Reformation Sunday Study

REFORMATION SUNDAY   10-31-2021

FIRST READING:   Jeremiah 31:31-34

We just said it last week when considering Jeremiah 31:7-9:

Chapters 30-31 of Jeremiah have traditionally been called “the book of consolation”. In the midst of many oracles of judgment, these chapters are primarily prophecies of hope. The prophet, living in Judah, speaks a word of hope and promise, not only to the southern kingdom of Judah about its homecoming from exile in Babylon, but also to the northern kingdom of “Israel” or “Ephraim” and its restoration more than a century after its own exile in Assyria!

In today’s reading the prophet promises a time of “new covenant” when all is forgiven, when God remembers sin no more, when God’s will is written on our hearts, and when God’s will and our will are the same. Note that the “new covenant” will not need to be written down on parchment or carefully taught – it will just be internally known through God’s spirit, through God’s action. The prophet proclaims that the “new covenant” will not be breakable, but like the old covenant it will expect the people to live upright lives.

Some have observed that the old covenant was law and the new covenant is grace. Which covenant are you living under, law or grace? What does it mean to you to truly “know the Lord” as Jeremiah envisioned? What is God’s part? What is yours?

Our hope lies in a God who forgets. As we are forgiven and loved by God, let us learn how to forgive ourselves, forget what we have done and failed to do, and journey forward in faithful living and fervent loving.

 

PSALM READING:   Psalm 46

This psalm celebrates God’s great power and tender love. Martin Luther, after whom our little branch of the Christian faith is labeled, wrote his hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, based on this psalm. No matter what is troubling us or threatening us or frightening us, God is our refuge, God is our strength. Remembering this can calm us down and raise our hopes.

What forces, what crises, are troubling you right now? How is Jesus, how has Jesus been in the past, a “fortress” to you?

 

SECOND READING:   Romans 3:19-28

The apostle Paul affirms that God’s “righteousness” (salvation) is a free gift given to us through faith in Jesus Christ, a gift that is unearned and undeserved by every one of us because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 

The young German monk Martin Luther knew all too well the deadly TRUTH about his sin and his failed attempts, his inability ever and always, to earn his salvation through his own good intentions and deeds and prayers. He often said that it drove him to despair. But then he came to discover a DEEPER TRUTH that does not condemn – the TRUTH of God’s grace through Jesus Christ. He said that, at the very moment he understood this, it was as if the very gates of heaven burst open. And life was never the same after that.

How can any human being get into a right relationship with God? How can one feel at peace with God, escape the feeling of estrangement and fear in the presence of God? In Paul’s day – and our own – one

answer is that you must focus yourself and concentrate on carefully keeping every single detail of God’s commandments. But who can accomplish that? Paul says that Jesus – his death and resurrection – is what makes us right with God. Receive the gift with humility and gratitude.

    Verse 25 lifts up the word “atonement” to describe what the blood of Jesus has done for us. I once saw that word printed in a unique way within a meditation on this text:

at – ONE – ment

He brought us back into unity with God. Now we are one again.

           

GOSPEL READING:  John 8:31-36

In the GOSPEL OF JOHN, Chapters 7 and 8, Jesus is in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. (This was an annual celebration of remembering God’s care for the people of Israel when they were wandering in the wilderness, making their way from slavery in Egypt to the land that was promised.) Tension was in the air. Even Jesus’ brothers – who didn’t believe in him – had sarcastically tried to challenge him to go, saying that if he was “so great” then he should go to the Holy City and put on some kind of show.

Jesus did eventually go. Halfway through the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus was in the Temple courts teaching. Hostility was mounting. The identity of Jesus was questioned. His authority was challenged and denied. Some wanted to grab him up right now. The chief priests and the Pharisees sent Temple guards to arrest him, but he wasn’t seized. The crowd were divided and confused between belief and skepticism. If you read to the end of Chapter 8, some picked up stones to kill him. But he would escape that time.

Jesus proclaims that freedom and forgiveness will be found in “the truth” that he embodies and speaks, for without Christ in our lives we still are slaves to sin. But those who he is talking to believe that they do not need this freedom that he offers and even claim that they have a heritage that has never included slavery. Hmm… did they forget – even in this festival time of commemoration of the wilderness journey) their suffering in Egypt. Did no one remember the northern kingdom falling to the Assyrians, the southern kingdom falling to the Babylonians, all those other times when someone else had authority over them, or even the present Roman occupation?

Are you truly free today, here, now? Or are you in bondage to various powers, perhaps including this “thingdom” of power, prestige, privilege, and prosperity that our culture preaches and pimps as the good life?

Today let us rediscover that no other life than life in Christ will save, satisfy, or sustain us. And let the Church always be a “reform school” where we each are challenged, renewed, encouraged, sustained, and led on the journey of “go and do” as faithful and courageous witnesses of God’s love in Christ!

Upcoming Events

Jun
19
Wed
2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
Jun 19 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Whole Foods Distribution Use entrance on Briar Rd. to access the lower classroom area. Need more information? Check out this event’s ministry page.
Jun
23
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jun 23 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jun
30
Sun
2024
10:00 am Sunday Worship Service
Sunday Worship Service
Jun 30 @ 10:00 am – 11:00 am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be gathering together for worship service on Zoom using the following information: MEETING ID: 5977365682 MEETING PASSWORD: 204934 You can also join us for...
Jul
3
Wed
2024
10:30 am Whole Foods Distribution
Whole Foods Distribution
Jul 3 @ 10:30 am – 12:00 pm
Whole Foods Distribution Use entrance on Briar Rd. to access the lower classroom area. Need more information? Check out this event’s ministry page.
Jul
5
Fri
2024
8:30 am Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
Senior Food Box Distribution @ St. Peter's Rhoda Hall
Jul 5 @ 8:30 am – 10:00 am
Check out the Senior Food Program’s page for more information.