Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
So, it’s Reformation Sunday. It’s good we celebrate this on a Sunday because if we tried to compete with Halloween, we’d get eaten alive. Like candy. So, today’s the day.
One Sunday a year we dedicate to remembering the Reformers of five hundred years ago, their insights, courage and sacrifice, and then we dedicate ourselves to continuing their vision, and their claim that the Body of Christ is always reforming. Semper Reformanda, if you want to be fancy about it. Always reforming – the Church with a big C, the whole body of Christ on earth, yes. Always reforming. And the Little C churches, congregations spread throughout the earth, each on its own distinct path, always reforming. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Just learn what they did and keep doing it. Great. We’re done here. Let’s go home.
oh, liebschen, if only it were so easy. Because reforming, no matter what else, means change. And change is hard.
Losing weight is change. There are SO many places in this area eager and willing to help you make that change. What a bunch of healthy people we are. Actually that’s not wrong – PNW people ARE healthier by a good stretch than people in places I’ve lived. But there’s a reason so many people want to help you – it’s hard to do! Sure it is.
Saving money is hard. Finding good work is hard. All those things require change. It’s part of improving your life. And improving – home improvement is hard, especially if you buy an old house! Showers that leak into walls make for big changes including tearing out drywall. That’s not easy. But it IS change – from broken to fixed, that’s change!
And on top of all that, COVID is HARD. I’ve changed this last year like I’ve never changed before! Not all of it for the better! Change THIS. Stop THAT. Be careful be careful be careful! I’m so tired of this all. But sadly, this virus is not tired at all. In fact, it seems ready for round Two. Change, or die. Or worse, get someone I love sick. Or worse. So. It’s hard!
Reforming is changing – leaving off the things that hold us back, leaning into the things that will draw us forward, that’s hard to do. Reforming is resisting the shiny distractions that beckon us away from faithfulness, hewing close to the paths of our forebears, that’s not easy.
It’s not just going after what’s newer and better, it’s ALSO looking back to see that our course remains true to the Gospel of Jesus. The Reformers, Luther, Calvin and the others, they looked forward AND backwards in time. They looked to a future free of corruption that had hobbled the church, and they looked back to the early centuries and the church untouched by the trappings of empire and wealth and power. They looked both ways, but they refused to be bound by either! They knew to go forward without remembering the past would lead to chaos, and it did in many ways – much suffering and needless violence came out of the Reformation, when people, drunk on freedom, forgot who they were, forgot WHOSE they were. But some remembered, and so the church reformed.
They also knew to live in the past was live a lie. There is no going back there, now or then – the past can teach us, but it is no longer home. You can remember it, treasure it, reminisce by the fireside, but there is no going back. Ever. The past is gone.
Jesus never made promises about taking anyone back anywhere. Someone even asked him, after the resurrection even, Jesus just glowing with life and power, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ Um, no. No restoring. No going back. Jesus did say these dangerous words: ‘If you continue in my Word, you are truly my disciples. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’
And what do we know about the truth? Truth hurts. Truth pulls no punches. Truth means change, more often than not. Look in the mirror, what do you see? Oof! You’re out of shape! Better make a change. Look at your bank account. What do you see? Oof! You spend too much. Better make a change. Look at the bible. What do you see? Yeah, God loves you. Jesus died for you. Oh yeah, all that. You live a life that reflects all that? Oof! Better make a change. ‘Repent’ is a simple word more than any thing means ‘change your mind’. Go in a different direction. Make a change. Old Luther said: ‘The Christian life is one of daily repentance.’ Daily change.
And yeah, that’s a tall order. I don’t mean to depress y’all. Don’t want folks to start doing pushups in the aisle here. And like you I plan to go home this afternoon, relax and eat and drink and watch a lot of football. I can’t promise much change in the next eight hours or so. Don’t hold your breath on my account.
But the future is out there. The past, as beckoning as it may be, old Mayberry with Andy and Opie and Barney and Aunt Bea and all, it’s all gone no matter how much you want it back. It’s a great example, it marks out who you are. But the past will never ever be what you become. That’s what the future is all about. What will you become? What will WE become? How will we change? The same God is always out there, but everything God touches, it changes. Mostly for the better. Let’s not forget that, and be comforted. The truth is out there. It can hurt, but God’s truth is love, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. It’s out there, too. And it’s good. It’s ours for the taking. We just have to let go and reach out.