There’s a Latin phrase, semper reformanda, that sometimes gets thrown around this time of year. Every October we spend a Sunday celebrating the Reformation and how God continually guides the mission of the church. As we commemorate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, this year has been no different.
However, the Reformation is not a single event. No, the church has always been re-forming itself. From the early days after Jesus’ death and resurrection to now, the institution of the church has changed many times. This makes sense. As each generation grows into its own, the church must adapt, must re-form itself.
While the church may reform and change, God’s mission for the world, present in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, breathed into being by the Holy Spirit, remains constant. God loves us and will never let us go.
So, it is easy to look back and see how the church has changed over the years. We have met in secret in people’s homes or remote caves/catacombs and we have built huge ornate buildings in which to meet. Memberships grow and diminish. Theology varies from individual piety to tent revival movements to heightened church dogma. Through it all, the music composed for use in the church reflects these different realities.
And now, here we are in 2017, continuing the mission of God’s church. We are inheritors of thousands of years of reformation which deserve celebration and thought. We also find ourselves asking, “What changes will the next thousand or two thousand years bring for the church?” We come back to the Latin phrase semper reformanda, always reforming. While the church may change to meet the needs of the world around it, God’s mission always stays the same. The church may not always resemble the church of our childhood, but the love of God is the single constant driving force for the church’s re-formation throughout all of history.