Reformation: New Eyes, Ears, Heart, Spirit

By Lorraine Brugh

Living in Cambridge, England during this Reformation anniversary has given me some:

new eyes . . .

Yesterday after the eucharist we spoke with the preacher, Rev’d Carol Barrett Ford, Chaplain at St. John’s College. My husband and I were noting how much more subdued the Reformation anniversary seems here than in the US. She pointed out that here in the Cambridge Colleges much blood was spilled over those reforming years. In fact, in the upper chapel at St. Michael’s, just across the street from St. John’s, one can still see the remnants of blood on the walls. St. John’s founder, John Fisher, was executed for opposing King Henry VIII.

new ears . . .

The choir of men and boys at St. John’s College is one of England’s finest Anglican choirs. Precise and yet ethereal was a Gregorian plainsong Kyrie they led. The rest of the mass was a setting by Thomas Tallis, himself a Reformation-era composer. He remained Roman Catholic while the religious controversies swirled around him. I could hear the purity of Tallis’ “Lamb of God” that filled this Anglican chapel.

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26

We hear these words from Ezekiel 36 at the Easter Vigil each year. Even new eyes and ears can’t guarantee a new heart and spirit. If there is any good the Reformation leaves us, it is the reminder that we rise each day in the new life God gives us. This baptismal life renews us, offering us again and again the new heart and new spirit God yearns for us to receive.

Lorraine S. Brugh is the Frederick J. Kruse Endowed Chair in Church Music at Valparaiso University. Professor Brugh helped lead the development of the ELCA’s Evangelical Lutheran Worship and is co-author of The Sunday Assembly, published in 2008 to help church leaders incorporate the hymnal’s materials into worship services. She has been involved in the development of Lutheran music and worship practices for many years and is a past-president of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians.

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