500 years ago this week, Martin Luther submitted 95 theses for a public debate about the state of the church. The traditional view is that he nailed them to a church door in Wittenberg, but this is very unlikely. He may have stuck them on the door with wax or glue, or he may not have put them on the door at all. But nevertheless, October 31, All Hallows Eve or All Saints Eve, marks a huge turning point in history.
For most of the past 500 years, there has been little more than mutual suspicion and derision between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations, and between the Protestant denominations themselves. In fact, in my first parish, I heard stories from some church elders that their pastor told them not to marry Catholics, since they were going to hell. And the sentiment was reciprocated.
But: over the past 50 years, a kind of miracle has happened. It gathered strength during Vatican II, which began major reforms in the Catholic church. Generations of theologians, bishops, and pastors worked to over come centuries of suspicion and hate. They produced a document called the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, which claimed that the central question of the Reformation, the question of how God makes us righteous, was resolved. And a year ago, Pope Francis went to one the most symbolically rich centers of Lutheranism in Uppsala, Sweden, to worship and pray with Lutherans and Catholics and celebrate the progress we have all made together in Christ.
Tonight, at 7:30 p.m., OSA welcomes our Catholic brothers and sisters from Our Lady Queen of Martyrs and other parishes, as we celebrate our unity in Christ and the ongoing reconciliation engaging us. The worship service will be bilingual, English and Spanish, and will feature a couple songs by our choir.
Please come. And if you can’t, please come on Sunday for our Reformation celebration. Wear red!