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REFORMATION QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT FOLLOWING JESUS

October 29, 2017

REFORMATION QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT FOLLOWING JESUS

A Sermon Proclaimed

October 29, 2017 (21st Sunday after Pentecost)

2d Presbyterian Church, Albuquerque, NM

 

Matthew 22:34-46


34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’37He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: 42‘What do you think of the Messiah?* Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ 43He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit* calls him Lord, saying, 
44 “The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
   until I put your enemies under your feet’ ”? 
45If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ 46No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

 

Thank you, Pastor Woodruff and People of 2d Presbyterian Church, for inviting me to worship God with you today – the final Sunday before Reformation Day – as followers of Jesus in the Protestant tradition observe the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation.  I thank Pastor Woodruff for his generosity in allowing me to preach during this service, and thank this congregation for your support of my efforts to talk this weekend about my book, The Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Hope.  

 

I dare not overlook the excellent help and encouragement Gwenyth Lewis has given in that regard.  Ms. Lewis has coordinated, planned, networked, and done everything anyone could ask to make my Albuquerque book tour efforts meaningful. I am grateful for her efforts, and for the cooperation and support you have given them.  

 

We are observing the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation when many people openly question if religious faith is a blessing or a burden to the world.  In a sense, the world seems to be “re-forming” its approach to faith in general, not only the religion of Jesus.  

 

But people are also “re-forming” their views about the religion of Jesus.  Those people includes those of us who believe that God is real, that God loves the world – including all people and the entire creation – and that God has put that love on open display in Jesus Christ.  

 

We have experienced God’s love, personally.  We have embraced God because Jesus showed us God can not only be revered, but that God has embraced us in redeeming and unconditional love.  In Jesus, we have come to know that God is love.  In Jesus, we have come to know that God is the source of truth, joy, grace, justice, hope, and peace/shalom.    

 

But we are being forced to “re-form” our thinking and our approach to what following Jesus means.  We see people who say they love God and who say they follow Jesus representing God and Jesus in strange ways that force us to “re-form” our thinking as followers of Jesus.  

 

We must “re-form” our thinking about God and Jesus when people who claim to love God and believe in Jesus want to force immigrant women to have babies but don’t want to welcome immigrant babies and their parents as neighbors.  

 

We must “re-form” our thinking about the religion of Jesus when people who claim to love God and believe in Jesus don’t want immigrant parents and children to receive public services.

 

We must “re-form” our thinking about the religion of Jesus when people who claim to love God and believe in Jesus don’t seem to care about law enforcement officers who racially profile brown-skinned people as threats to public safety and national security, who beat them, who rob them, and who kill them with impunity.  

 

We must ‘re-form” our thinking about the religion of Jesus when people who claim to love God and believe in Jesus want to punish people who kneel during the national anthem because those kneeling people do not believe it is right for police officers to abuse and kill black, brown, and poor people with impunity. 

 

We must “re-form” our thinking about the religion of Jesus when people who claim to love God and believe in Jesus seem eager to devote more of the national treasury and send young men and women to risk their lives and their moral and mental sanity in war-making anywhere the nation sends them than to making peace.  The Jesus we know and love said:  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).  How can it be that the dominant constituency that claims to represent the religion of Jesus cheers and prays for God to bless every military adventure the American empire undertakes around the world?   

 

In a real sense, followers of Jesus are forced today to “re-form” our thinking about what it means to love God with our whole lives and to love all other persons – and the creation – as neighbors the same way Martin Luther was forced to “re-form” his thinking about the religion of Jesus by the way the dominant powers of religion represented God 500 hundred years ago.  Five hundred years ago and now, people claimed to love God but carried on their lives and made it their business to try to run the world in ways that did not square with God’s love as Jesus demonstrated it.  

 

While it may not be comfortable to do so, we must ponder some questions that have “re-formation” implications for how we live for God as followers of Jesus.  The first “reformation” question we must ponder and answer is the one Jesus put to the Pharisees in today’s Gospel lesson:  What do you think of the Messiah?  Whose son is he? (Matthew 22:42).   

