October 1, 2017: Today’s Christianity is not what Jesus intended.

Posted on : Sep 28th, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

This Sunday we begin a once-in-500-years worship celebration!  This year, October 31 has special meaning for Christians, especially we Christians of the Protestant Tradition.  In addition to the celebration of Halloween it is also the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

What was the Protestant Reformation?  In 1517, a movement began within the Christian tradition of the western world to reform the Church.  At that time in history, the Church in the western world was the Roman Catholic Church. It derived that name because Rome was center of power and authority for Christianity in Western Europe.  The designation of “Reformers” comes from a group of Catholic priests and academics who wanted to reform many of the Catholic Church’s practices and theology.  They protested what they saw as unbiblical practices and religious abuse of power and control mostly by the church’s hierarchy.  The protestors never intended to split the Christian Church into various Christian “denominations.”

Interestingly, 500 years earlier, in 1054 AD, there was a schism between the Church in Rome and Constantinople.  In the end, this schism divided the Christian Church into two traditions, with different popes, patriarchs and cities representing the center and authority of the Church.   The Eastern Orthodox Church (also call the Eastern rite) was formed and spread throughout the Middle East, the Balkans, and Russia, with its center in Constantinople.  The “western rite” church became known as the Roman Catholic Church with its center in Rome.  Fast forward another 500 years and the protestors wanted reforms within the Roman Catholic tradition.

One of the most famous of the protestors was a monk and priest by the name of Martin Luther.  On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his list of 95 theses or “protests” on the doors of the Cathedral in Wittenberg, Germany.

Here is a brief overview of Martin Luther’s life from history.com:

Born in Eisleben, Germany, in 1483, Martin Luther went on to become one of Western history’s most significant figures. Luther spent his early years in relative anonymity as a monk and scholar. But in 1517 Luther penned a document attacking the Catholic Church’s corrupt practice of selling “indulgences” to absolve sin. His “95 Theses,” which propounded two central beliefs—that the Bible is the central religious authority and that humans may reach salvation only by their faith and not by their deeds—was to spark the Protestant Reformation. Although these ideas had been advanced before, Martin Luther codified them at a moment in history ripe for religious reformation. The Catholic Church was ever after divided, and the Protestantism that soon emerged was shaped by Luther’s ideas. His writings changed the course of religious and cultural history in the West. 

What in the world happened that Christianity became so corrupt that the Protestant Reformation occurred?  In her book, The Great Emergence, author and religion professor Phyllis Tickle quoted a colleague who said, the church “cleans house” roughly every 500 years, holding what he called a “giant rummage sale,” deciding what to dispose of and what to keep, making room for new things.

Christian history supports that thesis, give or take a few years, which means we are ripe for (or in the midst of) yet another “giant rummage sale.” 

Almost all of us agree that today’s version or practice of Christianity in many churches is far from the teachings and Way of Jesus.  To understand why the Protestant Reformation occurred, we need to look at how Christianity got so corrupted in the first place.  So this Sunday, we will begin with a look at the first 325 years of Christianity.

Simply said, “Today’s Christianity is not what Jesus intended.”  In fact, it is far from it.  During the summer months, we have been focusing on the difference between “being the Church” and going to Church.  Jesus was all about “being the Church.”  Jesus was, in his own way, a “Reformer.”  Like Luther, he had no intent of splitting Christianity from Judaism.  Jesus wanted to reform Judaism.  But the religious authorities of Judaism felt threatened by Jesus’ radical idea of what the realm (kindom) of God was intended to be, and they certainly did not like his teachings about God and God’s intense love for everyone.  These religious leaders were so threatened, they orchestrated the crucifixion of Jesus.    Never in their wildest dreams did they ever believe the followers of Jesus would continue in his way – and grow into a wildly popular religious following!

Meanwhile, the Roman Emperors were also none too pleased with the radical popularity of this “Jesus movement.”  In the Roman Empire there was only one god and that was Caesar – the Emperor.  So what was it about Jesus – even after his death! – that so threatened Judaism and the Roman Empire?  Why were the teachings of this deceased itinerant preacher drawing so many people together?  What was it about this Jesus that so threatened those in power, yet was so life-giving to those who followed “the Way of Jesus?”

This Sunday we’ll explore that.  Once we clarify the core teachings of Jesus, we will then look at how his teachings and Way became so corrupted.  What led up to the Protestant Reformation?  Why did it happen?  And, five hundred years after the Protestant Reformation, has the Church once again so corrupted the Way of Jesus that Christianity is about to change or die?”




~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Acts 2: 40-47

And Peter testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Risen Christ added to their number those who were being saved.

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