At Grace & St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Manhattan today, the pastor exhorted the congregation not to be afraid to ask for the intercession of the saints in Heaven.
Luther himself was quite devoted to the Virgin Mary, but the abuse of the cult of the saints in his time led him to encourage a new focus on recourse to Christ himself. Once an abuse is corrected, though, it’s okay to stress again the underlying truth that the abuseexaggerated in such a way as to render false — in this case, the truth that it is the proper work of Christians, in heaven and on earth, in time and out of time, to pray for one another.
The pastor, the Rev. Martin Hauser, was very eloquent on the subject. I would just query him on one, broader point. He said that, as far as he was concerned, “the reformation is over.” If he meant Reformation-with-a-capital-R — the historic movement of the 16th century to recover the Gospel from certain very particular abuses – then that Reformation is certainly over. (A couple of years ago, I heard a Presbyterian minister in the pulpit declare that he thought the Catholics had done a better job of the Reformation at Vatican II “than we did in the 16th century.”) But if he means reformation-with-a-lower-case-R — the eternal struggle of the Christian community to live up to the challenge that their rabbi opened up for them – then that reformation will never end, this side of the Kingdom; there will never be a moment in time, be it 33 A.D., 1517, 1955, 1975, or 2575, when we can say, Now the church is perfect. Ecclesia semper, semper reformanda.