Always Being Reformed
by Kim Allen, Director of SHINE Children's Ministry
When was the last time you got to celebrate a 500th anniversary? Well, here’s your chance, because that’s exactly what will happen this month as we commemorate the official beginning of the Protestant Reformation. On October 31, 1517, a German monk in the village of Wittenberg nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the church door and life in the Western world changed forever. He didn’t have Facebook or Twitter, but his “post” invited others to a conversation on problems within the Roman Catholic Church at the time. Little did he know it was a spark that would eventually grow into a wildfire across Europe and the New World.
We celebrate the Reformation on this day because of Martin Luther’s courageous act but in reality, the Reformation was brought about by hundreds of seemingly small obediences of the church for decades. Prior to Luther’s lifetime, there had been other “reformers”, other believers who challenged the status quo and fought for a return to a biblical view of life and worship and rejected the prevailing cultural ideology. Some of them were also famous-- but most were not. Most of them were ordinary people who sought to walk in obedience to God’s commands, wherever they found themselves.
In Tish Harrison Warren’s book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, she dispels the notion that reform is some huge breakthrough of significant proportions. Rather, she gives us glimpses into daily life--brushing our teeth, making the bed, sweeping the kitchen, sitting in traffic--that can have profound significance for us and those who live, play and work in our immediate surroundings. These ideas imply that reform is a gradual, daily deposit of grace--not some lightning bolt experience of instant change. Ah, there’s the rub for us 21st-century folks. We are in process, and most of the time, it is barely recognizable. But that doesn’t mean God is not at work.
In a reference to William Wilberforce, the English abolitionist who fought to end the slave trade, Warren credits those fellow citizens who had made personal choices that lent momentum to the movement. She comments, “I am struck by how Wilberforce, though his work was essential, could not have done what he did without thousands of nameless saints who made tiny, daily choices that mattered profoundly, even though they were unsung, unnoticed and ordinary. The slave trade was crippled, not because of a few heroes, but because thousands upon thousands of peacemakers made little choices that shone, light upon tiny light, which God used to overcome the darkness. Each time we make a small choice . . . we pass the peace where we are in the ways that we can. And God can take these ordinary things . . . and change the world.”
In our daily schedules, we can easily forget that our mundane and ordinary choices are making an impact. But even more incredible, these choices are forming us. Our habits and routines shape us, for better or worse, into the people that we become. This overwhelms me as I think of my ingratitude and complaining, my laziness and apathy, my gossip and bitterness. Ouch.
But there is hope for us. As a matter of fact, the Bible promises believers that we are always being reformed as we seek to know and obey Him and His word (Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:9-10; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24). This should encourage us that what God has started, He will complete, both in us and in the world. The Reformation, although begun 500 years ago, is still happening today. God is more than able to reform us in our homes, our cars and our jobs. He desires to give us grace upon grace, which is new every morning, that we may in turn make small choices in ordinary ways and change the world, one tiny light at a time.
The Breadbox is our Children's Ministry email. This monthly publication arrives chock-full information about SHINE, but also tips and resources on how you can disciple your small people.