Faith and family
Connections Magazine Sept/Oct 2017
by Marcus J. Carlson
This year we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Refor- mation. While the Reformation occurred over many years, we mark 1517 as its primary year. We also, in the Christian church, mark October as the month of the Reformation cel- ebration. This year, I had the privilege of leading a Reforma- tion tour in Germany where we visited many of the sites of the Reformation. We saw Luther’s home, went to Wittenberg where the 95 Theses were nailed to the door, and went to the church where Luther did most of his preaching. It was a fun, powerful and meaningful experience.
The Reformation tour also opened my eyes in a new and deeper way to the true power of this movement in history. We forget that we have our church because of this movement. We forget that we have the Scriptures in our hands because of this movement. The abuses, brokenness and corruption in the church leading up to the reformation are well documented; however, we do not always recognize the tremendous negative impact that they had on the people.
As a part of this tour, we also went to Italy, including Rome. There I got to see the Sistine chapel, one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring sites I have ever seen. Ten minutes in that room was worth the entire trip across the ocean. As a part of that time, we also saw St. Peter’s, one of the most elaborate, largest and most beautiful churches I have ever seen. That said, as I was walking through this church, I could not help thinking about where the money to build it came from. I remembered how the indulgences or “guilt money” from mostly the poor people built this massive structure. I say this not to be critical, but to point out that history is something we have to be aware of, but more importantly, revisit.
In this church and others we visited, we found many kneelers where people could pray. Something was di erent about these kneelers though. They each had a coin slot. Perhaps they were just there to give people a chance to give to the upkeep of the church, but the message they sent was that one had to pay to pray. It was a stark reminder to me that while the Reformation changed much in the church of Jesus Christ, we still need reform.
Sometimes I wonder if the church needs a good reformation every 500 years or so. We have lost our way in many ways — from straying from Scripture to trying to ght a culture war instead of reaching people with the Good News of Jesus, to focusing on self-preservation and the perpetuation of our traditions instead of bringing the Gospel to our communities and the world.
Today, in most churches, the people with the most money carry the most power. Today, in most churches, we expect outsiders to come to us and to quickly behave and act like us. While these are not exactly the corruptions of 500 years ago, they are things that could use a bit of reform. The truth is that the church of Jesus Christ — including the Lutheran Church — has lost its focus, particularly in North America and Europe.
The church is not the only American institution that could use a bit of reform today; the family is another institution that could use reform as well. We all recognize the family faces many challenges in our world and culture. In most cases, I nd people focused on casting blame for this problem rather than looking for, naming and being part of solutions to bring health and reformation to our families. Some blame the government for the woes of the family, while others blame culture, the media, technology, parents or a variety of other factors for the challenges the family faces as an institution today.
As a researcher, pastor and parent, I can tell you that not one of these things is responsible for the challenges the family faces in American today. I can also share with con dence that focusing on whom to blame for our problems will not help us bring the change we all yearn and pray for.
I had the honor and great privilege of being a part of a project with Sola, the NALC and Thrivent that is a celebration of the Reformation and a resource for all churches and families for the reform of our families in our churches and communities. This project is called Holy Families (learn more at holyfamilytime.com). This resource is not the reason for this article; however I have found that if I highlight problems, I should also share solutions and resources for the problem to the best of my ability.
What is needed most in our families today is support and encouragement from the church and from all adults who follow Jesus. Our children and youth need many more healthy adult relationships today than ever. Sadly, the trend is heading in the other direction as most children and youth have far fewer adults invested in their lives than any generation in history. So often, the most complex problems have the simplest solutions. As is always the case, the solution to any problem is found in the Scriptures.
From the very beginning, God created us to be in relationship with Him, with the world and with one another. From the beginning, God gave parents a special role and a unique calling when He created the family. It is also clear throughout Scripture that parents are not the only ones who solely in uence children. The church was created to be in part a community of faith and a family. The church and its people have an obligation and calling to care for and minister to the children and youth of their church AND their community.
You see, we are all in this together, whether we are happy about it or not. We need each other. The parents in your churches and communities need you. The children and youth in your churches and communities need you. Together, by the grace of God, we can bring the healthy reform to our churches, communities and families we yearn for, the reform they need, and the reform God desires for them. In order to do that we must be committed to doing it together.
God gave us a gift in the Reformation, but it was a gift not meant to be celebrated as only a historical moment. It was a gift to be embraced as a mindset and posture. Anyone who is a disciple is one who is continually becoming more like Jesus, continually being transformed and continually reforming.
We found reform in the Reformation, but we were also given a vision to be a people of God who are reformed and always reforming.
Marcus J. Carlson
is an ordained pastor (LCMC & NALC), with a Doctor of Ministry focused in family ministry. He currently serves as Senior Pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Auburn, IN. He and his wife, Jessica, have two children.
For more on this topic, contact Marcus at:
or visit his website at:www.revdrorange.com