Five years have elapsed since the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. Five years ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the 13th International Luther (Research) Congress which was held that year in Wittenberg, Germany to mark the anniversary year. Luther scholars from around the world were in attendance. The last time that I had been in Wittenberg before that was in the summer of 1987 with Janet prior to marriage and prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. By 2017, Wittenberg had been considerably renovated since its days in communist East Germany. Time changes much, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

This year I was able to attend the 14th International Luther Congress, and I did so because it was in Thousand Oaks, CA, which is not quite as historic as Wittenberg. I harbored reservations about attending as most of the speakers were unknown to me, and of those who were, I held doubts about their scholarly intentions. In other words, like in the rest of the world, secularized ideologies with roots in Marxist/communist thought are on the march in new guises. As Wittenberg was once held in a quasi state of neglect in communist East Germany, Luther scholarship is being drawn into a quasi intentional state of communist ideologies in pseudo-theological garb. Whereas many good scholars were in attendance, a shift away from good scholarship was evident. Times change, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

Five years ago, St. Luke’s and other area Lutheran churches joined forces to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with serious scholarship, sacred song, and festive food. Pastors teaching at St. Luke’s Theological Academy offered short, theological presentations, each of which was followed by a hymn. Then, the pastor panel took questions from the audience in “stump the chump” fashion which was edifying and entertaining for all. Finally, the eating festivities began. Since that time, some of our teaching pastors have taken other calls or retired. Some of our congregations’ members are also no longer with us for various reasons. Combined with the attrition caused by COVID and its various restrictions and lock downs, would it be a good idea in these changed times to gather churches together to celebrate the Reformation? Yes, of course it would!

Every Reformation Sunday is a good time to celebrate the Reformation, but despite the changed circumstances, it is particularly important for us to celebrate the Reformation this year to give thanks to God for all the blessing which we have received from all of those who helped us to become Lutheran, to be Lutheran, and to remain Lutheran. As II Timothy 4:3-4 states, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” If that was the concern in the earliest days of the church, how much more so is that temptation alive and well today.

Because attention to faithful teaching seems to be so tenuous, faithful Lutherans can begin to feel a bit isolated and alone. So, the opportunity to gather with fellow Lutherans and to be edified by faithful Lutheran pastors is a cause for celebration, not just to remember the Reformation but to continue to be equipped to serve the truth of the gospel and gospel-congruent truths in our own day and age.

So, on Sunday, 30 October, St. Luke’s is planning to hold its first post-COVID Reformation celebration. The format for the festivities will be similar to that outlined above. We will start with short presentations by the pastors, have a Q&A time with the pastors, sign a some hymns and then close with Oktoberfest fare. So, please mark your calendars, plan to attend, and invite some friends.