Today is Reformation Day – Oct 31 – the day we think of Martin Luther fastening his 95 Theses on the gate in Wittenburg. And we think of Protestant Reformers around the world, before and after Luther, including ourselves, those of us who are still involved in the ongoing process to refine the church into what she should be.
I write this from Scotland, a land that also experienced Reformation and exported many of those reformation memories to the colonies. Those memories are usually good, sometimes bad and on occasion, a little ugly. But we have much to be thankful for. Here are some images that the Scottish Reformation brings to my mind.
This painting [link] is a strong image to me. It depicts James Renwick, the last of the Scottish covenanters to be martyred for his beliefs, being taken up to the scaffolding. Before his execution, he sung Psalm 103 (interestingly, part of today’s Bible reading on One Year Bible Blog) and read from Revelation 19. He declared his stance against "popery, prelacy and erastianism"and went bravely to be with his Lord.
Popery – Refers to Roman Catholicism and the institution of the Pope as Christ’s representative on earth but deeper than than, it often referred to the baroque opulence of Catholic worship and decoration. More on Wikipedia
Prelacy – Def – "one receiving preferrment, an ecclesiastic (as a bishop or abbot) of superior rank". Often connected with supremacy, or kingcraft. The reformers were against the Crown appointed bishops, the kind of episcopacy set up by Constantine. Many bishops had authority over areas where they did not even live. And these privilege could be bought at a price. Many emerging church voices are still trying to see reform in this area.
Erastianism – assigning an "undue subservience of the Church to the State." like, giving politicans the power to excommunicate or arrest church worshippers . . . or worse . . execute them for heresy. Reformers preached in the fields and often had guns to protect themselves – thus the bloody squrmishes. One of Renwicks charges was of allowing guns in church services for defence. I share a Sep 7th birthday with Thomas Lieber, who was born in Baden and later latinized his name to ‘Erastus’, from which we get Erastianism.
Covenanters Memorial, Orkney. This one is close to home. In 1679, towards the very end of the 50 Years Struggle), over 200 covenanters lost their lives in a ship at Deerness, Orkney. They were the last of the 1200 prisoners arrested in Edinburgh and were the Covenanters who had not died or recanted in custody. They were on their way to work the plantations of America when their ship was dashed on the rocks. The captain decided to let them drown in the lockup below, probably so he could claim compensation for his "cargo". 200 is also the estimate of Covenanters that were executed for their beliefs – thousands more died in battle and from cold and disease, of course.
About 47 covenanters escaped, ending up in Stromness (my town), and eventually went to to work in Jamaica or New Jersey. Tradition says a few stayed in Orkney.
St Andrews Cathedral. When i visited the ruins of this once great building, i noticed a sign that explained how the reformers demolished it [I call it the "Crowbar Crusade"] and I was thinking . . . what a waste! . . . was this where the Scottish sport of hammer throwing began?Probably not but here’s what really happened.
"On 11 June 1559 John Knox preached a sermon in St Andrews parish church that so aroused the congregation they immediately went to the cathedral and destroyed the splendid fittings and furnishings associated by the reformers with "popery". link
Sorry if these images are depressing. The next one is better . .
My daughter Tamara smells the flowers at St Boniface church during a recent trip to the monastic island of Papa Westry. This 8th Century church is one of the very few pre-reformation churches in Scotland. Orkney only has two churches that survived the Reformation and stay in current use – this one and St Magnus Cathedral. I guess it was too difficult to sail all the way out there to demolish it.
This is how the restored church now looks. Actually, you see those tables and benches? They were originally all over the church and apparently were used for eating [Lord’s Supper]. The original church looked more like a coffee shop with a pulpit. The style of churches after the Reformation was just pew seating and a pulpit in the front. No tables, no eating in family groups. Church was not as much fun but at least there were no dishes to wash after the service.
Our post-reformation Christmas last year in Scotland. Christmas was banned by the Reformers [those GRINCHES!] for being such a papist display of pagan exuberance, and was only made a "holiday" [ie, give people a day off work] in the 1960’s. Thank God for that. There needs to be space for celebration in our life . . and in our theology. And, like the Reformers, we need to watch out for the influence of Babylon [the ungodly global market system that stands against God’s mission and rule] But as we approach our third Christmas here in Scotland, I don’t take our freedom lightly. Instead I remember the Reformers insistence that the church be pure and spotless and i try to bring that message into today’s context. But there are still many believers who do not celebrate Christmas and we need to respect that.
Anyway, there are some images that come to mind. I would love to see yours.