I Corinthians 3:4-7: For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.
Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021 is Reformation Sunday, the day that commemorates the great reformers of the Christian church. We commemorate it because Martin Luther and others saw the church becoming a destructive place and wanted it to correct its abuses from within—abuses originating in the Roman leadership. Luther wanted the church to get back to the heart of the gospel and look to scripture alone for the rule of practice. Earthly leaders in the church were espousing false doctrines and instituting practices including the sale of indulgences—in other words, paying money to absolve oneself of sin or spring the soul of a loved one who was suffering in purgatory. Luther and others saw the church and its practices getting woefully sidetracked and he called the Roman leadership on the carpet by hanging his 95 theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany. This act is widely regarded as the primary catalyst for the Protestant Reformation.
Now great as Martin Luther and other reformers were, they were very human. Luther never wanted schism—he never wanted the following of Lutherans, wonderful as they are. He wanted to keep the Roman church intact and correct what he perceived were its wrongs. But people are always so inclined to follow and align themselves behind earthly leaders. Not much changes through the centuries—it’s always the same thing over and over again, even all the way back to the church in Corinth, where the church threatened to spit into the camps of Apollos or Paul. Yet scripture continually calls us to rise above our human inclinations to follow flesh and blood rather than look to God as our teacher, our Father/Mother, and Messiah. The goal of the Christian leader is simply to direct us to Christ and to equip and encourage parishioners to minister and evangelize in this world. Two of the reasons I love the UCC is that we acknowledge Christ as its sole head, and we are all called ministers of the church. Let us therefore look to Christ, serve one another, and bring people into the church!
Grace and Peace,