the one about dwelling...
October 31, 2016, 8:00 AM

Sermon from October 30, 2016

Text: John 8: 31-36 and Jeremiah 31: 31-34

Grace and peace to y’all from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

It’s always around this time that I get a little nervous. I get nervous because we come to this day – this Reformation Sunday – and it is pretty special to us as Christians who identify as Lutherans. I get nervous because I continually think – how can I preach this text and this day that isn’t just the ‘same old same old’ that we’ve all heard for years.

Of course, as I’ve mentioned before, we should steer away from the thought that Lutherans ‘fixed’ the church. That this isn’t a day that we celebrate because we’ve ‘finished’ the Reformation. This isn’t a day that we pat our selves on the back with a ‘job well done.’ Why? Because each of those actions are ‘final’ in our minds. It makes us think that we don’t have anything left to do.

But, we have so much left to do. Our reading from Jeremiah this morning paints a wonderful image of what life can and will be like in the future. A day where no one has to say, “Know the Lord.” For all will know God. God’s law will be written on their hearts and God’s love will be shown through God’s choosing to not remember our sin anymore.

We haven’t quite made it there yet. But, Jesus’ action on the cross has brought us to the brink of that life.

But, God is still at work.

We are still at work. We are still a work in progress.

And why are we still at work? Look at our gospel reading.

Who is Jesus speaking to? He’s speaking to those who already believed into him. I think that’s pretty important. Jesus here isn’t just speaking to those passing by, curious strangers to this odd man who gathers crowds around him. Jesus isn’t speaking to those who have deliberately spoken out against him and have tried to make him stumble in his words.

No, Jesus is speaking to those who have heard him. Jesus is speaking to those who have begun to know him. Folks, Jesus is speaking to those like us.

And, I think the response these believers give is on the one hand a little sad (for people that are so history minded) and also pretty close to how we respond to God’s word.

It is funny that these believers have pretty short memories. They’ve never been slaves to anyone? Yet, they live in their land that is not ruled by them, but by an occupying force. The believers are from a line of people that have – unfortunately – been one to have been under the thumb of quite a few occupiers in their shared history. Romans, Egyptians, and Babylonians just to name a few.

I believe that the response they give is close to how we respond to God’s word as well. We rely – many times – on our own self. We don’t like to think that we are captured by anyone or anything. We’re smarter than that, we’re better than that to be ‘tricked’ into something along those lines. You can’t pull one over on us. Don’t tell us what we don’t want to hear.

We don’t like to think that we are slaves to sin. Yet, we want Sunday worship to be crisp in tidy in time because we’ve got to make sure we get home for the 1pm start of our team’s game. We feel the pride of cutting the cord, but don’t notice the massive amount of content we consume from other sources. We claim we are taking care of ourselves because we might drink a diet coke, yet are blinded to the double cheeseburger – with bacon – in our hands.

We are blind to our own prejudices against other because, ‘well – I have a friend whose different from me – so I can’t be.’

We tend to respond defiantly – just as the believers in our gospel this morning – to Jesus’ words.

And those words? Abide. Abide in him. Abide in the word. Abide in the one who is in and with God.

Abide, abide, abide. Remain. Dwell. Live.

On this Reformation Sunday, we are reminded again and again not only by what Luther shined a light upon, but on what Jesus has given to us. To remain in this word. To dwell in his light. To live with and for God.

Not to make excuses or have short-memories. Dwell in God. Recognize that we have, do, and will screw up. It’s going to happen.

Abide in the word.

That is what we celebrate on Reformation Sunday. Luther almost 500 years ago (499 to be exact) called the church proper to again abide in this word. To read it, to know it, to understand it.

Not necessarily to always memorize chapter and verse (though, it is nice to know scripture that well), but to know the text enough that we begin to know who and how God loves, acts, and desires from us.

To come into a situation and be able to say, “In the word that I know – in the word that I abide in – I know that this isn’t right. This isn’t how we are supposed to act.”

Or even, to know that word and abide in that relationship with God so well and so deep that we can say, “This is where God is at work. I have faith that God is in this action, speaking to us in this way, walking with us towards the cross.”

This morning our Reformation Sunday celebration is a little different as well. Today, we get to celebrate the continued faith formation of two young women in our congregation. Today we get to celebrate with them as they say, “yes” to the faith that has formed them, continues to form them, and to live into this Word. Saying ‘yes’ to the promises that their parents and this congregation made for them when they were baptized here in this place.

When we really think about that, it’s kind of scary. We are saying and these young women are confirming – you’ve been taught, you’ve asked questions, you’re ready to walk this life of faith with us.

It’s scary because you’re probably thinking, “Do I really know enough? Have I really learned it all? Am I really ready to do this?”

It’s scary.

But, I want to tell you something. Those questions that roam in your mind that you might think are ‘bad’ thoughts or are signs that you’re not ready. I’ll tell you a secret – those same questions bounce around in my head too. Your parents ask those questions. Those other adults who’ve journeyed this life of faith longer than you have asked those questions. Even I as your pastor still ask those questions. I still at times doubt if I’m ‘smart’ enough, if I know ‘enough,’ if I’m really ‘ready.’

I really do.

What we remember on this Reformation and on this day of celebration of the affirmation of your and our baptisms is that we are still a work in progress. The Reformation was not a ‘final’ word in our journey of faith. Confirmation is not graduation. We still have work to do.

You don’t become ‘complete’ after your classes and this formal instruction time has ended. You’ve been given a good overview and outlook of Christian basics, discipleship, who Jesus is, our Lutheran beliefs, and even a small taste of other traditions in the church and faiths in the world. Your formation hasn’t ended - just as the formation of everyone here this day has not ended.

Each of you have been blessed with gifts to this community of faith and to all who you will encounter in your life. A love of learning and faith. You both have been two of the most active participants in our classes these past two years – and I don’t think it’s only because you get a piece of candy.

You both have shown me – in small and great ways – how much you love this Word and how you hope and strive to live into this faith. Your care for those around you, your desire to participate in the community of faith, your ability to question the world around us, the deep thinking you each take as you process these words and God’s Word.

Yet, this is a continual journey – a journey we’re on for the entirety of our lives. A journey where there will be ups and downs, there will be joys and struggles, there will be doubts and questions, there will be life and death. Through it all – whether you’re being confirmed today or remembering your confirmation from 10 – 20 – 50 years ago – God is still at work in you. Continually forming you to abide, dwell, to live into the Word of God, the Word made flesh, the Lord of our Life, Jesus who is our Christ.

This life of faith and continued formation is not something that we tackle alone, but we do so with one another. We pray for one another – we encourage one another – we serve with and for one another. We point out to others where injustice is and we lift up where love reigns. We help and study with one another as we – together – abide in the words of our Lord. We come together – as one – praising God in our own unique ways.

This is what the Reformation is. A call to continually abide and dwell in the Word that God has given us – not just the words we read in our scriptures, but the Word that has been given to us. The Word of God that has been made one of us.

Together – all of us – we live into, for, and with our Lord Jesus who is the Christ. Amen.


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