Reformation ~ Reformata; Reformanda (Continually in Reformation)
by Rev. David Rommereim
Jeremiah 31.31-34; Psalm 46; Romans 3.19-28; John 8.31-36
I have always been interested in history. I like family histories,
personal histories, histories of towns and neighborhoods. I even
enjoy the history told by the paleontologists who dig, clean, touch,
and date the bones they discover in places like the Burgess Shale
of British Columbia, Canada, or the digs of ancestors villages
covered with dust and clay.
I was treated to a storyteller who shared a wonderful history of a
small western town. The storyteller moved gracefully through the history
of the aspiring little village during the 19th Century. People move as fast
as horseback or buggy. The town was not far from the discovery of gold in
‘them there hills’ of California. There was a creek called Coyote Creek next
to the hills called Almeden where people learned to grow grapes and make
wine. Remember Aliened Wine Makers?
The poet/historian moved me through the ancients of that valley who lived
peacefully since 11,000 BCE. They moved to this valley for the same
reasons many moved there since gold was discovered, the computer
was developed, and the valley called Hearts Delight became the
Silicon Valley. These ancients, native peoples, built a community
of 3 to 4 hundred persons in a valley which now packs in 2.8 million
people. The ancient people of this Valley of Hearts Delight were
peaceful persons with peaceful family systems that lived off the land.
They were not farmers because the food was too abundant.
They were hunters and gatherers.
The storyteller began to turn my interest when she said that
despite the beauty and bounty of that valley, the abundance of
food and the low stress the tribe only could gather a maximum
of 3 to 4 hundred persons. You would think there would be
a bounty of life because of the sun, the beauty, the foliage
and the ease of life. Nevertheless, the community would
always remain small. People tended to die young, or grow
old with deformities.
As it turned out ~ the historian informed us ~ there was a
toxin in their lives. The toxin was discovered long after they
became extinct. The toxin was mercury. It was hidden in the
water, in the shrubs, and in the dirt. The community’s character
of being a people of peace was no match for the toxin, the
What makes the study of history interesting is that the
poet storyteller knows that there is yearning of our souls, a
yearning we share with all humanity, ancients, modern, and
postmodern which is a yearning to live in peace similar to the
native peoples of that beautiful valley. It is a yearning of
commonness rather than contention.
That yearning for soul, is what keeps us hopeful and alive
through all the challenges of this pluralistic, polarized world ~
a world of Israel and Palestine and Lebanon ~ Afghanistan,
Iran, Iraq, and the United States ~ searching for ways to live
in peace through guns and ammunition and war policy over
against peace policy. A world where North Americans feel
compelled to separate the “us” from “them” while most of the
citizens seek to live together in difference; languages,
nationalities, countries of origin, sexuality, places of work,
play, and Sabbath.
You and I have the same yearnings as wrote Martin
Luther in the Small Catechism while he taught parents how to
teach their children about the Christian faith. Martin’s
explanation to the first article of the Apostles Creed still says:
“I believe in God the Father almighty creator of heaven and
earth”. In addition, to a love starved community, a soul-
starved community Martin continued with an explanation
simple, clean and straightforward. He said: “But, what does
this mean?” It means, “I believe that God has created me and all
that exists. God has given me (and here’s the similar yearning)
food, clothing, home and family, daily work and all that I need
from day to day”. Whether it is 2.1 gigabit, or a Mac or a PC,
a used car or a new BMW; whether we still use a typewriter
or a pencil to do our work, the yearnings remain the same.
God, creator, and giver of life (vita), challenges me to yearn
and learn how to acknowledge that grace, today, by being
thankful and living gratefully into the future.
The famous Lutheran preacher Alvin Rogness one told a
story about thanksgiving learned from his older generation.
He remembered that there was once an old 98 year old
woman who was so thankful it was the month of May because
she said that she lived through May for 97 years and hadn't
died yet. Or the woman who had two teeth left in her old
mouth. She remained so thankful, as she said, “Well at least
In a culture of privilege, and sometimes feeling a little
entitled, I remember the old joke about the first article
explanation offered by Luther to the people struggling in
1523 with what it means to say the creed from Sunday to
Sunday. I say the explanation just quoted, “...all I need from
day to day...” acknowledges that the difference between
them and us is between my need and the ancients need. In
addition, often I confuse my needs and from my wants. I want,
I want, I want.
Professor Lewis W. Spitz from Stanford University wrote
in his introduction to his two volume edition of The Renaissance
and Reformation that “contemporary humankind is suffering
from amnesia. (We) are drifting along in a state of mind that
the Danish Theologian Soren Kierkegaard once referred to as a
kind of world historical forgetfulness.” Others say that this is
the price we pay for our desire to ‘live in the present’. In fact,
it would not take much to figure out how involved we are in
the present life at the expense of the past and (if you listen to
our legislators) we look like we live in the present, thinking
about the future, ... at the expense of the future of the third
and fourth generation that come after us.
