Monthly Archives: October 2015

Reformers Then and Now

luther roseReformers Then and Now

October 25, 2015


Martin Luther

Madison Luther

Madison: So Martin, what did you think of today’s Bible readings?

Martin: Ahhh….my favorite – the letter to the Romans!  You know I wrote in my commentary about Romans that “This letter is truly the most important piece in the New Testament… It is well worth a Christian’s while not only to memorize it word for word but also to occupy himself with it daily, as though it were the daily bread of the soul.” Have you memorized it yet?

Madison: Memorize it?! Me? I don’t know anyone who’s memorized the whole book of Romans!…Why Romans? What’s so special about Romans?

Martin: Romans is “purest gospel” – good news – great news – magnificent news! We are made right with God by faith – faith in what God did for us in Jesus…not by what we do – indulgences and the like.

Madison: Well, yeah! That’s pretty obvious. None of us are perfect after all…if God only cared for us when we did everything right, we’d really have something to worry about!

Martin: Where were you 500 years ago? I could’ve used you! So what are you doing to reform the church these days?

Madison: Me? Wasn’t that your job? Isn’t the Reformation over?

Martin: The church is never done reforming. One of our Reformation slogans was, ecclesia semper reformands, semper reformanda – do you know Latin?


Madison: Not so much.


Martin: Well it means “the church is always reformed, always reforming.” The church has to constantly reform itself .


Madison: But people don’t like to change very much…and reformation means change. How did you convince people that the church needed changing?


Martin: In some ways I pointed out what they already knew. Even those within the church knew there were some things that needed changing… I just pushed them a little J.


Madison: If some people in the church knew there needed to be changes, why didn’t they do it?


Martin: As you said, change is hard. Despite the abuses in the church – and selling indulgences was just one –  people were taught that the church and only the church knew the heart and mind of God. And of course, the people couldn’t read the Bible themselves.


Madison: Yeah – I heard that you passed some time in hiding up in Wartburg Castle translating the Bible into German.


Martin: Did that ever make folks in charge angry! Translating the Bible was a capital offense – punishable by death!  You know what happened to William Tyndale when he translated the Bible, right?


Madison: I guess it didn’t go over very well?


Martin: Strangled and then burned at the stake! And John Wycliffe? Because of his translating work, his body was exhumed after he died and then burned!


Madison: I suppose the church recognized that there was power in the Word – and they wanted to control the message.


Martin: Did they ever! Another slogan of the Reformation was sola scriptura.  Scripture alone has authority in the church!


Madison: No offense Martin, but I wonder if that idea has been misused over the years.


Martin: What do you mean?


Madison: Well for starters, people here in the United States actually justified owning slaves based on Scripture!  And then there was the issue of women in the church – people took some of Paul’s letters and said it meant that women should not ever teach or preach in church. Most recently, people have used the Bible to condemn people who are gay. I’m not so sure I like the idea of sola scriptura!


Martin: That’s what I mean when I say that the church must always reform! The Bible is alive! There are the literal words on paper and there is the Living Word – Jesus Christ! I’ve said that the Bible is the manger where Jesus lies…when we read the Bible…when we talk about the authority of Scripture…we’re talking about finding Jesus in the midst of those words on the page.


Madison: But what about those parts of the Bible that are confusing? What about places in the Bible where God seems violent? What about those parts of the Bible which seem to conflict with what we know about science?


Martin: Look for Jesus. When we are faithful to the Bible, we continually look for Jesus. We read Scripture with our full hearts and minds, open to the truths God has revealed in science and medicine and even from other faiths. The Bible is always an open door – never a closed closet.[i]

Madison: But what’s to prevent us from choosing to follow just the passages we like and ignoring the things we don’t like?


Martin: That’s a great question! We read and talk about Scripture together. We’re accountable to the whole of the Bible. If someone chooses a part of Scripture to follow and it doesn’t sound like Jesus…we need to stand up and say something. (You know, “Here I stand” and all that!)


Madison: I’m beginning to understand what you mean when you say the church is always reforming. You know, there was an article in the Washington Post this week about a Lutheran pastor who sounds a bit like you.[ii]


Martin: What’s a Lutheran?


Madison: Well, actually, you’ve had quite a following… Her name is Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. She’s been saying that these days the church needs to change – it needs reform. It doesn’t look like Jesus and his band of followers anymore.


Martin: What does she mean?


