Good News All Over Again
The desire to privatize the free love of God for all creation seems stamped on the human soul. While Lutherans learn early on in their faith formation about the abuses of the church through the sale of indulgences in the sixteenth century, the scriptures for Reformation Day remind us that the desire of religious people to claim ownership of what God freely gives is nothing new.
We hear the self-righteous bickering of the Israelites behind the prophet Jeremiah’s declaration of a new covenant between God and humanity, one that erases any claim to special access, because we shall all know God. For the early church the question was whether there was any longer a need to observe the religious laws and customs of Israel, and the inclusion of Gentiles in the Christian community. Paul reminds us that we are justified by faith in who God is, a God of grace, not by virtue of who we are.
Yet we forget this fact over and over again, like the Jews who insisted to Jesus that they had “never been slaves to anyone,” forgetting their bondage in Egypt (John 8:33). We, too, lose sight of our bondage to systems of oppression and the unjust hierarchies they create. We, too, fall prey to thinking we are better or less than others because of arbitrary categories assigned to us at birth.
Reformation Day reminds us that our impulse to contain God’s grace in structures of our own making cannot hold back God’s determination to claim the whole world in a love as encompassing and intimate as words written on our hearts. That was good news for the Israelites in exile, for the early church in Rome, for those living during the Reformation, and for us today. Reformation Day reminds us that the words God spoke at creation when God made the world and called it good, become good news for us each time we hear them.
Gospel: John 8:31-36
Jesus speaks of truth and freedom as spiritual realities known through his word. He reveals the truth that sets people free from sin.
31Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”
34Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”