Message that I gave yesterday on the “Reformation”

11111Some people asked…I did record it but I wasn't feeling well yesterday so I don't take responsibility for what I said when I was on a NyQuil "haze."  So, here are some of the notes and text I wrote.  Use it as your discretion:

Sunday 2013

Past – 1500’s were a time of:

  • Intense political and religious
  • Religious leaders were political
  • Religious leaders were gaining huge
  • Sold indulgences – absolution by
    payment to release people from judgment, purgatory

people who YEARNED for connection with God – they wanted emotional, personal
and spiritual connection with God – but they were dependent upon an elevated
clergy, mass that was not said in their language, and a bible that they
couldn’t read (if they read at all)

lived under the fear of NOT receiving absolution and thus not going to
heaven…dependent completely upon the institutional church for God’s gifts

– translated bible and distributed printed copies but Luther had a King
protector (Prince Frederick of Saxony) otherwise Reformation (at least in
Germany) could possibly have been squelched

encouraged other German leaders to break from Roman rule, which ticked off Rome 

  • Millions of people feared military
  • Millions of people lived under heavy
    taxes of authoritative rulers
  • Hard life – nothing like what we
    experience – worked hard just to feed themselves
  • People shared beds often with
    brothers, sisters, and servants just to keep warm
  • No central heating – your bed buddy
    was your heater
  • Thatched roof – bugs and rats lived
    in it – poster bed kept in heat but vermin off of you
  • Dirt floors
  • Eating – big pot over fire – added
    stuff daily – kept eating out of it
  • Houses – single room in most cases
  • No chimney – smoke went through
    cracks in the wall or just filtered through thatched roof
  • No days off except for religious
    feasts – holy days – saints lives were revered not just for prayer but
    also for days off (50 holy days)
  • If you lived in the city – usually
    built around a castle and castle church
  • Huge fear of fire because everything
    was built with wood
  • Human/animal waste everywhere
  • Water polluted and bath only in
    public baths – there’s even a “myth” that people only had the chance to
    really bath once a year or so…people stunk so badly that the reason why
    brides started to carry flowers at weddings was to mask the stench

society – landowning nobles military and social elite – they owned everything and couple that with the clergy, and you get the picture of what life for the average person was like

was worked by peasants who provided economic support to the lord of the manor in exchange
for protection

bound to the land by law – you could only keep what lord said you could and you
could not leave the land without the Lord’s permission

social classes – lords at the top and priests at the top

friends, that’s the backdrop of Reformation – when it kicked off it threw the
whole system UPSIDE DOWN

  • People didn’t need priests for
    salvation if by faith alone
  • People didn’t need the institution
    if salvation not controlled by priests
  • Peasants emboldened to the point
    that it touched off a huge and bloody war

also please understand = that as many reforms happened theologically in the Reformation,
much of the Political and institutional paradigms DID NOT CHANGE…on fact, the
structures and power of the institutions that had been around for centuries
were embraced 


wanted to walk you through a bit of the 16th century for one reason
– to demonstrate how different the world was then and why it is so important to
see that God contextualizes His actions in our lives in consistent but also new
and fresh ways (our lives, culture, etc. are different)

occurred in the 16th century as a collision of the work of the Holy
Spirit, and political and religious realities

say that it changed the world as it was known at the time would be an

One thing though – only happened in the West
(because we are Western people, we ignore the fact that there was much of Christianity
in the world – orthodox, other areas of world) untouched by the Reformation

key idea was salvation by faith alone

fact, 5 “Solas”

  • Sola fide – faith alone
  • Sola gratia – grace alone
  • Sola scriptura – scripture alone
  • Sola Christus – Christ alone
  • Soli deo Gloria – Glory to God alone

These were radical ideas – combatted the idea that salvation came by way of faith
PLUS something else (works, institutional piety, anything that was regarded as
having salvific value by the clergy, religious leadership) 

  • Reformation was HUGE – but
    understand that there were other significant religious renewals before and
    after the Reformation – Reformation is important because it is part of our
    tribe's story 
  • Just like Ellis Island is part of
    many people’s stories – Slave trade is part of some people’s story – other
    issues are part of other peoples/religious groups stories
  • I will say it here – Reformation was
    important but it was NEVER meant to be placed in stone, institutionalized
    or made something that unfortunately something it has become – a frame of
    reference for contemporary living and ministry for the Body of Christ in
    the 21st century
  • Reformation happened in history and
    is extremely important but to say that the world of the 1500’s sets the
    agenda for what God is doing in OUR time is preposterous
  • Holy Spirit is active NOW – not just
    back then (rear view image – our past needs to be put in perpective but cannot dominate the present or where we are headed in the future – past helps with your frame of reference in contemporary Kingdom living)

can go back and try to replicate the 1st or 16th or any
century OR we can look for what God is doing NOW – we can stare into our "rear view mirror" or look out for what happening now – which do you think God is calling us to do?

