Happy 502nd Anniversary, reforming church. What a good and blessed thing it is to be given a chance to be made new. I for one am grateful every day that I am not stuck as the same person I was the day before. The old me has a chance to die every evening, a new me arises like Lazarus and lives with new intention, awareness, and purpose.
This gladness is a healthy balance when I consider and often become burdened with awareness of my mistakes. Each day I am able to name my failures and weaknesses and then in my baptismal promise, wash them away with promises of life in Christ.
This is especially important this month. I feel like there is a growing awareness of worldly social needs, a fear in our nation of sharing our generous resources and freedom, and grief over that which was taken away in greed or anger. Lives lost to gunmen in Kentucky and Pennsylvania remind me that we have a lot of work to do to lessen hatred and violence in this world. A speaker last night at the Interfaith Service of Healing at Congregation Emanu-El in Redlands reminded me though, “bullets can’t pierce love. Love wins.”
Our nation grew because people were afraid and seeking safety. They were leaving their lands in droves because their very lives were in danger. They were starving, persecuted for faith, or even for whom they loved. They sought refuge and found it here. Finally, a safe place to worship and live. Only now, we see even the most sacred places violated by anger and in fear we close our doors to the refugee whose shoes we wore only a generation or two ago. Martin Luther himself fueled hatred of many, but most especially our Jewish siblings. I have to acknowledge that fear and hatred do not come from God. I don’t know how to help love win, but I will keep loving my neighbor because Christ made it easier for me by showing me how. I will name the wrong among even the most faithful leaders, and I will keep welcoming the stranger in the name of Christ and trust the Holy Spirit will bring love’s win to fruition.
When I look ahead to Thanksgiving I am aware again of that which was stolen in greed generations before. Almost a mirror of our current tragedies, a dehumanization of the other lead to death. Native American lives were cut short to gain land and resources by European colonizers who had the audacity to claim they “discovered land” which was already inhabited. It is hard to acknowledge that the sweet puritan pilgrim stories were not as I was taught and that I should not give thanks for stolen prosperity. My so called “pure” blood lines are not a thing of beauty, but a reminder of shameful acts. I could wallow in despair or deny this, but I am reminded by another wise voice, that we are in a time of moral crisis and naming our history and corporate Eurocentric sin is vital to healing and moving forward. My native siblings do not want me gone. They do want me to acknowledge they do and did exist, that a trespass was made, and to seek forgiveness. I don’t like it, but the reality is, I benefit from their loss, and they still pay for my ancestors trespass. I owe them at least acknowledging the truth. On truth, the foundation of Christian faith, we can build new relationships and go forward in love and honesty.
Each of these ideas is rooted in two concepts: community and forgiveness. We are called into community, to be and see one another. To love and be loved. To mess up, ask forgiveness, and give it in return. These require being made new, being RE- formed into a better person in Christ: being more kind, more loving, more honest each day. They are hard, we cannot do them alone, and Christ is with us renewing and reforming us every moment in his promises.
Thank God we are a reforming people. Thank God we have a new chance all the time to begin again. I cannot give thanks for the pain, but I can give thanks for the new chances and the community that forms in the healing. May your Thanksgiving be an honest one. May it be one of reforming into a new person in Christ. May it be full of thanks for love of God who rescues and redeems us, reforming us into a new eternal kingdom.