Sermon 26 October 2014: “Reformation & Divine Love”

Text: 1 Kings 3:1-28

It was the opening round of the Division III NCAA National Wrestling Tournament, and Mike, my 125-pound wrestler and I were standing together on Mat 1, waiting for the National Anthem to play before he wrestled his first match that day.  So as the announcer tells us to get ready for the playing of the National Anthem, Mike grabs my arm and says, “Coach, something missing.”  And I replied, “Well, how important is it?  You’re wrestling in like 2 minutes, right after they sing the Anthem.”  And Mike replied, “Uh, I forgot to put my wrestling singlet on.”

The wrestling singlet is the one-piece uniform they wear when they wrestle the actual match, so it just happens to be really important. He asked me, “What should I do?”  And I said, “Well, you can’t wrestle naked….”  And as the first note of the National Anthem began to play, off he sprinted to the locker room…..

Solomon, King of Israel, hears this dispute between two women – both claiming to be the mother of a child, the only thing to go on was their word against each other.  And in hearing their stories, watching these women as they made their plea before him and the court, I wonder if he noticed something.  Something was missing.  Something important.

Today’s Reformation Sunday.  And for Lutherans, it’s like the Super Bowl, your Birthday, and Winning the Lottery all rolled into one – it’s a big deal.  What we celebrate is a German monk, Martin Luther, who got pissed off at the church and what it was doing and did what all people do when they’re ticked off about stuff in church: they complain about it.  Luther did that in the form of nailing a document on the doors of the church in Wittenberg – 95 Theses, 95 problems he had with the church, things he wanted to talk about, things he hoped might change. Because in the church – its worship, its rituals, its ministry to the people – Luther noticed….something was missing.  Something important.  And little did Luther know there were a lot of people who felt the same way about the church – and what was supposed to simply be a discussion, turned into the birth of the Protestant church – a complete reformation.

What was missing….what Solomon noticed, what Luther noticed, what the people of the Reformation period noticed…..what was missing was divine love.

Divine love is different from they way we typically think about love.  It’s weird.  It doesn’t make any sense.  It usually doesn’t benefit us in any way…..if anything, it’s a royal pain in the ass.  It makes us look at that person at work who pisses us off as a child of God.  On the way home, it makes us look at that dirty and sloppy guy on the street as a person – loved by God, worthy of God’s love.  Divine love is what compels a mother to give up her own flesh and blood to another woman because it’s more important that her child live rather than to win a dispute.  Divine love calls such a decision wisdom…the wisdom of God.  Divine love is the kind that compels God to give away God’s only Son…and to hang him on a cross on full display for all to see, so that people might know that God stands with them, and they might know that things like status and race and all the other things we think make us good and righteous and save us don’t do any of that.  Only God’s divine love can do that.

This is what we celebrate on Reformation Day….the gift of God’s divine love in Christ assures us we never have to doubt God’s commitment to us.  We are children of God in our baptism, we are forgiven and loved sinners who dine with Jesus at this Table.  But the Reformation was also about change…..and while we sit here in worship today, with the baptismal font front and center, celebrating holy communion, wearing red to church and coming to a sanctuary decorated in red, and singing the traditional hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God,”…..none of that matters if something is missing.  Something important. Something that stirs in each of us, compelling us to want something different from our church and our world and the powers that be, to want something different for our lives and something that drives us out of our comfort and complacency and compels us to give ourselves away to follow this person called Jesus Christ, and follow him into the depth of life with one another.

That something is Divine love.

On this Reformation Day, may you be reminded that God is always at work, reforming the church, reforming hearts and minds and reforming us through the gift of divine love.  Amen.

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