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Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 46; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36

On this Reformation Sunday, more than commemorating change of the past, today we ask, what reforms us, what changes you, how is God reforming me by a gracious freedom to be ever-changing for God’s good purpose, for love of my neighbour, especially my neighbour who is captive in any way, that they and you and I and all creation would know the truth and be set free, free indeed. What reforms, what changes you and me? Is it a word, a story, an experience, a person, a community, creation? How is God reforming, everchanging us and the church and this world by God’s grace alone.

           Reformation Sunday is a uniquely Lutheran Festival to honour the reformers and the religious, social, political, and economic movement of the 16th century and continuing, that changed the world forever, and the expression of the Christian faith forever, including dividing it into now tens of thousands of denominations all claiming, like Lutheranism, a particular history and context and theological and practical emphasis or truth, held in common by a community. This fracturing some have called the “great sin” of the Reformation. But it is not Christian division that we honour today. We honour God’s reforming the church in the past, present, and future. Because the church always needs reforming, needs to be everchanging because of its offences and failings that harm people and all creation, and in response to the everchanging needs of the world, and the everchanging ways God is understood and seen and heard. And not only the church, but me, you, all of us, to be ever changed by God’s grace and the Spirit’s working on us in following the ways of Jesus. And the claim of that historic reformation and its reformers, including Luther, is that a word can change us, change everything. A word of grace. Like in Paul’s words today from Romans that hold an essential Lutheran understanding, “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are now justified by God’s grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” For Luther and the reformers, what changes us is a word, a story, that is Christ, by grace alone.

           I wasn’t feeling very gracious. To be truthful, a little hurt and angry would better describe my sate of mind or heart - not gracious. But a brief conversation with someone, who wasn’t trying to correct me, maybe didn’t even know how I was thinking and feeling, or maybe did, and offered a different perspective, a genuine more gracious perspective, hearing and seeing with compassion and understanding what I heard and saw as a personal attack or intention to hurt, showing me a different way, a way free of hurt and anger, a way of grace. And that truth spoken changed me. Reformed my mind, and more, my heart. In a word, a reformation, by God’s grace alone.

           I just finished reading the bestselling book, Unreconciled – Family, Truth, and Indigenous Resistance by Jesse Wente. It is a title that kept appearing on lists of important books to read. And I have appreciated hearing Jesse Wente, an Anishinaabe writer and broadcaster, a member of the Serpent River First Nation, a film critic, arts leader, and activist. The book is in three sections, “The Stories I was Told,” “The Story I Told Myself,” and, “The Stories We Tell Each Other.” These stories, and Jesse Wente’s telling them, are “his truth.” And they are stories and experiences that changed him, and they are an urgent call for this community of nations on these lands, for me and all of us to be changed by the truth of Indigenous stories. The book and Jesse Wente’s stories are his to tell, and I encourage your reading them. But to tell you, they have changed me, are reforming me, working on me, changing my perspective, and I hope, by grace, my actions, as with every story, every truth Indigenous people are courageously telling to free themselves and these lands and each of us from all that holds them captive. In a word, a hoped-for reformation, in truth and action.

           The prophet Jeremiah speaks to God’s people of Israel and Judah in exile and pain and hopelessness, of a new covenant, not like the old covenant that was broken by the people, says God. But a new law of justice and love written on their hearts, a new relationship between God and God’s people, who will all know God and the truth of God’s gracious forgiveness and hope for a new future. This, an ancient Jewish ancestor’s story and our Jewish neighbour’s story today, is a story that we share and hold on to - to change our hearts, to change our minds, in the face of so much that has been changed and is changing in humanity and the earth and all creation in seeming continuous and growing crises and pain and losses and exiles, and at times hopelessness. To trust again today in God’s promise of a new covenant. To trust in a covenant of love and forgiveness and hope written on our hearts that changes, that reforms us, giving us new life and energy to live God’s covenant love for God and neighbour today and everyday, to work to free all who are held captive to the sins of humanity, into a new future, - a reformation, by grace alone.

           We have the joy of celebrating and witnessing the Holy Baptisms of Ezra and Sloan this morning. It is a simple act of water washing and a few words and holy chaos and hope. These storied waters of God’s saving actions for humanity and all creation are waters of identity for Sloan and Ezra today and forever, proclaiming them as children of the triune God, communicating to them God’s loving care as Creator, Christ Jesus, and the Spirit of Life, in life-changing water and words, so that whenever they drink in or are touched by water, washing their hands and faces, a bath or shower, going for a swim, that they know, that they feel, they are held, surrounded, washed forever, swimming in! God’s love and forgiveness and care and hope for them. And that truth, we pray and trust, will ever change them, as it is everchanging us and all creation, to freely live and love God’s good and life-giving purpose for them, all of us, and all creation, together, a reformation, by grace alone.

           One of our family has been using the phrase, “Not today Satan, not today! A popular meme, I looked up its origin and it seems to have been first spoken on the sixth season of “RuPaul’s, Drag Race, by Queen Bianca Del Rio and has become iconic, it seems. Truthfully, they could have been quoting Martin Luther who legend and writings suggest threw an ink well at what he perceived to be Satan lurking around him and is said to have shouted at Satan, “I am Baptized!” Not today, Satan, not today! Maybe it is just the word we need to change our hearts and minds from uncertainty and fear, to trust and hope, to courage and action in the grace of God that is ever reforming, everchanging us and this world, today, by God, today – a reformation. Let it be so, in all our relations. Amen.