Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Hope of the Righteous

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

The hope of the righteous ends in gladness. - Proverbs 10:28

You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. - James 5:8

Lectionary texts: Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 46; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36

In the Lutheran church, the last Sunday in October is observed as Reformation Sunday, when we celebrate the renewal of the church that begin on October 31, 1517 (499 years ago this year!) when Martin Luther posted his "95 Theses" for discussion. There's a temptation to remember the Reformation as something that happened in the past. But the Reformation also taught that the church has a purpose - to proclaim the true Gospel, the good news that in Christ we have God's free gift of grace that sets us free and makes us holy for God's work - and that there is always a need to observe and evaluate how we're doing at fulfilling that purpose. A later saying is that "the church is always being reformed."

My sermon today has to do with how the world is changing, and what we might say today about the church's proclamation of the gospel. Reform is needed, and is underway by the guidance of God's Holy Spirit. Sometimes it's uncomfortable or scary, but it helps to remember that our core purpose is not changing. The Gospel is the same. There are just new ways (which often are actually the renewal of ancient ways!) to proclaim the good news.

I connect this Reformation message with the Daily Texts' word today of patience and strength and "the hope of the righteous." We might interpret these words to refer to an individual hope for eternal life with God. And that is certainly an important part of the Gospel! But that eternal life is not the whole story, just one dimension of abundant "life into the ages" that includes joyful, active participation, here and now, in God's work of proclaiming the full Gospel to the world. Today, on Reformation Sunday, may we look ahead also to a church fully engaged with the good news of Jesus Christ for the current needs of the world around us. May we be patient, and strengthen our hearts, and aim for lives of righteousness in living out the purpose God has for us.

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