the one on the reformation...
October 29, 2018, 8:00 AM

Sermon from October 28, 2018

Text: John 8:31-36 and Psalm 46

Grace and peace to you 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!

So, we’ve arrived at what I have jokingly referred to as the 1st Anniversary of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Last year we gathered with over 350 of our sisters and brothers in faith from churches and communities all across our area to celebrate and worship. We convened at Wiles Chapel on that chilly morning and had a wonderful time of worship and an incredibly full day of faith, fun, and fellowship.

As we came to this year’s Reformation, I had begun to think and even had been approached by others – not only from here at Redeemer, but out in the community as well – what can we do to make this year special too? How can we make this year ‘equal’ to last year’s great celebration?

First, I’ll be honest – in the grand scheme of things, we’re probably not going to equal last year’s celebration even if this is the 1st Anniversary of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. We won’t have as many people. Our day won’t be as full as last year (though I am anticipating our Conference Reformation Service at St. Paul later this afternoon will be well attended). Yet, we still have a great choir and wonderful friends to share this day with as the Newberry College Singers are with us to share their gifts as we all give praise and thanks to God’s good work and ministry continued to live out in the world. And no matter what, no matter how large or ‘smaller’ our worship is this day – God is present with us, Christ is calling to us, the Spirit is guiding us – always moving to reform our hearts and lives to God’s intent for the world.

As humanity, we always want to make things bigger and better. But, I wonder if that is the wrong approach to take. Does it really matter if things are bigger, more robust, or that we have the ability to kick it up to 11 every year? I’m not convinced that God cares about all that. From what I’ve read in scripture, God isn’t in the business of making extravagant flashes to get a point across.

Oh sure, the ministry and work that God is able to do through us, through the church active in the world, through the Body of Christ does make waves and can radically change our world and culture, but I don’t think that’s ever really been done because of a huge day of worship and celebration.

God is in the business of making small changes and nudges that drive the most impact into the world. God is in the business of declaring presence and love through intentional, but mostly small ways to make that presence and love known.

This past week, I was able to go to our SC Synods Rostered Leaders Convocation at Lutheridge. I gathered with colleagues and friends; pastors and deacons of this great synod and church. We laughed, we had fun, we learned, we worshipped, we studied the Bible. In fact, it was one of the most enlightening Bible studies I’ve ever been a part of in my life. It was taught and led by the Rev. Dr. Theresa Thames from Princeton University. She is a dynamic, grace-filled, and faithful individual who is full of wisdom and wit.

She led our bible study on 1 Peter and even though that text is 1) not the scheduled or assigned reading for this Sunday, 2) an incredibly difficult text to read, and 3) a text that has been wildly misused to support some of the most heinous institutions in this country and world. Yet, it is a text (and Bible Study) that I could not help, but think about Reformation Sunday throughout.

For in her Bible Study she helped us see God’s radical change and intentional resistance and subversiveness to established powers and institutions. Where the writer has intentionally written to those who are the most oppressed and undercut in the Roman society. Written to them to bring them life and hope. Written to them so that they might know that God is the center and power and sole authority of life.

The letter of 1 Peter is written to give hope to those who have no hope. To give life to those who have had life wrenched from them. To give space and honor to those who live in a society and structure where all of it is kept from them at every turn.

It is a letter that for me is reminiscent of our scheduled Psalm for this morning (which we did not read, but don’t worry… I’ll read it for you now [READ PSALM 46]).

This is a psalm that Luther himself would sing and recite when life would become difficult, unruly, and feeling like it was going in all the wrong ways. It is a psalm for us that we might use to hear and recite as we feel similar moments of ‘losing it’ like Luther did. A psalm that reminds us of God’s great power and authority. That even in the midst of chaos and upheaval – God is at work and is steadfast. That in the midst of uncertainty and doubt – God is the one that we can and still should seek for solace and comfort.

God is at work and present with us even as the country is gripped by fear because an individual has sent bombs to those who dissent and disagree with our current presidential administration. God is here even as a gunman walks into a Kroger and specifically fires at African-Americans. God is holding creation close and working to change hearts as another gunman walks into a Synagogue in Pittsburgh and opens fire, killing 11 individuals and injuring others.

Of course, living into that sort of faith does not mean that we just sit around and let ‘God be God.’ No, we still take active partnership in the life in which God has called us. We still work and strive for a life that Jeremiah visions. We still live with the Word of God centered in our lives and moving us through our actions to care, love, and be with those around us (even the ones we may have disagreements with) – so that all might be able to live into that same freedom and love as well that God bestows upon all of creation.

Reformation Sunday at its core reminds us that in the midst of change, in the midst of revolution, in the midst of the chaos of challenging the establishments before us – God is present with you. God is present with you as you strive to live into the life that God calls for. God is present with you and at work as you seek to love in the way that Christ calls us to love – to love and live freely and fully into the Word that has been written on our hearts. God is with you even when following that call to love and serve others disagree and act out violently.

Living into that Reformation and radical change because of God’s love will cause nations to roar and kingdoms to totter. Yet, this is the God that is present with us, our refuge and strength because God breaks the bow and shatters the spear.

The Lord of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge. Today might not be as robust and full of pageantry that last year was, but we continue to know that God is with us. God is here. Amen and Amen.

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