Happy Reformation!

Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures  Psalm 46:1-11

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,

though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;

though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;

God will help it when the morning dawns.

The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;

he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our refuge.

 Come, behold the works of the Lord;

see what desolations he has brought on the earth.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;

he burns the shields with fire.

“Be still, and know that I am God!

I am exalted among the nations,

I am exalted in the earth.”

The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our refuge.


Meditation    Happy Reformation

The nations are in an uproar . . . the kingdoms totter.

Yeah . . . that about sums it up, doesn’t it.

What goes around comes around . . .

history is all about repeating stuff

over and over and over . . . think about it . . .

when the psalmist wrote those very words

long long ago . . . the nations are in an uproar . . little did he or she know . . .

they would still be uproaring and tottering today.


The world is changing so quickly before our eyes

that we can’t seem to keep up with it . . .

technology is moving us closer and closer

to the age of Artificial Intelligence . . .

robots are slowly taking away jobs

that just a few years ago were being done

by human hands.

But honestly . . . the worst thing I’ve noticed

about this world is that no one seems

to get along anymore . . .

have you ever seen such anger and hostility before . . .

politicians slinging mud

instead of legislating through compromise . . .

aggressive drivers shooting at other drivers

on the highways . . .

racism blatantly rearing its ugly head in so many ways.

Why even in the church . . . there are so many

theological debates going on about everything

from sexuality to capital punishment

to abortion rights to gun violence .

. . No doubt about it . . . the psalmist words

are right on target . . . the nations are in an uproar!

The kingdoms totter.

And you can add to that . . .

churches are quaking in their boots.

You know what? I think it’s time for a Reformation!


That’s precisely what Phyllis Tickle wrote about

just a few short years ago on the eve

of our 500th anniversary of the Reformation today . .

. you might recall that she puts all of us Christians

right smack dab in the middle

of a new Reformation.

And like the previous Reformation of the 16th century

that is remembered on this Sunday . . .

the church . . . all churches . . .

are once again struggling

with their own monumental changes . . .

I bet there are many of you who don’t even recognize

the church from the one you grew up in . . .

so what’s going on?


Well, according to Tickle,

this really shouldn’t have taken us by surprise.


Because she points out that the church

has been undergoing reformations

on a regular basis about every 500 years

since the birth of Christ.


There have been plenty of other times

when we the foundations of the church began to shake.

If you go way back . . . the early church

went through a Reformation in the late fourth

century and early fifth century

as church leaders struggled to affirm the identity

of Christ as fully human and fully divine . . .

and then . . . 500 years later . . .

the church struggled through what is remembered

as the Great Schism

where the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity

split over theological differences . . .

and then in the 16th Century along came Martin Luther .

. . and with the help of a new invention

called the printing press . . .

he denounced the practices of his own Catholic Church

. . . particularly the practice of paying

your way to salvation . . .

and Protestantism came into being

when he pounded 95 theses . . .

95 radical proposals to the door of his church.

Sola scriptura “by Scripture alone” . . .

Sola fide “by faith alone” . . .

and Sola gratia “by grace alone”.

But here’s the neat part that Tickle points out,

it seems that each “period of upheaval

is then followed by a period of settling down,

followed by the creation of a new set of rules,

and then upheaval again

because we do not like to have (rules that bind us).

So, about every five hundred years the church feels

compelled to have a giant rummage sale,

and we’re in one of those periods now.” (The Great Emergence)

I agree . . . it does seems like a great time

to clean out the house . . .

time for the church to have it’s 500-year rummage sale.

In other words . . . I can’t think of a better time

for a Reformation . . .

with the nations all in an uproar

and the kingdoms tottering.

We’re certainly not in the period

of settling down quite yet.


So what do we do in the meantime . . .

while we totter and roar?

Well maybe . . . like Luther . . .

we need to nail some new theses . . .

some new proposals to the door of the church.


Okay . . . so every 500 years we start over . . .

or at least clean out the closet

and set a new course . . .

because if you think about it . . .

God is always doing a new thing . . .

we are reformed . . . and always reforming.

But to be reformed . . . means to be changed . . .

spiritually changed by God . . .

and whether you’re a person living in the 4th Century . . .

or in the 21st Century . . .

change is never an easy thing for anyone to go through

. . . particularly those in the church.

I think this new Reformation began just a few years ago

when we began to cry out . . .

“That’s not the way we’ve always done it” . . .

then we moved into the era of dreaming of the church

as it used to be with all the pews filled

with happy families like it used to be.

But let’s be honest . . . we’re slowly realizing

that there’s no going back to the way it used to be .

. . and filling up pews and worrying about the number

of members are not the answers either . . .

so maybe . . . as we move through

these turbulent waters of change . . .

we need to cling to those words the psalmist wrote .

. . words that were emphasized them three times . . .

God is our refuge . . . the Lord is with us . . .

three times . . . we are reminded

that no matter what happens . . .

no matter how difficult it may seem to be . . .

God is with us . . . always with us . . . our Rock . . .

and that will never change.


So let me share some good news with you this morning

. . . the church is not dying . . .

Christianity is not withering on the vine . . .

as a matter of fact, I’ve never felt more alive in my faith .

. . because we are being molded and changed

into something new by God . . .

and I, for one, can’t wait to see what new thing

God is doing.

We have entered a new era and God is still in control.

We may have been comfortable for many years

sitting in our pews

and looking at the back of each other’s heads . .

. but God is now doing something new . . .

and each one of us . . .

has a role to play as a disciple of Jesus Christ .

. . in being a part of what God is doing.


So tell me . . . what would you write and nail to the door

of our church today?

What is going on in our world. . .

what do you see in here or out there

that the church is not addressing?

What rules and doctrines are preventing the people

of God from coming to this holy table

and sharing a meal together with Christ?


What do you believe . . . with all of your heart . . .

needs to change in the institution of the church . . .

for it to be a spiritual beacon

in the life of its people . . . in your own life?

Who is out there in the world . . .

that the church is ignoring . . . or forgetting?

What needs to be turned upside down . . .

to become the church Christ founded?

Or just maybe . . . what do we need to gather up . .

. put into a box . . and take outside for a rummage sale?


So I would like to ask you to take just a few minutes . . .

and prayerfully consider at least one thing

that you believe in your heart

that God is doing that is going to change

the life of the church that Jesus Christ founded.

What might that be . . .

either here at Columbia Presbyterian . . .

or in the greater church out there in the world.

What one thing do you believe God is already doing . . .

what one thing is God reforming . . .

that’s going to change the next 500 years?

Then, if you want to . . .

write it down on that little piece of paper . . .

and bring it forward . . . and nail it to this door . .


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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