Just think about how many items you could have bought
with your 17 to 18% interest bearing Visa Card, before you
get to pay off the principle. Moreover, think about the items
that are already broken or out dated by the time you finish
paying it off. We often lose the past, and for many of us,
(myself included) we get an opportunity to call them “senior
moments.” However, when it comes to our souls, when we lose
the past we often lose a future at the same time. This is
because we make decisions without digging deep at our
Now, I am not talking about the trauma of our past, the
past we need to overcome; the abuses that may have
happened because we have been injured, or in harm’s way
by someone who has lost a sense of civility and humanity. That
past must be overcome; we must overcome abuse, and the
harm caused by injury. However, we must never forget that
injury is such a way that we repeat the harm to another
innocent person in harm’s way.
Yet, the past is not simply reading history to pass a test
on our SAT exams, confirmation obligations. No, reading of
history means we look into the mirror dimly and then face to
face, as we gather the impact of our memories. In addition,
when we can suspend judgment, when we can forgive, when
we can be forgiven, we find that the mirror is revealing what
the Apostle Paul says, is “grace upon grace.” Moreover, this, I
say is grace abounding; when we may look at our past
without shame. When we may look at our history and learn.
I know that when I buried my grandfather in the dirt
which gave him his soul 1/4 mile from the earth he worked for
40 years I also buried a piece of my living self. I also
remember that that grandfather was a kind man who taught
me a faith that I learned to move away from. He taught that
to be Christian one must act a certain way. We glibly
understood that way as a collection of “no’s”: no partaking of
the fruit of the vine, no dancing, no card playing... etc. In
addition, in his telling of that way of living he forgot to tell us
that ‘he enjoyed it’ even though we did not. However, in
burying him I learned that his roots were more than a simple
pietistic faith builds on a series of “nos.” Rather his was a vital
faith meant to sustain his living, and his living alone. In
addition, it was the vitality of his spirit that I buried, not an
The Reformation we are celebrating today went public in
1517 when the priest Martin Luther printed the 95 Theses and
nailed them to the Wittenberg Chapel door. It was a door
like our Open Red Doors that provided information to the
public over the needs and the habits of the community. In
addition, in case you may think that we should stay out of
public life I remind us that our roots go deep into the political
uprising of the German state in the 16th century. We are
called to enter the political arena stand for no guile, nor no
shallow decision, nor, a compromise of the future generation.
However, that this was called a reformation was not new
to world history. There were many reformation events in the
church and society throughout the history of the church. In fact,
the word ‘reformation’ was first coined in Italy about 1200 by
a monk Joachim of Flora, who took the term to predict a new
age about to dawn in the Catholic Church. The term was
picked up by persons like the poet Dante and used
continuously to the age of Martin Luther, and Melanchthon
and the humanist Erasmus. To those German and Austrian and
Anglo reformers the word means a cleansing of the church,
and a handing over of the church to the 3 mile per hour rabbi
who walked among the people to teach about memory of the
faith coupled with a new covenant with God in an age that
was alive to God’s providing food, clothing, home, family,
daily work and all I need from day to day. Moreover, a God
who demanded that when those basics were not provided
that God’s justice prevail. Moreover, it was a justice not
meant to hurt the families who have, but simply provide for
families who have not. The Reformation, in other words, was
and remains a matter of the soul of the people; in times of
plenty and times of want.
Thomas Moore wrote in the book Care of the Soul “that
the great malady of the twentieth century implicated in all of
our troubles and affecting us individually and socially, is ‘loss of
soul’”. And the soul he refers to is not only the deep mystery
of a disciplined disciple of prayer, it is not only the out of
body experiences of some Pentecostal glossalia, it is not only
the ability to “pray good prayers in meetings”, nor is it the
piety of those who appear to “do church better than others”.
The soul is touched with memory, with place, and with
yearning; not for what I may want, but a yearning for God. It
is the soul, which cannot be intellectually defined, but may be
imagined as one touches the stuff of their memory. Mr. Moore
says that when ‘soul is neglected, it does not just go away; it
appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and
loss of meaning. In other words, care of the soul rids us of the
maladies of our lonely lives; lives of quiet desperation. The
soul is at our every door knocking, seeking, asking, and
Martin Luther was the reformer who remembered Jesus
spoke on the cross, ‘It is finished.’ The cost of their discipleship
was the Christ. In addition, the costliness of a disciple-less
world is our contemporary predicament of violence, despair,
illusions, and fear. In addition, this does not mean that we at
Good Shepherd will solve all the problems of this community.
Nevertheless, it will mean that we at Good Shepherd are
challenged to develop the memory of Christ, with the
yearnings for God through the hope of a future for our
children and our elderly. Professor Joseph Sittler called that,
“Faith active in love.”
Martin Luther does not have to be a 16th century relic of
Roman Catholicism. He does not have to nail 95 theses to a
church door. Yet, it is the spirit of the reformation that calls us
to be in reformation (sempre reformanda).
