“If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” [2 Cor 5:17, NRSV]
And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” [Rev 21:5, NRSV]
Today is Reformation Sunday. It’s a day when preachers are tempted to cram 500 years of Reformation history into the brains of those who are in attendance. [Yawn] When I was younger, my Catholic friends also called it “Catholic Bashing Sunday” since pastors often preached about how corrupt the Roman Catholic Church was back then and how Luther set it right.
Thankfully for you, I’m not going to do either of these things! Instead, I would like to narrow our focus and explore how reformation occurs in the bodies, minds and spirits of those who follow Jesus.
My reflection on this topic begins with a Latin phrase Martin Luther used to describe the human condition: “simul justus et peccator.” It’s the only Latin phrase I know, and it’s a keeper! If you’re curious about what it means, the easy translation is that we are simultaneously saint and sinner. We are a frustrating, maddening mixture of both. None of us is the “good little Christian” we believe we are. We all have a dark side. To paraphrase Paul in Romans “We do not understand our own actions. For we do not do what we want, but we do the very thing we hate.” [Rom 7:15]
The good news is that we don’t have to earn our salvation. It’s a free gift offered to us through faith in Jesus. The bad news is that while we are here on earth, we have to deal with what my seminary professor Tom Ridenhour called our “peccator-hood.” We have to deal with the broken parts of ourselves we don’t want others to see. We have to resist the urge to lash out in anger at those who’ve hurt us. We have to make better choices, that build bridges between us and others, rather than constantly burning them down. In theological language, we have to continue to die to sin, and rise to new life in Christ.
This is the way I understand Luther’s use of the phrase “simul justus et peccator.” It’s the key to understanding how reformation occurs in the bodies, minds and spirits of those who follow Jesus. Reformation is not something qe do once and is never repeated again. It is a continuous, ongoing process, where the Holy Spirit reveals to us the issues we need to address in our lives at any given moment. These issues vary over time, but they never stop coming up. Because we are “simul justus et peccator” we have to face the reality that we’re always going to have to work on something.
I have no doubt that all of us know when the saint in us is losing the battle, and the sinner in us has us backed into a corner. Thankfully, God promises to “make all things new.” This is not something that is reserved for the sweet by and by when we all get to heaven. God is making all things new in us, today, and tomorrow, and the day after that. We are constantly being re-formed into the image of Christ. The old continuously passes away, while God works in our lives to revive the dead places, and give birth to new beginnings.
If that all sounds a bit too esoteric, let me give you an example of how this works. This past week I made an important decision that came about after much prayer and discernment: I handed in my resignation as Chaplain PRN at Mission Hospital. Our Church Council is already aware of this decision, but I wanted to let you know about it as well.
The main reason why I resigned is that ten years of trauma ministry have taken a toll on me personally. Ministering to families in crisis can be very rewarding, but it was also be very exhausting. We all have our limitations. There is only so much sadness we can carry, even with God’s help. I have been seeking the Holy Spirit’s wisdom regarding this issue. The answer I got was that it’s time to create space in my life for rest and recharging. It’s time to let go of my job at Mission, so that, eventually, God can give birth something new.
What that something is, I don’t know. What I do know is that I am 100% committed to being your pastor. I am also 100% committed to being intentional about taking time for rest and recharging. As always, I appreciate your prayers as I try to develop a few new habits that honor the sabbath rest God intends for our lives. Sabbath rest does not happen by accident. We have to be intentional about it. We have to set aside time for it.
One of the tools I’m excited about is a new liturgical planner called Sacred Ordinary Days. It includes the usual things like space to write appointments and all the Sundays and readings of the Church year. But it also includes elements of spiritual formation, including one called the Weekly Examine. It’s a time of prayerful reflection on the week that has passed and the week ahead. It’s broken up into 7 categories: Spirit, Body, Mind, Relationships, Home, Work and Resources. The goal is to reflect on how well you did with your stewardship of these areas of your life, and then form a plan for what you’d like to accomplish in the week to come. I’ve never been this intentional before, regarding the stewardship of my life. I trust that it will bear much fruit.
The reason why I’m sharing all of this with you today is that part of my calling as your pastor is to lead by example. If I take better care of myself, and model that behavior fo you, the hope is that you’ll be inspired to do the same.
It won’t be a surprise to you that pastors are not perfect. [I know, it’s shocking. Isn’t it?] We are also simul justus et peccator. The saint and sinner wage war with each other in us as much as they wage war in you. A healthy pastor knows when their life is a bit out of balance and they take steps to correct it. My hope and prayer is that if you’re feeling like your life is out of balance, you’ll take steps to correct it, too.
Somehow I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one among us who is at this point in their faith journey. Our nation is a stressful place to live these days. We all have our fair share of difficulties at work and family issues that need to be addressed. Some of us struggle with health problems or financial woes. All of this leads to us feeling out of balance.
The good news this Reformation Sunday is that we have a God who promises to make all things new. We have a God who desires to revive the dead places in our lives and give birth to new beginnings. This does not happen by accident. We have to be intentional about reforming our lives. We need to create space to breathe, to heal, and to recharge our weary souls before God can birth something new in us.
This is my intention for the months ahead. If you feel like this needs to be your intention as well, I invite you to call me and schedule a holy conversation regarding the reformation of your body, mind and spirit. I have a lot of tools and resources that might be helpful to you as you seek the rest you need for your weary soul. Amen.
Copyright ©2018 by David Eck