Reformation Sunday…a day in our Church year that reminds us of the Reforming actions of God, which actually seems to be God’s ongoing ongoing work for humanity…
After all, way back before Jesus, God spoke to Abraham and Sarah, saying “lets give a new start to my relationship with those I have created…”
And then over time, people, as people do, began to un-form, or mis-form…So God in Reformation called prophets to tell of correction courses, to tell the people, “return to the Lord your God, who is filled with mercy…”
And then, God again saw to “give those I have created a new way to see relationship with me,” and so through the birth of God’s son as human infant, gave a way for the world so often violent and threatening to see that the love of God is gentle and re-forming of individuals, families, humanity, Church …
And since then—God’s stayed in the business of re-forming.
For, people in our humanness continue to un-form that which God provides, or to dis-listen to God while listening more to self or others…
and to dis-miss that God intends for us good relationship with God and one another.
And so, on Reformation Sunday each year we commemorate one of the times of God’s reforming, to see more clearly God’s continuing reformations for us, in us, to us, as individuals and as Church.
In 1517…499 years ago…
A guy named Martin Luther was a priest wanting desperately to dedicate his life to God, but in deep despair could see no way that he could ever be good enough to satisfy God.
….instead he saw all he did, all he couldn’t do, and all he didn’t do….and felt himself sinner without worth before God in this life, without hope of rest from fear.
And then, Luther found himself reading, re-reading, and reading again the words of the Apostle Paul…since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift.
What?! Made right with God
by Gift of God?!?!?!
WHAT? Its not anything I do? Its not my work or my pattern of life or some glorious harmony that I can achieve? Nope.
Gift of God---grace of God, glory of God!
Release by God from thinking there is some need to or some way to perfectly satisfy God; release by God into realizing God’s care and desire to be in good relationship with us is simply gift, given from God, which seeks to re-form us into wanting to encounter God, knowing we can do so without fear of missing some rung of a never ending ladder.
Well, each Reformation Sunday, what then are the Bible texts we hear? Ones filled with words some lots of folks today wish we’d just quit talking about: sin. Some churches today even drop the liturgy of confession andand absolution—thinking folks will hear it as a downer, so its easier to just drop it completely.
A preacher I heard recently told part of her own story of thinking on sin and confession and absolution….she’d grown up with a conservative Christian upbringing—and dropped away from that, partly because it always made everyone feel bad, and critical of themselves and one another. Then at about age 26, she “landed in a Lutheran church on a Sunday morning.” The preacher, Nadia, said that first experience of confession and especially absolution of sin felt like hogwash. After all, she didn’t cheat on her taxes or spouse or murder or steal; so why spend any time hearing about others who did, and anyway, if someone did those things, how could they be absolved of it? Hogwash.
But Nadia wasn’t done with thinking about God, or done with the Lutheran Church. Now she is Rev. Nadia Bolz -Weber out in Denver, with all her tattoos intact and what might seem a wild and crazy style of ministry to all kinds of folks from all sides of the tracks. And she plunges into talking about sin, confession and absolution in worship, saying this:
Martin Luther back in 1517 had a way of talking about sin, and his words help us know sin is way bigger than simply immoral actions—its more about how we each curve in on our self, substituting as center and determiner of life our own self rather than God and leaving God outside the curve.
Pastor Nadia says “my ideals and values never make me always do what I should, feel what I should, think what I should.”
…and that is what Lutheran Christians name as the Law.
But this Law is not like civil law which we can obey or not…this is Law already within us…and through this God, as Paul says, reveals our sin to us. Our sin being, again, our curving in around our own importance and our own ability to be what we should be…
Sin? No wonder no wants to dig into it or even hear about it.
Deep within we know
just HOW short we fall from the glory of God,
and we just KNOW we should do something about it all,
or else, we think….God will give up on us.
But wait…since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift
And back in 1517, Luther believed it, and shared what he found !
God’s grace is a gift. And so Luther found he no longer accepted what the church at the time taught: that people had to do work to get back into God’s good grace.
See, what then as now we often hear or think is that to satisfy God you have to buy your way out of something or someplace…except, in truth, you aren’t trapped anywhere.
“in Christ we are now justified by God’s grace as a gift” means there is no place we are trapped to buy our way out of, no fear to keep us stuck looking out for own self interest in fear.
