Greetings to you! The last Sunday in October is marked as Reformation Sunday in the lectionary of CNI. This is to earmark the Reformation which began on October 31st 1517, when Martin Luther protested against the sale of indulgences by writing a letter to the Archbishop of Mainz. He enclosed with his letter a copy of his disputations on the power and efficacy of indulgences which came to be known as the ninety-five thesis. He posted that on the church of All Saints in Wittenberg.
Through Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and many others the movement spread throughout Europe and called for reformation within the church. The cry was salvation was by grace alone, by faith alone, and through Christ alone. They also proclaimed that scripture was the most important way to understand God’s will rather than tradition.
We mark today as Reformation Sunday in order that we may think about bringing reform within the church. Corruption has set in within the church as much without. Bishops, pastors and ordained men and women of God have fallen prey to the gods of Mammon.
Some work like professionals demanding money for their services, others illegally occupy church property, while still others sell off church property to fill their own pockets. Corruption, nepotism, regionalism, immorality, power struggle, violence are all found within the echelons of the church.
In this kind of context, how are we to bring change? Not only have the clergy fallen short of God’s standards but the congregation has also equally fallen short of God’s standards. Reformation needs to begin with each one of us. It is very easy to be self-righteous like the Pharisees and the Teachers of the law who pointed fingers, but did not bother to check their own lives.
In the reading for this morning from the gospel of Luke chapter 11, Jesus talks about the eye as the lamp of the body. In other words, Jesus is saying that the eye is the vehicle of perception. If the eye brings in light then the whole person glows but this can only happen if the eyes are healthy and can receive spiritual truth. Not to take in God’s light is to risk darkness. If the light of Christ is within us, our lives will be attractive to others.
Jesus was invited by a Pharisee to eat with him. The Pharisee was surprised that Jesus did not wash before the meal. Jesus had the harshest words for the Pharisees because he told them, “You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.”
The Pharisees were very much like us. They believed in the inspiration and authority of the bible, in miracles, in Satan, angels, heaven and hell and the resurrection of the dead. They pretended as they were absolutely holy on the outside and from the inside it was far from it. Therefore, Jesus challenges them to be clean inside and that could happen when they started giving of their wealth generously to the poor.
Jesus also has some harsh words for the Pharisees saying, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.”
The Pharisees were keen to get the most important seats in the Synagogue so that people would recognise them and praise them. They want to feel important. Jesus also tells them that they are like unmarked graves which people walk over without knowing them. In an unmarked grave the body was rotting inside but people don’t sees anything outside. They defile the people who come in contact with it.
Likewise, the Pharisees who thought of themselves as the paragons of purity, were infact leaders of spiritual uncleanness and would lead people to death: though the Pharisees themselves thought they were leading themselves in the paths of life.
The challenge for us this morning is to reform ourselves both as individuals and as a church. We need to stop seeking praise for ourselves, stop building our own kingdoms and stop doing our own will. Instead, we are called to glorify God’s name, build his kingdom on earth and do his will. Sometimes, we are so caught with our traditions that we have failed to do God’s work. God is challenging us to turn around to repent of our sinful ways and to come back to him.
In the Old Testament reading we see Josiah who made the people hear the words from the book of the covenant. After that he brought sweeping reforms in Judah as the destroyed all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts. He burned them outside Jerusalem. He enabled the people to return to God. May we also take time to repent of our sinful ways and return to God.