Sunday, October 31, 2010

Reforming Slaves

Today's sermon, for Reformation Day, was mainly based on the gospel lesson, John 8:31-36.  Today was also Reformation Day, when the Protestant Church, and the Lutheran church in particular, celebrates the anniversary of Martin Luther nailing 95 theses (or complaints) against the Roman Catholic Church to the door of the Wittenburg Chapel in hopes to reform the church.  Luther's complaints ended up sparking the Reformation, in which groups broke off from the Catholic church, instead of a reformation within the church.  For Bethlehem is was also the day that two teenage members (Ryan and Tori) affirmed their baptisms, or made their confirmation.

One thing I love about confirmation services being on Reformation Day is that it is a reminder to us that our faith is constantly reforming and God is revealed to us.  Our faith should not be stagnate!  So in the spirit of a reforming faith and a spirit of an confirming faith, enjoy today's sermon

Jesus was talking to some of his Jewish followers about freedom and they in response boasted that they are descendants of Abraham and therefore have never been slaves. Umm I seem to recall an entire book in the Torah about the Jewish exodus from slavery in Egypt into the promise land in Israel. I believe the book is called Exodus. The book is about how God sent Moses to tell the Pharaoh to let God’s people go from their captivity as slaves so they could go to the promise land. And then how Pharaoh refused multiple times so God kept sending plagues so Pharaoh would free the Israelites and eventually they had to flee after God killed the first born sons of Egypt and they went across the Red Sea and then wandered in the wilderness for 40 years (though that part is in the next three books of the Torah). These Jewish followers of Jesus were so confident in their supposed freedom that they were not able to recall how they ancestors had once been slaves nor where they able to see how they were currently slaves to sin.

And some of us are probably thinking that we are American and are not slaves, forgetting that just 145 years ago slavery was legal in this very country. Much less are we able to see all the ways that we are enslaved.

So what are you slaves of?

For Ryan and Tori, they probably have at times thought they were slaves to confirmation classes, having to be at church at 9am each Sunday for a year, and 10am on Saturday twice a month for another year. And having to deal with a pastor who thinks she is much cooler than she really is.

Many of us are slaves to our houses trying to constantly clean, maintain and pay the mortgage on. Many of us are slaves to our cars, so use we are to constantly making car payments, taking it in for oil changes, and getting gas that we forget that we can occasionally walk, ride a bike or take public transportation (granted I will give you the fact that very few things are within easy walking distance in this part of Connecticut). We are enslaved to student loan payments, insurance payments, credit card bills and other payments and bills that we struggle figuring out how to pay them all off each month. Some of us are enslaved to fashion, television, or the internet; we are addicted to gambling, alcohol, or drugs; we are imprisoned to our jobs; we are bound by family obligations; we are oppressed by the structures of society; we are subjected to the government. Yet all these things we can do something about, they take time, but we can change. We can downsize; we can join a support group or twelve step program to free ourselves from addiction; we can quit our jobs; we can tell people no; we can even move out of the country or disappear off the grid in order to be free from the government.

But regardless of what we do, we will still be enslaved. Regardless of what we do we will always be slaves, we will never be free. Because we are captive to sin. We are in bondage to sin. We are imprisoned to sin. We are enslaved to sin. We are oppressed by sin. We are subjected to sin. We are addicted to sin. And there is nothing we can do about it.

Regardless of what we do, we will always be sinners. Regardless of how much we pray we are still sinners. Regardless of how often we worship God, we are still sinners. Regardless if we memorize the bible, we are still sinners. Regardless of the fact that we are theological descendants of Martin Luther, we are still sinners. Regardless if we stand up here today and confess our baptismal faith, like Ryan and Tori will do today, we are still sinner, and Ryan and Tori, just for the record, you will still be sinners after you affirm your baptism today. Because no matter what we do, we will always be sinners.

But our freedom is not dependent on us. Christ is the one who sets us free from sin and death. Jesus’ death on the cross saved us from the power of sin. The truth that comes through Jesus allows us to be free. It is Christ who reveals our faith to us, a faith that is constantly reforming which we celebrate today on this Reformation Day. It is God who claims us in the waters of baptism. It is Christ who comes to us through a simple meal of bread and wine. It is the Holy Spirit working within us that allows us to affirm our faith. It is God who claims us as children of the heavenly Father. It is God who gathers us in God’s bosom and gives us refuge. It is God who sets us free!

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