Doug and Shane Fritz, his wife, who were among the founding builders of Boardman’s Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, invited us to the German Dinner at their new church, “Calvary Lutheran” — a Missouri Synod church in Stayton — last week. Shane had just returned from visiting Luther’s monastery in Germany as a way of celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
Shane had created a marvelous slide show of her visit depicting Luther’s journey from being a neophyte monk to being an enemy of the Pope who commanded a loyalty of the German nobility, and had revealed the true words of the Bible in the peoples’ tongue.
This is the year of new beginnings. Can there be a renewal of Reformation?
Doug Fritz is one of the most jovial people I have ever met, loaded with a farmer’s energy and the intelligence and compassion of a teacher. You can see him in the mind’s eye behind either a plow or a bulldozer. Doug is reminding me of the Prophet, making the way straight. It was a joy to meet with them and share the life of this church in Boardman this year and the one before.
Doug is a reformer too.
My wife received an invitation by Salem’s central Seventh-day Adventist church this coming weekend, an event also celebrating the liberating power of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, at 7 p.m. October 27-29. It is good to think that this ties us together.
The Reformation was the liberation of the Gospel of Christ into the people’s possession and it changed everything. Instead of a church making up reasons for people to make payment to the church, such as telling people that people’s ancestors can be sprung from the half-hell of purgatory by a donation to the coffers of the church, it actually became a true conveyor of the word. It proclaimed!
The Catholic Church was truly helped and galvanized by this action, even though its fiscally minded rulers didn’t think so at the time. It is different now. Even today, the still living Pope Benedict is regarded as one of the greatest Lutheran scholars, and he made a pilgrimage to the monastery in Erfurt, where Luther studied and prayed and received his revelation of understanding, in 2011.
Truly the church in its large diversity and many versions is beginning to return to a wholeness, which truly it hasn’t seen before. It is beginning to like itself more and be kind to its people more.
This last Friday, in the darkness, in my own tiny corner of the church in Aurora, my friends and I started our Church of the Night, a contemplative service using improvised flute, keyboard playing Taize songs, centering prayer and a brief lectionary and concise sermon — a service designed for people living with little time available.
To my surprise, the service was enjoyed and workable, and it brought out of its innards a surprising feeling of great peace. It was a bright, singing peace that carved out the darkness with Jesus’ presence.
May these 500 years mark a new beginning of Christ’s work in the world and of our redoubled efforts to call out his name out loud in song!
Colin Brown is the former pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Boardman.