an information service that publishes a newspaper as one of the means of providing information for the public. We are updating some of the other ways of providing information. I am anticipating that by the time you are holding this copy of Metro Lutheran in your hands, we will have gone live with a new Web site (with the significant contribution of Neuger Communications, Northfield, Minnesota). This new site is more attractive, intuitive, and user-friendly.
As part of the launch of the new Web site, I will begin an occasional blog. It will often focus on people I have recently interviewed, press conferences I have attended, or trips I have made around the state or country to follow stories of significance to Twin Cities Lutherans.
The initial blog will involve a tour of Lutheran congregations throughout northern Minnesota. I will leave from the All Saints Day concert of the National Lutheran Choir, driving north and visiting Lutheran congregations in such towns as Moorhead, Hawley, Ulen, Hitterdal, Bagley, Bemidji, Clearbrook, Thief River Falls, and Menagha. Keep track of the tour by visiting the Web site: www.metrolutheran.org.