It hit me while I was in Germany in the Fall of 2017 standing in the church where Martin Luther gave birth to the Protestant Reformation: what's next? it has been half a millennium since Luther, Calvin, Knox and Zwingli rethought what it meant to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus in the world. From my theological corner of the world, we're quick to confess that the church is "Reformed and always reforming" but slow to give definition to what "always reforming" means.
Over the course of my adult life, I've seen wave upon wave of reforming and rethinking take place. In the 1970s, just as I was coming to political consciousness, it was the political power expressed by the churches that was radical and new. In the 1980's, it was the seeker sensitive church, then the big box church, the missional church, the emergent church, the new-Calvinist church; and those are just the movements in my rather small tribe of churches. It is apparent to me that something larger than a new movement is afoot.
The first Protestant Reformation was really a confluence of changes: the printing press allowed mass communication, humanism suggested a new perspective through which the world could be viewed, and theologians like Luther and Calvin suggested a fresh reading of what God was doing in the world. We are, it seems to me, in the same kind of confluence of changes. The social sciences suggest that the world each of us experiences is the product of our culture, our language and our individual histories. While our worlds have become indiviualized, commnications technologies have drawn us closer to each other at precisely the time when we are most acutly awair of our differences.
It ocurs to me that the next reformation will need to start in the same place that gave birth to the Protestant Reformation five hundred years ago: Scripture. Too often, we treat the Bible like a background conversation or make it into a collection of proof texts for our individual perspectives. I can't tell where the current series of changes will lead us, but I do know that our ability to contribute to the journey through our reflection about what God is doing in our world depends on our desire to hear God's voice in the pages of the Bible, our willingness to understand that God's voice is speaking directly to us, and our committment to obey the voice of God as we hear it.
So Southminster Presbyterian Church will take a modest step this year: we will read through the Bible together. While I'm sure that we will learn a lot in the process, our goal isn't necessarily gaining new knowledge. While I'm confident that reading through the Bible will make some of the "stuff" of church life make sense, we're not retreating into the Bible to find shelter or support for our particular way of "doing" church. We will read through the Bible this year because in confusing times, we need to hear God's voice, to sense God's direction, and to direct our spirits into conformity to what we think God is doing in our world.
Four chapters a day, six days a week. It is, it seems to me, a small price to pay to be part of the next reformation.