This year marks the 500th anniversary of Luther's posting his ninety-five theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg. It is often considered to be the beginning of the Reformation--though truth be told there were several so-called pre-reformers (like Hus and Wycliffe) who came long before Luther).
Five hundred years. A lot can happen in five hundred years, and so it has! I am not sure Luther would recognize the Protestant churches of today as heirs to his work and tradition. Even in his own time, there were other thinkers approaching the matter of reform in different ways. That is why some historians insist that we should be talking about the reformations, plural, as opposed to The Reformation.
However we describe it, however we label it, what happened in Wittenberg, and across much of Europe in 1517 and the years that followed, did indeed change the church in the West. It was never quite the same after that. Some bemoan that fact. Some bemoan the reality that the church is so splintered and divided. Honestly, it bothers me as well. But then I remember one of the key principles of that period in time: semper reforma. Not semper fidelis--that's the Marines. But rather semper reforma, always reforming. And when we are always reforming, that means of necessity, that there will be differences of perspective and opinion. We can hope--and pray--for a big enough tent to contain them all. But sometimes that just doesn't always happen.
Semper reforma--it's a bit unsettling, and it's a bit hopeful. Most of all, it is where we can find God at work.