Reformation Sunday: The Truth About the Truth

John 8:31-36 Dear Partner in Preaching, I suspect that the Gospel doesn’t mean very much to the self-made man or woman. Do you know what I mean? We define “Gospel” in a variety of ways – salvation, grace, forgiveness, life, and so on. Today Jesus adds another way to speak of the Gospel – freedom. Good words, all. But the common denominator among them is that they assume need. The one who values salvation knows that he or she needs saving. The one to whom grace is important is aware of the need for grace. Forgiveness implies sin. And so on. No wonder Jesus’ interlocutors are offended. Jesus says, apparently to persons who already...

Christ for Us

On October 31, 1517, a monk teaching at the relatively new university of Wittenberg posted a set of theological arguments on the door of the castle church in order to invite an academic debate. This was not terribly out of the ordinary and nine times out of ten – actually, make that 9999...

Pen 24 C / Reformation – The Unexpected God

Luke 19:1-10 Dear Partner in Preaching, Many of you may be preaching this Sunday as Reformation Sunday. Others will preach it as the 24th Sunday after Pentecost. Whichever “day” you may be observing, I’d like to suggest there is a common theme worth holding up, and that is that the God we encounter in Jesus is not the God we expect – and that’s a good thing! I’ll start with the Zacchaeus story appointed for Pentecost 24. I have long felt that we misinterpret this story as a repentance story. That is, we read the events as follows: Jesus seeks out Zacchaeus, a notorious chief tax collector; Zacchaeus, overwhelmed by the...

Luther Resources for Youth Oct31

Luther Resources for Youth

497 years ago today, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church in Wittenberg starting what later became known as the Protestant Reformation. Which means that in 3 years, all the world will be observing the 500th anniversary. If you are beginning to prepare your own congregational celebrations, don’t forget to include resources for your youth. And if you’re looking for a place to start, you’d have a hard time finding a better resource than this one produced by the Luther Memorial Foundation in Wittenberg. They are in charge of the Luther and Melanchthon houses in Wittenberg, Luther’s birth and death...

Reformation Day/Pentecost 20 A: Original Insecurit...

Dear Partner in Preaching, I have a hunch that paying attention to just a little bit of grammar might help you preach the readings appointed for Reformation Sunday (and, for that matter, Pentecost 20). The point of grammar in question is that we often speak of sin in the plural when we should focus on the singular. A small thing, I know, but before you dismiss this distinction, let me explain first what I mean and then why I think it matters. When we talk about sin, it’s almost always in the plural – sins – as in describing bad things we’ve done. But sin described across Scripture, and particularly in Paul, is not so much a thing as...