A number of years ago while living in a commune called Monty House in East Lansing, Generation X style, I was introduced to the fabulous song, “the Revolution will not be televised” by Gil Scott Heron. Some of the lyrics:
You will not be able to stay home, brother. You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out. You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip out for beer during commercials, Because the revolution will not be televised...
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner, the revolution will not be televised, Brother. The revolution will not go better with Coke. The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath. The revolution will put you in the driver's seat...
The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised, will not be televised, will not be televised. The revolution will be no re-run brothers; The revolution will be live.
Mr. Heron makes it clear that society can not simply put the civil rights movement up on a shelf, on t.v. or anywhere far removed from reality. It was happening live in their lives whether they liked it or not.
The same can be said of the Reformation. I have often heard both Roman Catholic and Lutheran brothers and sisters bemoan the celebration of the Reformation. They claim it was just an historical incident and times have changed. Others see it only in political or economic contexts. Often times many in the Church want to put it on T.V., on the history channel, and leave it there. Maybe if the congregation is lucky, they will pull it out once a year.
Surely it can be studied in all those angles and treated in only academic terms or for entertainment purposes.
But brothers and sisters, the Reformation will not be televised!
The Reformation is live.
The Reformation was and is about the Life-giving words of Jesus Christ! While economic and political forces certainly allowed for the flame of the Gospel to overcome the darkness, the powerful engine of the Reformation was the Word of God Himself; that totally depraved sinners are saved totally by grace through faith!
The central teaching of the Reformation is the central teaching of Holy Scripture. And while Pope Leo is dead and gone, he was not the real enemy of the Gospel. As I frequently remind my flock, the real enemy of the Reformation lies in the hearts of all men. The fact that we are justified before God for free on account of Christ is completely foreign to our brains and throughout our lives we need God’s truth to drown our inclinations and resuscitate our faith.
So for you who think the Reformation is about beer and lederhosen... for those of you who think the Reformation is about ethnic heritages and parochial dramas...
The reformation will not be televised. It is live!
Every day we participate in the Reformation as we confess our sins, let go of our self-justifications and cling to Jesus' pronouncement of "Not guilty!". Every day God beats down that old Adam and raises up the new man.
The Reformation is live. That’s what I discovered soon into my tenure as a shepherd of God’s flock. A chaplain at a local hospital called me one day to tell me a woman wanted to see a Lutheran pastor. When I arrived I found her crying on her bed, tied to tubes, machines and scared. She spilled her guts. She was a lifelong Lutheran, she said. She should have known the freedom of Christ right? Yet, she told me she was scared because throughout her life she had carried a secret. A secret that kept her in a prison of shame, guilt, and fear!
She had killed her baby in the womb. She had an abortion. She didn’t try to justify it. She didn’t offer reasons why. She faced the enormity of her sin as she faced death. And she was scared.
Now, I'm sure she heard the Gospel many times throughout her life. She knew about forgiveness. She knew about grace. She knew we are all sinners and fall short of God’s expectations. But here she was frightened.
Sure God forgives 'typical' sins. But surely not something as serious as what she had done.
I could have made her feel better by telling her I’m sure she didn’t mean to do it. I could have said, “I’m sure you were coaxed into it by your parents or boyfriend or the world.” I could have said, "Well, we are all sinners, I’m sure God understands." But when you are facing death all those things don’t work anymore!
I could have helped her justify herself before God. But I didn’t! Not only because that isn't what I'm called to do, but because I didn’t have to. Instead, I told her that Christ paid the price for that sin just as He did for all of our sins. It’s all been wiped away by the blood of the Lamb—she is free to enter into His presence!
And a Reformation took place! The same Good News conquered the same old devil! The Reformation will not be televised, brothers and sisters. The Reformation is live!
It will not be placed on t.v. and interrupted by commercials It will not be stored in textbooks and used as an answer on Jeopardy once in a while The Reformation can not be stored away and brought out one Sunday a year. The Reformation is every Sunday. It is everyday. It is on every page.
Amen and amen!