By Rev. David Rommereim
This week we, the Lutheran communion, celebrate the Reformation. Four-Hundred-Ninety-Eight Years ago the church was confronted by a reforming priest named, Martin Luther. He wanted the church and her people to become biblically literate. He wanted all people to align with G*d's Salvation History. He knew the established church must never accept payment for forgiveness (indulgences). He knew the teachings of Jesus and the radical nature of the Gospel were at stake in a property rich and fiscally hoarding church hierarchy.
We work in and through a church which has borrowed the name of Martin Luther, thus we are called "Lutherans." It is through that name that we have worked with, prayed for, and created healing ministries over the last 498 years. Martin and his colleagues opened the doors of the church. They should never be closed again.
At Good Shepherd we continue to insist on being a reforming community of faith. That begins with keeping our doors open both physically and theologically. There are no sacred cows in the church.
One of the passages for Sunday's Reformation Worship comes from the poet/prophet Jeremiah. This Sunday one of our newest members, Leo, will read the lessons for the first time in his Chinese inflected English. Leo will read what Jeremiah says in Chapter 31:31: "I [Yahweh) make a new promise with 'the people of faith'. It will not be like the promise that I made with their ancestors. ... But this is the promised covenant I make now. I will put the Torah within them and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
Jeremiah had a 40 year career in the destroyed city of Jerusalem. It looked like the South Bronx during the 1970s and 80s. All the wealthy had moved from Jerusalem to Babylon (modern day Iraq). Jeremiah remained and ministered in a city full of poverty. There was no quality education and residents were oppressed by the upper 1% wealthy. Yet, Jeremiah knew in his soul (nephesh) that when speaking through G*d's Name only, doors opened toward hope.
During the early 1500s Martin Luther and his colleagues sought to reform the calcified church. It was named "the Reformation." We also borrowed Luther's name to build a church honoring the trajectory of the radical gospel of Jesus known through the study of scripture. We named this church, Luther(an), such as, Good Shepherd Lutheran, Salam Lutheran, Bethlehem Lutheran, Our Savior's Lutheran, etc. Even though Pastor Luther did not want his name used as the name of this church, it stuck. From that tradition we have a responsibility to live with the theology that is continually reforming. We are reformation history.
A good example of this reforming effort is seen in the way we worship and teach our children. Our community worship is historic. However, it is best understood as deep time memory that lives in the present hearts and souls of a new emerging congregation. The beauty of Good Shepherd Lutheran church is that we have become a radical hub for diverse expressions of ministry. On any given Sunday, "Some of us believe all the time, some of us believe some of the time, some of us believe none of the time." I am fully aware that each person is seeking to learn, mature, and grow in faith, one day at a time.
As a reforming congregation it is also vital to remember that we train students in the faith not to make them robots of the church (such as the older of us grew up with.) We train our children in a church that lives in their world. Kids are not only the future, they are the present!
Likewise we are a church with older adults who are near the end of their lives. We are a church that walks with them in these changing times. We hold their hands in prayer. A few of them continue to study scripture weekly with me as they want to keep their minds active and their souls nurtured by the sacred text. I encourage their stories before it is too late.
In today's ministry among the Lutheran faithful the fact of climate change is asking us to remember that our historic scripture has been calling us to care for the planet since it was written. But we have been preoccupied with ourselves and forgotten to care for the earth, though in our sacred book, the psalmist continually declares: "The heavens declare the glory of God."
What is at stake for Reformation Lutherans today? We can only be theologically pure if and when we take our children's, children's, children's future seriously. We need a theology in a new key. Can we become biblically informed again, as we interact with a reformation that is less pietistic and more eager to reconcile with the people of faith, so that the earth may be restored and maintained with dignity. Ultimately this ministry is not done in Martin Luther's name but rather, in G*d's name. We must learn how to act through that name now more than ever.
The world we have offered our children is a world which will demand a new key to thinking about G*d, the church, society, and sacred scripture. The theology of a new key will be based on a reciprocal covenant.
G*d has provided a commanding promise (Jeremiah 31:31ff, Romans 5:1, and John 3:16). Now, in 2015, it is time to pay back that covenant with our own reciprocity. Human life on G*d's earth is at stake. Our children need our promise that we will live in the covenant as a model of practicing our faith in a new key with G*d's planet earth as our stewardship.