This is the reason why your pastor seeks to challenge mission,
with what is vital, so that what is essential to our
living here in this place, to the acting, and offering of justice
to our world and community, is what we decide to do
together, not in contention, but with appreciation for one
another’s spiritual touch of God.
How do we do that? Philippians gives us a clear four-
step process. It is: read Philippians 2. 1-4. We are seeking
for ways to be the church in an age that is crazed with
delusions of grandeur, and illusions of want; in an age
yearning for community while they sit alone listening to radio
talk shows and call that community.
Our mission is clear: to belong to one another in
honorable ways, and belong to a community as citizens
practicing a public life based on our values and principles of
Jesus’ Way. It is having a home, a place, and a history while
we live intensively in the present for a valued future. It is a
yearning for the promise so voiced by Jeremiah to
wanderlust people saying: “The days are surely coming, says
Adonai, when I will make a new covenant with the house of
Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the one I made
with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them
out of Egypt--a covenant they broke, though I was their
husband, says Adonai. However, this is the covenant I will make
with the household of Israel, after those days, says Adonai. I
will put my law within them, I will write it on their hearts; and I
will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer, shall
they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘know the Lord’,
for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the
greatest, Says Adonai. For I will forgive their iniquity and
remember their sin no more.”
TO BE A GREAT POEM
~ a reflection by Walt Whitman
(from preface to Leaves of Grass)
This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and
animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that
asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your
income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not
concerning god, have patience and indulgence toward
the people, go freely with powerful uneducated
persons and with the young and with the mothers of
families, read these leaves in the open air every season
of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been
told at school or church or in any book, dismiss
whatever insults your own soul--and your very flesh
shall be a great poem.
~ by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your
for a hundred miles through the
You only have to let the soft animal of
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I
will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the
clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how
the world offers itself to your
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
(Mary Oliver, from Dream Work)
Submittted by Rev. Robert Emerick, Pastor, Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, firstname.lastname@example.org &
Rev. David Rommereim, Pastor, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Bay Ridge, email@example.com
We invite you to talk about something that is very important to all of us: TAXES and JOBS.
First, we want to remind you that, from 1946 to 1971, taxes were fair and we had higher employment. Fair taxation means that all points on the economic spectrum do their part. To return to tax fairness in our land, it is vital to remember all of the purposes of our government established by the Preamble to our Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and
secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Second, we are well advised to note the words of Adam Smith, known as the Founder of Free Market theory, who wrote, “…
the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than…that proportion.” (The Wealth Of Nations, Book V, Chapter II, Part II). Adam Smith also wrote, “The rich, in particular, are interested to…secure…their own advantages.” (The Wealth Of Nations, Bk. V, Ch. I, Pt. II).
Third, the data from independent, unfunded, unsponsored research shows that: During the Great Depression, Federal spending dramatically reduced unemployment by 42.5% between 1933 and 1937 - from 24.9% to 14.3%. At the end of World War II, Federal debt was the highest in history - 120% of our nation’s total annual economic output (GDP, or Gross Domestic Product). And, from 1946 to 1971, we had higher tax rates on the highest incomes, and we actually had more prosperity, a stronger economy, and the Federal debt went down by almost 70%! (See the Facts below.)
Facts about taxes, unemployment, Federal deficits, Federal debt, and real private sector growth:
From 1946 to 1971: From 1972 to 2011:
1. Average tax rates on the highest salaries and unearned incomes: ----------- 80% ----------------------------- 44.1%
2. Average tax rate on profits from investments (Capital Gains): ----------------- 25.8% --------------------------- 18.9%
NOTE on Capital Gains: In 2006, “high net worth” individuals tax-sheltered $1.6 Trillion in “offshore” accounts - that figure may be higher now.
3. Average unemployment rate: ----------------------------------------------------------- 4.6% ---------------------------- 6.4%
4. Average annual Federal budget deficit: ---------------------------------------------- 1.3%----------------------------- 11.5%
5. Average total Federal workforce:------------------------------------------------------- 5.7 million ---------------------- 4.7 million
6.Number of Federal Budget surpluses: ------------------------------------------------ 8 -------------------------------- 4
7. Real average annual private sector growth rate:----------------------------------- 2.5% ---------------------------- 1.8%
8. Federal debt: ---------------------------------------------------------------------- WENT DOWN 69.1% --------- WENT UP 167.5%
Even with the Great Depression and WWII debt, and, even with the added post-war cost of the Marshall Plan, the GI Bill, and the Eisenhower Federal Interstate Highway System, and, on top of all that, the additional expense of the Korean War, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War, the Federal debt actually went DOWN 69.1% between 1946 and 1971! What’s more, from 1946 to 1971 we had lower unemployment, much lower deficits, and higher real private sector growth. AND, we had all this prosperity and economic strength with higher tax rates on the wealthy.
We welcome discussion. Sources and data are available on request.
Rev. Robert Emerick,
Pastor, Bay Ridge United Methodist Church, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. David Rommereim,
Pastor, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Bay Ridge, email@example.com
This information is meant for honest teaching. We are aware that some members of the congregations may not agree with the publication of this information.