October 15, 2017: Shifts Happen: Every 500 years or so…

Posted on : Oct 12th, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

… a major shift happens in the Christian Church.

Shifts happen:  in our lives, in our faith, in our world, in religion.

Last week we looked at the historical progression of the church from the Dark Ages through the Middle Ages.  After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Christian Church became the “Holy Roman Empire.”  “Holy” is an adjective that the church applied to itself.  It was anything but Holy.  However, it was an Empire.

One thing about Empire building is it requires lots of money.  The “Holy” Roman Empire had a massive army, and armies aren’t cheap.  The Church became the wealthiest entity in all of Eastern and Western Europe.  To this day, the Roman Catholic Church is probably still the wealthiest corporation in the world.  The value of its assets is never made public and since the Vatican State has its own private bank, no one knows how much money the church has.  None-the-less, the church of the “Holy” Roman Empire needed more money than was coming in through offerings.  Instead of having a silent auction fundraiser, as we do, the hierarchy had the brilliant idea of “selling salvation.”  If you wanted to go to heaven, you could pay a hefty price for an “Indulgence,” which would “guarantee” the forgiveness of your sins and a place in the express line to heaven.  That move infuriated people of good will and would ultimately bring down the Church-as-Empire.

The church also created another problem that had to be resolved.  As they preached about the evils of the flesh (sex) and the glory of celibacy (defined as sexual abstinence) the number of marriages performed by the Church decreased precipitously.  With the decline in marriages, there was also a sizeable decline in births and baptisms.  The solution was that the Church created a two-fold path:  mandatory celibacy for religious life and making marriage a sacrament.  At the Council of Verona in 1184 the pronouncement was made that marriage would become a sacrament was adopted.  That cleaned up the “flesh issue” but also prohibited divorce.  A sacrament can’t be unbroken.

The greatest threat to the “Holy Roman Empire” or the Church as Empire, came about in a massive cultural shift that we today call the Renaissance.  The Renaissance was a period from the 14th to the17th century in which the culture shifted from feudal estates to urban centers and the public had access to education and universities.  It was marked by developments in the arts, music, architecture, education and economic prosperity.  Without the Renaissance, the Reformation would never have occurred.

Our friend Rev. Kobie Vermaak wrote the following about the religious shift that began and that we know today as the Protestant Reformation:

In 1517, an obscure German monk nailed 95 theses (grievances) to a church door and unwittingly set off a movement that changed Christianity and reshaped our world, known as The Reformation. This monk’s name was Martin Luther. Luther was influenced by the writings of earlier reformers, such as John Wycliffe and Jan Hus. A hundred years before Luther both Wycliffe and Hus’ lives were irrevocably changed by reading the Scriptures for themselves. The same was true for Luther. In a world in which the church portrayed Jesus as a vengeful judge to be feared, Luther wanted everyday people to understand the truth about the gospel (the good news) of Jesus. At the time, only the clergy and the powerful had access to the Bible, which at that time was only available in Latin, the official language of the Church.  The average person in the pew was not trusted or allowed to read and interpret Scripture.  Luther wanted to place a Bible in the hands of everyone. So, one of Luther’s most revolutionary “transgressions” was to translate the Bible into the languages which people read and spoke.

To discover more about Luther’s courage and action, here is a short video clip and please excuse the generic use of “man” for women and men!

Martin Luther & the Reformation

More on Sunday.



~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Romans 12: 1-18

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another…

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not burn out, be energized by the Holy Spirit, serve God. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

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