This year marks 500 years since Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. Many of us “Protestants” as we have been called, are celebrating 500 years since the Reformation began. The Church reformed and always reforming!
Those events all those years ago, and people like Martin Luther and John Calvin, gave us many gifts, helping the Church pivot to a more faithful following of Scripture, grace, even our understanding of God.
There is a flip side. Protestants often do well talking about grace and faith, although sometimes it can come at the expense of not talking about “right action” much. We can fall into the trap of believing in “faith without works” even though we know that is dead!
While the final arbitration on humanity is grace, the Bible has much in the way of right action. North American Christianity has its share of “lazy Christians”. The prophets spent generations trying to shape the people’s thoughts, minds, and actions in ways of right speech, right worship, and right action toward others and God.
Paul addresses abuses of the Lord’s Supper in today’s reading, and calls to task those who do not join genuine table fellowship.
In Matthew, Jesus heals a paralytic. In the midst of it he gets questions about the fact he heals this man of his sin, and gives him a clean bill of health in body and in spirit. The Pharisees will have none of it. Jesus retorts, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?”
Jesus heals him. And by doing so he declares that much of the required liberation for this world includes bodily needs. He is not solely interested in people’s souls, but in daily bread and physical ailments.
This is quite a warning to those who think questions of health insurance are only matters of state and not matters of religion. They hit right at the core of Jesus’ understanding of religion! And if you think the racial tensions we have in this country have nothing to do with your faith, look again! Jesus calls us to care for the body, mind, and spirit of others, and of ourselves. This is a call not merely to right belief, but to right action.