This Tuesday (Halloween) marks the 500 year anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, setting off what would be the Protestant Reformation. As I reflect on that important event in church history, I can’t help but feel an inner tension, a pull of gratitude and also one of sadness.
I am thankful for Martin Luther and others like him who can examine church teachings and practices and traditions with an openness that allows for rejection of that which we have long held dear. I am thankful for those that aren’t content to “play church” -- to go through the motions, mindlessly participating in practices that mock Scripture and God’s gifts of grace and freedom. I am thankful for those that call us back to the Bible when we have walked instead down man-made paths.
But I am also sad. The Protestant Reformation and the many, many splits of the church since 1517 are signs that even God’s church is broken. We haven’t lived up to Christ’s dream as he prayed it in John 17: that all who believe in Him would be one; that the church might experience the “perfect unity” of the Triune God. And I confess I am not sure what to do about it, except to pray the same prayer of Jesus, and then when God answers that prayer by building bridges, to be willing to cross the bridge with an open heart and a deep desire for unity.