Madison: Well, she says the church these days looks kind of “squeaky clean”! We’ve surrounded ourselves with people who dress well and speak well and are polite and have good jobs and floss every day… She said, “Jesus never scanned the room for whoever was the most clean-cut and never used any swear words and never made mistakes and understood everything perfectly and lived a sanctified life and then send them to do his work,” “He always used the scoundrels and the broken people and the demoniacs, you know what I mean?”

Martin: I think I do. Reformation is never over. It’s your turn Madison.









I Call Shotgun!

drum majorPentecost 21B “I Call Shotgun!”

October 18, 2015

Mark 10:35-45

If you grew up with siblings or cousins perhaps this sounds familiar…

It’s time for us all to get in the car.

As we head out the door,

one of my siblings shouts out “I call shotgun!”

and runs to the front passenger seat

with a huge grin on his or her face.

The rest of us get angry…

we complain…

mostly because we are mad at ourselves for not being the first to call it.

This is what happens to James and John.

They are walking with Jesus and the rest of the disciples.

Suddenly they get it into their heads,

that, hey, if Jesus is going to come into glory,

maybe they could get something out of being the first to follow him.

So they shout, “Jesus! We call shotgun!

We want to be in the front seat next to you!

We call right and left!”

And the rest of the disciples get angry…

mostly because they’re mad at themselves for not being the first to call it…

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Giving It All

camelPentecost 20B

Mark 10: 17-31

October 11, 2015

There was a rich woman.

She had a good job and a 401K.

She had a nice apartment in a neighborhood where she felt safe.

When she was hungry she went to the store and bought food.

When she was sick she went to the doctor and bought medicine.

She was rich.

She had a closet full of clothes

and even more which were in storage for the next season.

She had a shelf of coats and a rack of shoes.

She had a car which she took to work,

and when she went on vacation, she sometimes took a plane.

She was rich.

She had a dog for whom she bought food and toys,

(and the occasional Halloween costume),

and brought to the doctor when the dog was sick and bought medicine.

She had wifi and Netflix,

and an iphone and an ipad.

She was rich.

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Throw One Up For Everett

Screenshot 2015-10-09 11.33.14Throw One Up For Everett

I was walking from a meeting at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Old Town this week and at a corner near the church there was a group of men, some sitting, some standing, some talking, some just watching the traffic go by.

I’ve been by this corner before. There always seems to be people hanging out and I’ve wondered why. It’s not a bus stop. There are no benches. But there is a barber shop and a little market, so I suppose it just became one of those places where men have congregated over time to meet and talk.

When I’ve been by, usually it’s in the middle of the day. The men seem to be of working age, but if they have jobs, they’re not daytime jobs.

On my way to the meeting, I asked a couple of the guys for directions to the church. They knew exactly where it was – they seem to know the community well.

On my way back from the meeting, one of the men stopped me and said, “Hey Rev (I was wearing my clergy collar)…can you throw one up for me?”

I hesitated at first, not knowing what he meant. But then I realized he was asking for prayer. I said “Sure!” walked a couple of steps and then turned around.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Everett,” he said.

“I’ll throw one up for you Everett,” I said and then walked on.

I’ve been thinking of that conversation ever since. In particular I’ve been thinking about what I think might have been a missed opportunity and how I might do it differently another time.

Here’s what I wish I would have done: I wish I’d have stopped walking, and talked to Everett about what his prayer needs were. I wish I’d talked to the other men sitting at the corner and asked them the questions I had in my mind: Why were they sitting there? Were they out of work? From their observations, what could they tell me about that community and its needs?

It’s autumn in northern Virginia. There will be plenty of beautiful days for walking. I plan to go back to that corner.

In the meantime, throw one up for Everett will you?

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

Sermon on Hebrews 1,2

Sermon by pastoral intern Wasihun Gutema

Hebrews 1: 1-4, 2; 1-4

I would like to address five important things I have observed.  First, the epistle to the Hebrews begins without formal greetings unlike the other New Testament epistles.  Also, there are neither informal greetings nor a reference to it.

Second, the writer of the epistle is unknown. Except speculations, no one is sure of who authored the epistle.  Oregon, one of the early church fathers, concluded that “only God knows the author of this book.”[1]

Third, the exact date the epistle was written is debated but some assumed that it was written before the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD which contributed to the author’s argument of the Supremacy of Christ.  [2]

Fourth, by opening the epistle without greetings, the author jumps to a crucial and hard topic of our generation that God in Christ is the “Absolute and Supreme.” In a culture where tolerance is not a choice, in a culture where your idea is not the only true, in a culture where “truth is subjective and personal,”[3] the author of the epistle clearly states Christ as the final, the absolute and the center of everything. People’s debate or rationalization or trying to disprove cannot take away this.    Continue reading