the one about the reformation...
October 28, 2019, 8:00 AM

Sermon from Reformation Sunday - October 27, 2019

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

Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Risen 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!

So, today is one of those big days in the life of the church. In particular it is a big day in the life of churches like ours – Protestant and Lutheran. Now, I’ve heard in the past that this was a day that was seen like a ‘celebration’ of sorts over those ‘old school’ traditions like the Roman Catholic Church. Where some have taken this day as an opportunity to pat themselves on the back and give any sorts of ‘different’ hand gestures aimed toward the churches of the past.

Please don’t do that. That’s not what this day is about.

I believe on its mere basis, Luther would see the benefit of this day – as do I. But, how this day has been used to ‘thumb the nose’ towards the Catholic tradition or even to self-congratulate ourselves for a ‘job well done’ he’d have a few words to say about that (and he was a man who never said anything with just a few words). I feel he’d also be horrified to see those who have used this day to glorify Luther himself.

So, what then are we to do with this day? How should one truly ‘celebrate’ the Reformation? How do we remember this day appropriately?

I believe the first thing we have to remember is that being ‘reformed’ is a process that is never truly finished. When Luther nailed his points of contention to the Wittenberg Church door (as the legends goes), I don’t believe he did so thinking that those were the only issues he had with how the church of his day had strayed from God’s Word and grace. And believe me, they weren’t. Remember, Luther had a lot to say.

Luther didn’t announce his issues and then walk away. He wasn’t like a troll on social media that drops a ridiculous ‘bomb’ of ideas and text and then sits back and watches the chaos that ensues among the group. No, from the beginning, Luther knew that what he saw and how he acted was the beginning of an ongoing conversation, dialogue, and constant action.

I believe Luther knew that the work of the ‘Reformation’ would never be truly complete. But, would always be in a constantly active state. It has to be. Why? Because we will always arrive at those moments where we become complacent or apathetic or even diverge completely from the life of faith that our Lord and Savior Jesus invites and has called us into.

When we look back and reminisce through rose colored glasses of what once was, we fail to see the work that God continues to refine and rekindle in us today.

This week, I read an article about a church in Minnesota that could have done that. They had dwindled to about 20 folks each Sunday. They were less than two years from running completely out of funds and closing their building and ending their ministry altogether.

Yet, they looked at what they currently had – their gifts and skills – and saw that they could still help in the community. They had knowledge and skills to do work on homes and for people in their community. And, so they did it. With no expectations of anything in return.

They covered their town with leaflets stating that they were willing and able to help fix homes, paint rooms, to clean, to rewire, to do any sort of work to help. Anyone. No matter what or who. For free. No questions asked. They would live into a reformed sense of hospitality and welcome. They would live into the radical love and care that Jesus proclaims to help their neighbors in need.

They add handicap accessible access to homes. They rewire electrical systems. They clean gutters and pipes. They complete room addons that contractors skipped out on. And they did and do it all without expecting anything in return.

They have begun to live a life of being ‘reformed’ in God’s love and grace.

Has their church grown from that 20 or so clinging on? A bit, but not exorbitantly. They still struggle financially. They still teeter on the brink of whether or not they’ll be around in five or ten years.

Yet for now, they work. They help. They care.

So, what might living into the radical reformation be for Redeemer? Does it have to look like that church in Minnesota? No, it doesn’t. But, where can we look at who we are, what gifts we possess and have been blessed with, and live into the faith and life that God has and continues to call us into?

Where can we look to see where we have and where we are changing as a community of faith in Newberry to be more open and welcoming to those within our surrounding area? Where is God pushing, pulling, pinching, and throwing us to live into the life and Word that Jesus proclaims in caring for the people around us? In many ways we have been that community where all feel welcomed and love. And yet, we still have so much room to grow in that life and love.

Where can we sit and listen to those around us, to hear their stories as they share their struggles and joys, where we can walk with folks in care and love? Not to ‘gain members’ or to ‘look good,’ but simply to be the hands and feet of God to those around us – because that’s what people who follow Christ should do.

Where can we look inward to ourselves and see where we have a need to be reformed? Where we see those moments in our lives where we haven’t lived into the love that God has called us into. Where we have judged, where we have hurt through the things we’ve done, said, or posted online and in the real world that differ so much from the love that God has shown to us in Christ our Lord. Where we have become upset because someone posted their ’95 Grievances’ against us because we have strayed from God’s love and life with our words and actions.

This day of Reformation is indeed a day we look back. It is indeed a day that we remember the conversation that Luther began over 500 years ago. Where that simple act of airing his grievances gave permission to countless others to speak up, to say, ‘I think there is another way to look at this,’ and yes to even say, “This isn’t right. Something needs to be done.”

Luther saw how those in his community and in the life of the church were being taken advantage of. They were being told they weren’t ‘good enough’ and that they needed to do something more in order for God to love and care for them. That the church of his day was profiting off of things that were simply made up in order to strike fear and anxiety in the people.

So, he started a conversation. He sparked a fire that continues to this day. A fire that continues to put us in a state of re-forming what it means to follow Christ. A fire that shapes and molds us into what God has intended us to be all along.

The Reformation isn’t over. It still continues today. We still get to participate in this. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it makes us upset because it challenges the status quo. Yet, there God is – present always. Reminding us that love and life have been written on our hearts. Where that constant Word of God continues to move us in prayer, action, and faith. Where the Spirit of God flames around us as we again and again are shaped into those creations that love and care for all. No matter what. No expectations. No exceptions.

The Reformation isn’t just something that happened. The Reformation is still something at work today. God continues to re-form us. God continues to call us. God continues to invite us. God continues, because God loves us and the world. Always. That’s how we continue to live into the truth that Christ proclaims, that very truth that sets us free. That truth that moves us into action. Always. Amen.

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