 

If the Son of God we know as Jesus is the Messiah, that means we must “re-form” what we think about Jesus and embrace him as the Liberator from God to deliver humanity from every form of empire.  The Messiah is not only the Soul Savior evangelical people talk about.  The Messiah is God’s agent of deliverance from the unloving, unjust, untruthful, and unhealthy forces that oppress people everywhere in the name of empire.  

 

  • The Messiah is God’s agent of deliverance from every anti-immigrant empire.  
  • The Messiah is God’s agent of deliverance and hope in the face of every oppressive political empire.  
  • The Messiah is God’s agent of deliverance, hope, and mercy from greedy payday lenders, oppressive home mortgage companies, and every other agency of greed in our time that makes up commercial empire.  
  • The Messiah is God’s agent of deliverance for our neighbors whose money, vehicles, houses, and other property is being seized by drug taskforce agencies even though they have not been convicted of crimes.    
  • The Messiah is God’s agent of deliverance from the idolatry of technocentrism that threatens to kill the earth in the name of making money for people who already have more money they can spend in a lifetime.  
  • The Messiah is the One who comes in the name of God to condemn and denounce immigrant-hating and fearing religion as heresy and blasphemy, and condemn and denounce immigrant-hating religious people as a fraud to God’s love.
  • The Messiah is the One who comes in the name of God to challenge the world to make peace, not war.
  • The Messiah is the One who comes in God’s name to condemn religious politicians and political religionists who would rather make greedy people wealthy than make sick people healthy.
  • The Messiah is the One who denounces any religion and its followers that refuses to love and provide for people who are poor.
  • The Messiah is the One who denounces any religion as blasphemous heresy and its followers as frauds and hypocrites for refusing to love, protect, nourish and provide for people who are frail because of age, sickness, and homelessness.
  • The Messiah is the One who liberates women and girls from the power of patriarchy and sexist bigotry.
  • The Messiah is the One who liberates LGBTQ sisters and brothers from the empire of heterosexual domination.
  • The Messiah is the One who liberates!

 

And in this sense, we, like Martin Luther 500 years ago, are called to represent God and Jesus in “re-formed” ways.  We are called to represent God and Jesus as lovers of the poor, defenders of the powerless, champions of the oppressed, and hope for those in despair.  We are called to represent God and Jesus by presenting the world with a vocal and visible alternative to the imperialistic, racist, white supremacist, capitalistic, sexist/homophobic/transphobic, and xenophobic heresy that calls itself “mainstream Christianity.”  

 

That raises a second “re-formation” question.  How will we, as followers of Jesus, live in the face of the way God’s love and Jesus are misrepresented by the dominant forces of our time?   In the same way Luther challenged how God’s love and the ministry of Jesus was represented by dominant actors 500 years ago, you and I must now challenge the 21st Century version of the Pharisees who opposed Jesus.  

 

In the name of the Jesus who loved and accepted women as equals and ordained them as the first oracles of his resurrection and God’s power over sin and death, in the name of the Jesus who welcomed religious, social, and political outcasts, and in the name of the Jesus who openly denounced religious worshippers of empire as frauds and hypocrites, we are called to be the faces and voices of a new Reformation.  

 

God is calling us to live as agents of “re-formed” faith, “reformed” love, and “re-formed” hope.  

 

Jesus calls us to present the world a “re-formed” notion of faith that emphasizes justice, mercy, and peace, not empire.  

 

The Holy Spirit calls us and sends us to live in the power of “re-formed” identity, “re-formed” energy, “re-formed” relationships, and “re-formed” hope.  

 

The world is waiting and watching and hoping for us to follow Jesus as people “re-formed” for liberation, “re-formed” for justice, “re-formed” for peace/shalom, “re-formed” for hope, and “re-formed” for joy – not fear – by the grace and truth of God we have come to know in Jesus.  

 

This is our calling from God today, tomorrow, and forever.  Let us answer that call to the glory of God by our efforts together.  Amen. 

 

©Wendell Griffen, 2017