As I continue to work on my sermon for Reformation Sunday this week, I am reminded of
this passage from the book of Revelation:
Revelation 3:15-17 Common English Bible
15 I know your works. You are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I’m about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 After all, you say, ‘I’m rich, and I’ve grown wealthy, and I don’t need a thing.’ You don’t realize that you are miserable, pathetic, poor, blind, and naked.
I am thinking about it because Martin Luther most certainly was NOT a lukewarm pastor when he decided to write his 95 dissensions against the Roman Catholic Church – the document that caused him to hide in a castle for 7 years and ultimately to be excommunicated. The history that set off a series of events that lead to the Protestant Reformation and the bible being translated into German and subsequently every language so that people could read it for themselves and not rely on priests to read it for them.
When Luther observed the way those in power in the Roman Catholic church were burdening the poor by selling them indulgences—tickets to assure one’s passage into heaven when they died from diseases because they could not afford healthcare–he did not say, “well, there are good people on both sides of this situation.” No.
And to be fair, when we speak of Martin Luther, we cannot in good conscience present him without criticism. His anti-semitic writings were used to justify the persecution of Jewish people that continues to this day. He was simultaneously saint and sinner, saved by grace, but fully capable of the hubris that leads to justifying the oppression and torment of God’s beloved people.
We are not called to be peacekeepers by not taking a side against evil. We are living in a moment in history in which every single day we are faced with decisions about whether to stay quiet and go about our business or speak a word of truth that may well disrupt or even anger the ones to whom we are speaking. And as followers of Jesus Christ, our choice is clear. God always sides with those who are being oppressed, those on the margins of society, the sick, the suffering, the enslaved. For far too long we have been looking the other way at huge injustices that plague our society because we didn’t want to make waves. This Reformation, I call on each of you to find your voice. Call out the inequities you witness. Use your vote to dismiss those in power who have not used that power to work for those most in need in our country. Do not avoid the hard topics for the sake of peace– because the truth is –these topics is not peacemaking! It prolongs tension and extends suffering.
You and I both know that when we try to have close relationships with those who stand idly by or sanction evil, we are not at peace. Instead, we are plagued by having to walk lightly, by choosing our words carefully, by avoiding topics that ought not be avoided. When we avoid speaking the truth we often end conversations with a sense that we did not live into our best selves; that we were inauthentic and that our relationship with the one who we allowed to silence us is not healthy.
There is far too much at stake right now in our country for good people to remain silent on issues that cause death and suffering and a lack of elemental resources like food and clean water for some, while others are afforded the best health care money can buy, and more expensive food and drink than any God-fearing person would be comfortable accepting.
In this passage from Revelation, the wealthy who are living in perceived bliss do not even realize that, like it or not, they are not connected to the people in the society in which they live. So they do not see the many ways their lack of connection leaves them poor, blind, and naked. Reject this mindset of avoidance and acceptance. We are called to act for justice. And justice demands that we do not flinch when evil flexes; and we do not remain silent when those in power use that power to inflict harm on God’s beloved people. Evil is flexing every single day in our beloved country. Thou shalt not stand idly by.
Let us pray: You oh Lord have given us minds to think, hearts to love, and mouths to speak. Unleash your Spirit within us to stir up our courage, and give us the words to speak truth even when it causes others unrest. Enable us to be at peace in the wake of such conversations, knowing that words that disrupt are often words that create a more just world for all your beloved children. Amen.