Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Reformation Day

Today, October 31, is Reformation Day. It's also Halloween, but I'll ignore that in this post.

Reformation Day is when we remember the Protestant reformation of the 1500's, when Martin Luther and others discovered and taught that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Recently I went to a Roman Catholic church for the funeral of a friend. As we entered, the organist was playing standard Protestant hymns, such as "Amazing Grace." Then, when it was time to begin, the choir director stood up and told us that "Catholic worship is by its nature participatory." Every song was sung either by the congregation as a whole or responsively between choir and congregation or between soloist and congregation. In the music, the words (all in English) were obviously more important than the beat. Many of the words were paraphrases of scripture. The dead man's children read passages of scripture aloud (one was from one of the books that's accepted by Catholics but not by Protestants). The service was still Catholic in theology, but in the entire service, the virgin Mary was mentioned only once. The presumption seemed to be that our departed friend was in heaven through the merits of Jesus, though the service did include prayers for the man who'd died.

In so many ways, that was a "reformed" worship service: common-language, participatory, emphasis on the merits of Jesus, scripture read, filled with hope. The reformation has, in the end, had a good effect on that Roman Catholic church. May the reformation in those churches continue and flourish until they see fully the grace that is available through faith in Jesus.

By contrast, I believe the Protestant churches in the USA could use another reformation. Some of them (especially many mega-churches) seem to be based not on "only grace, only faith, only Christ," but on "only self, only money, only worshiptainment."

Then there are other churches that have taken the reformation much too far, ending up not only rejecting the Pope's authority, but rejecting Biblical truth.

A third, smaller group of churches are so dedicated to the reformation that they've fossilized in the 16th century. They are more dedicated to Calvinism (or maybe to Lutheranism) than to the Lord.

Still, Reformation Day is worth marking. If we are saved, it is indeed by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)

Prayer: Lord, thank you for those who have called your church back to truth. May I live in the light of your scripture, through faith in Jesus Christ. Deliver me from faith in myself, from faith in my works, from faith in faith itself. Be my heart's focus.

Vine and Fig

Monday, October 23, 2006

Prayer for Holiness

Pierce me, Father, with your word.
Cut away my sin.
Shine your light in each dark place
Hidden deep within.

Wash me, Father, by your grace.
Make me fresh and clean
By the blood of Jesus Christ--
Mercy shown and seen.

Discipline me in your love,
Straightening what's wrong.
Set my broken spirit's bones
'Til it's firm and strong.

Grow me, Father, by your grace
Through the means you give.
Magnify your holy name
As through you I live.

--© 2006, Jim Swindle
Non-profit reproduction of up to 100 copies along with this notice IS permitted.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Too Popular

This morning our pastor spoke about John 9:13-34, the healing of the man born blind, and analyzed the man as an example of a faithful witness. One line of his sermon hit home with me. He said it's sad for people who claim to know Christ to be willing and wanting to be loved by people who hate Jesus.

All too often, I've wanted everyone to love me. Our pastor further pointed out that if we've really experienced a change through Jesus, we'll be reluctant to deny it.

This idea of being liked by everyone is one of the plagues of the American evangelical church today. The church is afraid to tell people the truths that they don't want to hear. They don't want to hear that God is not a Republican nor a Democrat. They don't want to hear that God doesn't want everyone rich, at least not today. They don't want to hear that God has standards for morality and for sexuality and for responding to the poor and the aliens. They don't want to hear that the Lord has promised no other salvation than through Jesus.

Lord, remind me of what you've done for me...and give me courage to let people know that anything good they see in me is only through Jesus.

Vine and Fig

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Vine and Fig - Intro

This blog will have comments on Christianity, the Bible, and society, as well as including poems from time to time.

My plan is to post something every couple of weeks, if not more frequently.