Thursday, November 3, 2011

An Idea That Changed The World

It is amazing how an idea can change the world.
Two men decide that humans can fly; a man decides that we can harness electricity to light our houses; people imagine that images and sound can travel to a screen in everyone’s living room; someone imagines there is life in outer space.
All of life’s great inventions started from an idea.
The Reformation is about an idea.
Or more specific it is about Truth.
The idea (or the Truth) is that God forgives our sins in the person of Jesus Christ.
This idea changed the world.
It was not a new idea per se.
It was one that had been lost because the Church was too busy trying to keep power, hold unto its influence over others.

I would suggest that in every generation, and in every Christian denomination, we need to unearth, and rediscover this idea.
We often lose our way as we make up new ways to keep the institutional Church alive instead of worrying about the central idea that is always at the heart of what the Church is about.

This past week I was at the Bishop’s convocation and the keynote speaker was a pastor from Denver Colorado.
She reminded me that what is at the core of what we are as Lutherans is this idea, this truth.
That God is always coming to us we are never moving towards God.
That our sinful nature always keeps us away from being the people God wants us to be.
When we talk about our sinful nature we are not talking here about feeling guilty about all the things we mess up on.
We are talking about recognizing a fundamental truth about who we are.

One of the biggest problems we have is that we are lying to ourselves about who we are.
Think of all the ways we try to cover up our sin.
All the ways we present ourselves to each other as OK.
We look good, dress good, and underneath all of that we are falling apart.
In fact, lots of people think that in order to walk through the Church door and be part of a believing community you need to have your act together.
Nothing can be further from the truth.

This morning in our Gospel reading Jesus is pointing out to the “Jews who believed in him,” that they are slaves to sin, and they have the nerve, the collective bad memory to say.
“We have never been slaves to anyone.”
You don’t remember that whole Egypt thing that happened not too long ago.
You don’t remember how God heard your cries of hopeless and came and saved you from Pharaoh and his army.
Don’t you remember that whole slave thing that is essential to your identity?!?!?!?!?!!??!?!?
Do we remember that our identity is caught up in remembering that we are slaves to sin?

Sometimes when I hear people talk I feel like I am hearing this same scene played out over and over again.
I have a friend who likes to talk about himself a lot.
Every time I am near him I know I am not getting a word in edge wise.
It is fine because I love him anyway and I have come to expect it.
Well we were at a party together and someone else was talking about themselves a lot.
We leave the party and my friend starts to complain about this other person.
“Can you believe how egotistical that person is they talked about themselves the whole time and never let anyone else talk? Who does such a thing?”
I had to say to my friend, “You do such a thing!”

All of us have fallen short of the glory of God!
And therefore all of us are slaves to sin.
If we forget that then we forget one of the essential ideas, one of the essential truths, of who we are as people of God.
We become blinded to the Truth about ourselves.
All have fallen short of the glory of God.

Now if that was it.
If that was the only part of the reformation there was it would be a pretty depressing history.
And this would be a pretty depressing day to celebrate or remember.
But the second part is just as important.
All “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
That God remembers our sin no more.
God’s love given in Jesus Christ has set us free.
Free to love, to be loved, to forgive and be forgiven.

Jesus says that if we live in his word then we will be set free, because Jesus word is a two edged sword.
Jesus word tells us that we are sinner on one side and beloved child of God on the other.
Jesus is writing for us a new story, bringing salvation to us as a free gift.

Now we are free to admit this simple truth.
We don’t have it all together.
We don’t know all the answers.
We are a mess.

We are free as parent to say that we worried that they will mess up their children?
We are free as teenager to say that we are worried that they were not good enough?
We are free to say when we are senior citizen that we are worried that we are no longer worth anything?
We are free as middle-aged person that we are worried that we didn’t live the life they really wanted to?
We are free to stop trying to cover it all up.
We try and say that everything is fine and I have everything under control.
But deep down we know that we don’t.

I will confess to all of you this morning a simple truth about myself.
I don’t have enough skill, knowledge, and wisdom to be a good pastor.
There are millions of things I do every day that I second and third guess.
I confess to you that I am a mess.
I have fallen short of the glory of God.
What about you?
Are you clear about your story and your history?
Have you forgotten your slavery?

It can be a pretty hard thing to admit.
It is hard to admit our slavery, our sin.
But my God is bigger and greater than my slavery.
My God is better than me!
Thanks be to God for that!
My God doesn’t care about my short comings, but on a cross God takes it all and makes it something else.

The Bible is really a retelling of our story.
It is renaming us that are sinners as children of God.
That is what the reformation was about.
It was not about tearing down the Roman Catholic Church.
It was not about forming a new church.
It was not about singing, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”, or wearing red.
It was not about Lutherans being better than other Christians.
It was about the idea that in Christ Jesus we are freed from our slavery to sin.

We are slaves to so many things.
And Jesus today wants to set you free from those things.
When we abide in Jesus word I believe that we are set free.
That allows us to make mistakes, not have it all together, and to be a mess.
Most important it allows us to retell our story as God’s story.
To say that God’s grace is sufficient for today.

So today as we remember the reformation.
We celebrate this great idea that we have to constantly unearth.
The idea that we are sinners and God is bigger than our sin.
God does not see our sin, but in love sends Jesus to remind us of our slavery and freedom from it.

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