Sermon for October 27th, 2019

Transcript by Google Recorder (not edited)

Today is Reformation Sunday. Now, not all Methodist churches celebrate. Reformation. Sunday, some do some don’t. But we are so. So today is the day that we remember Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg Germany. So he was a priest and professor of religion.

I forget his specialty Old Testament, but some New Testament stuff also. Now his theses outlined various issues at Luther had with the Roman Catholic Church at the time. A lot of his issues centered around what was called indulgences which was you could pay to have your sins forgiven, right?

The Catholic Church had come up with this idea of purgatory, and once you were in purgatory your relatives could pay to get you out. Well, you could also pay indulgences before you died to help you get out of purgatory faster. So Luther had an issue with this amongst many other things that he sought reform and he sought change in the Catholic Church.

So Luther one of his earliest. Incidents as a priest was a young child had committed suicide and his parents were in such grief over what had happened because another priest had told them that your son will not go to heaven that your son will be damned to hell for all eternity for what he did.

And Luther just couldn’t say that to people. He wanted to express compassion and he wanted to assure. These parents that there there was still a path forward that their son was who had obviously been mentally ill of some sort now in the 1500s we didn’t talk about mental illness, but the child had been obviously sick.

And so that was also one of the things that Luther was looking to change in the Catholic Church. Now, there were others calling for similar changes in the Catholic Church Luther was at the forefront of many of these and there had been people well before. Luther who had tried to call out these iniquities and in these wrongdoings one of the most famous ones was a name by John Hoose and he was burned at the stake for being a heretic.

Now, we didn’t you know think that we did that kind of stuff still into the 1400s and early 1500s, but but, The Roman Catholic Church did. Luther also had the benefit of being near Gutenberg and so his writings could be easily distributed for the first time monks didn’t have to make hand copies of his letters, but somebody with a printing press was able to take a copy of his 95 theses and mass produce them and send them out to many places.

And like I said, there were others who were calling out the the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church and actually in in seminary the course where we study this time period is Luther and the Reformations plural because of all the various. People who were pushing for reform. Most were not seeking to remove themselves from the Roman Catholic Church, they were seeking.

Reforms changes. To things they felt were wrong. And one of the interesting things that comes up when you look at these other reformers who have come throughout the years. Is how often those who are seeking change end up bringing about division instead. So we as Methodists we celebrate Reformation Sunday more as an historic event.

So John and Charles Wesley the founders of the Methodist movement were members of the Church of England, so the Church of England separated from. The Roman Catholic Church for some slightly different reasons than the Protestant movement in general, so my wife is a huge fan of like Victorian England, and so we watch a lot of movies that take place around the time of the Reformation so it’s really neat to get different, you know.

Pop culture references to what was going on at the time. But the gist of it is King Henry the 8th if you remember King Henry the eighth he actually wasn’t a fan of Luther but he wanted to break from the Roman Catholic Church a big part of it was that he wanted to be able to divorce his wife which the Catholic Church didn’t support obviously and uh King Henry had I was like five or six different wives throughout his life span, so this was a really big deal for him, you know, some of them he just he just killed others, he wanted a divorce.

So he had these conflicts with the Pope and at some point he made the declaration that the king of England is the head of the church of England. Instead of the Pope. So, this was the real break from the Church of England in in Catholicism. And John Wesley was an angle can priest a priest of the Church of England.

Now one of the neat things for me, so I know I’m not the normal only former Lutheran in the in the bunch here. When John Wesley was studying he reluctantly went to a Bible study on Aldersgate Street, that was held by some Lutherans and. During that event this he felt his heart strangely warmed and he wrote this in his journal.

While he was describing the change, which God works in the heart through faith in Christ. I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ Christ alone for salvation and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins even mine and saved me from the law of sin and death.

So, this is the moment Wesley identifies as his coming to Christ as his being. We don’t use the word born again, but as his realizing his salvation in Jesus Christ alone. You know the Catholic Church at this time was still preaching works righteousness that you had to work your way into being saved.

But here. Wesley is seeing the merit of what Luther was writing about. About salvation through Christ alone. There were some other theological differences between Wesley’s followers and the Church of England, but John himself did die a member of the Church of England. Now his his followers on the other hand started what we now call the Methodist Church.

And he ordained two lay persons in the United States that would lead the methodist movement here. And this happened right about the time of the American Revolution. So it was great timing in that the United States was removing itself from Britain. It’s control. But these pastors were also able to then remove themselves from control from the Church of England and followed John Wesley’s vision.

So you may be asking yourself, well, where is God and all of this? The church has been split into so many different pieces. So many different parts. Where is God. Is there any hope for unity? That we can see in all of this splitting and division. Well, this morning’s lesson from Joel.

Is one place where we can see that. So Joel was a prophet and his book we believe it was written or that he was prophesying after Israel was exiled. So the Israelites have been removed from Jerusalem. Some of them are in Babylon, but they’ve been kind of scattered about.

