Sunday, October 28, 2018
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Today is a very special day in the life of the Church, not just for this congregation, but for the entire Christian Church. Not only is this Reformation Sunday, but Confirmation Sunday for three of our young members as well. Traditionally, this congregation has held confirmation on this day for a very particular reason. Both of these events involve change and transformation. They are a sign of the movement of the Holy Spirit throughout history.
Traditionally, Reformation Sunday is the day we celebrate how the Church has transformed over the centuries. While there were many reformers, it’s associated most with Martin Luther, the Augustinian monk in Germany, who in the 16th century, started the Protestant Reformation because of radical changes that needed to be made in the church. When Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis, or items for debate to the castle door in Wittenberg Germany back in the year 1517, he had no idea how that would forever change the course of history. He didn’t want to start a new denomination, but begin a process for conversation and reform. It turned out to be a reformation unlike any he had imagined. God’s grace had transformed him, and in turn he helped transform the world.
That’s what happens when God’s grace touches you. It sets you free. Lauren, Logan, and Will first received God’s grace in their baptism as infants. Through the water and God’s word they were sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. Today, they make public affirmation of their baptisms. They know now why they were baptized, and affirm the promises that were made for them so many years ago. They too have undergone many changes on their journey of faith. They’ve asked challenging questions and will continue to ask questions throughout their lives, but they know that God is with them through it all. The scripture verses they chose as their guide posts, and the faith statements they wrote about them are a testament to the Spirit working in each one of them. This is an important day for the entire Church not just this congregation here at Good Shepherd, because Lauren, Logan, and Will are part of an ongoing reformation. God is working through each of their unique skills and gifts to share God’s grace in the world.
It’s not always an easy message to share with others. Jesus’ words of truth are sometimes hard for people to hear, especially if it points out our own sinful behaviors. It’s hard to hear that we are by our human nature enslaved to sin. Jesus reminds us that “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” That includes all of us. We are a slave because we can’t free ourselves from sin’s hold on us. Like a mouse lured into a trap who once in can’t get free, so we too can’t free ourselves. Someone else has to set us free, no matter how much we think we can do things on our own. Only Jesus can release us. “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” Jesus has set us free from being trapped by sin and death.
Because of this truth, today we don’t just celebrate over 500 years of God’s grace in action; we celebrate an eternity of God’s grace in action. Since the beginning of creation God’s grace has always been active. Since the first humans decided to disobey God and brought sin into the world, God was working on a way to set them and us free. God made covenants or sacred promises to God’s people over and over again despite them breaking those covenants. We hear God’s covenant language throughout the Old Testament whenever we read, “I will be their God, and they will be my people.” God continued to be faithful to this covenant throughout the generations until God spoke this covenant into being through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. God’s covenant continued to be realized through reformers like Martin Luther who despite threats to his own life was compelled by the power of the Holy Spirit to make the truth of Christ’s saving power known to all people. God speaks these covenant words to us in our baptism, and speaks these covenant words to us when we affirm our baptism as Lauren, Logan, and Will are doing today through their confirmation. God says, “I will be your God, and you shall be my people.” This is God’s promise to us. This is reformation – being re-formed in Christ’s image.
God’s life-giving words of saving grace began from the moment God breathed life into us and that promise, that covenant, will remain forever. This is the gift we celebrate today. This is the truth we lift up each and every time we continue God’s grace in action through living lives of faith and commitment to the truth of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. This is Reformation! We have the gift and responsibility to carry on the work of the reformation – the work of God’s grace in action – every day of our lives. We do this when we hear Jesus’ truth, repent, allow him to change our hearts and set us free – free to live, and love like Jesus.
Today we celebrate not just a particular protestant reformation, but an ongoing reformation that begins with each one of us – in our hearts, where God’s covenant is written. One person’s voice and actions can make all the difference in the world. We saw that in the life of Martin Luther and many other reformers, and our best example is Jesus who has set us free! This ongoing reformation continues through Lauren, and Logan, and Will. Through their baptism, and ours, we are formed into Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. We are re-formed into his image. Every time we repent, every time we forgive, every time we show compassion and mercy, every time we choose patience over anger, faith over fear, love over hate, every time we walk the way of peace ….This is reformation! Amen!