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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Meditation on This Week's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott


The readings for Sunday, October 25, 2009:

First Reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm: Psalm 46

Second Reading: Romans 3:19-28

Gospel: John 8:31-36

I find it hard to believe that we are back to Reformation Sunday. Perhaps it's because of the weather and the record-breaking heat we've had down here in South Florida; only recently has it felt autumnal enough to contemplate the Reformation, Halloween, All Saints', All Souls'--those holidays that come as October turns into November.

Perhaps you feel like we've been living Reformation for the past year as the Lutheran church has wrestled with sexuality issues. Perhaps you are not happy with the changes that have been wrought. Maybe you find yourself feeling very sympathetic to the Catholic church of Luther's day, the Church that found itself torn asunder by many movements of reform.

Regardless of the side on which we sit with these recent struggles, we might find ourselves feeling a bit fearful. We might worry about schism. We probably worry that there won't be a place for us in the church that emerges from all of this.

We should take heart that the Church has always been in the process of Reformation. There are great Reformations, like the one we'll celebrate this Sunday, or the Pentecostal revolution that's only 100 years old, but has transformed the developing world (third worlds and those slightly more advanced) in ways that Capitalism never could. There are smaller ones throughout the ages as well. Movements which seemed earth-shattering at the time (monastic movements of all kinds, liberation theology, ordination of women, lay leadership) may in time come to be seen as something that enriches the larger church. Even gross theological missteps, like the Inquisition, can be survived. The Church learns from past mistakes as it moves forward.

Times of Reformation can enrich us all. Even those of us who reject reform can find our spiritual lives enriched as we take stock and measure what's important to us, what compromises we can make and what we can't. It's good to have these times where we return to the Scriptures as we try to hear what God calls us to do. Some ELCA churches may decide to break away and join the Missouri Synod. Some Lutheran churches may create a brand new type of Lutheranism. Some of us may call on our ELCA to become even more radical in our approach to hospitality and acceptance. Some of us may do some soul searching and discover that the churches of Luther are not our true spiritual homes after all. It may be painful, but any of these processes may lead us to soil where we can bloom more fruitfully.

We may think of that metaphor and feel despair, as if we will never be truly rooted, flowering plants. But rootlessness can be its own spiritual gift. The spiritual wanderers have often been those who most revitalized the Church, or on a smaller level, their spiritual communities. The spiritual wanderers are the ones who keep the rest of us true to God's purpose.

If you have been feeling despair, take heart. Jesus promises that we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free. You might not be feeling like you know what the truth is at this current point; you may feel tossed around by the tempests of our current times. But Jesus promises that we will know the truth. We will be set free. We don't have a specific date at which we'll know the truth. But we will.

Rest in God's promise that we are redeemable. Rest in the historic knowledge that the Church has survived times of greater turbulence than our own. Rest in Luther's idea that we are saved by grace alone. Rest.

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