Johann Alexander Dubendorffer was born in 1701/02 in Schriesheim, Pfalz, Switzerland. As far as we know, his family would live in the Palatinate area of German before emigrating to Pennsylvania. He was a staunch member of the Reformed Church. His son, Gottfried Diefenderfer married his bride in 1753 at the Great Swamp Church. The last name changed in spelling until it became the “Diefendieffer” I recognize. The church where the wedding was solemnized is now Trinity Great Swamp United Church of Christ in Spinnerstown, Pennsylvania. My family roots trace back to the period of the Protestant Reformation. This year, 2016, we begin the 500th Anniversary year of that turning point in church history.
On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Wittenburg castle-church. That public event was action that dates and defines what we know as the Protestant Reformation. Although it is nice to have a calendar date, the event itself was a culmination of many years of prayer and thought. It was also the beginning of a larger discussion about what it means to be a church. How does a church conduct its worship? How is scripture understood? What is the nature of faith?
We find ourselves asking the same questions in 2016. The “landscape” of the church is changing. Some churches are losing members and members are losing interest. Other churches are flourishing and filling major stadium sized spaces. Other churches are just beginning and are meeting in bars and restaurants and homes with no intention to build their own building. Perhaps the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation might be a time for reflection.
Martin Luther as well as Ulrich Zwingli, the person most connected with the Reformed Church, were concerned that the Church in Europe in the 16th Century had gotten off track – had misplaced her priorities. There are those who offer the same criticisms today. It is a topic worthy of conversation.
However, this is a blog entry and not a format for the “pros and cons” of the 21st century church. It is also a blog where I have said I wanted to name those touch points where scripture meets the seasons of our lives. This week that season is the Reformation and Renewal of the Church. I offer some scripture passages that are my personal touch points as a person of faith grounded in the Reformed Church tradition. I invite you to think about your own touch points.
Romans 5:1 – Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to the grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.
1 Peter 4:10 – Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.
2 Timothy 2:15 – Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth.
2 Timothy 3:14-15 – But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that were able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
To these passages I would also add the words of a 17th Century pastor out of the English Reformation and also out of my personal family history and “Reformation DNA”. Pastor John Robinson, when speaking to those Pilgrims leaving Leiden, Amsterdam on a voyage that would take them to Massachusetts, said:
“I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word.”
As we enter the 500th Anniversary year of the Protestant Reformation I believe the words of Pastor Robinson are both a promise kept and a hope to be revealed.
Grace and Peace,