Practical ways to celebrate the Reformation’s 500th anniversary
- are at peace with God because you believe the sacrifice of Jesus has assured you of eternal life;
- know God clearly and directly because you have been taught how to read the Bible for yourself;
- relate to God personally through his Spirit who dwells in your heart and not through some other mediator;
- are eternally united to your Father by adoption and therefore united to every other Christian as a spiritual brother or sister regardless of denomination or institution...
Then you really do have reason to celebrate the wisdom and the sacrifices of the Reformers and those who followed, who held onto these truths despite persistent opposition, even to this day.
But what is the best way to celebrate? To give gifts, of course! When we have received so much it is easy to give.
Growing up a committed Roman Catholic, when I first discovered these truths I was very angry. How dare those who put themselves forward as the spokesmen of God and shepherds of his sheep so carelessly, if not deliberately and persistently, misrepresent these truths that are so plainly spoken of in the Scriptures? Over time I realised that there was nothing special about me that I should come to understand and believe these things – it was all God’s grace. So I decided to commit my life to being generous to my Catholic neighbours and family and friends so they might know these truths, too.
If you want to celebrate the Reformation may I suggest one of the best ways to do it is to recommit yourself to sharing these truths with your Catholic friends, many of whom are searching.
In the popular ABC TV series from a couple of years ago, Judith Lucy’s Spiritual Journey, Judith Lucy went to school convinced she’d become a nun. By the time she’d left school she was a committed atheist. Now she is convinced there is something between these two extremes – she just doesn’t have a clue what it is. The series struck a nerve among a large proportion of our city: non-practising, searching Catholics.
As a former Catholic who spent 30 years in the Catholic Church, here are my three top tips to be most effective in sharing the gospel with Catholics.
- Keep inviting Catholics to belong to things – youth groups, Bible study groups, mother’s groups, your church, sporting groups or even just to belong to you. Catholics are taught that religion is all about belonging to the Catholic Church. By inviting them to belong to these other things you can help them belong to God.
- Keep sharing your story with them – what it is like for you to be a Christian, how you became one, how it affects your life now. Catholics are taught to look for religious experiences – especially through the sacraments, which for them are physical experiences of God, so share your experience with them. When you do, it often opens up questions such as, “How can you be sure you are going to heaven?” and, “When you read the Bible how does it make sense to you?”
- Show them how to read the Bible for themselves. For me to leave the Catholic Church I needed to trust my ability to read and understand the Bible more than I trusted the priest. Your Catholic friend may not trust you but they will usually trust the Bible. If you can show them how to read it, God’s word will do all the work.
There are some great tools to help Christians read the Bible with people who are not used to reading it for themselves. The Word 121 (http://www.theword121.com) is a fantastic tool, and very popular with Catholics, produced by a London insurance broker based on the sermon notes of William Taylor from St Helen’s, Bishopsgate – one of the leading evangelical teachers in London.
The booklets divide John’s gospel into coffee-break-sized chunks with some very helpful notes that enable almost any Christian to read the Bible with their Catholic friend. In fact, Catholics are much more likely to say “Yes” to an invitation to read the Bible than anyone else you might ask because they still believe it is the word of God.
So there you have it. If you really want to celebrate all you’ve received from God, especially the things that were fought for and held onto in the Reformation, then keep sharing this gi with your Catholic friends and neighbours and family. Keep inviting them to belong to things, keep sharing your story with them and keep showing them how to read the Bible for themselves. Because if by God’s grace they receive the gift, the celebration will go on forever!