Peg's Sermon on John 8:31-35
A year and a half ago Reg
and I celebrated our 30th Wedding Anniversary on a study trip to
100 years before Luther, Hus had taken an active part the reform movement and got himself into hot water – or more precisely, and unfortunately, he was eventually burnt at the stake for his efforts. But the reform movement couldn’t be easily stopped and 100 years later Luther identified with Hus’ efforts and he succeeded not only in advancing them, but in avoiding martyrdom. Luther said of himself and his supporters: “We are Hussites, all.” Luther saw himself standing on the shoulders of Hus.
We all stand on the shoulders of someone. The hymns and themes of Reformation Sunday remind us how history has influenced us and especially Luther – 16th century pastor and scholar who wanted to reform the church, not start a new one. Especially not one named after him. “I wasn’t crucified for anyone,” he said. “Call yourselves after him who you follow. You are Christians.” But, to his dismay, the name Lutheran stuck.
Lutherans share life together with other Christians whether we agree over everything or not. We are now at the 6th Anniversary of the Joint Declaration of Faith signed by Lutherans and Roman Catholics with both communions agree it is by grace through faith that we are saved, not by works – the essence of today’s Epistle. More work needs to be done for sure and how exciting to be a part of the dialogue!
Just a few months ago we
were saddened by the sudden and tragic death of another whose life permeated
across Protestant/Catholic lines. Brother
Roger founded an ecumenical community in
What is particularly
unique about Brother Roger is that a great number of his followers were young
people. 1000’s of youth from all
over the world travel, still, to spend time in this community of quiet prayer.
The style of worship is not what publishing companies tell us teenagers
want. Brother Roger didn’t use
video or fast music or loud instruments.
He used gentle passionate tunes easily memorized and repeated over and over. It may sound boring, but young people all over the world of various denominations have not found it so. Instead, it draws people deeper, penetrating beneath the noises of our time.
Like Luther, Brother Roger was a reformer who reformed the church in ways beyond his own knowing. He had no idea originally that churches all over the world would one day be offering Taizé services. He didn’t start out with that intention, but his songs are now in modern hymnals the world over.
At a very young age Brother Roger sought God in solitude. It turned out that young men of all denominations found his monastic lifestyle attractive. And eventually, he welcomed not only new Brothers, but also many guests. The word got out – not by advertising, but by word of mouth – the most effective Evangelism tool.
The kind of change Brother Roger brought about was far different from the changes Luther brought, but both have had a far reaching impact. We too are called to work for meaningful, transforming change towards the Gospel – towards being Christ’s body in the world. Where we reflect the Gospel well, we should celebrate. Where we fall short of God’s freeing love, we should pray God will open our eyes.
What Luther saw was how amazing the Word of God is and how we are fools when we don’t give it top priority in our lives. It was when Luther recognized he was being encountered by the Living Word of the Gospel that his life changed and he found himself set free. Even as a young man Luther couldn’t get enough of the Bible. Listen to what he writes of the word of God in the Preface to his Large Catechism – remembering he wrote in the 1500’s with words we don’t use much today. But you’ll get the gist of it.
“Not only do we daily need God’s Word just as we do our daily bread; we also must have it every day in order to stand against the daily attacks and ambushes of the devil… If this were not enough to admonish us to read the catechism daily, God’s command should suffice to compel us. For God solemnly rejoins us in Deuteronomy 6 that we should meditate on his precepts while sitting, walking, standing, lying down, and rising, and should keep them as an ever-present emblem before our eyes and on our hands.”
certainly does not require this so solemnly without reason.
He knows our danger and need; he knows the constant attacks of the devil.
Therefore, he wishes to warn, equip, and protect us against them with
good “armor” and with a good antidote against their evil infections.
Oh, what mad, senseless fools we are!
We must ever live and dwell in the midst of such mighty enemies like the
devils and yet we would despise our weapons and armor, too lazy to examine them
or give them a thought! We deserve not only to be given no food to eat, but also
to have the dogs set upon us and to be pelted with horse manure.” (Book of
My hope for us all is – not that we will be pelted by horse manure – but that we will share with Luther this urgency about the word of God. In today’s Gospel from John 8 we read, “If you continue in my Word, you are truly my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” Everything is determined by this: if we continue in relationship with God’s self-communication with us. God comes to us. The question is, will we receive this coming?
God comes as Living word
and meets us where we are and as we are. What is asked of us is that we
continually immerse in this coming – let it get under our skin – breathe it
– drink it – eat it – wash in it – come to new life in it daily.
This is why Jesus attached himself to the bread and wine, to the water
and the word – and why we place these symbols centrally in our midst – so we
would have God this close at hand.
God is as close as this bread and cup; as close as the baptismal waters to which we return daily; as close as the readings that gather us; as close as the words of forgiveness telling us the grand news that we do not have to be perfect.
Reformation Sunday is about Luther and Brother Roger and others upon whose shoulders we stand, and even more so, it is about us living transformed lives – lives formed by these gifts that claim us, name us and send us into the world with hope in God.
And attending to these gifts is not a burden. I think this is much of the point Luther wanted to make! God calls us to them for our good and for the good of the world. May we not only receive God here, but grow in trust that this love not only sets us free, but also sets us on fire to love God, each other and the world to which we are sent! We love because God first loves us. This is most certainly true!
+Pastor Peg Schultz-Akerson,
to the glory of God