In pm's words
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October 26, 2015, 12:00 AM

the one where we are being re-formed


Sermon Text: John 8: 31-36

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? Let 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!

This is a big day and a big week for us. So much excitement surrounding this time of year that people have looked forward to for a long time. I know I looked forward to it! I’m of course talking about Back to the Future Day! October 21st was the day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrived in the future – a future full of hover boards, flying cars, Jaws 19 and the Cubs winning the World Series. Granted that movie was fiction and not all it’s ‘predictions’ and ‘visions’ have come true – Sorry Cubbies, I guess you’ll have to wait till next year… again… what, was there another day I was supposed to be excited for?

But, reminiscing about what Back to the Future anticipated and imagined what the future might be like, reminded me a bit of what Dr. Martin Luther envisioned and imagined the church to look like 30 years after he kicked the Reformation into high gear. Let alone, 498 years since that day he banged some paper to the door of the city church in Wittenberg.

As we think about Back to the Future, there are those who will cry out – where is my flying car and the skyways to drive them all? Where is my re-hydrator to cook my tiny pizzas and turn them into full size pizzas? Where’s the jacket that dries itself? And finally – where’s my hoverboard?! We can look back and see that things haven’t necessarily turned out the way we would’ve wanted them to. Our vision for the future back then was pretty ambitious – maybe even a bit farfetched – but, it was so tantalizing. It felt so close, where’d we stray from the path that led us here instead of over there?

Reformation Sunday is kind of like that too for me. Sure, it’s an opportunity that we as Lutherans like to ‘pat’ ourselves on the back, sing “A Mighty Fortress,” and reminisce a bit about all the good ‘we did’ for the church. There’s tendency to do that, but I really don’t like to do that at all. I feel it is things like that that continue to divide us and pull us away from what Luther felt God was leading us towards. I also think that if Luther walked into the world today he’d probably have some pretty harsh words for us (he was prone speak his mind after all, not a lot of it being very nice).

The thing that I believe he’d say first would be, “What happened?”

As we read our first lesson today – which is one of my favorite lessons in the Old Testament – we read of a future that God envisions for the world through Jeremiah. A future where everyone knows the Lord, and it is written on the hearts of God’s people. I imagine that text was playing on Luther’s heart as he sought to ‘reform’ the church that he loved and cared for and served in.

Where he posted those issues that he had with how the church operated and veered from scripture about people’s salvation and the love of God. Where he sought to empower all people – the entirety creation – in stating that they were important and that they mattered in the life and community of God.

And, as I remember those things, as I remember the Reformation and commemorate this day, I too ask – where’d did we veer from that path? Sure much good has come from the work that Luther and the other reformers began – we are more ecumenical now than ever before, for us as Lutherans we continually preach a theology about grace and love being open to all – that there isn’t anything that you have to do to receive that grace. God gives it freely, and with that gift our response is to love and to serve and do ‘good works’ throughout our lives.

But, because of the Reformation there is more desire to ‘split’ the body and community of Christ if our views differ in any way. We’ve been ‘given permission’ to break. So we do.

With the Reformation, we have a tendency to just look back and be proud of what happened and being content with that, not looking to the world around us and seeing where God is still leading us today.

Where we as a people feel more and more spiritually depleted because in some way we may not feel ‘good enough’ for God to love us, or use us, or be present with us.

Where we feel that ‘those over there’ are the ones that God doesn’t love, or use, or is present with because they are different from us.

Where the Words of God are used more as a weapon than as the cradle that holds Christ and tells us all of God’s love and presence with creation – all of creation.

I think about all those things on this day – this important day in the life of the Church. On this day that we commemorate what one man began that led us here. Where so much, so much, good has come to pass because of that day where Luther nailed his 95 issues with the church of his day, but where I see and many others feel that there is still more work to be done with us, through us, and on us.

The images that I love for this Reformation Day is one that is very present on my stole – that image of fire. Fire can be pretty dangerous, incredibly dangerous, but fire and heat are also used to create some absolutely wonderful creations. Metal and glass can be molded and shaped if you get them to the right temperature. It is beautiful and mesmerizing to see those artisans at work as they shape and form the blobs of metal and glass before them.

Reformation Day for me, is a constant reminder that we are still being reformed, we are always in a constant state of reforming. It isn’t that God worked through Luther and the reformers of almost 500 years ago and said, “Well look at that, it is done. They’re good to go! They are set and will never need to be changed!”

No. Not at all. We are always being made new. Always. We are always in the process of being formed and shaped. Envisioning the kingdom of God and how we can be a part of that process and make that a reality and the reality for the world – the entire world.

When asked at the end of the Back to the Future trilogy – Jennifer asks Doc Brown that her future that she saw had been ‘erased.’ Doc says it hasn’t been written yet. Your future is whatever you make it to be!

As we think and commemorate and celebrate this day of Reformation in the church, I hold on to that quote from Doc Brown – your future is whatever you make it to be. Of course, the future we have has been written – it is written on our hearts – that law, that love, that presence of God has been poured into us through our baptisms. The love of God is present with us always. Guiding us, shaping us, and leading us towards that future.

So, on this Reformation Day, how do we envision the future to come? Where do we see the future coming to be in 30 years – 15 years – 5 years – tomorrow? Is that a future where we just look back and continue to remember what others did or is it a future where we are looking forward to see where God is continuing to lead us?

As we participate in that future with God as our guide, we remember our baptisms and the gift that has been given to us. We participate in the communion that has been given for us. That nourishment of body and blood that sends us out into the world filled with God’s presence.

Where we continue to be in worship – not because we have to, but because it is within worship that we are continually reminded of God’s love for us. Where we know that we hear those words through scripture, song, liturgy, and message that we are loved, forgiven, accepted, and sent. No matter what.

That future where we are being re-formed through prayer, through our giving, through our continued learning from scripture and one another. Our fellow sisters and brothers in this place, the ones not yet here, and those outside these walls that help to continually shape our community and vision of the kingdom of God.

We do all this. And then we do it again. And again. And again.

Why? Because we are a work in progress, we are constantly being re-formed into the image and community of God. God is continually there leading us, guiding us, and shaping us into that new creation. Where we do know God, the law and love are written on our hearts. Knowing that our sin is remembered no more.

One of my favorite theologians – who happens to be a martyred Catholic Archbishop is Oscar Romero from El Salvador. If you go into my office you can see a quote from him on my wall, and I wanted to share a little bit from that quote as I end this sermon…

Archbishop Romero writes…

This is what we are about: We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities

I love that. We are a part of something great and grand. The gift that we have been given by God, the seeds that Luther sowed, the foundations that the reformers and all those after laid, are still at work. We are still a part of that work, that process of re-formation.

God’s work isn’t done. God is still at work. Helping us make the future that has already been written. The future that has been written on our hearts, that future that has been poured into us through our baptism. The future that Jesus brought into the world through his death on the cross and his resurrection in the victory over sin and death.

That future that we play a role in – through our prayer, and our service, and our learning, and our giving. Where all that is strengthened and enriched through our baptisms, our worship, and our communion.

That’s Reformation Day. A day where we remember not a finished work, but a work in progress. A wonderful work where we head back to the future that God set before us and wrote upon our hearts. Amen!

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