Dear Partners in Ministry,
As I write this article, the excitement over Pope Francisí trip to the United States has exploded all over the media. Thousands and thousands of people have traveled to Washington D.C. - and will travel to Philadelphia in hopes of catching a glimpse of him. Thereís lots of enthusiasm for the Popeís pastoral emphasis on the mercy of God. Polls indicate lapsed Roman Catholics are taking another look at their church because of the more pastoral (instead of doctrinal) attitude of this pontiff. A new wind is blowing through the Roman Catholic Church and the people are hopeful that some things are going to change. And itís happening! For instance, here in Pittsburgh, the Diocese has just announced that the cost for the annulment of a marriage has been eliminated in an effort to help those parishioners whose marriages have ended in divorce, so they can once again receive the sacrament.
This is called reforming the church, something we Lutherans know a bit about. In fact, that is one of the emphases that we Lutherans bring to the ecumenical table when we are talking to our brothers and sisters in the faith. Our tradition is grounded in our understanding that, as believers and as the church of Jesus Christ, we are constantly in need of being reformed by the Word of God. This is not just change for changeís sake. Itís based upon our understanding that we are all ďsinful and fall short of the glory of GodĒ Ė personally and institutionally. We rely on the Holy Spirit to work faith in us, to call us, to gather us, to sanctify and keep us in the faith. Both as individual believers and as a community of faith, we know that while we are on this good earth, we continue to be both saint and sinner. Godís work on and for us is never over. Godís Word continually speaks to us, shaping us and transforming us into the laborers God needs in his vineyard.
It been 498 years ago (October 31, 1517) since a German professor of Old Testament studies, by the name of Martin Luther, composed 95 statements for debate, calling the Roman Catholic Church of that time to examine itself and to address certain practices and doctrinal positions that needed reforming, according to Godís Word. Change is never easy and Lutherís call for reform resulted in a major division in the western church, known as the Protestant Reformation. That is the origin of our Lutheran tradition and it is our heritage. It is also a basic tenet of our faith that the church on earth never attains perfection, but must always remain humble and be ready to examine itself and its practices according to Godís Word. This, we prayerfully continue to do, in the hope that the Holy Spirit will always be ready to guide us and direct us as we seek to be faithful to our calling to be Christís Church.
So, as we prepare this month to mark the 498th anniversary of the Reformation, let us applaud the signs of reformation that are still happening today, within our own church, within the Roman Catholic Church and wherever else the Spirit is moving among Godís people.
We will be marking this anniversary in our individual congregations at Sunday worship and together in a joint festival worship service on Reformation Sunday, October 25th. The P.L.U.M. congregations will come together for our joint Reformation celebration that Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. at Messiah Lutheran Church (4300 Main St., Munhall, PA 15120). Bishop Kurt Kusserow will be preaching, and a number of P.L.U.M.ís Confirmands have chosen to make their Confirmations as a part of the festivities. This is always a wonderfully colorful and joyous liturgy. Itís definitely not one to be missed.
And looking aheadÖthe 500th Anniversary of the Reformation is just two years away!! Preparations are already underway locally, nationally and internationally to mark this historic occasion. Yes, this anniversary is that important. Did you know that Time Magazineís list of the 100 most influential people of the last millennium named Martin Luther as number 3?! Pastor Melba is already brainstorming some creative approaches to our observance (e.g. asking our Roman Catholic friends to join us!). If youíre interested in the chance of a life time to participate in planning the 500th Anniversary of an historic event that changed the world, then give Pastor Melba a call!
Grace and peace,
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sheraden, 3102 Sherwood Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15204 412-331-0600