It started with a hammer, a tool that is used to build things.
This time it built a movement, a reforming movement.
That shook the church, and the world.
500 years ago.
The banging of a hammer on a door started in motion a movement.
It built something.
What did it build?
What do we celebrate today?
All this fall I have been preaching on the themes of the Reformation.
The ideas that Luther, and other reformers, brought to bear on the world.
They are the foundation of our faith.
They are important ideas.
But I am afraid that 500 years later we have forgotten about the hammer.
We have fallen in love with the things that we have built.
The institutional church, the lovely church buildings built to encapsulate that institution.
This week at Bishop’s convocation the keynote speaker told us that there is a difference between a movement and monument.
A monument is a dead thing.
It has no life.
It only exists to show us something that happened a long time ago.
A movement is alive.
It breathes it moves, it matters now.
The reformation was a movement.
It was alive.
It was changing all the time.
And today as we celebrate and remember that important moment in time what I am hoping for us is that we continue the movement.
My father in law told me a couple of weeks ago that nobody cares about all this Reformation stuff.
I would agree with him if all we are talking about is what happened 500 years ago.
If all we wanted to do is build a monument to sometime long ago.
But I don’t agree with him because I think it is important to keep alive the reformation.
That the Church and us individually needs to continue to reform.
It is only important if this is a movement and not a monument.
That the Church continues to live, breath, move, and matter.
That we are continuing what the reformers started.
Let me tell you what I think that looks like and doesn’t.
I have been trying for a year to come up with some new thing to say on this day.
To say something that will save the Church and make it relevant for today.
The truth is that I am not that creative a person.
Instead what I think we need is to return to the essence of our faith.
That is what the Reformation did.
The Reformers would say, “Back to the source”.
We need to go back to the source.
It is always centered on Jesus Christ.
The heart of the reformation was a return to Jesus as the center of the church, life, and theology.
That the church whatever it does has to be centered on Jesus Christ.
That is all that matters.
I don’t care how we bow as we approach the altar.
I don’t care what color the candles are.
I don’t care what music we sing.
I don’t care what flowers are on the altar.
I don’t care the clothes people wear to worship.
I don’t care if the kids talk.
I don’t care about the petty things that people protecting a monument care about.
I care that we as a community of Jesus people worship Jesus!
I care that we know the grace and mercy of God.
That we love each other, we forgive each other.
That we live out a passion for caring for the poor and lost.
That we want in our lives to have a deep and important relationship with Jesus Christ.
We want to know what it means to follow him.
We have to admit that we, the Church, have done some harm to people.
I don’t think it was intentional.
But we did harm because we stopped caring about what Jesus said.
We care more about what a politician says, or a movie star tells us.
We stopped listening because we thought we knew everything.
We have to go back and listen to what Jesus is telling us.
We need Jesus more than ever, the world needs Jesus more than ever.
We need to be reminded of Jesus love for us.
We need to be reminded of Jesus love for our neighbors.
Jesus tells us this morning what is at the heart of his message.
Know that God loves you.
And love one another.
We have to continually live into that truth.
Jesus was reminding the religious leaders of his day what they had forgotten.
That at the heart of God is love.
We can never stop reforming!
If we are going to be part of movement that we have to get out our hammers and continue to build.
We are not yet the people that God wants us to be.
We don’t love our neighbors as ourselves.
We don’t love God with our whole heart.
The reformation is not a onetime event.
It is an ongoing challenge as we face new realities of life.
The issues we face are not the same that Jesus faced, or that Luther faced.
What is the same is that Jesus still calls us to know God’s love and proclaim it to others.
When my wife and I were in Germany this summer she kept on saying to me, “I didn’t realize that the Reformation was so many years.”
She thought that Martin Luther nailed the 95 thesis to the door and that was it.
But the truth is that 500 years later it is not over.
It is not over because we will continually face things in the world that we have not ever thought of today.
Think of all the movements that have happened in these 500 years the church women’s ordination, LGBTQ rights, ecumenical understanding, interfaith dialogue, peace and justice movements, multi-cultural understanding, these are things that Luther and reformers never thought of.
They were things that our Church struggled with, fought over, lived and died through.
And that is one of the wonderful things about re forming something.
You take it from the form that it is, and through blood sweat and tears, through hammering it into something else you reform it.
I hope as heirs of the reformation we never lose that spirit.
That we never become complicit about what and who we are, even though it is hard, even though not all of us are going to agree, that we continue to challenge each other.
You know that the 95 thesis was meant to be debate points.
They were not meant to be lasting truths, but points of debate about one topic the sale of indulgences.
That is what our heritage tells us that when we see something wrong, an injustice built on the premise of bad theology and bad Biblical interpretation we need to debate it.
We need to hammer it out.
There was an article saying the worse thing you could do was to dress up as Luther with a hammer.
(I can be a but contrarian sometimes.)
I understand the caution.
We don’t want to simply re-enact what happened 500 years ago.
We don’t want to go back and fight all those fights, and be anti-Roman Catholic.
Not only that, but there is significant debate among historians if Luther even nailed the 95 Thesis to the door.
But this is the story we share with each other.
And I believe it has power.
Hopefully it is power to move us not to create a monument, but to continue to reform ourselves, our church, our country, our world.
It is the power to continue to live into the truth of God’s love for all of us, and for the entire world.
It creates a movement that seeks everyday to love more deeply, and understand more fully God’s grace given to us in Jesus Christ.
Let me end by encouraging us every day to reform our lives.
To wake up every day and think who is God calling me to love today?
Where in my life do I find hatred, dislike, prejudice, and judgment?
How can I reform myself so that our church, community, and world are better?
Where is God’s grace working on me to reform me?
In other words, pick up your hammer and get to work on the reforming, because the Reformation is alive.