Traditionally, Reformation Sunday is observed on the Sunday at the end of October. This year that was October 29th. It is observed as a day to remember the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther’s 95 theses, as well as a day to express appreciation to pastors and elders who guide the flock at our churches.
Traditions surrounding the remembrance of the Protestant Reformation vary today and have grown increasingly diverse. Even so, there are still elements that are common and stretch back into time.
Typically, there are special sermons/messages given at this time of year much like there typically are at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter. Many of the topics already addressed in this blog are the subject of such messages. In the US, the churches that most regularly observe this would be Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Reformed Baptist. I have observed a spattering of independent bodies and member churches of other denominations that observe it as well. My church would be described as independent but also very much in the “Reformed Baptist” category and this year we had a message on each of the 5 Solas.
A large portion of churches in the US, and elsewhere, owe their existence to the Protestant Reformation and thereby could be considered “reformed”; however, there are those that do no follow in the footsteps of the reformers any longer and, despite their roots, do not remember the Protestant Reformation nor could be truly considered in the same theological vein. As a result, the term “reformed” to describe a particular church body has become a bit squishy I’d have to say. Nevertheless, outside of titles it isn’t that hard to tell the difference.
Nowadays we continue the same special message patterns of the past but have come to include both cultural and unique aspects of celebrating the Protestant Reformation.
With the invention of TV, messages could now be recorded along with image content to enhance said message. Not only does this include sermons but there have been many a documentary created not just on Martin Luther but on each of the people we would call among the reformers.
Various people right blogs – something made possible by the internet allowing people to take the message element to a wider audience while also being easily accessible across the world. (like this blog I’m writing now)
I’ve seen churches that have countdowns counting to the day of Martin’s famed posting of the theses at which point there’d be special gatherings.
One church I used to attend in Ohio always made an evening of the celebration on Reformation Sunday. In it, there’d be special remembrance, prayer, fellowship time, the viewing of a documentary/movie, food, and some frivolities. One such “frivolity” that had become a bit of a tradition at this church was a competition of themed desserts all reflecting the Protestant Reformation. Examples would include: chocolate cake with “Diet of Worms” spelled out on it and perhaps some gummy worms added for comedic effect; sheet cake with a reformer’s image on it; traditional German desserts, etc.
There is a group I meet with every Tuesday and we have gotten into the pattern of doing similarly as already described as we come together for fellowship, food, and the watching of a video on the reformation. I like to add to it and come dressed in a Museum Replica‘s monk robe that I bought in college (at a lower price than it is currently) that’s made of cotton but designed to look like burlap. As I said, I do it to add to the event as I remember some of the reformers, like Martin, who were originally monks.
I encourage people to celebrate the Protestant Reformation and to even add their own traditions to this holiday observed by those in the reformed. I believe it is a good thing to remember our roots and why we believe what we do. I think it is also good that we use this as a great time to teach, spread God’s truth, and spend time in fellowship!