Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Semper Reformanda

I've had people ask me sometimes where the inspiration for blogging comes from. Most of the time, it's something that recently happened, or that I recently read, or a recent conversation that sparks a post. Most of what I'm writing here on the ol' blog is just my way of thinking things through, honestly. But once in a while, I have a post that I've been ruminating on for a long, long time. This is one of those posts.

About a year and a half ago, I was in Iowa City at a conference, and my friends and I stopped in to a coffee shop to grab a cup. It was one of those wonderfully hipster places--definitely catering to the university crowd, you know? But I was surprised and struck by the artwork on the walls. In particular, there was a fantastic update to the classic portrait of Martin Luther that I'm sure you've seen before. But in this piece, Luther is decked out in fashion not that different from the barista who served my pour-over that evening. I pulled out my phone to snap a pic:

Hipster Luther?

I chuckled when I saw this--it just hit my Reformed funny bone. But, as I said, this is something I've been thinking about for some time.

Today is the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's stand, when he nailed his 95 theses to the door at Wittenburg Castle Church and changed the world. I don't say that lightly; I believe that Luther's action really was a world-shifting event for the western world. He challenged the status quo of the Church in his day, called the leaders to get back to the truth of scripture. He stood up--was counter-cultural--and began a movement.

I love this "update" to the Luther's portrait, because it makes me think of one of the Latin phrases the reformers used to describe their work. The short form is semper reformanda, "always reforming." Here's a "reforming" of our vision of Luther, that Roman Catholic priest and professor, and brewer of beers, according to the history books. (Homebrew? He's definitely hipster!) But semper reformanda is only a segment of a longer phrase, which is--I think--important to remember:

Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei.

In case you haven't studied Latin lately, the common English translation for this is, "The church, reformed and always reforming, according to the word of God." That last bit is, I think, crucial: we are always reforming...but how? According to the word of God. The truth of scripture is timeless. We, the members of the church, are bound by living in a particular time and place. But Christ's Body, the Church, spans history and spans the globe. We are reforming even today...in the time and place where we find ourselves...to live out our faith more fully "according to the word of God."

And that's why I love this hipster Martin Luther so much. It's been 500 years since Luther posted his message, using the norms and technology of his day to nail 'em to the church door. Do you think that today, he might have turned to Facebook to put his ideas out into the public sphere? How would a contemporary Luther respond to the church and the world today? How would a contemporary Luther spark a message of "always reforming, according to the Word?"

Happy Reformation Day, friends. 

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