Sunday, October 28, 2018
Reformation Sunday

On this day we celebrate the heart of our faith: the gospel of Christ—the good news—that makes us free! We pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to unite the church today in its proclamation and witness to the world. In the waters of baptism we are made one body; we pray for the day that all Christians will also be one at the Lord’s table.

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age. Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial, defend them against all enemies of the gospel, and bestow on the church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Readings and Psalm
Jeremiah 31:31-34 I will write my law in their hearts, says the Lord
Psalm 46
Romans 3:19-28 Justified by God’s grace as a gift
John 8:31-36 Jesus says, Continue in my word and you will know the truth


Title:  Truth Opens Our Eyes

“You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  We hear this quote of Jesus every Reformation Sunday.  Twice even.  Once sung in the Gospel Acclamation.  Once read in the Gospel appointed for the day.  We almost didn’t hear this morning.  For some well-intentioned variety, I was planning on using the other gospel appointed for this day:  Mark’s telling of Jesus’ miracle that restored sight to Bartimaeus outside of Jericho.  It is the last story in Mark, the last of Jesus’ miracles before he has his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. (What we call Palm Sunday.)  It is as if Mark is telling us, open your eyes because the important part is coming.  As Lutherans, we know and teach that the opening of the eyes of faith is a gift from God at work in us through the Holy Spirit.  It’s all grace, even the God-given ability to experience it.

But then yesterday happened. Another senseless act of violence.  Another group of innocents slaughtered.  But this was not just about a gun in the wrong hands, this was clearly an act of hatred.  This was an act of violence in a sacred space.  This was an act of anti-Semitism connected to the current political toxicity.  And, in addition, yesterday unfolded after the week that was.  Pipe-bombs in the mail.  Former presidents and other leaders threatened.  Civil servants and everyday folks put at risk.  With all this, it kept ringing in my ear: “You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”

And I knew we needed to hear Jesus say this again. We needed to hear it today.  In this context.  In this light.

Sure, for Luther it meant cutting through the tradition that had shrouded the truth of God’s grace, mercy, and love, made known in Jesus, with all kinds of rules and regulations, myths and mandates, works and worries.

But what does this mean to us today?  You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

For all of us who look hard at ourselves in confession and then hear the good news of God’s forgiveness, we know the resurrecting power of facing the truth about ourselves.

For those who have done any work with a therapist, you know the healing power of speaking your truth in a safe space.

For those who have or are dealing with addiction, you know the freeing power of admitting the truth and continuing to speak it with others.

For those who grew up hiding and lying about your true identity, you know the liberating power of coming out, being real, living as the person you are. (Friday I attended a seminar on ministering to Trans Families and heard some painful and wonderful stories of speaking one’s truth.)

For those who have spoken out about abuse, you know the restoring power that comes from reclaiming your dignity.

As individuals, we know the power of facing, speaking, admitting, claiming the truth about ourselves.  But I weep for our nation that continues to attempt to venture forward with closed eyes.  Eyes closed to the anti-Semitism that bubbles below the surface.  Eyes closed to the racism that continues to show its evil in too, too many ways, from miss uses of law enforcement and mass incarceration, to economic and educational inequality.  As a nation, our eyes continue to be closed to the needs of those who identify as Transgender and gender non-conforming.  Our nation is working overtime trying to keep its eyes closed to the truth of immigrant, refugees, and asylum seekers.  Eyes remain closed to the plight and injustice shown to indigenous peoples.  Eyes closed to the damage we are doing to the environment for the sake of comfort and profit.

These examples and more of communal eyes closed did not start two years ago.  This is part of our legacy that has been aggravated of late because we are moving from just keeping eyes shut to the truth, to replacing the ignored truth by embracing lies.

You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

Yes, we do know the truth that sets us free.  We are raised to new life in the waters of baptism and named children of God.  We are fed at the table with the presence of Jesus our friend.  We are filled with the Holy Spirit for the living of our lives.  This truth sets us free so that we might be bound to speaking the truth: through our lives, in this place, in Jesus’ name, for the sake of the world.

Based on this truth, here is a challenge for this Reformation Sunday.  While on this day we mark the beginning of the Reformation that started 501 years ago Wednesday, let us never mark the end of the Reformation.  The living church of the living God, the world-serving body of Christ, the Spirit-filled community of believers, is always reforming – being reformed by the wild and wind-blowing Spirit and working to reform the world to bring it closer to the kingdom of God that Jesus brought to us.

Arriving yesterday, just in time to be included in today’s focus on reforming, is this sign that will be going up on the fence this afternoon, so that we can tell our neighbors that we know the power of facing and telling the truth.  Its text is on the inside back cover of your bulletin.  Let’s read it together:

Protect the environment
Care for the poor
Forgive often.
Reject racism.
Fight for the powerless.
Share earthly and spiritual resources.
Embrace diversity.
Love God.
Enjoy this life.

(From UCC)

What will you do this week, as part of the reforming church, to tell the truth that makes us free?

The Rev. Mark Erson,

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