  • In other words, here's what I propose – we should NEVER idolize a
    period in history…Jews did and they blew it (temple, law, etc.)…Pharisees
    did it and it became something Jesus had to take on head on…you think we
    would learn our lesson but just like the transfiguration story shows us we
    ALWAYS want to repeat good times as Jesus urges us to move off the mountain


I was in Japan few years, I had an opportunity and honor to imbed myself into
the culture.  While I was there I lived
with a Japanese family…I didn’t spend much time at all visiting the sites of
Japan…I simply lived with the family, ate with them, worship with them…lived a
normal, Japanese life (albeit as best I could for only 2 weeks). 

  • I would have done some things
    differently if I had been a tourist…I would have been in the country to
    see what I could see.
  • As a tourist, if I met a local
    person or family, that would have been a benefit…but not the goal. 
  • Being imbedded is different from
    being a tourist.  A tourist is
    someone who skims for the sake of personal entertainment.  Now, don’t get me wrong…there’s nothing
    wrong with being a tourist. But everyone has to admit, when you are a
    tourist you are interested in getting a feel of a specific place or
    site…you want to see what you want to see and move on.  You might take a picture but you won’t
    walk away with any in-depth knowledge or affinity or identification with
    where you visit. 

is more about being imbedded than being a tourist

  • For many of us, we don’t understand
    life outside of our personal experience or context. 
  • We see life pretty much through the
    lens of who we are and what we have experienced in the sum total of our
  • To “contextualize” means that you
    enter the world of another…you start to care about their lives…you come to
    understand what makes them “tick”…you stop the tourist life and become a
  • That’s why this is an important
    topic in terms of life living for Jesus.
  • If we are just “passing through”
    this world, then why care?  Why
    build relationships?  Why do any of
    the things we do as a faith community with a passion and/or vision for God
    presence/power to impact people’s lives? 
  • Those who don’t “contextualize”
    build bunkers and fortresses to keep the rest of the world out and wait
    until the battle is over. 
  • Unfortunately, that’s not been the
    way God has acted in history. 
  • God is not a detached God…He has
    infiltrated human life at every intersection.  In fact, one of if not the most powerful
    and history-shaking aspects of God’s work in the world is undoubtedly the
    incarnation – and please understand, the incarnation is all about
    contextualization – for the ultimate expression of contextualization is
    “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

because we are still living in the vestiges and in the shadow of the
reformation – important to hold on to certain things and again, also realize
that in many respects the reformation didn’t go far enough

culture has changed and we are still doing what was done back in the 16th
century in many respects

followers USED TO belong in church – “go to church to be a Christian” – but that
ain’t cutting it in this culture where actions speak louder than words and
authenticity is more impactful than a good slogan or affiliation

are not as interested in what you say anymore – rather in what you DO and who
you ARE – that’s where Jesus needs to show up!

that begs the question – Where do we belong? 
Where does a follower of Jesus belong? 
Church or Culture?

  • If our belonging is in the Church,
    culture can be seen as the “enemy or adversary” and that which we need a
    subculture formed to protect us! 
  • If our belonging is in the Culture,
    then the Church has a redemptive presence in the midst of real life and
    then gathers one aspect of its identity in becoming a necessary support
    for followers of Jesus in discipling and equipping for life and ministry…a
    subculture might come into existence but only as a provider of life
  • Let me put it this way – is there
    such a thing as a Gospel or Good News without a sense of it being
    connected to reality and the real world? 
  • If you think about it – you will
    answer as I have – NO!  The good
    news of God is that God came to this world…that He not only interacted
    with the world but that He “imbedded” Himself in the world through Jesus
    and the incarnation. 
  • The Good News of God must always
    “wear the clothes” of culture because it is experienced by people who are
    enculturated, it is lived out by people who are enculturated, and
    witnessed by others who are enculturated, through the medium of
  • Confused?  Don’t be! 
  • God’s story is a story of His work
    IN human history…He doesn’t send detached missives from eternity…He
    doesn’t sit on some celestial cloud and hope we discover Him…He is not
    separated from the human experience…God is intricately imbedded into this
    life…besides the incarnation, God still fills our lives, relationally
    engages us in numerous ways and desires to live this life in and through
    us.  It would not be a stretch to
    say, “no incarnation, no imbedded God = no good news/Gospel.”

“You are our
letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that
you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the
Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human
hearts.”  2 Corinthians 3:2-3

of Jesus are called by Jesus to “Go…into the world” (Matthew 28:18). 

