Reformation Sunday, 2010 – “Re-formed and always re-forming”

Only in Canada. Only here could a political party calling itself “The Reform Party”

eventually find itself part of a group called“the Conservatives”

The two terms seem antithetical –

conservative generally implying caution and tradition,

reform usually suggests that something needs changing.

Yet the two ideals seem to have found a way to co-exist.

I’ll leave it to the discussion in the parking lot

to decide how well that particular merger of ideas is working –

but it seems to me that the challenges that move political parties to make such strategic decisions

are similar to those faced by people of faith at various times in history.

People faced with an unsettling reality, whose cry becomes “things have got to change…”

often choose to call themselves “reformers”.

Literally, the title suggests that they want to see things formed again –

to take the same parts and arrange them differently, hopefully, with a different result.

We who call the Presbyterian tradition home are Christians in the “Reformed tradition” –

following the example of men and women who realized that life for God’s people was changing,

and who sought ways for the church to reconnect with the need they saw in the wider world.

They believed that the church had fallen away from her mission –

that she had become inaccessible –

and that the church needed to be reformed, not just for the sake of the church,

but for the good of those in the wider world who long for something more.


That wider world has been seeking something of God for a very long time.

A world full of people –

Women – foreigners – oppressors – entrepreneurs –

who have been left behind

by the legion of rules and regulations erected as a fence around the Holy.

All kept at a distance by the people who made the rules – even before Jesus’ time.

But hunger for God will not be denied.

A reform movement was growing in occupied Palestine –

people were eager to hear an alternative to the system of rules

offered by the Romans, on the one hand,

or the temple authorities (if you were so inclined) on the other –

Thus the crowds that swarmed where ever Jesus was.

For here was a man pointing to another authority – a different rule – a brighter possibility –

a rearrangement of the old order into something wonderful.

Zacchaeus seemed likely to be denied the chance

to experience Jesus’ alternative vision.

An outcast by virtue of his vocation –

not just a tax collector, but chief tax collector…and rich.

Worse than a foreigner – here was a man who chose to subject his own people

to the indignities of the Roman system of taxation,

and who personally profits by that system.

He didn’t even have the advantage of being physically imposing –

perhaps if he was large and intimidating, he would have been harder to hate

(or at least, impossible to mock) –

but no, he was “short in stature”. Not the cream of the crop.

Nonetheless, he goes out of his way for just a glimpse of Jesus.

He anticipates Jesus’ route through town; climbs a tree, gets himself noticed –

In case you are curious, this is not normal behaviour

from someone who is content with the way things are.

Zacchaeus is looking for a change – and in Jesus, change finds him.

Jesus states his reforming policies very simply:

“the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

That’s radical change, given what we know about “the rules” –

radical then and radical now

And we have the benefit of knowing that Jesus statement,

his activity in life, and ultimately his manner of dying

knocks down the fence that religion erects around God;

you know, the fence meant to keep God ‘safe for our consumption & enjoyment’ –

the human constructions designed to ‘tame God’ …

…except God doesn’t doesn’t need to be kept safe.

God doesn’t play safe – and an encounter with God should bring us up on the tip of our toes.

God is a risk-taker, constantly offering us a vision of creation ‘re-formed’ –

and God asks us to take risks,

as the stuff of our existence is rearranged by God’s vision to produce a new and glorious result.

The last shall be first – the meek inherit the earth – salvation comes to the lost and the least –

this is not the work of a domesticated deity; this reformation is not for the faint of heart

and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

Quite the opposite – in Jesus, God invites us to take part

we are called by Christ to follow – to take part in God’s re-formation of Creation

to seek justice – to love one another –

to watch for the signs of God’s grace to the world

The hunger for change is everywhere, and that usually means that change are coming

though we may have to make a little extra effort to see it.

Our traditions will clash – our ideologies might get mixed up in the process –

we may have to go out on a limb.

But rest assured the gift of grace that found a worried, yet hopeful little man that day in Jericho

is still seeking us.

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