I just recently wrote about the Edict of Milan, which was signed 1700 years ago by the Roman Emperor Constantine.
Tomorrow is Reformation Day (October 31), the day on which Martin Luther reportedly nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. That makes it 496 years ago.
Today is October 30th. If my parents were still living (Mom passed away suddenly in 1994 and Dad died of cancer in 2000) today would be their 54th wedding anniversary. I always figured they got married after corn chopping and before deer season.
I always get a little nostalgic this time of year. I miss my folks, for one thing. I wish they were around to see what my siblings and I are up to. I think they'd be fascinated to hear about Kevin's work with the oil sands in Alberta. I'm quite sure they'd be proud of what Les has made of the farm where we all grew up. They'd have so much fun hearing about the fishing trips Janet and Ken take, and they would absolutely dote on their girls. They'd love Darin's farm down in Welch and all the creative things he's doing with it. And I think they'd be so happy for Angie's new place in Hutchinson.
I'm quite confident Mom and I would have spent thousands of hours -- literally -- talking about church stuff. She loved the ins and outs of churches as they help people connect with Jesus in an authentic way. Dad would have listened to those conversations and would have had a keen insight or two along the way that cut right to the heart of the matter. He didn't say much, but when he talked he was worth listening to.
I have yearned many times for the grandparenting they never got to do. They knew Kevin's kids early on, and Mom knew Erica when she was little. Mom died the day we first heard Mathea's heartbeat in utero. Dad knew the grandkids for slightly longer, but never got to meet Janet & Ken's girls or Darin & Stacy's boys.
Life moves on. The Psalm says "the generations rise up and pass away before you, Lord." How true it is.
In some ways we go through a similar kind of nostalgia with the Reformation, or even with Constantine. Lutheran churches have big celebrations this time of year to play up the importance of the Reformation. Martin Luther occasionally makes an appearance, via some actor talking about the values of the Reformation -- sola scripture, sola fide, sola gratis, and on it goes. But just like my siblings and I have moved on and continued to build lives beyond the scope of what Mom and Dad knew, the church faces things today Luther was not aware of. I hope I never leave behind the values Mom and Dad taught me, and in the same way there are lasting principles, lasting insights that come from the Reformation. But we need to be careful to adapt those insights to living in 2013. We may honor Constantine's decision to legalize Christianity, and yet recognize all the damage that has been caused by the establishment of churches.
This kind of historical perspective is invaluable for Christians today. We need to know where we have come from, and we need to be able to adapt to our current surroundings without trying to rewrite either history or scripture.
And it's okay to be a little nostalgic now and then.