The Odd Observance of Reformation Sunday – Pastor Thoughts

A Mighty Fortress is our God…

I am in a Facebook group for young(er) Lutheran and Anglican clergy “born after 1973.” By the world’s standards we are decidedly middle aged. (I had to explain to my kids the story of Come From Away or 9/11 this week and it made me feel old). But in the Church we still seem like children to many colleagues and lay folk alike – so we still think of ourselves as young, despite the fact that many of us have been serving 10, 15 or even 20 years!

Anyway, each year right around Thanksgiving, one or another of the Anglicans will post a question about when All Saints Sunday is being observed. All Saints is always November 1st, and in years when it gets pushed back to November 6 or 7th, it can run into Remembrance Day observances. So the question is whether to have All Saints Sunday on the Sunday before November 1st or after. 

Since the group is about 10% Lutheran and 90% Anglican, I usually find myself chiming in with a reminder that for Lutherans, the Sunday before November 1st is Reformation Sunday and it is kind of a big deal for us. So All Saints is always on or after November 1st. Mostly my reminders go unheeded and probably sound like I am speaking Greek – or maybe German – to our Anglican siblings (whom I still love dearly).

It doesn’t help that Martin Luther chose to post his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg on October 31st, the first of a 3-day string of festival days – All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. 

It also doesn’t help that Reformation Sunday is an odd and difficult-to-observe day to begin with. Is it a celebration? Is it a commemoration? Are we happy to be Lutheran? Are we sad because of the wars and division caused? Are we bold to confess our faith? Are we humbled by our need of God’s mercy?

As is often the case with our historical observances, especially in recent years, things are more complicated then we always know how to handle. We know that Martin Luther stood up for the things that he believed were right: against injustices taking place at the hands of the Church, against the attempts to sell salvation by the Pope and the Church, against church leaders keeping control of the Word and the Sacraments. But there are also the hundreds of thousands of people who died in revolts and war directly inspired by Luther’s stand against Rome. There is the long-lasting division and splitting apart of churches who disagree with one another that it still going on today. 

The Reformation was a transformative moment for the Western world. The combination of the printing press and Luther’s writing made it one of the most significant events of the past 1000 years. But 505 years on from Martin Luther nailing his list of grievances to the door, what this all means for us today and how we move forward are still being unpacked. 

We are a Church born in a time of tumult and change, and we are still a Church in the midst of tumult and change. Yet, along the way the reminder that God’s faithfulness will lead us through is the same. And ultimately, Martin Luther’s reason for posting his 95 theses was to make sure that God’s faithfulness is the foundation and centre on which we stand. 

A mighty fortress indeed!


One thought on “The Odd Observance of Reformation Sunday – Pastor Thoughts”

  1. Hi Eric, I am the Nursery School teacher of Oscar.
    I am always enjoying to read your posts. Being Mennonite, but attending Lutheran Religion classes at school, growing up in Germany, I feel I can really relate to your sermons and comments..
    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the Reformation Day.
    Deep down, ,we all long for peace and love and understanding no matter our denomination.
    Thank you for your postings.
    Renate Dueck


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