Reflections on Reformation Day
By Rev. Kelli Jolly, Special to The Christian Recorder
Happy Reformation Day! Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther, armed with a few nails and a hammer, took a courageous, rebellious, and dangerous step towards the doors of the church and nailed his 95 Theses to it. As a result, his life became a target. His name became synonymous with a traitor to the church. As a result, the church was transformed forever. One person’s ability to stand up against powers and principalities in high places created a wave of relief from oppression for many in low places.
Five hundred years later, many are again crying out for reform. Once again, many are crying out from the low places that have been created for them by systems, institutions, and ideals that no longer seem to have the best interest of the common person in mind.
In a conversation yesterday, a friend and I resolved that perhaps it is that we too often focus on protecting the church rather than protecting people. In fact, sometimes we become intent on harming people for the sake of protecting the church. That is a mindset that can never correctly be correlated with the Gospel of Christ; yet, it is the modus operandi of many churches today. Further, there are many who wrestle with whatever tools they have.
Five hundred years later, I think of the churches who are wrestling with their deep-seated, indoctrinated fears and beliefs about LGBTQI individuals. I think of Christians worldwide who believe in the validity of scientific research and the need to fight for more ethical interaction between human beings and nature. I think of the ongoing feminist/womanist movements that have not ceased their wailing for the unborn daughters who will continue to suffer if yet another generation goes unheard. I think about people of color worldwide, especially in the Caribbean, who have been taught to hate the hair and skin we were born in and how we still struggle in a world whose message has not changed towards us. I think of the courage of many of our sisters and brothers who are able to find the message of self-love amidst the noise of hatred and pain. I think about the many clergy people who try to educate church and family and who stand up for groups whose cries are often ignored, despite the backlash that comes with going against the grain of church and societal beliefs. I think of the average churchgoer including my family, friends, and me. I think of how we often long for change and struggle with the fear that comes with it. I think of how we struggle without always knowing how to bring about change with the tools we have been given by those who have raised us in the church.
Martin Luther’s tools were his own self-surrender to the mission of Christ, whatever the consequences that would come. A few nails and a hammer—the same tools used by Christ to set us all free from oppression.
We are so blessed today to have so many more tools. We have many more persons at many levels with access to higher education. We have information at our fingertips. We have technology that allows us instant communication with the rest of the world. We have information about our heritage and our genetic makeup. We have research about how our practices and doctrines affect the people with which we interact. We have knowledge of the prevalence of abuse and how to prevent it. We have information about the advantages of resistance to societal norms and how to affect change. We have the Spirit of God in us, teaching us, loving us, and pushing us towards the love of God.
We have so much more than a few nails and a hammer. We, therefore, have no excuse to not affect change. What will we do with our tools? #Reformation500
The Rev. Kelli Jolly is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas currently serving in the Bahamas. She is an advocate for social justice and human rights. She has a keen interest in women’s and children’s issues—holding fast to a belief in the love of God for all of God’s creation and a need for the church to play an active role in the liberation of all of God’s people from all forms of oppression. She believes that these are the bedrock of a healthy nation and the charge of the prophet Micah from God, to God’s people, in Micah 6:8, “what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”