Summary: A sermon for Reformation Sunday, which is celebrated in the Lutheran Church to remember the contributions of the Church’s reformers.
Reformation Sunday, October 28, 2007
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you have, through the ages, revealed your word to us through the Scriptures. You sent your Son among us, as your incarnate Word, who not only revealed your will for our lives, but also gave his life for our redemption. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, empower us to hear your Word for our lives, and give us the power and courage to embrace it as own, that we might continue to proclaim the truth of your law and Gospel to those around us. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
As Lutherans, we have regarded the Reformation of the Church as being of such significance, that we have included a day in the liturgical calendar of the church for its commemoration. Traditionally, it was celebrated on the anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg chapel, on October 31, 1517, inviting debate on the practice of selling indulgences. In recent years, however, this celebration has been moved to the Sunday proceeding this date, so that more persons could attend this commemoration.
And for many years, this day has been a time for us Lutherans, to celebrate our heritage, sing “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” one of Luther’s hymns, and to give thanks for the fact that the Reformers had the courage to challenge the false and misleading theology of the church at that time, based on the message of the Scriptures.
But this morning, I don’t feel much like celebrating that historical moment in the life of the Church. In fact, I believe that our own Lutheran church is in need of another Reformation. Two weeks ago, I had read all of my old sermons that I had preached on the Reformation, and I was so unimpressed with them, that I wanted to scream. I felt this void in my heart that was so strong, that I prayed that God would give me some clue to how I might address it.
And then, Pastor Blair, after my sermon last week, positioned himself at the end of the line, which usually means that I said something that could have been improved. But that wasn’t the case. This time he handed me an envelope with several articles in it, in which he said, “Next Sunday is Reformation Sunday, and I think this info might be helpful to you.” It is always amazing to me, how God’s Spirit is able to answer our prayers.
I think you know that our Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, along with most other Protestant denominations, has been deeply divided on the issue of human sexuality. And the division never seems to end. Just two months ago, I received a copy of a study on sexuality to be conducted with our youth.
In this study, through music, movie clips and other stories our teens were to decide when it would be OK to begin sexual relationships, or to explore a sexual relationship with someone of the same sex. Even though Pat and I teach a one-hour class on human sexuality at confer-camp, I was uncomfortable with the direction that this study was leading. Yet the instructions for the study indicated that if I, as a pastor, was uncomfortable with presenting this study, I should pass it off to someone else.
I then asked Jodi if she would like to have Tyler consider some of the stories included in this study, and her response was, “Only if you lead it. I don’t want him getting the idea that it is up to him when and what kind of sexual encounters he wishes to engage in, as if it were simply a matter for him and his peers to decide. Doesn’t Scripture have something to say about our sexuality?” And just this past Tuesday she added “If you aren’t comfortable with leading this study, why would you pass it on to someone else?”
But in the material that Pastor Blair gave me last week, there was an article that set this whole division about human sexuality within our church into perspective. In an article, written by Pastor Scott Grorud, Published in Network News, he states that “It became clear to me that the sexuality issue is not the source of the division in the ELCA, but only a symptom of the real issue that divides our church… “
He then goes on to say that “the real division with the church stems from an entirely different gospel that entered the E.L.C.A. as it was formed 20 years ago, and although it has been couched in traditional Christian language, it bears little resemblance to the Gospel as it has been handed down through the ages. And because of this, the two sides on this debate can not find common ground and can not agree to get along because they are proclaiming two different Gospels. In fact, it has afflicted much of the theology of mainline Protestantism.