Gosh, … I don’t know…
Maybe Pastor Nadia can help
We think like we’re given a Law that is an “if-then” proposition –
If you follow all the rules in the Bible
then God will love you and you will be happy.
If you say just the right thing, then you will be worthy to be loved.
If you think just right, then God will accept you.
But the Gospel, God’s good news is so different…
Its not about if / then…
it is all about because because because because.
Because God is our creator;
because we try to be God for ourselves,
because when God had had quite enough God became human in Jesus Christ to show us who God really is
because God still would not be deterred
because God went so far as to hang from the cross we built and did not lift a finger to condemn , saying forgive them they know not what they are doing;
because Jesus Christ defeated even death and the grave and rose on the 3rd day and because we all sin and fall short and forever think it is we who can make the difference
and because God loves God’s creation
God refuses for our sin and brokenness and inability to always do the right things to be the last word
because God came to save and not to judge
because of God you are saved by grace as a gift and not by the works of the law that stack up shoulds against us….and this truth sets you free
And Because of God, we give thanks to God.
Worship at Trinity: 9 A.M. Sundays and Wednesday Evening Vespers, 6:30 - 7:00 p.m.
Trinity Lutheran Church, midway between Grand Marais and Grand Portage along Lake Superior's North Shore invites you to Worship;
Worship is central to who who we are and how we strive to live-out our mission in Christ; celebrating the power of God among us who creates, heals, forgives, and creates.
Pastor Kris Garey,
Director of Music Ministry and Assistant Pastor, Bill Beckstrand
218-475-2439; P O Box 188, Hovland, MN 55606; email@example.com
4957 E. Highway 61, Hovland
Trinity in the summer is filled with people, flowers, areas to sit and be in prayer, places of beauty....come anytime to let yourself focus on God. "Christ is above all things, and in him all things hold together...." (Colossians 1)
A recent sermon at Trinity: Preaching Luke 10
Gospel: Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
Jesus commissions harvesters and laborers to go where he would go and do what he would do. Risking hardship and danger in exchange for the experience of great joy, they offer peace and healing as signs that the reign of God is near.
1After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ ”
16“Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”
17The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Sermon: it seems we should be talking about dust, today, with the gospel reading, but....
“MUD ! I over-heard someone saying the other day
“Mud…walking that trail in red clay country after all the rain
the mud was just plain stuck to boots
“Mud like that” “ya’ can’t get rid of it
It was so thick on my shoes that I felt taller,
And there was no good way to shake it off ….”
Ahhhhh standing there in line
I thought of the Gospel for today
and the thought stuck with me…stuck to me,
things sometimes stick so tight they can’t be brushed away
Oh we can shake dust off feet like flour off hands
But bad memories? tough times?
…you can shake the dust off feet
But How about our
Shake off the dust of love when a loved one is gone?
Shake off the dust of anger
Or Shake off the dust when feeling disregarded
Or perceived to be less than good enough
Less like dust and way more like mud is what it seems to be,
for feelings, awarenesses, sensitivities and impressions stick …
Yet for Jesus, then, maybe in the season
Where he was mud was rare
Dust more prevalent
The dust of dirt clinging to bare feet or feet lucky to be sandaled feet
Or the dust of old ways that could not give way to new…
OR THE thick suffocating DUST OF
Rome’s E M P I R E which Jesus was challenging…which like MUD had built up to make emperors
and rulers higher than high, so that they felt god-like,
the-be-all, end-all, presumed by themselves and their legions of soldiers to be more like pharaohs of old testament times who enslaved oppressed beat down
In our story of God’s interaction with us, the red sea parted
And the believers in our God fled across what should have been muddy bottom but was firm enough on which to stand and walk and run
And then the waters closed in behind them and chariots of the supposed be-all end-all pharaoh were stuck in mud….
Pharoahs army, defeated….they who had presumed their ruler to be a god, the be-all-end-all of everything
ah Empires that a pharaoh or emperor or even now of money-interests across the world
cling like mud too
to try and
every fiber, fabric, every life in order to gain a stronger and stronger hold
Dear Jesus, I want to ask…
What were you up to ?
There, nearing Jerusalem?
