On All Hallow’s Eve in 1517 Martin Luther raised concerns about what he saw as abuses in the Roman Church of his time, by making public his 95 theses. 2017 is the 500th anniversary of this key event in the reformation movements that marked the life of the Western Church over several centuries. This event has been a controversial theme in inter-church relations in Germany over the last few years. The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) has been building up to this anniversary since 2008, by focusing each year on one particular aspect of the Reformation, for example: the Reformation and Politics, or the Reformation and Education. The EKD also invited its ecumenical partners at various levels to help commemorate the events of 1517.
After extensive, and sometimes difficult, discussions, the churches in Germany agreed that the way to commemorate ecumenically this Reformation event should be with a Christusfest – a Celebration of Christ. If the emphasis were to be placed on Jesus Christ and his work of reconciliation as the center of Christian faith, then all the ecumenical partners of the EKD (the Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Baptists, Methodists, Mennonites and others) would agree to participate in the anniversary festivities. From this context emerges the strong theme of the 2017 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: “Reconciliation – ‘The Love of Christ Compels Us’” (2 Corinthians 5:14). It will also be our theme at St. John’s United Church of Christ this week.
As the Great Reformation started on the Eve of All Saints Day we will combine these two themes in our service on Sunday, October 30th, 2016. The reconciliation that God works covers the living and the dead. A special candle will be lit as a symbol of our hope for resurrection for everyone who died since last year’s service. Following these highlighted individuals everybody may come forward to light a candle for anyone they may miss dearly.
We celebrate the reconciliation that God provides and from there we also acknowledged that we were given the ministry of reconciliation. A lighted candle is a deeply human symbol: it enlightens the darkness, creates warmth, security and community. It symbolizes Christ, the light of the world. As ambassadors for Christ we will carry this light into the world, into the dark places where fighting, discord and division impede our united witness. May Christ’s light effect reconciliation in our thoughts, words and deeds. Receive the Light of Christ and carry it into the dark places of our world! Be ministers of reconciliation! Be ambassadors for Christ!