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Westminster Abbey celebrates #Reformation500

Westminster Abbey celebrates #Reformation500

The Archbishop of Canterbury celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with representatives of churches from around the world at Westminster Abbey this afternoon.

From his sermon:

Through the Reformation the world changed; the gospel spread; counter-reformation renewed the places that the reformation had not reached; there was a competitive drive in missionary endeavour. What is not to celebrate?

Well, said Eeyore to Tigger, or the historian to the enthusiast. For each of the things that came through the Reformation – good as they are, precious beyond compare even – for each there is also a dark side.

With new vigour came conflict.

With individual understanding of grace came individualism and division.

With the knowledge that “without thee we are not able to please thee” came, through our sin and weakness, what so often we add under our breath: “But actually, I’m a lot more able to please thee than those heretics over there.”

With literacy and freedom came new ways of cruelty refined by science.

With missionaries bearing the faith came soldiers bearing the flag. …

… So what’s the problem? The problem, as in every age, is us.

In John 17 Jesus prays for unity among the people of God so that the world may know he came from the Father. The gospel is not an idea: it is life, love and transformation – and if the bearers of good news are not transformed into a united and loving life, then they will be unable to convince anyone else that what they say is true. Luther set the gospel free, and as human beings we seek continually to imprison it behind ritual and authority – or to make it serve politics or causes. When we seek to use the gospel for our own ends, rather than to proclaim it as the word of God, then the gospel is not preached and the church divides.

We are called to be united. In our cultures the realities of difference of self-identity formation, of politics, of language, of our history as both oppressors and oppressed, all drive us, today, into self-reinforcing bubbles of mutual indignation and antagonism. Unity is a witness that, through grace received by faith alone, the cosmos has truly changed, because Jesus came from the Father, and because all has changed that we may as human beings find unity and purpose.

The Reformation was a gift of God, not only in itself but as a sign of the faithfulness of God to His work of revealing the good news of Jesus to a world in need, and the faithfulness of God in using His church despite our failings.

What do we do with the gift today? Will we be willing ourselves to be reformed again and always, setting aside our differences because we are caught up in the grace that is found through faith?

Will we find from God alone the strength and grace to be a united blessing to His world, so that our witness of unity in diversity overcomes our fears of each other?

Will we seize afresh in confidence the hope that God who never abandons His church will again reform us, so that the world may see that Jesus came from the Father?

It is already happening in so many ways, and so much has been accomplished. But we have not yet allowed ourselves sufficiently to be captured by the radicality of the gospel that we may bless the world as we should. As we surrender to the God who rescues us sinners, we will most surely find our vocation as the messengers of good news to the world.

Read the entire sermon here; enjoy photos and video from the Twitter feed of Westminster Abbey below.

 

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