Speaking of peace
In every situation
Where there had seemed no peace for mind or lives
Peace was now at hand
A new wholeness came
and wearied souls who’d feared they could never get it right enough with God …
in hearing you speak of letting
peace rest upon, within
squalid empire-controlled air in which it seemed there could be no way to take a breath
into a freshness of life
Breathing as in Old Testament times in Pharoah’s Egypt land that became cries of the people to God
Whose heavy handed rulers gave not a damn for the welfare of people
As was to the case too
In the time of Jesus
With the Rulers of Rome….
For whom money and legions of armies were by structures of ruling class and tradition and commerce only for those at the very top
In a whole new way brought himself then
Sent first a few
then 70 into the fray
And whole new non-empire, non-revenge seeking, non-gonna-get-you, non-you’re less and I’m more,
non-normal-human interaction and reaction way
was being seen
and was to be
The Way for followers of Jesus…including we….
Jesus, born among us
God, come to be among us
today we are the ones he now forms…
To bring a wholeness and a peace that rests upon and cannot be shaken off
Into a sadly torn and worn world….
Dear friends in Christ
Breath in Christ
Breath out despair….
Breath in Jesus
Breath out what ails…
And be reminded
The kingdom of God
Has come near
Where you are
And will be with you
In every future moment
Tells you in the promise of Jesus
“peace be with you…..
And though we in our frailities may not not quite know it,
And often still lash out and injure others by words or deeds
We too can begin, now, to hold to this:
That when Jesus said
The kingdom of God has come near
The kingdom of God in Jesus
Had come, near, this near, this face-to-face near
beauty to behold inviting us
that we too might live within
“Peace be with You
The kingdom of God is here….and let that peace be seen, be heard
So that we find in whatever sickness there may be
there is wholeness in the midst
That helps remove the dust or mud that clings to hands or feet
minds or hearts
Dust or mud of resentments held
Aloneness clinging tight
isolation despair needing of repair
hating others being hated disliking others, being disliked….
living wildly living hardly….
Whatever clings and seems to stick like mud to packs and boots and cuffs….
Is gradually more and more in Christ undone
Oh I know I know….sometimes we in life cannot scrape away
anger sorrow sense of incompleteness sense of failure disappointment despair
We can hold onto
God’s Good will for us and all others too
The Holy Spirit’s stirring in the midst
For the Promise of Jesus
That the Kingdom of God
And we can
To hear, hold, listen, absorb,
What Jesus has said
So that we not hate
Any not others not selves..
And say as did our Lord command
Peace be with you….
The Kingdom of God has come near.
And so we can
Lay down set down shake off wash off chip away
ideas beliefs dust mud behaviors thoughts about others
And whatever it is that ails us
And say to self and one-another
Peace to you God’s kingdom is near
Peace, rest upon you
For God is here……
And the earth which bows before God, blesses us with showing forth the beauty of God
That we return to joy in Christ
And evil fails to undo what God has done
And is removed
The Lightening light of God creates
Rejoicing………and a new way to wholeness…..
in the midst-ness of our complicated lives
shakes off the dust, chips off the caked on mud….
And we find new ways
In which to live,
Find joy, rejoice… Thanks be to God. Amen.
A previous sermon:
Eyeglasses –I can’t remember what grade I was in when eyeglasses entered my life—maybe it was third grade.
My teacher, Mr. Klein, noticed that I wasn’t doing as well at I had at the beginning of the year. Thinking I just wasn’t paying attention, he moved me from the last row, way to the front. Ick. There I was, out of order, as classmates told me: your ast name “begins with an R, don’t you know our names all start with A and B. You don’t belong here.”
Bad enough—but then there re-figuring out who was distracting, who wanted to pass notes, who whispered funny stuff, who not so nice stuff, who picked on who, who acted up when the teacher was writing on the board. Worse, I couldn’t figure out why I was the only one moved. My folks thought maybe I’d misbehaved, or that I really wasn’t not paying attention. The other kids thought maybe I’d been caught cheating, or wasn’t doing homework.
But it was none of that—I just needed to see better. At some point that year Mr. Klein, because he could now see me bettere, noticed I was always squinting at the board, even from the front row.
