Lectionary Reflection, Reformation Sunday, Year B
October 31, 2021*
For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus… Romans 3:22b-24
The denomination of which I am a part, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has a slogan “Always Being Made New.” The longer I am exposed to this slogan, the more I like it because it reminds me that as a Lutheran Christian I am called to re-formation on a continual basis. Even though I do die daily to sin, I also rise to newness of life; therefore, I am indeed always being made new. Thanks to the amazing gift of grace in Christ Jesus, I have options! I have a future, and I have the potential to be about the work of announcing the radically alternative reign of God right here and right now.
For Lutherans, this coming Sunday is usually celebrated as Reformation Sunday. It’s the day when Lutherans show up to worship wearing as much red as possible, sing “A Mighty Fortress” with reasonable gusto, and are reminded how Martin Luther’s understanding of and teaching about justification by grace alone through faith alone sparked reform and renewal. Lutherans aren’t the only Christians who recall the Reformation on this Sunday, but certainly not everyone does.
Regardless of whether you will be looking at an altar draped in red paraments, green paraments, or no paraments at all, we can probably agree that the church has changed a lot over the last 500 years, and it appears to be on the cusp of another great change. What will it look like when it shakes out? Who’s to say? What we can safely assume is that there are plenty of options to how God’s timeless and eternal story will be communicated and experienced, and that what we’ve known in the last century is probably not going to be what the church will look like in another hundred years.
Having options and being asked to make choices can be both liberating and terrifying. There is comfort in tradition and routine, and we tend to resist change in the church, closing our eyes to any manifestation of it. But we are called to be reforming people, whether or not we are Lutheran. The Good News of Jesus Christ is timeless and unchanging, but it aims to be presented in fresh, new ways that speak to every age and context. And we can take a cue from Luther and the other 16th century reformers and make good use of the tools available to us, especially this Sunday when we have some very good choices for lessons and celebrations.
This Sunday is also designated as Social Media Sunday, a happy coincidence, as the purpose of Social Media Sunday is to encourage social media use as a ministry tool in congregations that are not yet using social networking platforms, to boost its use in congregations that are already engaged, and to demonstrate the power of social media to be and do church in many different ways. The day was started in 2013 by Carolyn Clement at Trinity Episcopal Church in Tariffville, CT. In three short years it has become an international ecumenical event where congregants are encouraged to tweet out sermon quotes, take selfies in their congregations, and share God’s love using various social media platforms. No matter what lesson or lessons you choose as your focus for preaching and teaching, and whether you plan to celebrate Reformation Sunday and/or Social Media Sunday or another Sunday in the long green season that is the Time After Pentecost, you have plenty of excellent opportunities and options to tell the story of Jesus’ love for humankind in all of our bumbling, blinded, and stubborn ways.
*This reflection was first published for Reformation Sunday, Year B, 2015.