Written by Pastor Mark
What is Reformation Sunday? This is the Sunday where Lutherans and others celebrate the historic gift of the reformation. On October 31, 1517 Dr. Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of the Wittenberg cathedral. Luther was a professor of Old Testament Studies at the local university. It is not quite the act of vandalism that it appears. The closest modern analogy I can think of is a blog. Luther wrote a blog about the problems with the church and how they might be addressed. He meant it as an opening statement in a public debate. There was only one problem. Some guy named Guttenberg had just invented a device that allowed a single document to be replicated thousands of times in a hurry. Luther’s blog went viral.
He never meant to rip the church apart. He just wanted to point out a few theological differences he had with the pope. The problem is he went after the money making machine of the church. The Roman church had also found the newest technology and was turning out indulgences as quickly as their printing presses would allow. One of the prime salesmen of indulgences cried out to people “When the coin in the coffer sings, the spirit from purgatory springs!” In other words, give us your money or uncle Carl’s going to stay in purgatory for a long time, or maybe …
It is also a Sunday when we look at the continuing work of reformation in Christ’s church on earth. What would Luther’s 95 corrections to the church look like today? Another way to ask that question would be our theme for today, “What is the truth that feeds us?” According to Jesus in the Gospel lesson for today this truth is experiential. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you . . . then you will experience the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But first that truth will really tick you off.
This is also a Sunday we celebrate God’s word among us. Luther, and other reformers risked their lives translating the Bible into the language of the people they served. Tinsdale was actually put to death in England for doing so. It is easy to take this gift for granted in a world where we have hundreds of translations right at our fingertips, or, like me, on my computer. Luther argued that faith should be based on faith, and not on good works. One of my favorite parts of Luther’s Small Catechism is his understanding of third article of the Apostle’s Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him.” Theology is best done from the perspective of humility. How do we know what is right, how do we come to know God? Luther continues, “But the Holy Spirit has called me, through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts and sanctified and kept me in true faith.” Thank God for the Holy Spirit!
It is the Holy Spirit we are celebrating when we wear red to celebrate this day. Liturgically red is the color of Pentecost and the celebration of God’s Holy Spirit with us and in us. Where is that Holy Spirit leading us today? What are the truths with which we are being confronted? Courtney sent out a piece today about a dinner church in New York called St. Lydia’s. The church was discussing whether to be affililated with a particular denomination. Here is a quote from the article. “Some congregants questioned the value of joining the ‘sinking ship’ of mainline Protestantism.” Wow! Perhaps we are in need of a new reformation. If so there is no way we will be able to do it without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Quotes for the Week
“Nothing on earth is so well-suited to make the sad merry, the merry sad, to give courage to the despairing to make the proud humble, to lessen envy and hate as music.” Martin Luther
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. Oscar Wilde
In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell
Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it. C. S. Lewis
All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident. Arthur Schopenhauer
I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell. Harry Truman
1st Lesson Romans 3:19-28 (NRSV)
Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. 27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
Gospel Lesson John 8: 31-36 (The Message)
Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.”
33 Surprised, they said, “But we’re descendants of Abraham. We’ve never been slaves to anyone. How can you say, ‘The truth will free you’?”
34-38 Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will. The Son, though, has an established position, the run of the house. So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through.
Questions for the Week
What reformations do you think the church needs to consider today?
What words of truth make you uncomfortable, or angry? Why?