Gospel: John 8:31-36
Today is Reformation Day. It is the day we celebrate the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. October 31 is the postmark on 95 Theses, or 95 points that Martin Luther was asking people to think about and debate with him. But we continue to celebrate the Reformation as ongoing, because we’ve never arrived at the perfect congregation or larger church organization, or denomination, but everyday we celebrate our baptism as dying to our old self, the sinful broken parts of our congregation and denomination and selves which come together to make the body of Christ, and we rise again to new life, with forgiveness, for new possibilities, in the hopes that God can make something out of us, as flawed as we are. So the reformation is ongoing and we pray that God would reform us today.
God reform us, we pray. God answers, “The days are surely coming.” The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when God will come near and there will be abundant life. No longer will they read commandments on stone tablets, but God’s commandments will a part of everything the people do. People will know God as a mother or father, a friend, and approach God with hope. No longer will we look at our brothers and sisters as strangers, but we will welcome them, and see them as God sees them.
No longer will broken relationship be the norm, but there will be renewal and love. The days are surerly coming, when brothers and sisters have a complaint against one another, they will not hide their feelings, or go and talk to someone else about it, but they will approach the other person, seeing their full humanity, and being confident that the relationship will not be broken. They will examine themselves and accept their own part of the disagreement and make any changes to themselves that might be necessary. They will approach the other person seeing the best in them, that they will be open and receptive and loving in their response.
No longer will there be destruction and violence, but the lion and the lamb will lie down next to each other and the child will play near the snake’s den. The days are surely coming when no longer will people destroy each other with weapons or grieve their children shot down in Synagogues and churches and schools and streets, but peace will reign and hope will live.
No longer will mass incarceration deprive people of a chance to live, while lining the pockets of politicians and those in power. The days are surely coming when all races of people will be treated with justice and love, when no longer will lighter skin mean a lighter sentence.
The days are surely coming when, no longer will people forget who they have to thank for their lives and well-being, but God will be praised by all creatures.
The days are surely coming when no longer will we push each other around, but we will take God’s hand and be led in abundant life.
The days are surely coming when no longer will we compete in contests of strength and power, but we will work together to make sure everyone has a part. There will be no war or genocide, but world powers will work for the good of the weakest member.
The days are surely coming when no longer will congregations discriminate against pastors based on their gender or sexual orientation, when gay pastors will get calls to churches that are a good fit, just as their straight brothers and sisters in ministry. Candidates for ministry will no longer doubt their call or look to serve in other places because the church is afraid of them.
The days are surely coming when no longer will we talk over each other, but the powerful will be silent to give voice to the oppressed.
The days are surely coming when no longer will we feel that we are never enough, but we will know that Jesus and his love and forgiveness are enough.
The days are surely coming when no longer will we judge each other, but we will humble ourselves and see the best in our neighbor.
The days are surely coming says the Lord, when God will come near. When God comes near, the Bible says, there will be judgment, there will be forgiveness, and there will be healing. Jesus will show us by the people he associates with, that our priorities are not God’s, and that God has good news precisely for those who haven’t heard any good news in a long time.
The days are surely coming says the Lord when God will come near and judge the world in righteousness. We will see clearly the times we’ve stood in the way of God’s dream as individuals and as institutions, like churches. The honest assessment will say that we’ve broken the commandments. We’ve broken the covenant. We’ve sinned against God and each other. We’ve forgotten who made us and freed us.
The days are surely coming when we will know we are free and live in that freedom, using it for good and the building up of the Kingdom of God.
The days are surely coming when instead of banishing us or destroying us, we will understand that God chooses to partner with us. This doesn’t mean any of us can brag or boast about how good we’ve been, or how much God loves or forgives us.
The days are surely coming when we will come to understand this passage as Martin Luther did, “Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by God’s grace as a gift.” What a moment that must have been, when he read that, and read it again, and again! The word “justified” is a difficult one to get a handle on. We cannot justify ourselves. We cannot make ourselves just by our good works or right action. I think of type on a page being right justified, aligned on one side. We cannot align ourselves with God. We can’t match God’s righteousness or glory or wisdom. Instead, justification, or alignment is a gift that God gives us. We can’t get to God’s level. So God came and aligned God’s self to us, justified us, not because of anything we did, but just to be in relationship with us, and not the important people or the rich people who were too busy justifying themselves by their wealth and influence, but the most neglected little people, the throw-away people that no one noticed or cared about.
The days are surely coming when we will understand this is a free gift. It does come at a cost, and that is the death of Jesus our Savior. He paid the price for all our sins on the cross. But he didn’t want us to remain in sorrow and pain. He not only died, but he rose again and raises us up with him to new life, today and every day.
The days are surely coming! Jesus’ reign is surely coming! God’s forgiveness is surely coming! Celebration is surely coming! New life is surely coming!