Monday, October 31, 2016

A New Thing That Reminds us of an Old Truth

For those that don’t know next year is the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation.
It is a big deal.
Our congregation is going to begin celebrating that anniversary January 2017.
We will be having special events, educational opportunities, and worship to celebrate all next year.
It is also a big deal because it means that things are shifting.
Every 500 years the Church has a yard sale.
There is some shift in the ground, and things change.
Before the reformation we had the great Schism.
Before that we had the reform of the sixth century as we started the dark ages, was the monastic period of the Church.
So we are going through what some people have called the great Emergence.
Christianity is going from the dominant religion, to a smaller more counter cultural phenomenon.

We will notice today that all of our readings take place in times of change.
In our reading from Jeremiah God is about to do a new thing.
Israel had lost the temple, and their home.
They didn’t know where to locate God anymore.
God was making a new covenant where God would be written on their hearts.
Jesus was a new thing that God had done.
In Jesus God walks on the earth, God teaches us what it means to be a person of God.
In Jesus God becomes flesh, and God makes a new covenant with blood and flesh.
It is a covenant of truth that leads to freedom.
And in Paul God extends an invitation to know God to the Gentiles.
Paul reinterprets the tradition of the law in light of what Jesus did, and in light of what the mission is of the Church.
My point is that God is always doing a new thing.
God is always adjusting for us.
God is helping us to see the truth.
God is writing on our heart.
For a summer I did clinical pastoral education.
Every seminary has to do it.
I did mine in Hartford, Connecticut.
I was on call and I got a call to go and visit someone who had just been admitted.
The person told me that they were addicted to drugs and had HIV.
They told me that there life was a mess, and that they were no good.
After hearing the story and talking for a while.
I told the person that God loved them beyond their story.
That no matter what they had done God loved and cared for them.
I then read a couple of Bible passages to them.
I can’t tell you the expression of joy and appreciation that came over the person’s face as I read those Bible passages that confirmed God’s love.
I had never experienced someone hearing the Gospel for the very first time.
This person threw their tears said to me, “you will never know how good it was to hear those words.”

I wish we all had that same reaction every time we heard the good news of God.
I wish I did.
I must admit that it is something that I simply take for granted now.
I think to some extent we all do.
It is an idea that has been around for at least 500 years, but really one that was around since the creation of the world.
It is one that we simply continue to forget and need reminding of all the time.
The Reformation was not a radical idea.
It was a return to the idea that the Church at that time had simply forgotten.
Or one that the Church took for granted.
In our Gospel for this morning people have taken it for granted, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone.”

But I would like to say that underneath our ambivalence is a yearning for the good news.
That is what happened in the time of Jesus.
People were unsettled by what was happening around them.
They were upset because Rome had taken over their land, and ruled them with unfair and unjust laws.
The religious people had given up what was important and started to help the Romans in their oppression.
There was a yearning for something new.
And Jesus gave it to them.
Jesus gave them God’s love that they had forgotten or taken for granted.

Luther did the same thing.
The Lutheran theologian Martin Marty said this week, “Luther Couldn’t have done it if it weren’t for a great disquiet of people hoping something new would happen.”
I think we too live in a time of disquiet.
We too are hoping something new will break forward.
What will it be?
Lots of people seem to say something like, “The Church is changing but I don’t know what it is.”

I am getting a little tired of hearing that.
So I am going to take a chance this morning and tell you what I think it is.
I think the disquiet is that we are tired of living fake lives.
We are tired of trying to be perfect, and lead perfect lives.
We are tired of the lie of perfection.
We are tired of trying to have it all, and end up with nothing.
We are tired of having religion sold to us as a self help program.
Instead we are yearning for an authentic experience with God.
We want an honest relationship with God.
A relationship where we can be ourselves, we can be who we are with all of our messes.
Jesus offers it to us this morning.
“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

There are lots of ways I could talk about this.
I want to illustrate the power of this using the example of happiness.
We are told that the key to life is happiness.
That is what we strive for to be happy.
In fact, when people around us are unhappy it sometimes makes us uncomfortable.
On top of this we believe that we have to be happy all the time.
We are told by society to, “put on a happy face”.
I think this is very dangerous.
Just as one example people no longer want to have funerals.
They want to have, “A celebration of life”.
And part of this is they don’t want anyone to cry.
They don’t want people to be upset.
My friends, the whole reason for a funeral is so that people can be sad!
That is why we have them.
They are meant to be cathartic.
Crying and being sad is how we know we loved someone.
I am telling you that if I die suddenly please come to my funeral and cry!
I hope you are sad, because it means that we meant something to each other.
We need to be sad sometimes.
Not only that but if we don’t acknowledge death we take away the power of the message of the Gospel that God loves us beyond death.

Maybe we are so unhappy because we don’t allow ourselves times of sadness.
We are so busy repressing it that we don’t feel the grace of God.
And the reformation we need to have is to recall the wonder and awe of the Gospel.
We have lost it, because we can’t admit that anything is wrong, sad, or bad.
It would be great if we had the same reaction as a drug addict with HIV who hears for the first time that he is loved by God.
Perhaps we would be able to recapture the joy in knowing God’s power in our lives.
It would be a power to not have to pretend anymore, to be who we are.
The power to be set free to truly live an authentic life full of sadness, joy, sin, redemption, hardship, relief, messiness, in perfection, loss and gain.
To be set free to live an authentic life that is not lived to be a show, but lived under the grace and mercy of God.
That is the reformation of our time.
It is still based on remembering God’s love.
God like in times past is doing a new thing that reminds us of an old truth that brings life and freedom.
That truth is that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that all those that believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

1 comment:

  1. I have just lost my 13 year old daughter. It is lovely to be given permission to be sad still