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.Share