Sometimes, we Protestants tend to get a bit carried away in celebrating the Reformation. In my undergraduate college (which just happened to also be a Lutheran college), each year I remember the study body banning together to make our own version of the 95 Theses and hanging it on the door of the chapel. Reformation Day would be a campus-wide celebration, and there would always be a special hour-long chapel service. Images of Martin Luther, our great "emancipator", would be scattered around the campus, and together as a study body we would celebrate the origins of our proud Protestant heritage.
As I reflect on our Reformation celebrations from undergrad, I realize that we Protestants often get very excited about celebrating our Reformation heritage but often at the expense of our Catholic heritage altogether. One of my parishioners sent me an article of a European museum that invites guests to come and "virtually" desecrate the image of the Virigin Mary suspended on a computer screen. This exhibit is supposedly intended to honor the Protestant Reformation but, as my parishioner aptly pointed, out, "A little too much Reformation, I think." Of course there were Protestant Reformers who desecrated Catholic images and relics of all sorts during the Reformation---from stained glass windows to icons of saints to so much more. Obviously, this European museum is commemorating that particular part of the Reformation, which, however historically accurate it might be, probably should not be the part of the Reformation that we still celebrate today.
Our Reformation celebrations should not be ones that antagonize, alienate, or serve to make our Catholic brothers and sisters uncomfortable. We so easily forget that our many Protestant denominations today would not exist without the Catholic Church. After all, the Catholic Church came first---long, long before we did. The many traditions we hold so dear in our Protestant churches were first established many centuries ago in the Western Catholic Church. The Apostles' Creed and Nicene Creed both are confessional statements of the early Catholic Church that still serve to unify Protestant denominations across the globe. We gather together in worship each Sunday and proclaim our faith out loud, saying together the words of these ancient creeds that so many generations of Christian saints---Protestant and Catholic alike--- have said out loud long before us.
As we approach Reformation Sunday, let us be mindful of our origin as Protestants---but most importantly, our origin as Christians. For we are one body of Christ, united together in the name of Jesus Christ who is the one and only head of the Church. Let us not think so much of Martin Luther as an "emancipator," as one who set us free from the bounds of the Catholic Church. Instead, let us think of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwinlgi, and all of the other Reformations together as just a few of the many great voices that gave our Christian faith a new expression in a new era of Christianity. Let us think of the Reformers as just a few of the many, many generations of brave Christian witnesses who came before us who helped make it possible for us to worship God freely and diversely today.