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Holy and Broken, a Human Complexity

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.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2015 in Sermon

 

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Holy Life Together (Acts 2:43-47)

There are a couple of different things going on here: some miraculous healings, and this band of disciples’ community life together.

Here’s what’s remarkable about this very early community of disciples: everyone was in awe, more and more people were coming each day into this fledgling movement. But it wasn’t because of the signs and wonders. It was because of the way these disciples lived together. It was the things they did as a community together that caused the surrounding neighborhood to sit up and take notice.

They shared all things in common.

They sold their possessions and gave the proceeds away to anyone in need.

They were continually spending time in the temple together in worship and prayer.

They ate together (pot lucks?)

They did all this with glad and generous hearts. They had fun together.

They enjoyed being together. They celebrated time together. It was how they lived that revealed Christ to the broader community.

The signs and wonders were cool. But as is still the case, the impact of signs and wonders is short-lived. I’m sure the wind and fire of Pentecost was astounding, but you can also bet the amazement faded.

Have you ever experienced something you might consider the presence of God, being in the presence of the Divine, or even miraculous? A sunset, a healing, a moment of inspiration, a time of calm in stress.

Those moments are inspirational! They are awesome! They carry you, sometimes for quite a while. We need to share these experiences with each other because they are so inspiring!

But let’s be honest. After a while usually we end up close to where we were before the sign and wonder experience. “What have you done for me lately, God?” we ask. Few people change their view of God in any significant way after an amazing spiritual experience—signs and wonders. They are astounded, they are amazed, they are moved, they may even remember, but rarely changed in any deep way. Signs and wonders are not how disciples are made. And signs and wonders are not how a community of disciples lives.

But, the way we live together, the way we celebrate together, the way we treat each other is how Jesus is most deeply revealed to our neighbors. It’s through us as a community.

Does the LCM community live any differently than any other community? Are we the people that live together with generosity as normal, forgiveness as assumed, giving each other the benefit of the doubt is what’s expected? Do we rush to protect each other from rumors or ridicule? Is our knee-jerk reaction a willingness to make a personal sacrifice for the sake of the LCM community?

Well, sometimes. We’re a mixed bag. We certainly don’t do so perfectly. We hurt each other and hold grudges sometimes. But today, I want to point out and emphasize that whether we feel like it or not, whether we exhibit it all the time or not, we are a community created in the image of God. We actually do reflect Christ. Not because we try so hard to do it, but just because we are bound together by Jesus.

When those Christ-like things happen it is a sign of the presence of Christ binding us together. And it is our relationships to one another that get the long-term attention of our neighborhood. Because it is our relationships to one another in this place that come from and reflect our relationship with God.

Look around this room. Look into the faces of all these gifts God has given us! Look at how blessed and holy we are together! Look how the Divine is real right in this room!

Who here has ever experienced holy care or comfort or support through your association with LCM? Who here knows God better because of your relationships here? Who has ever been a recipient of holy generosity through LCM? Who has been forgiven by someone in LCM? Who is loved by someone at LCM?

Who, then, can do anything but call this congregation holy? We’re a mixed bag, but don’t ever deny our holiness. When we lose sight of the holiness of this congregation, we risk losing sight of God. But the reality is that when we gather together, we gather in the presence of holiness. The way we live together bears that out, for the sake of the world.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2015 in Sermon

 

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