Be rooted and built up, constantly growing and re-forming as you are being taught. Break open, leave behind, and discover what new thing is in store for you.
You may not have noticed it. The 500-year anniversary of the spark that ignited the Reformation. Despite the huge impact on the Church and world, it may have slipped past you unnoticed.
Oh, St. James Cathedral was full and resplendent with worship and song on Oct. 29th, Reformation Sunday, led by Archbishop Sartain of the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle and Bishop Kirby Unti of the Northwest Washington Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The occasion was also marked on our campus with an ecumenical worship service and tree planting on Oct. 25th.
Maybe you noticed the tree. Today, there is a new, 8-foot western red cedar on the Union Green, planted by SU President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., and Bishop Unti, and blessed and watered by all those attending. The tree is an evergreen in the cypress family. It could grow as high as 230 feet and 12 feet around. It could live 1,500 years—three times as long as the anniversary it was planted to commemorate. How fitting that is. The best way to mark what happened 500 years ago is to move forward, rooted and growing in faith and thanksgiving.
“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Col. 2:6-7).
Preaching on this verse, Cathy Nilon, M.Div., called us to “see in new ways where the world needs healing.” Nilon, a Catholic and a 2016 graduate of STM, is a chaplain at Providence Mount St. Vincent. She works surrounded by healing, but also by death. Sometimes, the two are intertwined. Life and death, seemingly such absolutes, will not stay neatly in their places, but spill over, intertwine, one eternally giving way to the other. “God lifts beauty out of chaos,” Nilon added.
“This is how death and resurrection work,” Bishop Unti remarked. “All life is grounded in brokenness. It is only when the seed is broken that life comes forth. Our growth means that each stage of life is about having to leave behind what we have known so that we can discover the new that God has in store for us.”
Rev. Paul Kacynski is pastor of the Roots of the Table, a sapling-size Lutheran mission. He taught all those present the term “inosculation,” which is what happens when two trees touch. “If their branches or their roots or even their trunks touch for a long enough time, they begin to grow together. They become one tree,” Kacynski said. “Let’s continue to explore the ways that we touch. We have grown out of one church and we continue to grow together.”
In other words, be the tree. Be rooted and built up, constantly growing and re-forming as you are being taught. Continue to live your lives in faith, abounding in thanksgiving. Break open, leave behind and discover what new thing is in store for you and—by extension—God’s church and the world.
Martin Luther, 500 years ago, said, “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace… Hence a person is ready and glad, without compulsion, to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, in love and praise to God, who has shown him or her this grace.” Today, Pope Francis tells us, “As we move beyond those episodes in history that burden us, we pledge to witness together to God’s merciful grace, made visible in the crucified and risen Christ… Christ desires that we be one, so that the world may believe.”
The lesson of both Oct. 25th and 29th is not about a nostalgic view of the Protestant Reformation after all. The lesson is the conversion of heart within us all that is necessary for us to reform ourselves for the present and future.
Worship & Liturgy graduate assistant
MAPS student, STM