Reformation Sunday is the day we commemorate Martin Luther, a Catholic priest and teacher, and his posting of 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany in 1517, igniting the Protestant Reformation. He called for a number of church reforms, particularly an end to the practice of selling indulgences, which were like spiritual “get out of jail free” cards. He emphasized that we are saved by God’s grace, not our own efforts.
It’s often a day of celebration, even pride for many Protestants–Lutherans included. And with lots of good reasons.
But one of Luther’s best contributions to the Christian faith was his understanding that we are, all of us, completely and totally sinful people and at the very same time, thoroughly and absolutely holy people. At the same time. In everything. It’s not a 50/50 deal, like we’re half good and half bad. No, every aspect of ourselves, every action, every thought, every motive is completely broken and at the very same time completely divine.
This saint and sinner identity is true for the Reformation too. This movement that was so needed in the church at the time is also the movement that has torn the church apart. The Protestant Reformation has helped the world understand how loved we are by a gracious God, while at the very same time has caused Christian to be pitted against Christian, in opposition to Jesus’ prayer for unity. But that doesn’t stop us from celebrating the Reformation.
That’s the reality of us and our world. The very things that reveal holiness also reveal our brokenness. That doesn’t change our call to love the world.
Obviously it’s the same for LCM too. At the height of our strength we are still a selfish and entitled bunch of people. And at the depth of our weakness we are church that still touches people with the reality of God’s compassion and grace. We are a whole congregation, complete with our dysfunctions and our saintliness. It’s who we are as a church. From our ministry review we received both recommendations and affirmations. Both are real, both are us. Saint and sinner. Holy and broken. But that doesn’t stop us from being God’s love in the world.
This saint and sinner reality is true for each one of us. We are a mixture of experiences, gifts, failures, talents, and culture. Each one of us is unique. Each one of us can mess something up more completely than anyone who’s ever lived. And at the same time, each one of us shines forth with incredible grace and love in ways no one else can possibly do. It’s possible for us to do both of these at the same time. With the same action. It’s the totality of who we are.
The things that make someone a poor neighbor could be the very same things that make them an outstanding advocate for the poor.
The things that paralyze a person in panic could be the very same things that make them truly compassionate.
The things that reveal another person to be a real jerk could be the very same things that make them a strong leader.
God is present in all of it. We are whole people, not just good and bad parts. Who we are is what God uses. Just as we are. Saint and sinner. Broken and holy.
On this Reformation Sunday, we recognize a divided world-wide church, torn apart by intolerance and self-righteousness. And we also recognize on this Reformation Sunday that we are the world-wide body of Christ, embodying God’s love, grace, and forgiveness in the world.
Each of us is a whole person, broken and holy. Each one loved by God and called by God. Right now. Saint and sinner. May we recognize ourselves and each other as instruments of God. Holy and broken. Just as we are. Infinitely loved. Completely forgiven. Thoroughly redeemed.