And God still is reforming us. I had the chance to hear the author/Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber, earlier this month. Talk about change… Talk about reforming… She’s not your Grandfather Ludwig’s Lutheran pastor.
She is a woman, first of all, stands at 6 foot 1 inches tall with spiky short hair, covered in tattoos and by her own admission she swears like a truck driver… with all due respect to truck drivers.
She was raised the conservative Church of Christ: a church more defined by their don’ts (like don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance, don’t play musical instruments in church) than their dos. She rebelled from this upbringing got her first tattoo at 17, became an addict and stand up comedian, and only after meeting her future husband, an ELCA seminary student, did she finally discover her true calling.
She is the pastor of House of All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado and is the authentic embodiment of the renewal and reformation that God is doing for the world, for the church and for each and every one of us in Jesus Christ.
Jesus says in John 8, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” Jesus teaches that the life we are living now is a trap… it is slavery… and it is not based on truth because we continue to live as slaves sin.
I like how Nadia puts it, “the christian life is a life of continual death and resurrection.” Continually we are called to renewal… Continually we are called to reformation because every day through repentance and forgiveness Christ breaks us free from the worlds lies of fear and despair. Christ makes us free and reveals the truth. It is the Word that propels us on a journey of reform and renewal. With a living faith, everything never just stays the same. The one who has claims you in baptism has remade you and is remaking you from people of fear into people of hope.
Again, I see in Nadia as the embodiment of this reformation. She shared in her lecture that this past summer she was blessed with a sabbatical and used that time to travel to Greece and Turkey. You might be surprised to know that though Nadia seems to be the emblem of everything changing; she actually represents a that reformation is always grounded in tradition. She loves ancient liturgy, especially the fact that liturgy has its own integrity and doesn't demand her’s.
So while traveling in Turkey Nadia visited an ancient Byzantine cave church. She was moved to chant as she felt surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses. The irony of her presence and action in that place didn't pass her by. There she was: A female, Lutheran pastor, former addict, covered in tattoos, child God, follower of Jesus, in the midst of a Muslim country chanting in a sacred space whose original community disappeared centuries before.
She wondered how often the Christians who called that space their church feared for the future as the world was closing in on them. She wondered if they were convinced that their way of life was going to end and that all would be lost… even the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And she thought: what a horrible shame it would have been if those Christians allowed themselves to be frozen by fear and unable to see the hope of Christ.
Could they ever have imagined that centuries later, disciples of Christ, followers of Jesus, would continue to go there? Would continue to share the gospel… would continue to chant the ancient liturgies and and continue proclaim Christ crucified… Christ resurrected from the dead?
Because if that ancient community had been frozen in fear... they were missing the truth that is revealed in Scripture. We are death and resurrection people. We are people of constant renewal and reformation. What a shame it is when people claimed and loved by Jesus allow the chains and lies of fear to control. The truth has always been and will continue to be that are free in Jesus and his Word will endure forever.
If fear and despair control you and freeze you to your place… allow yourself to continue in the Word through worship and study. Being freed through grace you are free engage in this Holy Word so you know what that grace actually means for you. In that word you will finally know the truth… you will finally be free.
Today is a day of reformation. Don’t be scared to give up the lies that have tied you down…. the patterns of manipulation and contempt that may have become very comfortable for you. Don’t be soothed by the old lies of blame and disgust… Instead, find truth in Christ and life in his abiding grace. God is on the loose transforming us all into his kingdom. From Luther… to Nadia… to you. Hallelujah! Amen!