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September 14, 2017, 3:46 PM

Commemorating the Reformation

On Sunday, September 24th, the Southeast Michigan Synod will have its first of two commemoration services at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Flint (the other is on Saturday, October 28 at Zion Lutheran in Ann Arbor) with the two Roman Catholic diocese that overlap the Synod’s territory.  But what does this really mean, and why is such a commemoration important?

First, it is important to say that this is NOT a celebration.  We are not celebrating division in the church.  Instead, it is a commemoration—an acknowledgment that the church’s past is far from perfect and a hope that we can move past division and toward healing.   And so we gather for prayer together—to listen to the Holy Spirit and pray that God would continue to reform our hearts through the mercy and grace evidenced through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

At the heart of this service are five commitment that come from the Vatican and Lutheran World Federation document, From Conflict to Communion. They are:

1.  Our first commitment: Catholics and Lutherans should always begin from the
perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division in order to strengthen what is held in common even though the differences are more easily seen and experienced. (#239).

2.  Our second commitment: Lutherans and Catholics must let themselves continuously be transformed by the encounter with the other and by the mutual witness of faith. (#240)

3.  Our third commitment: Catholics and Lutherans should again commit themselves to seek visible unity, to elaborate together what this means in concrete steps, and to strive repeatedly toward this goal. (#241)

4. Our fourth commitment: Lutherans and Catholics should jointly rediscover the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ for our time. (#242)

5. Our fifth commitment: Catholics and Lutherans should witness together to the mercy of God in proclamation and service to the world. (#243).

As you can see, these commitments are not theological statements suggesting one side was right and the other side was wrong—because quite simply, it’s about Jesus, and his love for the world.  That is what reforms us each day—the love and mercy of God.  Indeed, that is reformation at its best.  As From Conflict to Communion says:

The beginnings of the Reformation will be rightly remembered when Lutherans and Catholics hear together the gospel of Jesus Christ and allow themselves to be called anew into community with the Lord. Then they will be united in a common mission which the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification describes: “Lutherans and Catholics share the goal of confessing Christ in all things, who alone is to be trusted above all things as the one Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5f) through whom God in the Holy Spirit gives himself and pours out his renewing gifts” (#245).

-Pr. Nathan

**The numbers following each quote are paragraph references to the document, From Conflict to Communion.  It is available online for download here

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