Re*Formation: Walking in the Word
Rev. Leta Arndt Behrens
No Audio Recording
Sermon Scripture: MATTHEW 22:34-46
34When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest? 37He said to him, ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
41Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he? They said to him, “The son of David.” 43He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
44‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet” ‘?
45If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” 46No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
Sermon Text: If I titled sermons this one would be play doh + gummy worms, + Jesus = everything you need to know about the reformation.
As you heard with the children, Reformation and re*formation are not really about a one time event that happened 500 years ago but they aren’t not about it either. The idea of reformation is not to change because one is bored, or in need of a new style or just to make those around you raise your eyebrows. Re-formation is about taking what is there already as gift and living into it in a new way. Play doh allows for us to explore with creation and re creation while still remaining play doh, just as the church, our faith, our own walking and growing and living with Jesus allows us to explore this life with God in so many ways and still, the gift and grace of Jesus remains in and with and through all our explorations.
A woman I have never met came to visit me this week. She warmly and comfortably settled into a conversation with me in my office and in a very straight forward manner said, “I have lost my way a little bit and decided I better go back to my roots and give that Lutheran Church a try. I heard good things about you and this place pastor, so I decided I better just go check you out. You seem young (so that was awesome) but I like you anyway. But what I really am worried about is if I will fit here. I know what I believe and it has put people off, I am not like the strong Christians who we see so much of lately. I am afraid people will not want me and my beliefs around.” So after I got over my young self, I asked her, well what do you believe? She told me she believes in Jesus, knows him as her savior and she believes that doesn’t mean that God isn’t speaking to and leading people of other faiths. She said she believes there is room for us all in this world and she knows where she stands, as a Christian, but also wants to approach and embrace others with love and humility and space for all the ideas and thoughts and explorations. My answer was simple, I believe that too. And I believe this is a place where even if someone disagrees with you, we create space for dialog and openness and walking with one another in grace and love.
Do you know how awesome it is to get to have that conversation? And to get to say with full confidence every single time I am asked—Yes, you are welcome here. It is beautiful and life giving and the best part is that we embrace being full of welcome and we remain we who are, centered and formed on Jesus. This is part of re-formation, just welcoming people to live their faith, explore their thoughts and know that they are held in God’s grace reforms not just those who are lost, seeking or willing to speak up but it reforms all of us as we are in community.
Re-formation, unlike play doh, is not about being completely malleable into anything anyone wants us to be. We don’t get to be wishy washy either. Re-formation happens best, when we know our core and move from that center of Christ into our thoughts, our hearts, our community. Luther, 500 years ago, knew this to be true and was pushed to the limit of his core when he was summoned to the diet of worms—(hold up gummy worms)— ah, now the teenagers are listening. But sorry, this Diet of Worms was not really about Halloween candy. A diet was a meeting and Worms was the place where they were gathering. It was here that Luther was questioned and pushed and told to recant what he had been teaching about God and scripture, to recant his 95 Thesis, to give up on this trajectory of being against indulgences and keep the people from knowing scripture and exploring and knowing God’s deep unending love for them. It was here that Luther stood his ground and answered them:
“ Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other–my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise, God help me. Amen.”
And this bring us to the Bible, the word of God where Luther stood centered on Christ. Luther knew to his core that Jesus was messiah who had come to justify, to save, to embrace each of us with grace. That there was no way to earn our way or buy our way or think our way or feel our way to the life eternal with God but that God was and is right here and right now bringing that word of life, that promise of the cross that through Jesus we are already right where we need to be, right with God.
Jesus too was pushed by the Pharisees, sadducees, leaders in the synagogues and political authorities. He was pushed on what he knew about the word of God, the laws of the Torah and the laws of the land. In our scripture today we find Jesus in a final argument with these authorities and here Jesus stands on the word of God and on the experience of God being revealed through him. Jesus recites the Shema as the center of who God’s people are called to be—Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul. And then he continues to recite scripture and re-forms this core to include Love your neighbor in this same way. And finally he says, I am the messiah, the one from God, the one who has come to stand here with you and bring you to myself and into the fullness of that love and grace God promises. This is the word of God Luther stands on, Jesus stands on, and we now 500 years later come to stand on—welcoming, embracing and reaching out to the world with love, centered on Christ.
This is the gospel we embrace and hope for our children and their children to know and live as well. Our middle school confirmation students spent this past month exploring many things Luther taught from this center. They did several interactive stations and lessons on the catechism that Luther wrote for the purpose of teaching and exploring faith. One of the activities was to learn about these words of Luther and then to offer their own Here I Stand about their own faith. Here are some of them.
How would you answer that question? Where is it that you stand? If you know now, write it down during sacred space time. Or give it some more thought and talk about it on the drive home or over dinner later today.
No matter your answer, hear this today. The reforming, the calling, the voice of God to you invites you into this life where the law and the gospel all hang on love. And that love is for you, with you, in you and among you. It calls you and roots you, it sends you out to explore new ways of living and growing in faith and it draws you into Jesus himself. You in this place, are a place for others to stand and you in this place, are held in this refuge of love.