“The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off!” – a Reformation Sermon – John 8:31-36

“You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Let me take a moment to face the truth about who we are as Lutherans. The truth is that from the beginning Lutherans have participated in hate-filled tribalism that gives rise to anti-Semitism. The irony of attempting to commemorate the Reformation on the day after the slaughter of Jewish sisters and brothers cannot be ignored. Sadly, our church’s tragic participation in anti-Semitism goes all the way back to Martin Luther himself. Luther’s anti-Semitic rants provided the theological grounding that empowered Nazi’s to fan the flames of the Holocaust. It took until 1983 for the Lutheran World Federation to confess and repent Luther’s words.

Let me read from our sister church, the ELCA’s Declaration to the Jewish Community:

“In the long history of Christianity there exists no more tragic development than the treatment accorded the Jewish people on the part of Christian believers. Very few Christian communities of faith were able to escape the contagion of anti-Judaism and its modern successor, anti-Semitism. Lutherans belonging to the Lutheran World Federation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America feel a special burden in this regard because of certain elements in the legacy of the reformer Martin Luther and the catastrophes, including the Holocaust of the twentieth century, suffered by Jews in places where the Lutheran churches were strongly represented.

The Lutheran communion of faith is linked by name and heritage to the memory of Martin Luther, teacher and reformer. Honoring his name in our own, we recall his bold stand for truth, his earthy and sublime words of wisdom, and above all his witness to God’s saving Word. Luther proclaimed a gospel for people as we really are, bidding us to trust a grace sufficient to reach our deepest shames and address the most tragic truths.

In the spirit of that truth-telling, we who bear his name and heritage must with pain acknowledge also Luther’s anti-Judaic diatribes and the violent recommendations of his later writings against the Jews. As did many of Luther’s own companions in the sixteenth century, we reject this violent invective, and yet more do we express our deep and abiding sorrow over its tragic effects on subsequent generations. In concert with the Lutheran World Federation, we particularly deplore the appropriation of Luther’s words by modern anti-Semites for the teaching of hatred toward Judaism or toward the Jewish people in our day.

Grieving the complicity of our own tradition within this history of hatred, moreover, we express our urgent desire to live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for the Jewish people. We recognize in anti-Semitism a contradiction and an affront to the Gospel, a violation of our hope and calling, and we pledge this church to oppose the deadly working of such bigotry, both within our own circles and in the society around us. Finally, we pray for the continued blessing of the Blessed One upon the increasing cooperation and understanding between Lutheran Christians and the Jewish community.”

Semper Reformanda, means always reforming, or keep on reforming, or always reform. I don’t know about you, but after some of the horrendous events this week, I’m almost too tired for any more reforming. Between the Make America Great Again bomber, the white supremist, anti-Semite shooter, the defunding of Ontario colleges, and the abandonment of protections designed to ensure workers at the low end of the pay scale, see not only a dollar an hour raise but more than just a few paid sick days, I’m tried. I don’t even have it in me to pay attention to the worst humanitarian crisis in human history, so please don’t show me any of those horrendous pictures of starving children in Yemen, and whatever you do, please don’t remind me of the genocide of Rohingyan people Between the orange yahoo south of the boarder and our own moronic blowhard at Queen’s Park, I’m so very tired of bad news.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to save the world, I just can’t seem to face the world right now. I am in bondage to compassion fatigue and I cannot free myself. I can’t even begin to live up to the standards I set for myself. The onslaught of news that comes flooding in at a fevered pace, has left me longing to just hide away, curl up into a ball and forget that I ever believed that I had a role to play in making the world a better place.

When I was too young to know any better, I fell in love with an image of myself that I’ve been failing to live up to year after year, decade after decade. The truth about who and what I am is far from the ideal image of the person I long to be. The gap between our ideal self and our real self is a truth most of us would prefer to deny. The truth that we are far from the perfect ideal person that on our good days we aspire too, is tough to swallow. As relatively healthy human beings most of us recognize that we are missing the mark. Missing the mark is how the word sin is defined in the Hebrew Scriptures. We can try to put our faith in ideals, or rules or as the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther would say we try to put our faith “in the Law.” But ideals, or rules, or Law cannot save us from the reality that we are incomplete beings, ever-evolving beings, beings still hoping to become all that we can be. Continue reading

Reformation Sunday Resources

semper reformanda

Preparing for Reformation Sunday? Some of these posts might be useful:

Echoing the Divine Plea: “I Lay Before You Life and Death. Choose Life!”

What if we won’t ever really understand Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection until we understand that God is dead?

Enough with “A Mighty Fortress” Already! Sing a New Song!