The people who took control of them didn’t want them to continue as a people. So they were spread out amongst different areas. So he was living in a time that appeared to be devoid of life. That there was little chance of the people of Israel becoming a great nation again.

But he does see offerings of hope. And his prophecy was of returning to Israel. And God’s people being made whole again. When he talks about the reins coming down and rejuvenating the land. And then he says once Israel is restored. God’s blessings will be poured out upon all people.

Not just the people of Israel even their slaves. And this can be extended out to all of the world. God restoring the world. To worshiping God the Creator. Our gospel lesson can give us another little hint about where we can see unity. So it’s about the Pharisee and the tax collector and normally we read this scripture and we look at it as a condemnation of the Pharisee.

This man who holds himself so high up above others and almost brags about how righteous he is. That he fast twice a week and he gives 10% of his income. But there is another way to see. The Pharisee. Jewish New Testament scholar named Dr. Amy Jill Levine. She says that the people who would have heard Jesus’ message.

Would have identified a Pharisee as a person who struggled hard to live. The right life in Gaza’s.

That he would normally have been lifted up. Now most the time in when we read about the Pharisees and the New Testament, they’re not in a good luck. But for most Jews in that society, they were exemplars of how to live. And so she wonders if maybe. This Pharisee despite him being so pompous in a way perhaps, he had a good influence on the tax collector.

The tax collector who Jesus said, it was justified. Perhaps the Pharisee played a role in that.

So that Dr. Levine is arguing is how communities work. That the people who are living a righteous life set the example for the others who need help. For the tax collector who is in League with the Roman authorities in a pressing his fellow Jews. That tax collector needs someone to look at to see how they should be living.

And that a community relies on those acting in a right manner. To show that example. So she argues that without the Pharisee the tax collector would have little way of knowing. How they should be living their lives. The Book of Joel I in my research for this sermon. I learned that it is generally read as part of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

So Yom, Kippur is the holiest holiday in the Jewish calendar and they actually was actually just celebrated earlier this month. October 8th and 9th. Yom Kippur roughly translates to the day of atonement and traditional Jews will spend this day fasting and in prayer and in worship all day from sundown on the start of Yom.

Kippur until went from some yeah, come down until sundown of the next day. So 24 hours. In the Book of Joel is read of part of those observances. It has themes of repentance and lamentation divine forgiveness and restoration. So it provides a fitting prelude to seeking the renewal of community through.

Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is paired with Rosh, Hashanah. And on Russia Shana it is believed that God writes your name in a book and writes your sin alongside of them. And you have the year. To clear yourself of those sins. That on the day of yawn kapoor if you have not made yourself right with God your name will remain in that book.

And you will not. Be considered righteous in God’s eyes. The hope is that through the year and through Yom Kippur. You have sought repentance not just with God but from each other. The time is spent asking for forgiveness. For restoring the community. Of the Jewish people. So that your name can be removed from that book and your sins are wiped clean.

What a wonderful way to think about restoration. And there are signs of unity in the church today in the global church. For the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which was two years ago, the Lutheran world federation in the Roman Catholic Church published a joint statement. On the spiritual and theological gifts which came from the Reformation the Roman Catholic Church has.

Many many years later acknowledged that many of the criticisms that were thrown at them by their own priests 500 years ago made sense and were areas they needed to correct. And many of those things on Luther’s 95 list have been corrected. And many of our large. Protestant denominations have working relationships with each other as Methodists we are in a relationship with the Episcopal Episcopalian Church of the United States that allows pastors who are Methodists to serve in Piscopalian churches and Episcopalians to serve in Methodist churches.

To relationship called full communion. We are also working on a full communion agreement with the Lutheran Church. I believe we have one with the Presbyterian church as well. We may still have divisions. But as long as we are willing to humble ourselves as the tax collector did Reformation Sunday can be about more than remembering the divisions but also a day where we can celebrate the unity.

If we only remember that God’s children all of them are loved by God as Christians we are all servants of Christ, we may have different ways of expressing it. But we must at all times remember to humble ourselves before God and seek God’s divine forgiveness. So friends as we go out into the world today.

Let us show signs of our Christian unity. We can show signs by supporting each other. And in our service helping those regardless of creed. It’s one of the wonderful things about our United. Methodist organizations like Encore and volunteers and mission. When you apply for help with services, they don’t ask what religion you are.

They just know that you’re a child of God in need. And they’re willing to help. Amen. The spirit of Christian unity today, we will be using the Nicene Creed to affirm our faith. This creed is older than the apostles tree that we normally use and yes, it is a little bit longer.

But one of the key differences is is that it uses an inclusive language. The apostles creed is always singular. It is always I believe what I believe. Whereas the Nicene Creed is plural. It expresses what we as a community of Christians throughout the world believe.