Romans 3:19-28 John 8:31-36
October 27, 2019 Reformation Sunday
You will know the truth, Jesus says. Was truth as muddy and confusing then as it is now? Postmodernism rejects universal truths. We question everything, and for good reason. Facts seem to change. Pluto was a full- fledged planet. Now demoted to a dwarf planet. I had learned that there were three states of matter, solid, liquid and gas. Then plasma was discovered, and now there are four. Eggs were good for you, then they weren’t, now they are. Don’t even get me started on the dinosaur brontosaurus. Even the fact-checking web site Snopes contains misinformation. But that may not be true. What is truth?
If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free. Just prior to this encounter, while speaking of his impending death, Jesus declared, “The one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” Jesus invites us into the truth that does not change with new discoveries, the truth revealed in Christ Jesus, God’s truth of salvation, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, life and freedom. The people listening to Jesus were offended, and cried out, “What are you talking about? We are descendants of Abraham, and we have never been slaves to anyone!” They had forgotten the little matter of Egypt and Pharaoh. They dismissed their present subjugation to Rome. Their truth, it seems, differed from reality.
Martin Luther pointed to the truth that we deceive ourselves, and that we let the world deceive us. (The media is taking advantage of this.) We deceive ourselves thinking that we can do everything on our own, that power is important, and that money will make us happy. Can we say out loud in front of other people that our life is not perfect? Can we admit that we need friends and family, and God? As long as we seek to secure our own future, or even our present, instead of trusting God, we live our lives in pretense. That which drives us to seek our own salvation also chains us to sin. We cannot set ourselves free from that bondage. To acknowledge the truth that we are in sin, and we cannot save ourselves, gives us freedom in the one who gives us salvation, not because we deserve it, but simply through grace. Our life comes through Jesus Christ.
To live any other way than being our authentic selves is exhausting! Did you know that the most popular social media platforms increase negative feeling in users? Looking on FaceBook at everyone’s idyllic life causes us to feel that our life isn’t as good as everyone else’s. So we hide the parts of our lives and ourselves that we think are inferior to others. Portraying a perfect life, or pretending we ourselves are perfect, will not redeem us. Being wealthy, or educated, beautiful or popular does not change God’s love for us. In the words of St. Paul, we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
This is true, not only for us, but for the church. Martin Luther pointed to what he saw as errors in the theology and practices of the Catholic Church, but he and Lutherans have been mistaken, too. Not just mistaken; we have sinned grievously. Lutherans have since apologized for our denomination’s wrongs. The ELCA issued a formal apology for Luther’s writings against the Jews. After 500 years of bloody persecution, Lutherans repented for their persecution of Anabaptists, which includes Mennonites. Most recently, the ELCA issued a declaration of apology, writing:
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) apologizes to people of African descent for its historical complicity in slavery and its enduring legacy of racism in the United States and globally. We lament the white church’s failure to work for the abolition of slavery and the perpetuation of racism in this church. We confess, repent and repudiate the times when this church has been silent in the face of racial injustice. 
Despite this apology, Lutherans remain the whitest mainline denomination in America. We are sinners, individually and corporately. That we are saved by faith through grace alone is at the heart of our Lutheran doctrine, and the Reformation reminds us that our faith is about God’s relationship with us.
Jesus is God’s truth made flesh. Knowing the truth means knowing Jesus. We are free from having to justify ourselves, and free for a relationship with God and with each other. Luther said that anything that is not God’s son will not make us free. How ironic that the freedom that gives us life is one of dependence. Isn’t that just like God to turn our truth upside-down? This day, and every day, may the truth we encounter, and the truth we believe, be God.
~Pastor Cheryl Ann Griffin