October 31, 2021
Children’s miss-quote on the Lord’s Prayer:
“Forgive us our trash passes as we forgive those who pass trash against us.”
Reformation Sermon on Romans 3:19-28 & John 8:31-36
One of my jobs growing up on a farm was to clean barns. Cattle, chickens and hogs eat a lot. They also poop a lot, filling barns fill with straw and manure. Sometimes after a long winter the floor can be covered with half a foot or so of this lovely aromatic stuff. The smelly job of cleaning the barns consisted of throwing pitch forks full of the manure into a spreader. A manure spreader is a trailer hooked to a tractor with a mechanism that moves the load back towards the rear teeth which grabs and throws the contents out in a wide methodical fashion. Once the spreader is full I would drive the tractor with the spreader hooked to it out to a pasture, activate the spreader mechanism that would throw the manure and straw out. I would then drive around the field until the spreader was empty again. This process was repeated until the layers of manure were gone and the barns were clean. By the end of the day I reeked with the odor. In those days we showered every Saturday night—once week. After this job I showered ahead of schedule and washed my smelly clothes.
Sometimes people can be like manure spreaders. They have had bad things happen to them. And they in turn spread the stink around to others. “Hurt people hurt people.” “Victims often victimize others.” And the cycle continues. Those who are injured and hurt in life run the risk of passing the pain and damage along to others. It is not right, but it happens.
Here is another story I cam across some years ago called “The Law of the Garbage Truck.”
“One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us.
My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly.
So I asked, “Why did you just do that? That guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!”
This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, “The Law of the Garbage Truck.”
He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage — frustration, anger, disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they’ll dump it on you.
Don’t take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets.
Do not let garbage trucks take over your day. Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don’t.”
Our readings today for Reformation Sunday are important. We cannot go back in time and change history. But we can change how it impacts us. We can rise above the stuff. We can reframe how it defines and shapes us as individuals. Shame, mistakes, failures, rotten things done to us, rotten things we have done (or keep on doing) do not have to determine who or what we are. God’s grace in Jesus changes everything.
Today we remember and celebrate the “Reformation” which rocked the world and church over five hundred years ago when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the Wittenburg Chapel Door. Today we reflect on God’s amazing and incredible life-changing-grace in Jesus. We cannot earn it. We certainly do not deserve it. We even have a hard time getting our hearts and minds around it. We struggle to simply accept it.
But it is reality. God, in Christ, has set us free. Because of Jesus all the regrets and shames that have marked us and shaped our lives up to this present point no longer have to be part of our identity.
True freedom from the chains and bondage that have convinced us that we are no-names, worthless, without value or importance is the freeing fact of what it means to be born again in Christ Jesus. We are marked with the cross and sealed with the Holy Spirit. We are forgiven and set free to be the people God intends us to be. Free to be the persons we long to be.
“But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed and is attested to by the Law and Prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe…” (Romans 3:21-22)
No matter who you are, no matter who you love, no matter what your mistakes or failures are, no matter what has been done to you or how unloved and unlovable you think you are—God’s love for you and me in Jesus cleanses and empowers us to have a fresh start. Again. Today. Tomorrow. Everyday.
If we continue in Jesus’ word and let that grace grab us and hold us firm in love, than we are true disciples and followers of the Lamb. Then we will know the truth and the truth will free us each day, every hour, all life long.
This is Reformation Faith. Let it soak your soul and change how you think and feel about yourself. May it empower us to love and accept ourselves and to love all those for whom Christ died. In Jesus’ name. Amen.