Year C, Proper 26, Reformation Sunday
2 Corinthians 5:17-20
Peace Lutheran Church, Otis Orchards, WA
A reading from 2 Corinthians 15
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen
That’s my statement of faith for this time.
It’s a statement of faith because, quite frankly, there seems to be little by way of actual facts to back it up. We live in a world of ever increasing polarization.
That is, an "intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself”, seems to becoming a national sin.
We see it in our politics.
We see it in our faith communities.
We see it in our personal lives.
And yet central to our faith as Christians is this theme of reconciliation. So much so, that Paul understands this as the “ONE THING” that God was up to in sending us his Son, Jesus Christ.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;”
That’s what it is supposed to be about, folks.
About coming together as one people.
Not about being divided, one against another.
I put this up on the reader board outside and then shared it on facebook.
One of my friends, one who is as conservative as I am liberal responded”“There is going to a need for a whole basket of reconciliation. If Hillary wins, she is going to have to convince all those "deplorable" people who voted for Trump that she is their President. If Trump wins, he is going to have to convince a lot of people he will govern fairly, without singling out anybody regardless of their skin color, sex, etc. I'm thinking the divide keeps getting wider with name calling becoming the norm.”
Polarization is the norm, it seems.
But Reconciliation Happens.
One of my favorite examples of this in modern political history occurred when Ted Kennedy died a few years back. Of all people, Senator Orin Hatch, the very conservative, Mormon, senator from Utah, was selected to offer the eulogy for Kennedy, that liberal, Irish Catholic senator from Massachusetts.
They were great friends. What I loved was that Senator Hatch, during the eulogy, recalled a story about how he, a teetotaler, had cornered Ted Kennedy after Ted had had a few too many drinks, and got him to agree to a number of things. In the morning, Hatch showed up at Kennedy’s office to remind him of the three things he’d agreed to the night before. Two of the things were with respect to legislation they were working on. “OK,” Kennedy responded, “but did I agree to anything else.” “Well,” Hatch answered, “you agreed to speak to a gathering of 200 Mormon missionaries this week.” Kennedy followed through and according to Hatch delivered one of the best speeches ever on public service to those young Mormon men. A conservative. A liberal. Best friends and respected colleagues.
Today we celebrate Reformation Sunday.
For Lutherans this is like our 4th of July. It’s the day we celebrate being Lutheran, and historically, the flip side of that coin is that we celebrate our independence from the Roman Catholic Church. We invented anti-Catholic sentiment and misunderstanding.
Luther had wanted to reform the Roman Catholic Church. Instead his concerns were dismissed, he was excommunicated, and the Church was splintered, and divided almost beyond recognition. It was not what Luther wanted. It was not what the Catholic Church wanted. But it happened because of the harsh polemics of the day.
Europe became embroiled in wars between Protestants and Catholics.
The animosity between Roman Catholics and Lutherans continued even to modern times.
I remember myself hearing growing up, that “Catholics worship a dead Jesus (referring to the crucifix’s that hang in their churches), while we, Lutherans, worship the Risen Christ (referring to the empty cross in our sanctuaries).
For 500 years this has gone on.
But tomorrow, on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation, in Lund, Sweden, Pope Francis will join The Lutheran World Federation President Bishop Munib Younan and General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge, in leading a prayer service, celebrating the unity we share in Christ.
They will celebrate not only the Reformation, but also 50 years of dialogue between Lutherans and Roman Catholics that has resulted in, among other things, a Joint Statement on the Doctrine of Justification in which Roman Catholics and Lutherans AGREE on the matter of justification, which had divided the churches at the time of the Reformation.
Jason and Jennifer (not their real names) came to my office, one day, distraught.
They were considering divorce.
Everything had come to a head after Jason returned from a business trip and confessed to having had sex with a woman, one night, after some heavy drinking in the bar.
He was the one who wanted the divorce.
Jennifer was willing to forgive him, and Jason related that he should be doing cartwheels down the street because of how well she was treating him.
But, he wanted a divorce. He didn’t believe that the forgiveness she offered would last. He was afraid that she would use his mistake against him. He didn’t want to live in a marriage where he constantly felt guilty.
Actually, he simply couldn’t forgive himself.
But, in the end, she forgave him.
And he was finally able to forgive himself.
And they remain married to this day.
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”
If everything has indeed become new, then all of the past wrongs and the hurts we harbor, are no more.
It’s a new day.
That Reconciliation Happens is only possible because God first reconciled us to himself through Christ Jesus.
He did this by simply “not counting our trespasses against us”.
God didn’t keep score.
And if you don’t keep score, no one loses, everyone can win.
It’s that simple.
But we like to keep score, some of us more than others.
I hate to admit it, but I am a great score keeper.
I have a good memory. That can be a curse.
I’ve wasted a lot of energy over the course of my life singing a “somebody done me wrong song.”
To this day I can tell you what my wife said, the morning after we got married, that offended me and that I resented for years.
Counting trespasses against people.
Allowing wounds to fester.
Yet it need not be so.
It may be hard to believe, but it does.
Tuesday, November 8th, we will vote.
And on Wednesday, November 9th, we will still be “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
A Pope and a Pastor.
A Catholic and a Lutheran.
Together, members of the Body of Christ, joining hands and praying for even greater unity.
Husbands and wives.
Parents and children.
No longer keeping score.
Forgiving each other,
And sinners, like you and me,
Justified by God’s grace,
Redeemed by Christ Jesus,
Part of the Body of Christ,
Children of God.
Thanks be to God.