Devotional Message: Reformation Sunday (10/28/2018)

Lessons

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 46
Romans 3:19-28
St. John 8:31-36

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age. Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial, defend them against all enemies of the gospel, and bestow on the church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Text for This Sunday

8:31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 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’?”  34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”

St. John 8:31-36, New Revised Standard Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Message: The Truth

Twelve months ago we Lutherans were all over it. We were celebrating the fact that it was five hundred years (exactly!) since Martin Luther is said to have nailed his “95 Theses” on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. 500 years of re-evaluating, re-examining, re-forming and re-committing to our faith. 500 years of digging into the Scriptures and exploring God’s good and gracious will for us. 500 years of trusting that the Spirit is alive and present in our life’s journey, and constantly drawing us (sometimes in spite of our determined resistance) towards God. 500 years of being so firmly rooted in the promise of the Gospel, that we are freed to give of ourselves to the world that surrounds us.

I said it then, and I’ll say it now: I’m grateful to have grown up in this tradition. Grateful for Luther’s focus on sin and grace. Grateful for Luther’s confidence that God is able and willing to overcome my own shortcomings, and find a place for me in the communion of saints. Grateful for Luther’s hope that no matter how far it might fall, God still loves the church enough to call it back to faithfulness, and work through it to touch the hurts and needs of the world.

Martin Luther, the 16th Century Augustinian Monk whose name graces our denomination, was a very Catholic, very German, very human, very flawed individual. We no more worship him than we do any other human being. But we admire him for his faithfulness, his courage, his strength, his commitment and his relentless pursuit of the truth.

In this week’s Gospel — as we remember Luther and his many “fellow reformers” — we hear Jesus say, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Luther wanted the world to know the truth about the Medieval Catholic Church. Not to shame it, or to destroy it, but to open it up to the healing and reforming power of God. Similarly, both Luther and Jesus want us to know the truth about ourselves. Not to shame us, or to destroy us, but so that we too might be opened up to the healing and reforming power of God. It is when we are able to hear the truth about ourselves that we become open to receiving grace and new life from God.

In the centuries since Martin Luther, many have reflected on his love for the church, and on his desire that the life and the practice and the teaching of the church might be its best possible tribute to God. Some have adopted the Latin credo, “Ecclesia reformata semper reformanda” (the reformed church must always be reformed) to get at this. It’s not that Luther got it right in the 16th Century, “And aren’t we lucky to be his heirs?” No: the gift he gives us today is the understanding that as long as the church is run by humans, it will go astray. But as long as the church is able to hear the truth, God will reform it again — set it free — so that it can once more be good news for the world.

Reformed and always reforming. What a great vision for the church, and what a great vision for what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ! May we always seek the truth. May we trust in the love and grace of God. And as we are reformed, and reformed, may you and I become the good news God wants the world to receive today.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel

  1. What did Martin Luther believe to be wrong with the church of his day?

  2. How was his “speaking the truth in love” effective in reforming the church?

  3. What do I appreciate most about the Lutheran church and its traditions?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel

  1. What has been the hardest truth anyone has spoken to me?

  2. When have I found myself resisting the truth — denying my humanness and brokenness?

  3. When has God’s loving truth turned me away from sinfulness, and towards a more faithful life?