Pastor’s Corner – October 29, 2023

Reformation Sunday: At the Heart of Our Faith

Matthew 22:34-46

I grew up in a conservative immigrant church that shared much of evangelical theology and orthodox reformed understanding of what it means to have faith with orthodox (correct) beliefs. These are non-negotiable ideas of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Bible one must consent to if you are to be saved, redeemed or have “everlasting life.” The other option of course was eternal damnation, or mildly put as “separation from God forever.” What does that look like? Extremely painful if one can imagine hell forever! Let’s not forget there is only one way to this salvation from hell-Jesus Christ. forget the rest of the world, religions and cultures that ever experienced the divine nature of something sacred in life because we are the only ones who can monopolize this truth. After all we patented it long ago, that is we canonized it centuries ago, so this must be absolutely true and no other claims can be made! 

This of course is fear based faith, and if it doesn’t scare you to God with right beliefs, then we need to rethink our understanding of faith in God. This Sunday we come to the gospel text that tells us quite a different understanding of faith that is not fear based but something that reaches out to us deeply, to our own sense of humanity and compassion, that God is all about love! At the heart of our faith is the commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. These two pillars; to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves (also known as the golden rule) hold our faith together, and everything we say or do in the life of our faith is a commentary to these commandments. 

Our faith is love based, not fear based. It doesn’t ask for correct belief or what you believe is more important than what you do: to care and love God as inseparable from loving our neighbors, to show mercy and justice, to be compassionate. We are asked to love God. To be Christian is to love God and ask what God loves, to follow God’s vision for our world. Do you really think God needs anything from us or that our opinion of God matters to God who created the universe and all that was, is, and will be? Rather there are a lot of arguments in the name of God to justify human misery and suffering. There are rumors of rightful claims to neighbor’s land in the name of God all over the world, even our own here in America and in Palestine, when in truth we are all sojourners, guests in the land that needs our neighbor’s hospitality. This is faith in God’s grace and love. This is to know the truth that to love our neighbors as ourselves means we too are recipients of love and grace in our world. Our destiny as humans in our world is to be bound together in the unity of faith in God who is love, and there is more than enough room for all of us. Those who are not religious may not use the word God, but love is something all humans can relate to.

Again, it doesn’t matter whether you are religious or not, whether you believe or not. To have compassion and love for your neighbors is what matters. This truth my friends will set us free. All people are God’s beloved, created in the divine image of God who is love. Therefore, all humans are capable of love, to give and receive love. Jesus said this is the kingdom of God (kingdom of heaven in Matthew’s words). It’s a radical claim and subversive, and it feels “political” in a world where there is so much hatred caused by suffering and grief.  This coming Sunday is Reformation Sunday, let us worship God. Let us come together and hear the gospel once again what is at the heart of our faith, so that we may draw from the well spring of God’s love and mercy for the world! Amen.    Pastor Dae