Monday, October 31, 2016

Saints and heroes of the Reformation

For Lutherans, this is a particularly poignant day in the church calendar. Today is Reformation Day — the 499th anniversary of Martin Luther posting (or at least circulating) his 95 Theses.

At the same time, tomorrow is the feast of All Saints — a celebration we inherited from the undivided Western (i.e. Roman Catholic) church. Non-liturgical Christians — often referred to as those who worship in the “Evangelical”† style — generally have a strong suspicion of anything Catholic.

I have argued that traditional Lutherans and Anglicans are the most moderate of the Protestant denominations, because we harken back to the undivided Church, and didn’t re-acquire the sin of iconoclasm. Unlike extreme Calvinists and other Radical Reformers, we did not throw out the baby with the bathwater over our differences with Rome.

Thus our daughter Katy (a cradle Anglo-Catholic) and my niece Erin (a cradle Roman Catholic) have had mixed feelings attending Christian universities with an decidedly Evangelical† bent. From a social-cultural standpoint, they enjoy being surrounded by (at least nominal) Christians. But when it comes to the required chapel service, what they attend only vaguely resembles the historic liturgy that they grew up with.

Thus my daughter was ecstatic this morning when her mandatory college chapel acknowledged these two key dates on the liturgical calendar:
I was so excited when I heard the organ playing when I walked in and then we sang 2 hymns …For all the Saints and Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing  …And then there was a postlude without singing - A Mighty Fortress is Our God. … It was just great. It was even slightly liturgical. §
If the Evangelical† worship can teach us to be sensitive to new members and non-believers, perhaps we liturgical Christians can bear witness to the historic liturgy, liturgical calendar and liturgical music.

† Note: here I use “Evangelical” in a cultural/liturgical sense, rather than to refer to those (Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant) Christians who seek to spread the Good News of our Risen Lord.

§ While unexpected, these three hymns are officially sanctioned at her Baptist university, as all are included in the 1975 Baptist Hymnal

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