Always Reforming

This was originally a sermon given to a gathering of Circuit Visitors – the middle layer of ecclesial oversight. I tended not to post occasional services (funerals, weddings, etc.) or sermons given for occasions outside the congregation when my website was the congregation’s explicitly. But the slogan Always Reforming comes up almost every Reformation Day. And I think I did a decent job in this sermon thinking through that. So I’m posting it today. Two warnings: 1) The audience it was prepared for was a bunch of CVs, so there are things that I might explain more fully on a normal Sunday that I just assume here. 2) I’m also much more free in this sermon than I might be otherwise because the audience is a trusted one doctrinally. What do I mean by that? I’m trying to push beyond cliches.

The Biblical Texts were: Mark 9:49-50, Numbers 18:8-20, Rev 2:1-7

The introduction (the full text is in the file).

When I first saw the theme of the conference – “Forever Reforming” – I was intrigued.  I was intrigued because I immediately thought of semper reformanda, the Reformed slogan, or maybe I should say the neo-Reformed slogan.  My time at Grove City – Calvinist Hot Bed – would tell me that it goes back to the late 1600.  More recently is comes from Karl Barth, and through Barth it even found its way into the Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium.  Depending upon your church politics, I’ve probably either just hit every bogeyman, or every hero of the past 400 years.

The phrase at the level of common sense is obviously true.  Even God moved from Hebrew to Greek.  Part of that word given to us says that the Spirit will guide you into all truth.  Being creatures that reflect the image of a creator God, we are constantly creating.  And in creating also destroying.  And in all that change, the church itself changes.

The real question, the church political heat, is how and what changes.  Call me crazy, join the line that I’m sure is forming to come get me, I don’t think you can read Luther deeply and not realize he was more comfortable with more change – at least in theory – than we probably are.  A good place to start in that if you are interested is to read Dr. Robinson on Luther’s essay On the Councils of the Church.  But at the same time that Luther is more open to Forever Reforming, I think it is fair to say that Luther is much more intransigent about a subset of things.  This is the guy who banged on the table about the word “est”…

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