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Bishop Guy Erwin’s Message for Reformation Sunday, 2017

Martin Luther lived in a world very different from ours 500 year ago. In his world, obedience was the norm, and the ability to make free choices about one’s life were limited – and though he was revolutionary in many ways, Luther never challenged the basic relationships that framed life in his time: the obedience of children to parents; of parishioners to their pastors; of all citizens to their rulers. Of course the obedience was not absolute, and it was conditioned by the ability of the one in authority to actually make their power stick – but still the basic assumption of life in the late Middle Ages was that one stayed in one’s own lane and followed the rules.

 Well, Luther didn’t do that. He was presumptuously bold and free in his assertion that the Gospel-the good news of God’s love and forgiveness-is liberating, and gives a freedom to believers that is on a much deeper and more basic level than any obedience people owe their rulers. Luther – as we say today – “flips the script,” and makes freedom, and not obedience, the key to our life in Christ.

 We are free because we belong to God. We are free not because God has cut us loose to do as we wish, but because God has promised us that first and last, we are God’s own children. We do enjoy great freedom of choice, but that is because at the end of the day – at the end of this life – we return to the one who created us for a new life in God. And though we can’t know God in God’s fullness yet, we know how God feels about us through Jesus Christ, who shows us God’s love with a human face.

 I can think of no better possible news, no message more liberating, more empowering, more inspiring than this: to be set free from all that clouds our hearts and holds us back; to be freed and reoriented toward the neighbor we may love and the world we must cherish. What a message to hear in a year such as this one has been: a year in which the world seems to have lost its mind – when fear and anger and hate seem so much more powerful than trust and love and faith.

 God has written a new covenant in our hearts, has given us a new promise of freedom – but fear still tries to hold us back from the trust and love to which we are called. God calls us out of our fear into trust, setting us free to encounter Jesus – in proclamation, in baptism and eucharist, in each other. Jesus gives himself, that we may see him here, and live – freed and renewed in Christ!

Happy Reformation Sunday!