Monday, October 31, 2005

Reformation and remembrance

Memento, Domine...

It's always fascinating to me that the weekend of October 31st becomes a triple-commemoration. It is Halloween - a time of laughter and sugar-highs for American kids. It is All Souls' Day - a time of remembrance for all those who have died, both in the last year and in years gone by. And in the Lutheran tradition, it is Reformation Day - a recollection of the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany.

For me, Halloween was the signal of the end of good weather - when I was growing up in Buffalo, snow or sleet were our trick-or-treat companions as often as not on Halloween night, and we wore winter coats under our costumes. It seemed to be the end of the beauty of autumn, and the beginning of the long winter (really long, in Buffalo terms).

All Soul's Day was a tradition I picked up after I came back to church in 1990 - a remembrance of those who have died, and a time to give thanks for having "a season in their path," as Wayne Watson would say.

But today, I remember Reformation Day not so much as the trigger to a movement in the greater Church, but the day a broken 33 year old walked into church for the first time in 17 years - utterly convinced that I was more in need of "reformation" than anyone else in that sanctuary.

I've since come to learn just how "terminally unique" I was that first day. I have come to believe that the church is a hospital for sinners, and not (as it so often seems) a country-club for saints. And I've also learned that there can be deadliness in the ritualistic practice of empty forms, as well as great beauty and power in them.

My friend Tom Scharbach posted a comment last week about my writings on the church that bears repeating: I grew up without the concept of "church". I grew up born into a "people", who needed no further attachment to each other or God, and who gathered to study, to learn how to live ethically as the "people". So I missed the idea of "church" -- whatever it is that substitutes for being born to a "people" in Christian thinking -- altogether.

I've come to see that the primary need for us is to find that understanding of being "people of God" in community. I don't have the luxury/curse of a ethnically-based culture that identifies me as part of "a people" - that is, not outside of the church.

I'm trusting - and praying - that the Presence of God can be a powerful, transforming "re-former"...that in God's hands, I (and whatever church in which I find a home) will be formed anew, day by day, according to the plan of the One who brings us together. I'd rather be "reformed" than "reform-ing," but it appears that God is not done with me - or the church - just yet. And I guess I'm grateful for that, today.

And today I remember Joe and Helen, my parents; Laura, my paternal grandmother; Skip B., my best friend from high-school; "the other Steve F.," Todd L., and so many more whose lives have ended, but whose influence continues across the ages. Rest in peace...


Rick said...

That was beautiful. Thanks.

Lorna said...

my sentiments too

church to be re-formed, re-made, made whole I love it :)