All manner of stuff shapes us. Our upbringing. Where we've lived. Where we're currently living. What we've done for a living. Birth order. Accidents we've survived. Who we married or if we even did. Pets we've loved and buried. Teachers who criticized us. Teachers who encouraged us. Churches that loved us. Churches that scarred us. Movies that moved us. Books that haunt us to this day. Music that touches us. Promotions we weren't given. Children we've reared. Neighbors who help us. And, oh yes, our DNA.
Much in life we get to choose. But some stuff happens that we'd never sign up for. A few things we can change. But many things we'd like to shift seem to be set in stone. Some mistakes nearly undo us. All mistakes teach us. But as long as we have breath in our lungs and blood in our veins, we are being formed. And sometimes we're being re-formed. We might light-heartedly say that we're a work in progress. And sometimes our hearts aren't at all light when we plead that truth like an irrefutable defense.
In the world of religion many will celebrate or at least be mindful of Reformation Sunday this weekend. We remember that moment in history when Martin Luther boldly nailed a list of ninety-five grievances against the Roman Catholic Church to a door in Wittenberg, Germany. Others joined him in the effort to re-form religious life shaped by, among other things, grace and open access to the scriptures of the old and new testaments. A motto was formulated and widely embraced: "The Church Reformed, and Always Being Reformed." A work in progress indeed.
A little more than fifteen years ago, The Presbyterian Handbook was published. In it we find these words of clarification about those words: "This motto does not sanction change in the church, just for the sake of change; nor does it seek preservation of the past only for the sake of preservation. The church is to be open to the new changes that God wants to bring about for the church in the future. The church must always be ready to 'be reformed.'" According to many of the stories recorded in scripture, not much stays the same when the living God gets a hold of it. And that includes us. The holy always working in and on us. Progress indeed.