Pastor Hector Garfias-Toledo + October 29, 2023
On Reformation Sunday, Pastor Hector reflects on the enduring legacy of Martin Luther and the various perceptions and interpretations of his legacy. In the book of Jeremiah, we draw parallels between the Israelites' covenant violations and contemporary societal issues. Pastor Hector emphasizes the message of "yes, but..." – acknowledging humanity's brokenness while highlighting the graciousness of God and the potential for a new covenant. He encourages prayer, scriptural study, and viewing the world through God's eyes as ways to know God by heart and trust in divine forgiveness and blessings.
Lightly edited for clarity.
I didn't know Martin Luther was going to visit us today, but it's good. Thank you, David. Grace and peace to you from God our Father, our Mother, our Creator, and the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior. We say, "Amen."
As I mentioned earlier, it's good to have these reminders of what people might have looked like back then, especially Martin Luther. He was a character, a figure, a hero, a theologian, a monk that we know, celebrate, and remember. Some people like him, some don't, but around such prominent figures, there are always stories and beliefs, some of which may not be entirely accurate. Perhaps this happened with Martin Luther, and there are words attributed to him, like, "Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would fall apart, I would still plant my apple tree." You've probably heard that. One question is, why an apple tree? Maybe he liked apples, or I don't know. But there might be a deeper meaning in these words, related to confidence, trust, and the belief that there's nothing to fear, that we all belong to God, you, me, and everyone else.
We read the book of Jeremiah this morning, an Old Testament scripture, and I invite you to reflect for a few minutes with me because there's a lot in this short passage that's crucial for understanding the origins of the gospel message we heard earlier. The Prophet Jeremiah spent a considerable amount of time and energy trying to convey to the people of Israel that they systematically violated the Covenant God had made with them at Mount Sinai. Do you recall that story? What happened at Mount Sinai? This is my turn to ask you a question now. What happened with Moses at Mount Sinai? I cannot give you more hints, but I hope you remember that he went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. Jeremiah told them that they had violated this Covenant with their economic policies, neglecting the poor, widows, the young, and outcasts, and relying on their army for foreign policies, among other offenses that offended God. They also had an illusion of privilege before God, thinking that they were entitled to blessings due to their lineage from Abraham. The consequence, according to the prophets, including Jeremiah, was the destruction of Jerusalem and eventual exile in Babylon, as we've discussed in recent Sundays.
So, after reading this, the question for me is, how are we doing? How is our society faring in relation to the message of the Prophet Jeremiah? I believe not much has changed, as we could spend the day discussing economic policies, foreign policies, theological practices, or illusions we hold about ourselves in this world. The words of the Prophet Jeremiah might be tough to accept, but I think they accurately describe who we are and how we behave as human beings.
Thinking about this, I came up with two words that can describe today's message for Reformation: "Yes, but..." Yes, we are part of a broken humanity, but we have a gracious God. This is the good news within the brokenness, shame, and defeats we experience daily. It's amidst uncertainty and struggles, regardless of who you are or where you come from. We've all felt hopelessness, disappointment, fear, and maybe even despair at times. The good news is that we are part of a God determined to give us the best, a God seeking to establish a new covenant with us, where we will know God by heart. No longer will you need to tell others to know the Lord, for everyone will know God, from the least to the greatest, because God will forgive their wrongdoings and remember their sins no more.
How can we make this message a reality in our lives? Firstly, we need to acknowledge that we can't do it on our own, that we need God's help. Secondly, we should follow the example of the prophet and be people of prayer. It doesn't have to be lengthy or boring; there are many ways to pray. We should also delve into scripture to understand what God is telling us. If we want to know God by heart, we must grasp God's message in scripture. It might not be easy, but the more we read, the more we know God's will. Lastly, we should look at the world through God's loving and caring eyes. Despite all the destruction and chaos, it's a beautiful world. To know God by heart, we should see the world as God sees it. I hope this makes sense.
So, within this message of grace and promise, it can be challenging to believe that we are truly forgiven, blessed, and that God provides the best for us. Trusting can be difficult, and knowing God by heart might seem like a daunting task. However, we are called to be part of God's people. We are part of a broken humanity, but we have a gracious God. May the grace of God, our Father and Mother, the love of Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.