  • We are not supposed to watch the
    game because you ARE the game. 
  • The fact is, there is no game, no
    life without you…another word for this action in the follower of Jesus’
    life is to be indigenous or an infiltrator. 
  • Contextualizing the love and passion
    of Jesus isn’t something that is optional for all of us…the Spirit of God
    lives in and through us. 
  • Christ is alive as He is alive in
    and through you. 
  • Contextualization is a purposeful
    and deliberate action of a person who loves Jesus.  We are a light IN the world…the salt
    rubbed into the fabric of real life.

an image that is helpful…

  • Where do you expect to see a
    lion?  A zoo, right?  If you saw a lion in the fresh vegetable
    section of the grocery store that would be surprising wouldn’t it?  In fact, a lion in a grocery store would
    be dangerous. 
  • That is why for followers of Jesus
    we are called to be imbedded into the world…when people who don’t follow
    Jesus know that all Christians are in “church”, they can marginalize the
    faith community and feel justifiably safe. 
    But when Christians are “out of the box”, contextualized, imbedded
    in real life that is inherently dangerous. 

Question – what does all
that mean?  What does all this mean to


“the church doesn't
exist in order to provide a place where people can pursue their private
spiritual agendas and develop their own spiritual potential. Nor does it exist
in order to provide a safe haven in which people can hide from the wicked world
and ensure that they themselves arrive safely at an otherworldly destination.
Private spiritual growth and ultimate salvation come rather as the byproducts
of the main, central, overarching purpose for which God has called and is
calling us.”NT Wright

So what is that
purpose?  What “Church” can look like (a
new imagination and mission):


What does “incarnational” mean?  

  • The incarnation is the theological
    way of saying that God became flesh. Jesus took on our lives in order to
    demonstrate once and for all the love of God.  
  • God wasn’t satisfied in talking a
    good line or showing His power through miracles or direct, divine action
    in lives…God came into our lives…lived our lives…took on our skin and
    walked in the culture in which we live.
  • That’s what Incarnational means…we
    do what Jesus did.  You see, God didn’t build a place and expect
    people to come in to “see” or experience Him.  
  • God didn’t come into the world by
    constructing a shopping mall and then throwing the doors open saying,
    “come and see”.  Rather, Jesus took on our lives…our pain…our
  • As The Message says, “The Word became flesh and blood, and
    moved into the neighborhood” – John 1:14
  • Our focus should not be on our
    facility, but is focused on our living, demonstrating, and offering
    biblical community (redeeming relationships NOT programs) to the world.


  • In the past, I’ve been a
    critic of the “role-playing” games that are the passion of many people that we
    know and love.  Truthfully, years ago, I thought that they were not
    helpful in a person’s spiritual journey…a “tool of the devil”.  That
    aside, I have been “saved” from my legalistic past.
  • I have recently grown to
    appreciate the fact that role-playing games are popular because they are
    indigenous. In other words, if you play a role-playing game, you are not
    playing a game, you ARE the game.  Your imagination pulls you into the
    game not as an outsider or observer but as an intentional participant.  There
    is NO game without you.  
    Now, the “Church” should be like that – they are indigenous.
  • Faith Communities that
    are indigenous are “in the game” of a local community…they are reflecting the
    values, the culture, the have taken root “in the soil” of what is happening
    around them.  
  • They are not trying to
    reach the community from a “fort” or “fortress”, lobbing Jesus into the
    surrounding community like the French lobbing cows toward Arthur and his men in
    “Monty Python’s Holy Grail”.  A faithful Church is involved in the lives
    and life of the community.  


  • The “Church” is called
    to be intentional about their methods of doing life and ministry as
  • There are places in the
    bible that do tell us what “church” could look like. Remember, the bible
    shares with us a “mission context” of ministry…in other words, there were no
    staffs, or buildings or budgets or programs of doing ministry in biblical
    times…people who loved Jesus were involved in community.  
  • They were brothers and
    sisters living very risky lives in the “thick” of what was going on in their
  • People were not drawn to
    Jesus because of the kinds of sermons that were preached or the quality of the
    band that played music or the convenience of the worship times.
  • People were drawn to the
    community because they were in awe of the “love that people had for each
  • Don’t misunderstand;
    there was preaching, teaching, discipline, fellowship, baptism and many other
    practices. In missional communities, biblical practices are central, but things
    like worship style, evangelism methods, attire, service times, locations, and
    many others expected “local church methods and customs” are not chosen simply
    based on the preference of the members. Instead, the forms are best determined
    by their effectiveness in a specific cultural context and what is God-honoring.

faith community is on mission when it remains faithful to the Gospel message
while simultaneously contextualizing
their lives so that the Gospel can engage the worldview of those that live in
that city, town, or neighborhood. The key is being faithful to the Word of God,
the story of the Kingdom of God, and engaging people out of the heart of God.

“A number
of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large
and small, I was always seeking the Lord's blessing. I was saying, you know, I
have a new song, look after it. I have a family, please look after them. I have
this crazy idea…And this wise man said: stop.  He said, stop asking God
to bless what you're doing.  Get involved in what God is doing – because
it's already blessed.”  Bono

Look for what God is
doing in and around your life this week.  When you see it, jump in and ask
God to lead you into doing more with what He has already started doing.

If we are
not the church before we come to church the church won’t matter much”  Willard 


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