Dear C and E, dear Families, der Guests, dear Congregation,
So this is the big day. Not only do we celebrate and commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation today, but we also celebrate that you, E and C, confirm your faith today – you say yes to God who already said yes to you on the day you were baptized, although that was a long time ago, or not such a long time ago, if you ask your parents.
And although I have to admit that there were times when I had second thoughts about mixing these two celebrations, Reformation 500 and confirmation, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a good thing to not only focus on what happened a long time ago, but to look at what is now and what is ahead of us; and we of course see this through the young people who are part of the church today.
500 years ago, Martin Luther’s main issue was the idea that you can somehow buy your salvation by bribing God through money or good deeds – and, at the same time, filling the coffers of the Church. That’s in essence what the 95 Theses are about, which Luther allegedly nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.
Now salvation may not be a top priority of many folks on this planet today as it was 500 years ago, but the Lutheran World Federation has identified some things that are priorities today, in the world we live in, a world that you, C and E, are about to help shape more so than any of us older folks. And so the slogan of the Lutheran World Federation in commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is: Creation – not for sale. Human beings – not for sale. Salvation – not for sale.
And what the LWF is getting at is that, today as it was 500 years ago, people are easily tempted to believe that money will solve all problems. That it’s the economy that has to be strong, even at the cost of the destruction of nature and the lives and livelihoods of human beings. That, somehow, a certain political or economic system can save us – but save us from what?
500 years ago, Martin Luther and the Reformers pointed out that there are certain things money cannot by – and God’s grace and love are the first and foremost things that are offered to us freely. Consequently, we don’t have to worry about our salvation, and can allow God’s love and grace to flow freely through us and out into the world.
As people in the Lutheran tradition today, as the heirs of Luther, we have also come to acknowledge that the world God so lovingly created for all life forms and the life and dignity of human beings are priceless. In addition, deep in our hearts we know that no human concept or system can save us from the effects of greed and selfishness and the power the strong exert over the weak. God’s creation – not for sale. Human beings – not for sale. Salvation – not for sale.
I don’t know if you have seen one of these Euro notes (see picture). They have the denomination of ‘0’. This is a 0 Euro note. This particular one I got at the Wartburg Castle in Germany, where Luther spent some months after being kidnapped for his own safety, and where he translated the Greek New Testament into German. And if I’d been on my game, I would have gotten you, C and E, such a Euro note as well, as a gift for your confirmation. But, alas, I wasn’t.
And there are other 0 Euro notes with different motives, all commemorating the idea, Luther’s idea, that there are certain things in life that money can’t buy. In my opinion, whoever came up with that idea is a genius. The Reformation back then and now explained, in one symbol. And who doesn’t understand money?
The Reformation is not just a thing of the past, but it continues – and that’s where we as heirs of the Reformation, and that now includes you, E and C, come in – we are tasked to tackle the issues of this world today. As people of faith, we are called to follow Christ on the ways of peace and justice and the preservation of God’s creation. As Protestants today, we are called to rediscover the interconnectedness of everybody and everything – that’s going back to the image of Jesus, the vine, and us, the multitude and variety of branches, grounded in the one God.
We are called to acknowledge and teach that there are certain things that are not for sale – and live our lives accordingly, accepting and treating everything and everyone around us as a gift that has to be handled with utmost care, an irreplaceable heirloom. Life in its various forms is the most precious gift from God, the creator of all. Your life is the most precious gift. Use it well, for the sake of the world. Amen
This post is also available in: German