I wasn’t here last week, but I know Pastor Nancy faithfully addressed what happened in Charlottesville. As your pastor, I wanted to share just a few thoughts as well.
We’ve been sharing our histories with one another and talking about the importance of knowing our history. Of learning from the past in order to know who we are, who we have been, and who God might be calling us to be. This year, we celebrate what’s designated as the 500th year of the Protestant Reformation. In Wittenburg, Germany, on October 31, 1517, a young monk, Martin Luther, posted things that he saw that were going terribly wrong with the church, things that weren’t faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And through the help of the printing press, it went viral. Thoughts and actions that had been bubbling up here and there became a movement. A movement that sometimes not only required words but also bodies on the line to stand up for the Gospel.
This October, through our Stewardship season and beyond we’ll be talking about some of the words and thoughts that that movement inspired. We’re going to be looking at some of our more recent confessions from our Book of Confessions. One of those is the Barmen Declaration. (Here is the symbol for it.) It was written by Christians in Germany in the early 1930’s, soon after Hitler’s rise to power which included legitimating power given to him and his party by churches and church leaders. Other Christian leaders saw this for what it was, a corruption of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many were imprisoned and lost for their lives for what they said and how they lived the Gospel.
Here is some of what they wrote…”As members of Lutheran, Reformed, and United Churches, we may and must speak with one voice in this matter today. Precisely because we want to be and to remain faithful to our various Confessions, we may not keep silent, since we believe that we have been given a common message to utter in a time of common need and temptation.” Here’s the core of their message: “Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scirpture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death….As Jesus Christ is God’s assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so in the same way and with the same seriousness is he also God’s mighty claim upon our whole life…. We reject the false doctrine, as through there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords- areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.”
This is the core of their message and the core of the Gospel- we belong, body and soul to Jesus Christ- and that is good news! We belong to Jesus Christ, our identity is in Jesus Christ over and far above all else- not our race or our gender or our economic status or our political party or the nation which we call home. We belong to Jesus Christ.
Jesus- the brown, Middle Eastern Jew, who put his body on the line to call out sin and announce the kingdom of God. Who was killed in the midst of power politics and occupation of land and oppression by European forces. The Jesus who was raised, renouncing evil even in death.
That’s the Jesus we belong to. Now…The good news is that I still belong to Jesus no matter how bad I mess up. No matter how much I have failed to speak and act as the Gospel requires me to. The sobering news is that belonging to Jesus and following that Jesus requires a lot and that I have failed and the Church as a whole has failed many times over to follow the way of the one to whom we belong. Failed to clearly renounce the sin of white supremacy. Failed to examine and exorcise our own racism. Failed to notice the ways we choose to belong to our race or political ideology or country over and above belonging to Jesus. Failed to put our words, actions, and even bodies on the line for the sake of the Gospel.
Clergy colleagues and so many others did just that in Charlottesville. And I confess, when I see their courage and their faithfulness, I know without a doubt, I have much work to do in my own heart. So, pray with me…
Holy God, we confess that too often we want following Jesus to be easy. But most of the time, what is easy is not always faithful. Give us courage in today’s world to be faithful to the Gospel. To proclaim the Gospel of belonging to you and to the way, truth, and life of Jesus. Help us to examine our own lives, dropping our defensive postures, learning to belong to you over our race, our political parties, or our citizenship. Give us the courage to listen to and to stand with those have been pushed down, told to be quiet, told to passively accept the violence done to them and their communities. Heal our hearts. Heal our country. Heal our world, O God.
We know that like Jacob, you often bless us in the midst of our struggles. As we struggle with our sin, as we struggle with how best to love our neighbors, as we struggle with how to be faithful to your gospel. Remind us of that promise that there is blessing in wrestling with these important things.
We pray now for blessings in the lives of others, known to us and known to you….
Hear our prayers O God. Give us courage and grace to live and work for your kingdom come, even as we pray now….