Five hundred years ago a priest hurried along the streets, trailing papers and worry. He was late. It was All-Saints’ Day and he was late. He would be reading the gospel message. He tugged his jacket over his shoulder and stooped to grab a handful of papers that had fluttered loose. As he rounded the corner to the church, he skidded to a stop. A press of dark robes were gathered around the door. Over the shoulders the man could see the creamy corner of a paper pinned to the door.*
Five hundred years ago the church woke up to ninety-five reasons why church practice needed to change.
I guess Martin Luther just couldn’t think of five more.
Martin Luther shouted his message from pulpits and lonely towers.
Sola Scriptura. Sola Gratia. Sola Fide.
Scripture, Grace, and Faith are all that is needed. Reason tells us so. A quadrilateral of knowledge, assurance, and courage.
Five hundred years ago, during the rational revolution of the Enlightenment, Martin Luther brought reason to bear on the practice of the church. He brought ninety-five “But Why’s,” and the church shuddered and shattered.
I love reason. If I lived in the quadrilateral, my room would be in the reason wing. Reason has taught me to post my own theses.
Why not me?
Why do it that way?
Why should they be quiet?
But as I curl up in the comfort of Biblical scholarship, I am bothered by the possibility that, in the glory of our reasonability, we have forgotten that beauty is found in balance. I love the spirit of the Reformation, but has the Christian church simply shaken off one empire for another?
A question asked to the solidity of history.
An answer delivered on the wind.
Get wisdom; get insight: do not forget, nor turn away
from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
love her, and she will guard you.
(Proverbs 4:5–6 NRSV)
Reason, so masculine and solid, must be joined by Wisdom, feminine and conversational. We must look back at the Reformation and ask, what wisdom have we gained? What truth have we learned? How have we, as a church, become more courageous and more kind?
And from wisdom and reason, we must ask: what now?
* This is historical fiction. For those of you hitting reply with aggrieved accuracy meters.
Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:
This practice is found in the Clarify curriculum available in the MWF store.
Three General Rules Examen
Published in 1743, The Nature, Design, and General Rules of our United Societies, was a foundational document for John Wesley and the Early Methodists. The document provided a structure for the rapid growth of Methodism that was spreading throughout the British Isles.
The document includes three “general rules” that are still used today:
1. Do no harm
2. Do good
3. Stay in love with God: attend upon all the ordinances of God
This week, Select and schedule two nights when you can practice a form of Spiritual Examen that involves the three general rules:
First begin with a couple minutes of silence, creating room to acknowledge God’s Spirit. If you have access to lighting a candle, this could be a good way to start your time of silence.
Next, reflect on what you experienced over your day. Recall the interactions you had with yourself and with others.
Think about where you avoided or were involved in harm. Did you witness or experience any harm yourself today? How did you “do no harm” in your interactions with other people today?
Where did you “do good” today? What thoughts, words, or actions reflected God’s goodness at work within you and within other people today?
How has God met you in prayer (personal or communal), worship, reading scripture, Holy Communion, or other avenues through which God’s grace is extended to you? Where do you feel God calling you to grow spiritually in the coming days?
How to Connect:
In the liturgical calendar, Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas, marks the start of a new year. A new cycle. A new incarnation of what it means to be living in a world with the human and the Divine. Again, this year, a new liturgical journey begins with Advent, a season of preparation, and the Missional Wisdom Foundation would like for you to join us on an exploration into who and what the incarnate Christ is and was: Advent Incarnate.
There will be a few ways to engage in this journey.
Read the MWF newsletter. Each week The Wisdom for the Way will explore the theology of incarnation.
Enroll in the Advent Incarnate Journey Course. This course will be an asynchronous (meaning you can take it at your own pace) four-module course designed to give the participant more resources on incarnational theology and a chance to discuss and reflect. This free course will open for registration in mid-November.
Join me on Facebook Live. I will be doing Facebook Live discussions with Luke Lingle on each week’s Wisdom for the Way writings. These will be Thursdays at 9:00 pm eastern time each week of Advent. I will be chatting from my writer’s page: Andrea Lingle. Just search for @alingle from within Facebook.
Form an in-person or Incarnational Group. The Incarnational Group Guide will have four liturgies to follow, will guide the group through setting an intention of service, and will work well for children, adults, or a mix of both. If you have a group who would like to use this study this Advent, please go to our store for free download.