Told I’d be getting glasses---knowing I’d be made fun of, and didn’t believe something sitting on my face would help me see, I dreaded the day.
Then came the day, and my Mom took me to get them. They felt so icky on my face. I was sure the clinic staff lied when telling me, “oh those look nice on you.” Walking to the car, I looked down the whole way, so no one would see my face with glasses. As we drove home along our familiar route, I finially looked out the window, and said with a loud voice, “hey Mom look –there are individual leaves on the trees, not just blobs of green, I’ve never seen them here before.” Of course, my mom started crying ..and even pulled over, telling me years later she’d felt terrible that no one had n oticed before that my vision was working right. But those first days I couldn’t stop noticing and exclaiming, “look over there, you can see that from here; look! I can see the the name of that street from here and know from this far away what it says.”
I’d been seeing before, knowing there were green leaves on trees, words on the blackboard, street signs with names, but I hadn’t been seeing what was there to be seen.
Today, however, isn’t about eyeglasses, its about being a Christian, a disciple of Christ, a learner in the classroom of Jesus, a follower who is looking out from within oneself and seeing differently.
Its about seeing not through eyeglasses, but through God and through faith in Christ.
Remember Namaan, the army commander for the King of Aram, conquorers of the Jewish people in ancient Israel. Namaan was certain he saw what he needed—but his vision of what he needed was off by miles. So when he saw his flesh restored from disease, he found himself saying, “Now I know there is no God in all the earth except the God of Israel…” quite a statement for someone from Aram where multiple gods were worshipped, and having only God would make you suspect of bringing problems for the community. But Namaan now saw differently.
Remember Paul, the apostle? He himself had not seen Jesus in the flesh, was blinded, then given sight again and saw life and all time and God differently—so that when he was a chained prisoner Paul saw this: the word of God is never chained, never prevented from being effective. He’d been given a new way to see not only leaves on trees, but God and the world and all others.
Remember the one leper, whose disease meant separation from all except others with visible diseases of the flesh? As he went on his way, he looked down, and seeing himself changed, healed from had made him isolated, he saw life made new, saw differently, and saw Jesus as the source of being wholly alive, and now, saw existence wholly differently, and turned back to fall at the feet of Jesus.
Seeing differently, is given to us, dear friends, as well. Faith in Christ is not to simply make us feel good, it is to help us see in ways that aren’t like what we’d come to our own.
It means letting God putting new eyeglasses on us, even if the world thinks they make us look weird, or act or speak in ways that are not the norm for society, or even make us different than we’ve usually been.
Looking back, we can see ancient writings of faith that caution us to n ot stay stuck in our own ways of thinking and seeing, noting how we like to see things as we are, not as God is. Seeing as we’d rather be, than being as God would see us be. And Origen of Alexandria who was a Christian in the first century after Christ, a time of great persecution for followers of Jesus, said “holiness is seeing with the eyes of Christ.” Modern writer Robert Barron says it this way: Christianity is, above all, a way of seeing. Everything else in Christian life flows from and circles around the transformation of our vision.”
So we who claim Christ as the ground beneath our feet and the one at whose feet we kneel will, maybe with a sigh of reluctance, put on the lenses that change how we see …and be willing to ask Jesus to heal us from only seeing only as we like to see. And in Jesus, who transforms our vision, we w ill see new ways of seeing, and prayer, worship, action, way of being in the world, and we will look down and see! We too are made whole, and then may not recognize ourselves!
So there were 10 lepers.
Crying out to Jesus for mercy.
And Jesus said in a sort of short hand at the time, “you’re in the process of being made whole, go and show yourself to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean.
But one, SEEING that he was healed, turned back to Jesus, praising God with a loud voice.
You see, “Christianity is, above all, a way of seeing.” That’s how my friend Pastor Brian Stoffregren puts it. “Everything else in our Christian life flows from and circles around the transformation God in Christ makes in our way of seeing….and so we see differently, and are seen differently. For our lives, in Christ, flow not from our own decidings, but from Jesus of Nazareth, who gives us a new vision of what God is up to, in all of creation.
And others, even when we don’t know it is happening,
begin to see us, and then begin to see,
even when they don’t know it,
Jesus, who has mercy and wholeness for all.
Thanks be to God.
Pastor Kris Garey
Christ the King Sunday