This Sunday has two celebrations for several of our member churches:
The New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has a web page up for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The anniversary is usually celebrated close to October 31. This was the day in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.
Of course, as we saw in the movie Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World, Christians of all kinds, not just Lutherans, celebrate this anniversary. For Protestants it is an important turning point in history that lead to the birth of our many denominations. For Catholics, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, the era of Reformation was also a time for transformation and renewal within the Catholic Church.
As you prepare to preach, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s words may help:
Here is the Gospel that Luther discovered and that set him free. This is the truth that forms us into God’s liberated people. It is God’s promise that the former things are past. That the new covenant means not just a fresh start or another try for humankind, not just a little tweaking or a new page on a report card, no keeping account of future sins, but a sovereign promise pure and simple. In Christ, the one who is true, we are free.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester will celebrate Priesthood Sunday on October 26. There are resources for celebrating priests on PriestSunday.org. John Vlazny, Archbishop of Portland, writes:
The reasons for this celebration (of Priesthood Sunday) should be obvious. The number of priests per Catholic has declined over the past 40 years. This makes it more difficult for individual parishioners to establish a close relationship with any one particular priest. When I was growing up, our pastor served in our parish for 34 years. My mom and dad knew him well. His presence and service were significant factors in the story of my own vocation. Furthermore, priests are no longer the only ones who offer pastoral care to our people. Yet without a priest, no parish is able to be a Eucharistic community. It is important to reaffirm the importance of the priesthood of Jesus Christ and its central place in the life of our Church.
To celebrate the Catholic priesthood and the Reformation might seem strange to some, but the Council of Churches recognizes that the spiritual renewal of congregations and their leaders is an ongoing need for all Christians.