It is with a somewhat heavy heart that I come to Reformation Day each year. Much debate swirls about regarding Martin Luther's motivations in posting his 95 theses on that famous church door in Wittenburg, and whether one sees Luther as the Father of Protestantism or as a heretic of the true faith, the results of his actions are undeniable. (I see him as misguided and somewhat of a rabble-rouser; the Church undeniably needed reform, but others were working quietly, respectfully, and effectively from within the Church and would have accomplished much of the same ends as the Council of Trent, but that's only my opinion....)
Back to the results of Luther's action: I have no idea how many denominations currently exist within the Protestant church, but if I can't even keep track of how many different kinds of Baptists there are, much less the other denominations, there's something dreadfully wrong going on. However pure (or not) Luther's motives may have been, I do not think he would have or could have foreseen the repercussions of his actions that now separate Christians into so many different denominations. I sincerely hope that he would be shocked and displeased with how far other "reformers" after him took his ideas much farther than he himself had advocated, and how the idea of separation has ballooned within Protestantism.
We Protestants seem to agree on so little. Infant or believer baptism? Symbolic or Real Presence in Communion? Hymns or praise songs? Liberal or fundamental? Sanctuaries or auditoriums? Priests or pastors? Women priests or pastors? Crucifixes or crosses? Liturgy or free-form? Sola Scriptura or influences of tradition? Organs or guitars? Pews or chairs? The color of the carpet in the narthex???? And then we have the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox traditions to disagree with as well. All of the disunity, infighting, and accusations of "not being a Christian" or "not being saved" paints a very sad picture of Christianity to a world that needs Him so desperately. Where is our witness of "loving one another as Christ loves us"? I agree that we should never, ever compromise the Truths of the Christian Faith as found in the Apostle's or Nicene Creeds, but the other minor (in my opinion) issues should not remain an obstacle to an effective Christian witness to a hurting and needy world.
God has placed the unity of His church on my heart in a very tangible way. He calls me to pray about it daily and to share it with others often. I am grieved by the splintering of the Christian faith, and I think that our Heavenly Father is as well. A few posts below this one I pasted a great article by the InternetMonk (a post-modern Protestant) about the Reformation, and my Catholic friend RNW does not disappoint in her blog post on Reformation 2007 either, as she calls us to pray for unity in the Bride of Christ and that God will reunite His Church before the 500th anniversary of Luther's posting of the theses in 2017. Although it seems absolutely, utterly, completely impossible and unlikely that the complete reunification of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches could happen in a mere ten years, how likely was it for a poor Jewish girl to give birth to the Saviour of the World? After all, "with God, all things are possible."
So I ask you to consider what you (yes, you!) can do to promote unity within the church, or to even consider and perhaps begin to desire the unity of Christ's Church. RNW has some great ideas for Catholics in her article linked in the above paragraph, and to her suggestions I add two prayers from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer regarding the health and the unity of Jesus' Church. As Christ Himself gave us the example of praying for the unity of His followers in John 17, so should we also follow His example and pray to God for the unity of His Church:
O Gracious Father, we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church, that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in any thing it is amiss, reform it. Where it is right, establish it; where it is in want, provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of him who died and rose again, and ever liveth to make intercession for us, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.
O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace; Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord: that as there is but one Body and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, so we may be all of one heart and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.