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"Our Tradition is Change" Reformation 2021 by Pastor A.J. Houseman

Happy Reformation Sunday everyone! See, I told you, you thought it was Halloween, you were wrong. Just kidding.

But every year on October 31st (or really the last Sunday in October) we celebrate this very Lutheran holiday. It’s so Lutheran, that I had to give a totally different sermon at Redemption this morning.

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther, who was a Roman Catholic priest in Germany, nailed a list of 95 things that he thought the church really needed to reconsider to the door of his church.

He had done some traveling lately and found that some of the teachings and practices of the church did not align with scripture. So he thought, we need to make some changes.

Makes sense. He wanted to have a conversation, discern a way forward together, and change some of the practices in the church.

This of course, did not go the way he wanted it to. The church did not change, it did not move forward with cooperative conversations and mutually beneficial for everyone as he had hoped.

Instead, they found what Luther had written so outrageous and wrong that they tried to have him arrested and killed. And a war broke out… an actual bloody war!

And as we know, because we are sitting in a Lutheran church and not a Roman Catholic church, it didn’t work. Instead a whole new church was born.

See, Martin Luther did not want to start a church. He had no intention of having a church named after him. He had no intention of being a part of the beginning of a total revolution in the Christian faith.

What he wanted was to reform. Which just means, he wanted to make some changes to be better and more faithful followers of Christ.

So instead of reforming the church that was there, a new church was created. One that is built on the concept of continually being reshaped to be better and more faithful.

A few of these reforms that have happened within our collective lifetime have included recognizing and utilizing the faithful gifts of ordained ministry for women, LGBT persons, and persons of color.

Sometimes on Reformation Sunday we like to talk about “church traditions”. Especially Lutheran church traditions. Some that go along with our heritage. Some like Oktoberfests, sometimes it's just singing hymns that Martin Luther has written, like “A Mighty Fortress”. And at some churches, can include sharing in Norwegian delicacies.

But the thing is, none of these “traditions” are inherently a tradition of the Lutheran church or the reformation movement.

The only truly “tradition” we can claim on this Sunday is: change.

We are a church of continual change. That is our tradition.

The church is not the same it was 100 years ago. 50 years ago. Or even 5 years ago. And it probably never will be.

The church my grandparents grew up going to doesn’t exist anymore. We have changed, reformed, reshaped our worship practices, theology, way of existing in our society, and the very face of clergy.


In 2020, the face of human society and interaction changed drastically in a way that it had not in 100 years. For the first time in our lifetimes, churches closed. No disaster, no illness, and no war has done that. Until now. We had to learn to reshape and rethink how we worship, how we partake in our holy sacrament. We had to learn how to engage in new ways as church.

And guess what, it probably changed how we will do “church” forever.

The hard truth: it will never be the way it was 2 years ago. 5 years ago. 10 years ago. 50 years ago.

And you know what, I am so grateful to be a part of a church whose only legacy of our identity is change. We are change people. We are reformation people. We change. We reform. To be better and more faithful followers of Christ.

Creating ways to worship from home might not seem as revolutionary as Martin Luther, but it is a way we became more faithful followers of Christ. We faithfully and respectfully created ways for our brothers and sisters in Christ to gather and pray together and worship together from where they felt comfortable and safe.

That is certainly a faithful response to the gospel.

We have persevered to become more adaptive and learn new things. We have learned patience and a sense of going with the flow, that things may change from week to week, in order to fulfill our faithful practice to follow Christ and create loving, safe, and welcoming spaces.

We are reformation people. The church has been reformed in 2020, and then reformed again, and you know what? Next year, we will reform some more.

As we continue to persevere through this time, navigate our world around us, we will continue to faithfully listen and adapt to the needs of the community and needs of God’s people and world. This is our calling as Lutherans.

To be continually reformed to be better and more faithful followers of Christ. It’s been over 500 years, we can continue this legacy. Amen.

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