For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” – Romans 1:17
Today in the Episcopal calendar of saints, we remember the pastor and reformer Martin Luther. While he was not the only person responsible for what we call the Protestant Reformation, his writing and teaching on the Bible and faith were extremely influential in changes in the church in the 1500s. We might recall that he is responsible for nailing a list of 95 theses, or discussion points, to a church door. He was questioning the practice of selling indulgences, which were sort of tickets you could buy to get out of punishment for your sins. He thought that people should not be earning or buying their salvation or good place with God. Luther proposed that Christians were called to live by faith and that God’s grace, not good deeds, is what leads one to salvation.
Early reformers like Martin Luther and Argula von Grumbach (another of our Episcopal saints) tirelessly worked to bring the good news of God’s liberating and loving grace to all. Thankfully, we know today the importance of grace and faith are central to what we know to be Christian belief and practice.
At times, there was a lot of controversy with their work, and sometimes they, like their detractors, didn’t speak or write with graciousness and love. I’ve been thinking about how much of today’s speech and writing can often seem to be very polarized, such as some yard signs we’ve seen from time to time. We too, like Luther, want to post a big, long list of our ideas and have others agree with us. In all the debates about masks and foreign policy and education and so many topics, we are asked to take a side and stick to it.
Sometimes, I find it’s really easy to get committed to a position and be unwilling to waver from it. I could tell you about when I was 16 years old and I refused to go back to a school where I had announced I would be leaving because of my family’s move. My dad’s job transfer got delayed but because I felt I couldn’t go back on my word, I switched to another school for one semester.
But this year I’ve been pondering how to be more present and more flexible, more open and gracious. I subscribe to Enneagram Institute EnneaThought of the Day and as I was reading and writing this reflection on Martin Luther, I received this Thought of the Day for my Enneagram type, the Reformer. (You can see why I connect with Martin Luther and Argula von Grumbach!) (And if you’re interested in exploring the Enneagram, we have a wonderful Lenten program planned.)
Today, see if you can do the opposite of your ordinary personality pattern. Give up trying to be right and see what happens. –EnneaThought of the Day, February 16
That thought hit me hard. I love to be right. I love to reform myself—and sometimes I want to reform others. But sometimes—or most of the time—we need a hug, not a lecture. We need grace, not a debate. What might happen if we give up trying to be right? As one of Luther’s favorite verses says, “the righteous will live by faith.” Not by being right or by debate. But by faith and grace. I’m so grateful for this year’s theme of “Faith Matters,” because the more we live, the more we see that faith, not rightness, is what will give us the grace to reform and renew ourselves and partner with the Holy Spirit, to bring light and life to the world.
O God, our refuge and our strength, who raised up your servant Martin Luther to reform and renew your church in the light of your word: Defend and purify the church in our own day and grant that, through faith, we may boldly proclaim the riches of your grace, which you have made known in Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The Rev. Emily Zimbrick-Rogers