October 31 Ain’t About Halloween For Me This Year
October 31 is not so much about pumpkins and costume parties and overdosing on those annoyingly tiny candy bars (do…
October 31 is not so much about pumpkins and costume parties and overdosing on those annoyingly tiny candy bars (do they keep making them smaller every year or is that my imagination?). It’s the anniversary of an important event we today call the Reformation. Back in the day the Church had gotten way off the track and needed to be re-called like a bad car part that didn’t work right. The Church in 1517 needed to be re-aimed. Re-missioned. Re-minded what was truly important.
In other words, the Church back then was just like the Church today.
In fact, it’s just like me. Because like a sheep, I go astray. My heart is prone to wander. Just like my mid-section gets soft and flabby over time, so does my mind and allegiance to Jesus.
I need to be reformed.
I think that’s what drove the hammer in Martin Luther’s hand that day when he nailed his now famous 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church at Wittenberg, Germany. It was the Facebook of the day, where folk posted all kinds of statements and arguments. Luther protested things that he felt were wrong, complaining that the Church he loved had strayed from the simple truth of God’s grace, God’s Word, and the good news that sinners are saved by God’s grace. That the Church got so far mucked up that it could forget these essential core truths is almost hard to believe.
Until I remember that I forget them, too. Sometimes I refuse to believe that Jesus’ love covers my sin. I know it in my head, but not always in a way that I live out. I speak with people all the time who can’t seem to accept that no amount of serving or good deeds will earn their place in God’s good graces, but that Jesus proved his love already – once and for all on the cross. So they go along thinking they need to do a lot of good stuff in hopes of staying on God’s good side. Grace is as hard to swallow today as it was in 1517. Churches are filled with people today who don’t get the same stuff Luther said to the Church back then.
We need a reformation.
Luther taught that every person, at every moment of life stands absolutely bare naked in front of God. This idea terrified him for a long time. Not because he had body image problems, but because he knew he was a jerk, and a sinner, and a louse, and felt like such a worm in God’s presence. The devil messed with his mind and he spent a lot of sleepless nights listening to the Evil that condemned him, and then trying to chase his demons away.
That is a depressing way to live. I think a lot of people live like that.
Do you know that you also stand coram deo, before God, confronted face to face with the Lord at every moment?
A dear friend, age 52, was suddenly and tragically killed last week. This week at Rebecca’s Celebration Service her father, Dave Flumbaum, closed his incredible remarks by saying that each of us will figure out a way to go on with life without Rebecca. Then he asked those present, “But what about life without God?” It’s a haunting question. Does any of us think we have a plan to live our lives without God?
The reformation we need begins there. Realizing that we stand always before God – and that this isn’t bad news, but good news, because of his great love and sacrifice for us through Jesus.
Luther’s message was a jolting slap in the face to urge a new way to think about Jesus, which was the old way. It was a call to breathe in a fresh breath of God’s grace. A call to be devoted to God’s Word. A shout saying that the grace of God should so fill our hearts with gratitude that they gush like geysers into acts of service, kindness and love – and we do these things not in order to get God to forgive or love us, but because he already has.
On this Reformation Day, wake up. Let God rattle your religious cage until all religious pretense falls away. Stop by the Church Door and read the radical news that religious people don’t seem to get – that God is love, that grace abounds. You’re not good enough to deserve God’s love. But that’s okay. You don’t have to get into indulgences, or go into the ministry, or say your prayers a certain number of times to fix that. Jesus already has.
The reformation I need on a daily basis is the remembering that my past sins, and hurts, and hang-ups, have been dealt with in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Grasping the reality of Jesus’ love for me is the most liberating and re-forming thing in my life.
It changes who I think I am.
It changes how I think of myself.
It changes how I believe God thinks of me.
And that changes how I treat you.
Without Jesus I am nothing. Without him I don’t have good reason to have joy in my life or have hope for life after I croak.
But today my mind is formed around the truth that there is a whole lot more grace in God than there is sin in me. And that good news is strong enough to chase my demons away, help me stand buck naked before a holy God, and give me a reason to live.