Friday, 31 October 2008

The Necessity

“For nearly half a century, the church was split into two or three obediences that ex-communicated one another, so that every catholic lived under ex-communication by one pope or another and in the last analysis, no one could say with certainty which one had right on his side. The church no longer offered certainty of salvation. She had become questionable in her whole objective form. The true church, the true pledge of salvation HAD TO BE SOUGHT OUTSIDE the institution.

It is against this back-drop of a profoundly shaken ecclesiastical consciousness that we are to understand that Luther, in the conflict between his search for salvation and the tradition of the church ultimately came to experience the church not as the guarantor but as the adversary of salvation”.

Historical assessment of the reason for the reformation by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger
(now Pope Benedict XVI).

It's something the media age has made us live with - national and international convulsions of crisis and upheaval which seem immediate, if mostly conveyed in a detached, almost remote fashion, where we can sit and watch but feel disconnected. It can even occur regarding things that are literally happening under our noses.

Yesterday, I watched with disbelief as a small town around an hour's drive from my home was bombarded with a month's rain in under two hours, a foot of hail and ice, and lightning that sheeted the night sky so long that people there thought the end of the world had arrived... Meanwhile, most of us in the same county slept quietly in our beds, unaware of what had occurred in our backyard until the news reports the next morning.

It is the strangest thing to visit a place where some great event has occurred. In the last decade, I recall walking through a forest the morning after a great storm - the strongest of its kind, they believe, in over a thousand years. Great old trees had been uprooted and tossed around like kindling, famous landscape markers had vanished overnight and the whole place smelt of the sap of a broken, torn place.

There are moments when such a conflagration is not only necessary, but demanded amongst the Christian church; a 'breaking' of bones in order that they may be re-set and bound to heal and grow well. The events in medieval Europe, from the preaching and ministry of John Wycliffe and the Lollards, through the sacrifice of Jon Hus, to the protest against indulgences by the Augustinian, Martin Luther, were the birth bangs of the long and hard work of seeking to bruise in order to mend, that those of us living may genuinely be exposed to the radiance of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and be made free by this alone.

The struggle has not changed. The church still creaks and teeters, as it so often seems overloaded by those who teach another Jesus, another 'gospel', but some 500 years on from that morning in Wittenburg, when Luther took the bold step of expressing concerns due to his conviction that Apostolic truth was at stake, there are still voices who wish to affirm the message of the New Testament - the just shall live by faith alone - that we may truly do each other good.

On this day, when our world dallies with fear, superstition and the eve of another year, let us look towards a greater truth, a greater day, when the healing of Christ through the good news heralds the renewal of the Lord's good handiwork....

From earth's wide bounds,

from oceans farthest coast, through gates of pearl stream in the countless host,

singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Alleluia, Alleluia.

Hymn: For All the Saints by Vaughn Williams.

1 comment:

Steve said...


Your understanding of, and ability to convey to the reader the root of it all, the breadth of it all, in a manner that stirs the heart and the mind and brings us into it...fully, with gratitude for what He has done for us.

Thank you Howard. May the Lord continue to bless you and keep you and use you to your fullest measure.