Traditional Sermon Reformation Sunday
It has been 500 years since the beginning of the Reformation. Five hundred years have passed since Martin Luther posted 95 debatable topics–thesis statements–about God’s mercy, our faith, and the work of the church.
This past year there have been books published, interviews given, and PBS movies made about the life of Luther and the work of the reformation. Even toy companies have gotten into the anniversary with the Luther Playmobil. Some of you have been able to travel to Germany to visit important places in the life of Martin Luther. But 500 years is a long time.
But 500 years is a long time. I find myself looking around and wondering if Martin Luther’s work in the church has anything to do with my life today. He probably couldn’t imagine someone like me–a female–in the pulpit. Nevermind trying to imagine what the church looks like outside of Europe–what would he think of our mission partners the Busoka Lutheran Church? Could he fathom our deaf church meeting every week? And nevermind the whole technical/digital divide. We have so much information at our fingertips and can be informed in so many ways!
500 years is a long time ago.
And yet…some things I would hope are universal. No matter the time or the place that God’s truth and God’s work is alive and relevant and incarnational here and now.
Take for example our Gospel text for today where it’s an encounter between Jesus and religious leaders who are believing in what he’s saying, but struggling…really struggling with some universal themes about God in our life.
Themes like freedom and truth.
Some would say that issues of freedom versus oppression or true versus fake are hot topics for Americans right now. We’re wrestling with them…and in our wrestling we can become pretty anxious. What is true? What is reliable? What does it mean to be free? Surely this isn’t simply an American question, right? We have our own unique way of dealing with it in a high anxiety, in your face, reality-tv sort of way… but surely questions of truth and freedom have been asked before. Right?
Every once in awhile I think about God’s desire for us and Jesus’ words and the world and our faith and I wonder, “What would Martin Luther think about this?” If I could ask him, what would he say?
I’m hoping that others are hearing that voice and that it’s not just your pastor having too many cups of coffee and hearing things. So for argument’s sake…let’s just all agree that the 2-dimensional Martin Luther is talking to us today. That it’s a Reformation celebration miracle.
Awesome. We can have one of the many table talks you had with your fellow Reformation reformers and students where you talked about God and the Holy Scriptures?
Yes! And this is what I want to talk to you about. Because we’re celebrating our faith and God’s work in our lives from the time of Jesus, to your time, Dr. Luther in the 1500s in Germany, to our time here in America in the 21st century. And it’s so easy for me to put you on a shelf of history..sir…Rev. Dr. Martin Luther. It’s so easy for me to disconnect what our life and faith is like. And to forget that there are words of truth that God speaks across the span of time and space. Like in our Gospel text today from John 8 where Jesus is speaking to people who were believing in him, but not following him.
Discipleship can be a costly thing. That’s what I’m hearing you say Martin. It’s never been easy, but perhaps that’s the point isn’t. No matter the time or the place…discipleship and following Jesus is a little bit like dying. We’re dying to ourselves–our pride, our ego, our anger, the yucky stuff that gets in the way of being God’s person in the world. We’re dying to it so that we can rise to be something new that God has created for us. And it’s a daily thing…a daily dying and rising.
Good…I’m glad you like it. You wrote it. When writing about baptism…you say the fact that I am baptized is not a once and done thing, but a daily work of God’s grace in my life. You’re quite the wordsmith!
Okay…so tell me Marty…if I can call you that… Jesus says to people who are really trying to follow him and believe, that they will know the truth. What does “you will know the truth” mean? Is it like Tom Cruise in a Few Good Men “I want the truth!” and Jack Nicholson says “You can’t handle the truth!”
But Marty, what does that mean?
Okay, so the truth will make me free. And the truth is that the things around us are temporary, but God is eternal. The governments and rulers and kings in our life never replace Christ as our one true king. Our one true Lord. Is that what you’re saying?
Marty, I’m so glad that you said that. It’s often so easy to focus on the empires and powers before us, and to lose sight of the sovereignty of God. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that. So…the truth is that God leads us. We’ve been given this temporary time in the here and now, but we never can lose sight of the eternal. This is life is about being a persistent disciple. Right?
So now help me with this whole freedom thing. Sometimes I struggle with freedom. Sometimes I like to think of freedom as I can do what I want, say what I want, eat what I want, spend what I want. And that’s my freedom. And in America–that’s pretty true. So what in the world does Jesus mean when he says, “the truth will make you free”?
Got it. Prosperity gospel equals pig dung. Thank you Rev. Dr. Martin Luther for never being vague in your opinions.
Right…the truth is that Christ is Lord of all and servant king…and we’re free from our sins because of this servant king who rules us. And to be free, we in turn are to be servants. That whole last shall be first and first shall be last, turn the other cheek, love your enemies stuff that Jesus says. This is our reality as Christians.
So my dear brother Martin, though 500 years, two continents, an ocean, and lots of changes in the world divide you and I, we are both but beggars needing Christ’s freeing hand in our lives. And the only way we can say thank you to our Lord is by offering that mercy and love in what we do and say.
So this day and this week to come is a gift for us to live as Jesus lives…to serve as Jesus serves. We can constantly be growing into better followers of Jesus.
And with that we would say thanks be to God. Amen!