Rejoicing and Lamenting Together


October 24, 2017

1 Corinthians 12:26

A homily on the Commemoration of the Reformation; Preached alongside our sisters and brothers of St. Augustine Catholic Parish

Once again, welcome to Fr. Joe Mallia, Joe Agosta and our sisters and brothers of St. Augustine Parish. We are blessed to come together this evening to lament our separation 500 years ago, and rejoice in the fruitful dialogue our churches have had with one another in the past 50 years.

Since we are sharing the pulpit this evening, I’ll try to keep it short. I’ll preach for only twenty minutes instead of my usual forty. That of course was a joke.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I will admit right from the beginning that my perspective in our relationship with one another is not skewed by long held beliefs, or anything for that matter. I did not grow up in the church and was therefore not subject to the differentiation that was placed upon Protestants and Catholics. Honestly, the only reason I joined the Lutheran church was because of a family connection my wife had within the Lutheran church. Yet, it is the Lutheran church where my faith blossomed and I entertained a call from God to ordained ministry.

Our service of prayer began this evening with a reading from 1 Corinthians, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” I am glad that we are moving more towards the rejoicing as we renew our relationship with one another. Paul begins his first letter to the Corinthians, “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”

Well, that has not gone that well in the past, has it? Our past disagreements have truly shown that as humanity, we are a broken people living in a broken world. We cannot live fully up to the path that Christ has set out for us, or can we fully live into the hopes and dreams that the Apostle Paul wrote about in his letters to the communities he ministered.

On paper it seems all nice and easy, that is of course, until we get in the way of God working in our midst. While 500 years ago, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, it stirred up many questions that had been festering for some time. The Lutheran church has grown significantly since the beginning of the Reformation. We are careful to be aware that the Reformation is not something that we celebrate. We are aware of its significance and we commemorate our doctrines that were born out of it. However, we also lament at the divisions that were made and the suffering that has taken place.

It is good to be reformed. We come to Christ in the hopes of our own transformations. The church has witnessed many transformations throughout the centuries.

We are transformed as we continue to pray and listen to where God is calling us to be in this world. Our reformation at this point is calling us back together. Calling us to rejoice in those things that we have in common and continue to walk together in our differences. Hopefully, this will lead to a point where we will one day be fully reunited.

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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