I grew up celebrating Reformation Day on October 31st (no offense to my Catholic friends out there!). My teen years are peppered with fond memories of dressing up in 16th century garb, eating lentil stew by candlelight, and playing the piano for us to sing Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” together.
But when my sister was a young teen, my mom asked her what she thought of the Reformation, which she had been studying in school.
She responded, “It was a mess!”
Honestly, she was right. Catholics killed Protestants, and Protestants killed other dissenters who disagreed with them. An awful lot of hatred and discord and worse came from this movement many of us celebrate now.
And yet, I believe God used the Reformation, as well as the Catholic reforms that followed it. I’m grateful that I can read the Bible in my own language, don’t have to stay behind a screen when I go to church, and know I can approach the Lord directly for forgiveness through Jesus rather than purchasing an indulgence.
A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
More and more, I’ve realized that history doesn’t have any flawless heroes. Life doesn’t either. And yet, for some reason (and honestly, I don’t always understand why), God chooses to work through us human beings, flawed and messed-up though we are, to bring about His plan of redemption for the world. He chooses to perfect His strength in our weakness.
Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, his name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And because of Jesus, all the hateful schemes of “our ancient foe” must finally be defeated.
Two Sundays ago in church, we sang this hymn, written when many Christians were facing persecution or death for standing up for what they believed. These threats were very real for them.
And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure;
One little word shall fell him.
The final verse we sang a capella. As I stood surrounded by old and young singing with whole-hearted vigor words that believers have sung for hundreds of years in different languages, I thought of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East right now for whom these words are also very real:
That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours, thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.
This beautiful rendition of “A Mighty Fortress” by the choir of Kings College, Cambridge, is dedicated to the Christians of Iraq. I hope you’ll listen, and pray for our brothers and sisters.
So, what is your family/cultural/faith heritage for this time of year? Do you celebrate Reformation Day? All Saints’ Day? Halloween? Please comment and share!