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Reformation Day  
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church    
Lakeland, FL        
Oct 31, 2021                        

Jer 31:31-34
Psalm 46
Romans 3:19-27
John 8:31-36

Grace to you and peace from God and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Please pray with me – may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

Every year on the last Sunday of October, we in the Lutheran Church and indeed in many Protestant traditions and even in some Roman Catholic churches take time to remember the Reformation. You know, that time when a Roman Catholic Augustinian brother named Martin Luther dressed in long brown robe, hammer in hand, nailed the 95 Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. And, voila – the Reformation started. Well, not exactly. The Reformation took place over many years and decades and some would even say centuries. 

Luther’s ideas while revolutionary were not novel. They had been spoken before by others in the Christian Church, but the early 1500’s were a perfect time – political leaders were in flux, the intertwining of the Church with the secular leaders was unmistakable, there was a social shift from a centralized government to a more localized focus, urban areas were growing, local leaders had more influence and then there was this new technology that made it easier for news to get out more quickly and accurately – the printing press. God bless Gutenberg. A perfect storm, if you will, a storm by which the Church was significantly re-formed for all time and a time that marked the beginning of a reforming that continues today. A time of the Church persistently pushing forward into new areas and new ministries in spite of the understandable pull to get back to the way things had always been before. The Church moving forward because of the leading of the Holy Spirit – the guiding of the Holy Spirit, the inspiring of the Holy Spirit. The Church was being re-formed. And the Christian Church continues to be reformed through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And, as we pray that we are emerging from the greatest pandemic of our lifetimes, even for over 100 years, we too look to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance as we wonder how we are being reformed.

Hear these words from the prophet Isaiah, the 43rd chapter – “Do not remember the former things nor dwell on the things of old. I am about to do a new thing: now it springs forth – do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

The prophet Isaiah was speaking to the people of God who were a defeated people – they had been marched into exile some 600 miles away from their home, all that was familiar, all that was comfortable, all that they knew. But God promised restoration time after time, through prophet after prophet and Isaiah nailed it – watch! it’s happening! open your eyes! see it!

And think about the story of God’s redemption of God’s people from Egypt. God heard the cries of God’s people who were enslaved in Egypt. And God responded with liberation and freedom. And God provided for and shaped and formed God’s people as they traveled through the wilderness for 40 years. God was persistently present – a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.

In the same way that God was present with the Hebrews coming out of Egypt, with the people of Judah living in exile in a foreign land, with Brother Martin who was certain that there was a different way to be Christ’s Church on earth – a way based upon grace and mercy and love – so God is present with us as we seek the way to be Christ’s Church in Lakeland Florida. A way that may mean some “new things.” A way that we can perceive when we no longer dwell on what used to be but turn instead to the new things that God is doing in and among us. Note that I didn’t say ignore what used to be, but dwell on what used to be.

We are part of this reforming action of the Spirit in Christ’s Church as we share God’s love with each other, our community and the world. And there will be new ways to share God’s love --- ways that are a “new thing” inspired by the Holy Spirit to touch those who need this love the most. In the coming weeks, I ask you to do a couple of things. Please pray for Christ’s Church around the world and our community of faith here at Grace – that God will show us the way in the wilderness, the rivers in the desert, and the new thing that is happening among us as we are coming out from under the shroud of the pandemic. And please make plans to join us for our Healthy Congregations workshop on December 4th as we are encouraged and inspired as we learn more about our life together, a life in which we are joined into God’s mission for the sake of the world.

One of the greatest gifts of the Reformation, in my estimation, is the sacramental theology that we hold dear. A theology that says that God always takes the first step. God comes to us in the waters of our baptisms and marks us with the cross of Christ – forever. God comes to us in bread and wine, Jesus’ very body and blood to nourish and sustain and strengthen for the work that God has for us to do. Sacraments teeming with the abundant grace of God poured out in the life and death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

Thanks be to God!