An Anti-Racist Reformation

Perhaps like many of you, I look forward to celebrating Halloween this weekend and next week. Our neighbors host a fantastic Halloween party each year; costumes required, so it is sure to be spooky and crazy fun. 

But what I’m really looking forward to this weekend is wearing red on Sunday. Why? Because it’s Reformation Sunday, and at HTLC we only make a big deal about the Reformation about once every 500 years or so when there’s a big anniversary to celebrate. Recently a former pastor donated a beautiful red chasuble to us, so it’s time to celebrate with Reformation red again. 

Seriously though, a fun fashion opportunity is not the reason we are recognizing the Reformation this year. The church is constantly reforming, re-imagining itself and making changes to be more inclusive for everyone whom God adores. 

The Reformation began in 1517 when Martin Luther challenged the church’s theology about salvation and sacraments. On October 31st he nailed 95 theses (statements or protests) which initiated a religious movement that became known as Protestantism (It’s not just for Lutherans).

Diana Butler Bass, American Christian historian, wrote

It strikes me as interesting that those who followed the teaching of the new reform movement did not come to be known as ‘Reformists,’ instead of ‘Protestants.’ Luther and his associates were protesters rather than reformers—they stood up against the religious conventions of the day, arguing on behalf of those suffering under religious, social and economic oppression. These religious protesters accused the church of their day of being too rich, too political... having sold its soul to the powerful. The original Protestants preached, taught and argued for freedom—spiritual, economic and political—and for God’s justice to be embodied in the church and the world.

It is time to put the protest back in Protestantism.

The heart of Protestantism is the courage to challenge injustice. Protestantism opened access for all people to experience God’s grace and God’s bounty, not only spiritually but actually. The early Protestants believed that they were not only creating a new church, but they were creating a new world, one that would resemble more fully God’s desire for humanity. The original Protestant impulse was to resist powers of worldly dominion and domination in favor of the power of God’s spirit to transform human hearts and society. Protestants were not content with the status quo. They felt a deep discomfort within. They knew things were not right. And they set out to change the world.

This Reformation Sunday we have the opportunity to get our protest on. To challenge injustice. To stand up against racism. To commit to learning about our own place in a racially unjust system.

Maybe you, like me, and like the early reformers, feel a deep discomfort within and know things are not right. Are you ready to set out to change the world? If not the world, to change yourself? We have an opportunity to engage with the Chicago Metro Synod working toward long-term anti-racist congregational transformation. This weekend we will sign a covenant with Another Pebble, the Synod Anti-Racism team, for a two year process of learning, engaging, advocating and changing.   

Join our staff, congregational council, the anti-racism team and the rest of the community in wearing red this weekend to worship. Bring a red pen too. Let’s sign this covenant and begin the good, holy work of protest and reformation that will transform us, our congregation and our world.