Friday, October 31, 2008

Post Tenebras, Lux

This morning, I had a bit of a quandary. Last night, I realized I was out of shirts to wear to work, so I threw a few in the wash before I went to bed. My in-laws are in town, and my mother-in-law offered to change the shirts over to the dryer before she went to bed. Sounded like a plan – I’d just quietly (the basement doubles as our guest room and laundry room, so my in-laws were sleeping down there) walk down to the basement in the morning and retrieve one. This morning, as I reached the bottom of the stairs, I realized an unforeseen difficulty. Our basement, at 6:30 AM with no lights on, is pitch black. Oops. I tiptoed over to the dryer, feeling my way along, knowing by daily routine where it was. However, after opening the dryer, I could see absolutely nothing inside. I felt around and pulled out what I thought might have been a work shirt. Wrong. This process repeated itself for a while until I eventually wound up with the right shirt.

The shirts were there - they’d been there the whole time. However, because I couldn’t see them, they were inaccessible to me, so they might as well have not been there at all. Welcome to the time before the Reformation. Spiritual darkness reigned over the church. The Bible was there, yes – but since it was only translated into Latin, and not the languages of the common people, it was completely inaccessible. One’s only hope of finding spiritual truth was a religious education or a rare honest priest. Today, we look back on the efforts of one such honest priest, Martin Luther, who 491 years ago today challenged the abuses of the church at the risk of his livelihood, and even his life. Luther, Calvin, Huss, Wycliffe, Zwingli, and the others whose efforts we celebrate didn’t invent our faith. It had been there the whole time. It had lain dormant in the pages of Scripture, obscured by a church more interested in lining its own pockets than guarding the souls of its people. These men simply had the courage to shine a light, and they reminded the world of the marvelous riches of the grace of God.

Chances are that if you’re reading this, you’ve got a Bible on your shelf. Have you taken it for granted? Does this jewel sit neglected, with you secure in the knowledge that you can always look something up in it in a pinch? Or, perhaps you have become so familiar with the words of Scripture that they’ve lost much of their punch. You’ve taught so many Sunday School classes that his grace ceases to amaze you anymore. When we neglect the Word, either from familiarity or contempt (or as the old adage says, both), we cast a sad shadow on the men and women who worked, some giving their lives, to bring the truth of God before our eyes. They fumbled through the dryer, tirelessly looking for the right shirts. They turned the light on for us. They ironed and pressed the shirts, slipped a mint in the pocket, and went on their way. Yet, on many days, we just can’t work up the energy to walk to the basement. We go to work without a shirt on. But it’s okay, we realize as we sit at our desks. Nobody else has theirs on either.

For more Reformation reflections, head on over to Tim Challies’ blog for his Reformation Day Symposium.

"You say it is heresy to speak of the Holy Scriptures in English. You call me a heretic because I have translated the Bible into the common tongue of the people. Do you know whom you blaspheme? Did not the Holy Ghost give the Word of God at first in the mother-tongue of the nations to whom it was addressed? Why do you speak against the Holy Ghost? You say that the Church of God is in danger from this book. How can that be? Is it not from the Bible only that we learn that God has set up such a society as a Church on the earth? Is it not the Bible that gives all her authority to the Church? Is it not from the Bible that we learn who is the Builder and Sovereign of the Church, what are the laws by which she is to be governed, and the rights and privileges of her members? Without the Bible, what charter has the Church to show for all these? It is you who place the Church in jeopardy by hiding the Divine warrant, the missive royal of her King, for the authority she wields and the faith she enjoins." – John Wycliffe

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