I had the privilege of leading my daughter’s 2nd and 3rd grade Sunday School class last week. It isn’t my usual gig – I usually choose other opportunities to volunteer and enjoy an adult class during that hour. This Sunday though, the class members received their first Bibles from the church so I was giving a basic introduction to the Bible as a book. I showed them how to open the middle to the Psalms and taught them about the chapter and verse numbers and then showed them the “original” Hebrew and Greek. They were both very excited.
In addition to Halloween, yesterday was the 500th Reformation Day. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. His ideas spread exponentially farther and faster than he could have expected due to Johannes Gutenberg’s recently-invented printing press, and they helped catalyze the Protestant Reformation. Whether or not you are a part of a tradition that traces its roots to the Reformation, the declaration that change was on the table for Christians ushered in a new understanding of the popular voice. Change was no longer only in the hands of the elite. Half of a millennium later the speed of change has escalated to a pace few can keep up with. Communities of faith are imperfect as ever, maybe more fragmented than ever, but maybe also more real.
No matter how you understand scripture (spoken word of God, inspired word of God, documents of individual experiences or even just myth), knowing that text and thought are living, breathing organisms makes the work we do in higher education possible. I don’t know about you, but I’d sure prefer to be a part of something alive than something lifeless and non-responsive. (But change is hard too.)
We are in a community in the midst of a great deal of change. It’s more than just the name. That may be easier than General Education Reform, construction projects, the changing needs of students and the changing marketplace. Some days it is hard to find things around campus that aren’t in flux.
My favorite commercial is from some years back. A man is driving a convertible drumming his fingers on a brand new series 4 computer box. He is humming and thoroughly impressed with himself and his purchase. He has the newest, most up-to-date model…until he drives by a billboard with a new ad going up announcing the series 5. In an instant, he has been outdone. It’s the same purchase he was happy with seconds before, but it has somehow lost value.
So, on this day, 500 years and 1 day after Martin Luther took a stand, we are still wrestling with many of the same institutions, the same human emotions and needs. Maybe we have better ways to deal with our anxieties around change, maybe some days we don’t. Try to celebrate change and be a part of the process, but please, if you are having a rough day, don’t put nail holes in the Chapel door.
Happy Reformation Day. Happy season of Reform and Change.