Reformation: A Journey of Love

Rev. Taylor Hall Avatar

“We are imperfect people striving to live God’s love in the way of Jesus Christ.”

This is our new mission statement. It’s a declaration of our unyielding commitment to not only follow the the teachings of Christ, but to live them out in our everyday experiences and interactions. This statement, like mission statements for any body or organization, serves as a reminder and a guide, a compass to direct our actions and attitudes.

Today, on the occasion of Reformation Sunday, we dive deeper into our new mission.

But first, Reformation Sunday is a poignant reminder of the fluidity and vitality inherent in our faith. It is a faith that has been molded, modified, and matured over centuries by the transformative power of God’s love and our pursuit of living out this love in its purest form. On this day, we commemorate the “Reformed Church, Ever Reforming,” celebrating our faith’s capacity to evolve and adapt, acknowledging that our faith is not a fixed entity but a journey that grows and matures in response to the ever-changing context of our world.

Our scripture readings for today, Deuteronomy 34 and Matthew 22, speak to that. They provide us with a navigational map for our journey through this changing world.

Deuteronomy narrates the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua, marking a significant shift in the Israelites’ journey from the wilderness to the Promised Land. This transition resonates with our own journey as a Church within a world that is in a state of constant flux. Like Joshua, we find ourselves leading a congregation that is different from those of the past, navigating a new landscape with its own unique challenges and opportunities yet unseen. We’ve had our own shift in leaders. You know this. Pastors, Elders, Deacons, and members have come to this ministry and Pastors, Elders, Deacons, and members have moved on from this ministry. Our church body is not the same as it once was. It’s similar, our essence is similar, but we are not the same. We have grown and matured just like the faith that we have. God is doing a new thing, and we as a congregation is living in response to that new thing by doing a new thing ourselves.

Our other passage, Matthew 22:34-46, serves as the bedrock of our faith. In this passage, we witness Jesus concentrating the essence of the law into two fundamental commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These commandments are exactly that. They are commands. They must serve as our instructions from God in all times and seasons.

This passage from Matthew echoes the spirit of our new mission statement. As “imperfect people striving to live God’s love in the way of Jesus Christ,” we are encouraged to respond to change with love – a profound love for God and an equally profound love for our neighbors. As we navigate the issues of our time, no matter how complex or contentious, our response must always be anchored in these commandments of love. In light of racial injustice? We must respond with love for our neighbor. Climate change? We must love God’s creation! Economic disparities? We must lift each other up in love!

Just as Jesus revolutionized the religious landscape of his day by emphasizing love, compassion, and inclusivity, we too are called to revolutionize our world in a similar manner. This is evident in the protestant Church’s response to contemporary issues. For example, numerous churches including ours have expanded their embrace to welcome and affirm LGBTQ+ individuals, recognizing their belovedness as God’s children. This is a demonstration of loving our neighbor as ourselves, extending the embrace of God’s love to all, in full celebration of everyone’s identity. This is how we welcome the stranger, as scripture invites us to do.

Our understanding of scripture, in line with the world we inhabit, evolves over time. A child reading Matthew 22 today will interpret it differently than an adult, and that same child, as an adult, will likely interpret it differently than adults do today. This evolving understanding is a testament to the dynamic and living nature of God’s Word, which communicates to us across different generations and cultures.

This evolving comprehension of scripture should not be seen as a weakness; rather, it’s a strength. It’s an indication that our faith is vibrant and responsive, similar to how the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership adapted to their new existence in the Promised Land. We, too, must adapt to our changing world, always guided by our love for God and our neighbor.

As we reflect on Reformation Sunday, we celebrate our Church’s capacity to reform in response to the world around us. We pay tribute to those who blazed the trail, from Martin Luther, who sparked the Protestant Reformation with his Ninety-Five Theses, to modern-day reformers who continue to shape our Church’s evolution. This includes you! You too are a reformer. Think about it.

Our new mission statement invites us to live God’s love in the way of Jesus Christ. This is an invitation to embody the teachings of Jesus, to love God, and to love our neighbors in every aspect of our lives. It’s a call to action – to serve, to embrace, and to love, especially in the face of uncertainty or unfamiliarity.

In the same spirit, when we come across people, ideas, or situations that are new or foreign to us, we might not understand them immediately. But our response, guided by Jesus’ teaching and now even our own mission statement, should always be grounded in love. We are called to listen with open hearts, to learn with open minds, and to love without reservation, even when we don’t fully understand.

We reform society, the church, the world – all of God’s kingdom – when we love. When we let God’s love through us be so tenacious that there is no avoiding, ignoring, or escaping it; this world will change for the better. Your love, my love – all of our love – all of us – will change this world for the better.

Our journey is not a solitary one. We are part of a larger body of believers, each contributing to the growth and health of the whole. Our faith is not static but dynamic, continually growing and evolving as we engage with the world around us. It’s a journey of transformation, of constantly becoming, as we live out God’s love in the way of Jesus Christ. Our growth as individuals and as a community must be rooted in love, truth, and unity in Christ. 

And while the path ahead may be filled with challenges and uncertainties, we can take comfort in the unchanging nature of God’s love. In the words of Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Despite the ever-changing nature of our world, God’s love is our constant, providing a firm foundation upon which we can stand.

Our faith rooted in God’s love is a sanctuary in times of fear and uncertainty. It is a beacon guiding us forward. And in a world that is continually changing, God’s presence and love remain our steadfast anchor.

May our love for God inspire us to love our neighbors, and may our love for our neighbors deepen our love for God.

“We are imperfect people striving to live God’s love in the way of Jesus Christ.”

This statement – our statement – will guide us on our journey, reminding us that while the world around us may change, our call to love remains the same. May our love for God and our neighbors be the compass that guides us through the changing landscape of our times.

The Reformation was not a one-time event 500 years ago but a continual process. It is an ongoing journey of seeking, questioning, learning, and growing. It requires us to be open, receptive, and responsive to the Spirit’s movement in our lives and in our world.

Just as the early disciples were called to spread the good news, we too are called to share God’s love with the world. We are called to bring hope to the hopeless, comfort to the grieving, and light to those in darkness. We are called to serve, not out of obligation, but out of love.

The journey may not always be easy. There will be times when we feel lost or uncertain. There will be times when we are challenged and tested. But we must remember that God is with us every step of the way. Just as God guided the Israelites through the wilderness, so too does God guide us.

We are a church of reformers, a church of change. We are a church that is not afraid to question, to adapt, to grow. We are a church that is dedicated to serving God and serving our neighbors. We are a church that is guided by love.

As we face the future, let us hold on to the truth of Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Our path may not always be clear, and our steps may not always be steady. But with God’s love as our compass, we can navigate the evolving world of our time with courage, wisdom, and faith. As we move forward, we will strive to live God’s love in the way of Jesus Christ; imperfect people loving God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

“We are imperfect people striving to live God’s love in the way of Jesus Christ.”

Amen.