There is an ancient prayer of the Church, attributed to St. Augustine:
Reform Your Church, Lord. Begin with me.
The best legacy of the Reformation is a living, continuous change in each one of us who claim the name of Christ. This year on our campus we will observe the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses, a seminal event in the reformation of the church and in fact the world. I enjoy reading and studying Reformation history. But if the Reformation remains to us an historical event rather than a vibrant, ongoing reality, it loses its relevance to church and society.
Appropriately, I think, our Book of the Year is A Good Time for the Truth. The book is a collection of essays, more properly oral histories, providing perspective on race in Minnesota. In the Introduction, Editor Sun Yung Shin positions the book as “A call for us to listen and learn about one another’s real lives in Minnesota.” We are at our best at our university when we continually practice listening and learning. We think of ourselves as a community which values racial and ethnic diversity, and the mutual understandings which occur when we exercise our listening and learning skills within our multicultural urban environment are magnificent.
But, as Sun Yung Shin points out, there are some hard truths “that we must understand and agree upon.” The experience of a person of color in the United States has always been and is still today a different experience from that of a person who is white. That is a hard truth which prompts the prayer Reform your Church, Lord. Begin with me. Moreover, much of racism is historically liked to efforts to colonize the “New World” by Christians, who often viewed Indigenous peoples as less than and not worthy. That is another hard truth. Reform your Church, Lord. Begin with me. More than anything else in this world, I value the love of God in Jesus Christ who, while we were yet sinners, came to die for us and rise from the dead to give us the certain promise of forgiveness and everlasting life. We are, in the words of the theme of our academic year, Saved by Grace. To realize that this fundamental Christian message has too often been linked to racism and oppression is, for me, the hardest of truths. But if I am to genuinely live a life rooted in Christ, it is a truth that must be faced. Reform your Church, Lord. Begin with me.
During this academic year we have before us a fortuitous confluence rich themes: Reformation – Diversity – Grace. Let us capitalize on them as an academic community in the spirit of this humble prayer: Reform your church, Lord. Begin with me.