It is highly unlikely that any of you will have not noticed by now that 2017 celebrates 500 years since the Reformation began. It is 500 years since Martin Luther first pinned his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, asking awkward questions and posing controversial challenges to the Christian church as he knew it. Various celebrations to mark the anniversary have been going on up and down the country and you will be pleased to see elsewhere in this Newsletter that Churches Together in Orpington are holding their own special united service of worship on the evening of Sunday 5th November in which Christians from all traditions represented in our town can come together and give thanks for what Luther achieved.
You may feel that this is a rather tactless celebration. After all, it seems that Luther’s main achievement was a huge division in the Christian church between Catholics and Protestants that has never yet healed… But the celebratory service in Orpington was initiated by our friends at Holy Innocent’s Roman Catholic Church, who are also hosting the service. All Christians regret the social and religious turmoil which resulted from the Reformation and all acknowledge that it was as much, if not more, about politics than it was about religion.
But all, too, acknowledge the value of what Luther did. For Luther made it “OK” to ask questions about your faith. He gave every Christian believer a voice. He reminded Christian men and women that, in Christ Jesus, they had been given the right to become children of God (John chapter 1) and that this was a right given directly by God and not by those with power in the church or State. Coinciding as it did with the birth of the printing press and an increasing level of literacy amongst the European population, the Reformation was able to make the Bible widely available and to encourage people to engage with its teachings. All branches of the church became “reformed” in one sense or another as all realised that God was still speaking and that his people could be freshly inspired and empowered. The Reformation is worth celebrating - let’s make a real effort to be there with our fellow Christians on 5th November.
Luther made it “OK” to ask questions about faith. You may also have noticed that this year’s Harvest Lunch is going to be slightly different because it has been turned into a FAQ event (food and questions). We are inviting anyone who wishes to come along to the lunch and ask questions they may have about the Christian faith. Lunch will be a buffet to enable people to circulate more freely and several members of the congregation have agreed to wear a badge saying, “Ask me,” making themselves available to answer questions. We all know that for many questions there is no single answer or no simple answer. But some people are not necessarily looking for answers but for the space to ask questions and to be heard. It can even be quite reassuring to hear someone give the answer “I don’t know” to a question you have asked because at least you do not then feel that you have been a fool for asking it! So - Food And Questions - come and celebrate Luther’s way of “doing church.”
With love and good wishes to you all,