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A History of Change

Reformation Sunday  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  15:43
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Today "Martin Luther" came to visit us at Holy Cross. He came to share with us his hope for the church is based in Psalm 46. The world may be changing rapidly, and the future of the church is changing, however God will be with us, no matter what.

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Righteousness

righteousness, the state of being in the right, or being vindicated.

On a day like this, it is easy to assume that we have the key to righteousness. Luther posted his theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg. He fought with the pope. The pope kicked him out of the church, and people pledged their allegiance to his ideas, and joined together to form what would become the Lutheran tradition.
Today we’re part of a global communion of churches, 145 churches, in 98 countries, with over 74 million members. That’s quite the progression from one guy, tacking a set of paper on a door, hoping that people will read it. If there is a time to feel vindicated, to feel like we got it right, to feel like Luther got it right 500 years ago, this is the time. He did it, we did it.
As with any history, the victors get to write the story — and we have written our story as one where our truth — Luther’s truth has triumphed over the evils that he raged against.
Luther would be the first though to ask us to turn to the scriptures. And in today’s reading, we have:
Romans 3:10–11 NRSV
as it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God.
Now Paul couldn’t be speaking about us — surely we have understanding of God’s will, and surely we seek God.
Or do we? When we rely solely on the works of someone from 500 years ago, are we still seeking God?
For the claim of the Reformers was “Sola Fide”, “Sola Scriptura”, and “Sola Gratia”.

Faith, Scripture, Grace

We can quote Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, Melancthon, Cranmer, and all sorts of people, from the days of the Reformation and more recently, all we want, but what they’d really want is for us to head back to the scriptures. We can read the 95 Theses, The Westminster Confession, The 39 Articles, and other documents, but the only real place for us to turn to is the scriptures.
Romans 3:22 NRSV
the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction,

What is it that we believe in?

As the world changes so quickly, I often wonder what it is that we believe in? There were old tenets of faith that have been questioned over the years, and honestly if I were to survey you, I’m pretty sure the faith of each of you would be different than the faith of the person next to you. Little bits of what we believe differ. Rather than this being a problem, I see it as making us stronger as a community.
There is one thing though that concerns me. It is what we believe the future of this congregation will be.
Here’s the way I see it:
Attendance has been declining slightly over the time I’ve been here.
Costs have been increasing.
Financially, we’re actually not in a bad state at the moment — actually probably the best state we’ve been in since I’ve been here.
When I look a the financial projections, things don’t look rosy. Our biggest givers are some of our oldest givers.
I’ve heard people say that the future of Holy Cross isn’t great. Heck, even I’ve said it. Financially, five, ten, fifteen years from now, we could be in serious trouble.
And yet, in the time that I’ve been here, we’ve expanded our community garden, brought in more A.A. groups, helped start the Seniors’ Lunch, sustained the Good Food Box program and helped it grow to other locations, put up our Little Lending Library, fed thousands of runners at the Chilly Half Marathon, and more.
The impact we have in this community is actually quite great.
So, will our future be defined by financial struggles or by the outreach we do in the community in which we live?
Honestly, we can’t do the outreach in the way we do now, without finances.

What did the Reformers start?

Luther in particular, didn’t want to start a new church — at least not to begin with — he wanted to change the church, to help it find a new direction, to help people find a closer relationship with their God.
In general they started decades, well centuries I guess, of animosity and hatred. Heck, it was easier for my parents to move 5,000 kilometers to get married, rather than overcome the religious divide that happened after the Reformation.
Maybe the Reformers knew that there would be split. Maybe they didn’t.
This they did know though. Their faith is worth fighting for.
Why?
Psalm 46:1 NRSV
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Psalm 46:11 NRSV
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
Sure, the future is uncertain — not just of Holy Cross, but each of our futures is uncertain. Sure there might difficult times on the horizon. Our faith though, reminds us that God is with us, is our refuge, and our strength.
I believe that the changes that Luther started 500 years ago lead us to be in a very good spot today. We have a history of making change, of adapting, of searching for God’s will for us, of seeking God’s voice in the midst of troubling times, of finding God, and of proclaiming our faith.
That is our past, and our future as a congregation.
That is our 500 year history of making change.
That is how an event 500 years ago, is still relevant today — the Reformation didn’t end, and never will. The Reformation calls us to be Reformers today and every day.
Will Holy Cross look different in the future than it does now? Yes. It looks different than it did when I came here 11+ years ago. It will continue to look different — because we are certain of our faith — and certain that we have something that the world needs to hear.
We’re looking forward to 500 years more of changing the church, and changing the world. That is our faith.
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