October 31, each year marks the day of Reformation. Reformation is an on going process in divine-human history and hence confining Reformation only to October 31, 1517 is not justified. Reformation has been an on going act of God in the human from the beginnings of human history paving the way for the human to experience life in all its fullness. Whenever there was a threat to the divine plan for the human to experience this life in its fullness, God had to intervene from time to time through people to set things right. Reformation event, which happened through Martin Luther on October 31, 1517, is one of such reformation events. However, this particular event assumes significance as this day is generally regarded as the day when the Protestant reformation began against the practices of the Catholic Church, which eventually led to the formation of the Protestant Church as distinct from the Catholic Church.
One of the Biblical texts that is read for reflection on the Reformation Day is Jeremiah 31:31-34.It is a call to the people in exile to a life of newness in the midst of brokenness. This call to reformation is a call to embrace divine generosity. Like other prophets before him, Jeremiah has spent ample time and energy on the claim that Israel has systematically and long-term violated the covenant agreement of Mt. Sinai. They have violated the Ten Commandments of Sinai by economic policies that abused the poor, by foreign policy that depended on arms, by theological practice that offended God and by illusions of privilege before God. Such violation brings with it severe sanctions, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the deportation of its leading residents. But now in the book of Jeremiah, in the wake of brokenness and its resultant shame, defeat and anxiety, Jeremiah asserts God’s resolve to renew the covenant that has been broken by ancient Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34). It will be a renewed covenant, but one that stands in continuity with that of Sinai. What guarantees continuity from old broken covenant to new covenant is that both feature Torah; both line out the mutual fidelity of God and Israel by instruction and guidance for obedience that put Israel under obligation to God. The difference is that this time Israel will have a ready inclination to obey as it did not have in its ancient recalcitrance; the covenant now will be a glad practice of mutual fidelity. This will be for Israel a genuine starting over!
The ground for such starting over is to be found, singularly, in God’s ready resolve to begin anew. God, says Jeremiah, is ready to forgive and to forget, so that the renewed relationship is one of generosity and grace on God’s part.
It is indeed my prayer that we will rediscover and thereby celebrate God’s generosity of forgiving and forgetting our evil acts providing us ample opportunities to experience life in all its fullness which God gives to all. This celebration of Reformation is an on going activity bringing about transformation in us and through us in the other. When this happens in the family of the Bible Society, we can say with grace and humility that the Bible Society is a Reformed and a Reforming Community.
Rev. Dr. M. Mani Chacko
The Bible Society of India