It’s time to remember a monk turned university professor who posted an invitation to discuss issues of the day.
His name was Martin Luther, the date was Oct. 31, 1517, and the community bulletin board was the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.
Whether or not the notice listed all 95 points to debate or just the announcement to consider them, the significance of that posting has been called “the hammer blow heard ‘round the world.”
The rallying sound that amplified the voices of other Christians in early sixteenth-century European countries and the British Isles to call the organized church of that day back to being the church.
We who are three years away from the 500th anniversary of that Oct. 31st posting on the church door in Wittenberg, have 21st century issues that should call us to re-form the church to the original intentions of Christ for His followers in every age.
So, let’s pick up the hammer to post three notices rather than Martin Luther’s 95 points.
Pick up the hammer to post the first notice that is a quote from the Apostle Paul’s letter to a first-century congregation in Thessalonica: For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery,
but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts.
The quote that hits the nail on the head of an issue that is as timely now as it was centuries ago.
When the American public is polled, the dominant question is: “Where can I find meaning?” Yet, the majority who have never stepped into a Christian community, or were once in and have walked out, because, when searching for the answer, they have felt manipulated by slick promoters or they themselves have bought into a consumer mindset that says: “I want to feel good, to be entertained.”
A researcher, Jon Tyson, sums it up in one phrase: “I want experts to put on exciting events that meet my
expectations.” (“Sacred Roots” ‘ Frames Barna Group, P. 41)
While a deep, inner hunger remains and world crises have personal implications, all raising that question: “Where can I find meaning?”
Or, to frame it in the words of Paul’s letter, “Where can I find
good news from genuine people with pure motives who speak, not to please me, but to confront me and comfort me with timeless and tested truths?”
The sound of the hammer rings through sixteenth-century Wittenberg to twenty-first century individuals, issuing a call to:
“Find the good news answer in the Bible!”
The call to search the Scriptures, knowing what the Gutenberg press did to put Bibles in churches and homes in the sixteenth-century is what the internet and all forms of electronic communication can do now to make the Bible accessible to almost every human being!
Pick up the hammer to call people to see what happens when letting “God test our hearts” with the Bible’s words, answers are found for our quest for meaning. The first posting.
Pick up the hammer to post the second notice that is a quote of Jesus’ Gospel question, waiting to haunt us and drive us to see the answer:
“What do you think of the Messiah?”
Let the hammer blow echo back to crucifixion used by the Roman Empire to demonstrate the most excruciatingly painful death– from asphyxiation, and the most humiliating death– dying naked in public view,
meant to convince others not to mess with Rome or you’ll be the next to be crucified!
Let that sight of Jesus, nailed to a cross, shout out the proof of a God
Who would take on the worst humans could do to claim a godly status for themselves, so that, through the cross all might hear God speaking,
“This is how much I love you! To die your death to give you
new life…which you will receive on Easter morning.”
A love so amazing, so divine, it needed a name: Grace, the intriguing word that satisfies the search for meaning
with an answer we humans will need an eternity to ponder.
This past week’s report of teenage girls attracted through the internet,
to convert to the ISIS practice of Islam, leaving Colorado for Germany and then on to liaison with Middle East contacts;
and other youth like them who are searching for an identity and finding it in some extremist movement and a dangerous or demented hero-figure they make their idol –
call for a new reformation that uses the media and personal contacts – youth with youth – to let Jesus’ question, “What do you think?”
open up a search to look at His life and see where they will be led if they accept His invitation, “Follow me!” and find in Jesus the perfect idol. The second posting.
Pick up the hammer to issue the third notice that quotes the Gospel question raised by a teacher of Hebrew law,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
Let that blow of the hammer carry us back to Jesus’ answer to love God, others, and self, and then forward to see the affect it had on people in the Roman Empire between 40 and 350 AD.
In that space of time Christians grew from a count of 1,000
to almost 30 million! 53% of the population. IBID, P. 37)
All this happened without “official church buildings, vision statements, core values, social media, radio broadcasts, or celebrity pastors, and an incomplete New Testament. Yet, in those first three centuries they brought the (Roman) empire to its knees.” (Adapted from IBID, P. 38-39)
How did they do it? Through living Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s question: love God through showing love for your neighbor and yourself; the love that bound them together as a new family in Christ; a community that was the church.
Today we have all kinds of good causes, runs, walks, food and clothing collections planned to give youth the experience of volunteering and also hours to count to satisfy requirements for community service.
But how might their service be a response to Jesus’ answer
that gives them the joy of being bound together in love as
commanded by Christ. The third posting.
So, pick up the hammer to issue the call to re-form the church to address the human question: “Where can I find meaning?” Jesus’ question: “What do you think of the Messiah?” and the lawyer’s question: “Which commandment is the greatest?” and discover the word that runs through all three: Grace: read in the Bible, made visible in Christ, lived out in the community called Christ’s church,
Whose we pray we are! Amen.