95 Theses for the Twenty-first Century

Freedom from What?  All this Reforming is Wearing Me Out!

What Darwin Never Knew

A Reformation Day Nailing to the Internet – John Shelby Spong

A Prayer for Reformation – Thomas Berry

Reformation Sunday Resources

Preparing for Reformation Sunday? Some of these posts might be useful:

Here We Stand, For We Can Do No Other

Luther, Spong, Fox, and Holy Cross

Enough with “A Mighty Fortress” Already! Sing a New Song!

95 Theses for the Twenty-first Century

Freedom from What?  All this Reforming is Wearing Me Out!

What Darwin Never Knew

A Reformation Day Nailing to the Internet – John Shelby Spong

A Prayer for Reformation – Thomas Berry

Reformation Sunday Resources

semper reformanda

Preparing for Reformation Sunday? Some of these posts might be useful:

Luther, Spong, Fox, and Holy Cross

Enough with “A Mighty Fortress” Already! Sing a New Song!

95 Theses for the Twenty-first Century

Freedom from What?  All this Reforming is Wearing Me Out!

What Darwin Never Knew

A Reformation Day Nailing to the Internet – John Shelby Spong

A Prayer for Reformation – Thomas Berry

 

Reformation Sunday Resources

semper reformanda

Preparing for Reformation Sunday? Some of these posts might be useful:

Enough with “A Mighty Fortress” Already! Sing a New Song!

95 Theses for the Twenty-first Century

Freedom from What?  All this Reforming is Wearing Me Out!

What Darwin Never Knew

A Reformation Day Nailing to the Internet – John Shelby Spong

A Prayer for Reformation – Thomas Berry

 

Freedom from What? All this Reforming is Wearing Me Out!

nuggiePreparing to preach on Reformation Sunday I found this sermon I preached a few years ago. Our readings that year included both John 8:31-36 and Luke 18:9-14

When my friend, (let’s call her Jane for the purposes of this sermon), when Jane was a baby she had a pale green receiving blanket. It was soft to the touch, with a two-inch band of satin around the edge. It kept Jane safe and warm and as she grew her fondness for that blanket grew. In time it became her very own security blanket and heaven help you if you were the one trying to settle her and you couldn’t find her blanket.  As Jane learned to talk, for some reason that old green blanket earned the nick-name “Nuggie”. If Jane was upset or fussing, she would holler for her Nuggie and the entire household would scramble to find it. Jane dragged Nuggie everywhere she went and it often got very dirty. We learned very quickly to launder Nuggie long after Jane had settled down for the night. One of us would sneak into her room and gently ease Nuggie from her grasp and quickly toss it into the washing machine, hoping against hope that she wouldn’t wake until we retrieved it from the dryer and tucked it safely back in her crib. Jane was particularly fond rubbing the satin over her cheek and over the years the satin edge became worn and frayed. Whenever life wasn’t going her way, or she was not feeling well, or she was tired, or if she was frightened, Jane would scream, for her Nuggie. Only after her Nuggie was firmly in place and she had comforted herself with the soft satin, would order be restored.

Standing here, smack dab in the middle of a Reformation of epic proportions, it feels to me like someone is trying to steal my Nuggie. Semper Reformanda  — Always Reforming. Change, change, change. Sometimes I just want the security of that old time religion. I want to feel the comfort, the security that I once felt in the church. All this reforming is wearing me out. I’m tired of thinking. I’m tired of reforming my ideas. I’m tired of learning new things. I’m tired of all the questioning. I’m tired of all the questions. I want some answers. Sometimes I just want that Mighty Fortress to keep me safe. Sometimes I just want that Almighty Father to say, “There, there dear it’s all going to be all right!”

I knew were I stood in the old days. I was a wicked sinner.  Heck, I was in bondage to sin and could not free myself. But I knew that Jesus was willing to die for me and save me from all my sins. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that even though I was a sinner, I was a forgiven sinner, simule justus et pecator. By the grace of God, I was both saint and sinner. Justified by God’s amazing grace. Thanks to the redeeming blood of the Lamb of God who washes away all my sin. Jesus died for me.   Jesus saved me.  And Jesus wants me for a sunbeam.  Give me Jesus.  Give me Jesus! I want my nuggie!

But in the words of dear old Martin Luther,“ Here I stand, for I can do no other.” Smack dab in the middle of a reformation, trying to follow Jesus. Jesus, who said that everything could be summed up in two commandments: “Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as you love yourself.” If only Jesus had left our minds out of the equation. If only we could switch off our minds and stop this constant quest for truth. But then Jesus did say, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” So, how can we keep from asking: “Free from what?” Continue reading