Hello from Southwind! As you read this I’ll be with about 300 middle schoolers at camp for a week. I am honored to be the evening speaker this week. I look forward to all that comes with being at camp- playing in the mud pit, Ultimate Frisbee games, and lots of conversations. But I am most excited to be able to share the good news with so many middle schoolers. Please pray that God will use his Word this week to touch the hearts of those present.
Word: The Spirituality of the Reformers
The power of the Reformation was in its unwavering commitment to the common people. The reformers were determined to provide opportunities for all people to read God’s word and experience the saving power of Christ.
“During the Middle Ages the altar functioned as the center of worship, both in church architecture and in church practice, for it was there that the priest celebrated the Mass. In the Reformation the pulpit took the altar’s place. Preaching the Word of God emerged as the center-piece of Reformation worship, though not to the neglect of the sacraments, which made visible what preaching made understandable.” (Sittser 210).
Preaching became the primary responsibility for pastors. Reformation leaders such as Martin Luther and John Calvin preached thousands of sermons over the course of their lives. Each sermon was meant to be direct, understandable, and easily applied to one’s life.
During the time of the Reformation, many churches experienced corrupt clergy who put more of a burden on the common people. One example of this came in the form of indulgences. Priests would advertise to the congregation that their deceased loved ones were stuck in purgatory and needed them to buy their way out. A donation to the church would assure that their souls would make it to heaven. They even came up with their own advertising slogans! “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs.” (Sittser 216)
It was in response to this abuse (among others) that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses. The theses were essentially changes that Luther demanded from the church in order to become a more faithful body. Luther was excommunicated from the Catholic church and became a leading figure in the Reformation movement.
In light of this, Reformation preachers were expected to avoid corruption by living by the same principles that they preached. “Calvin was adamant about this point. It was simply unacceptable to him that preachers would presume to expound the Word without applying it to themselves. ‘It would be better for him to break his neck going up into the pulpit if he does not take pains to be the first to follow God.'” (Sittser 225).
The example of the reformers encourage us to immerse ourselves in God’s Word. After all, it is God’s gift to us.