The news release begins with the words: “Lutherans from around the world and ecumenical guests gathered at the Sam Nujoma stadium, in Windhoek, Namibia for the global commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.”(1) These people have gathered for the annual meeting of the Lutheran World Federation, when leaders and representatives from all of the major Lutheran denominational bodies around the world gather.
Also a fun side note, Lydia Nelson, who was an intern here at Trinity will be the preacher at the closing worship service at this important gathering!
In the year when we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it is especially appropriate that these groups gather to wonder together about the work of God, and about the next 500 years in the life of our church.
I read one commentary where someone asked, “In the 500th year celebration, why are they not meeting together in Germany?” It’s a great question. It would, of course, be completely appropriate to do this giant celebration in the region where the Reformation was sparked.
But I love the fact that the gathering isn’t being held there. I love the fact that that the event is being held in Namibia, a nation immediately to the north of South Africa, which is predominantly Lutheran, and which experienced the same struggles with apartheid as South Africa did.
It reinforces the idea that we are a global church. Our reach extends far beyond our community, our region and our nation. We are a part of something much larger than ourselves. And interestingly, while the Lutheran church in North America has been shrinking for the last few decades, internationally, it has been growing rapidly. In fact, there are more Lutherans in Africa now than there are in the United States.
It reinforces the idea that we are a church that participates in standing up for the oppressed and the down-trodden. The Lutheran church was very active in the struggle against apartheid in Namibia. This is a part of our tradition.
And it reinforces the idea that we are a part of a religious tradition that chooses to move forward. We honor and respect our historical legacy. Our church formed in Germany and northern Europe. But we are moving well beyond that heritage into something new.
The reformation is not over. Trinity Lutheran Church of Owatonna, Minnesota is a part of the ongoing, reforming work of God. We are always reforming, always being made new by the grace of God through the love of Jesus Christ. And we are a part of something much larger than ourselves.
Pray for our sisters and brothers around the world. Pray for our congregation, and pray for our church, that the Good news of Jesus Christ can continue to be shared to all of God’s people.
Thanks be to God!