All this month in worship we have been reflecting on what it means to claim the label of Protestant and even Reformed... to follow the watch words of the Reformation as we call them: Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone, and this week, Scripture Alone.
As Presbyterians, we affirm some specific ways of articulating the Christian faith. For generations, these specifics were taught to young people in the church through the Westminster Catechism. This catechism was and is a series of questions and answers crafted to teach the basics of the Presbyterian faith to the church.
When you were confirmed you may have been required to memorize the Westminster Catechism in order to join the church. Most of the folks I talk to these days can only remember the first question and answer: What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy him forever.
This Sunday, we welcome back the Rev. Dr. Beth Hessel as our 2017 Theologian-in-Residence. She will share with us the history of the Westminster Confession and the shifts in the church that led to its creation in England about 150 years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to that church door in Germany. This class will take place in Congregational Hall after our 10:00 a.m. worship service.
Five hundred years after the Reformation and 370 years after the Westminster Confession was written, we have different ways to teach what it means to claim our identity as Presbyterians. As young people today decide what it means to be members of a particular congregation and to claim their identity as Presbyterians, we don’t teach them the exact answers to a specific set of questions. Instead we teach them how to ask questions and where to go to find answers. We also teach them the questions that Presbyterians have asked in different generations and where they found answers.
This is really the ideal that sparked the Reformation 500 years ago – people in the church asking questions and looking for new ways to answer some of the most ancient questions of our faith. Of all the things we claim when we identify as Presbyterian, this is the one that is most vital as we consider what the next 500 years of Christian faith will look like for the generations that follow us: Do we continue to ask questions? Do we continue to seek answers together as a community? Do we practice our faith in ways that are not steeped in our history, but that are responsive to the new things that God is calling the church to do and be? Are we in this new generation finding new ways to glorify God?
As we celebrate Reformation Sunday this week and hear again from Dr. Hessel, we will learn more about what led the church in 1647 to ask new questions of themselves, of scripture and of the politics in which they lived. May we also be open to asking these questions of ourselves in our time as well.