Sermon for Reformation Sunday -
Vicar Julie A. Kelly -
Did you know there are two ways to refer to the word of God? The first is with a capital W- indicating a personhood- that of Christ himself, such as, “in the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Word with a capital W is Christ.
The second is with a little w and when we use it this way, we are speaking of scripture or the Bible as the word of God. It doesn’t occur to us often since either way both are alive, both reach out and speak to us and teach us- but only one sets us free.
Spending his days immersed in prayer and scripture as a monk, Martin Luther came to understand this difference in using the “word”. Unfortunately, in his day, to share the word of God in the common language of the people was punishable by death. Worship and reading of the Bible was done only in Latin and unless you knew Latin, you relied upon what the priest told you to believe it meant. Priests themselves had access to the original languages but did not use them with the common folk.
Martin Luther was so moved by the discovery of what it meant to have the word of God empower himself to know the freedom of Christ, that he knew in his heart of hearts that the people needed the word in their own language. Of course, there was also this new fangled social media technology- the printing press- available so he used it. What few people know is how risky this was. In fact, in England, William Tyndale followed Luther’s steps and translated the Bible into English- and was repaid by being not only hung to death, but then burned at the stake and John Wycliffe, was declared a heretic after his death, and that wasn’t enough- they dug him up to burn him for his crime of translating the scripture, because you know, dead wasn’t dead enough for this crime. What causes such vehement response? Fear.
You see, people were afraid, very, very afraid. They understood what we do today as well; that there is power in the written word and when we put that power out there into the world, we cannot bring it back- and we cannot stop it from being misused. But Martin Luther knew that the more important gain was the setting free- each and every person who was given the word in their own language was given freedom from the bondage of ignorance. They were given empowering freedom for every person who would read those words and come to know Christ, gaining the ultimate freedom of salvation.
Just like Martin Luther, we are experiencing a revolution- an opportunity to experience the world in new ways- and more importantly, ways to share God’s faithfulness in new ways. Unlike Martin Luther, we assume access to the information we want. In fact, at times, Americans get a little testy when they are told freedom of information has limits. The movement of the internet and the power of social media has taken our society by storm. It is everywhere and we hear of it constantly.
And no different than the printing press was for the folks of Martin Luther’s day, for some, it is frightening. It is new and has power. It has power to bring pain, suffering, and humiliation. You have all heard the stories; from bullying of beautiful teen girls into suicide to teasing of politicians who tweet pics of themself reading a paper in what is obviously a bathroom stall. It also has power to bring about justice, to lift up the lonely, to connect and empower us; such as autistic teens who can connect with little social anxiety, scared new moms who need nursing advice to connecting people with resources like when the volcano erupted in Iceland and travelers were stranded with dwindling money and few hotel rooms.
A few years ago, a few aspiring folks took this new media and created a national event- Social Media Sunday (SMS)- meant to connect churches- not just Lutheran, but all churches- to each other and to the world. They saw it as a new way to love and share the freedom of Christ just like Martin Luther did. This year, we are celebrating as part of Social Media Sunday- because as a body of Christ, we believe in God’s faithfulness and that God is revealing Godself to us in new ways all the time. This is a new way for us to see God- to know and understand God’s faithfulness to us. Yes- social media can be used poorly- but it can also bring about good. And that is how we are going to use it- to bring about good- to share the light and freedom of Christ.
It is particularly appropriate that the very weekend we celebrate the Reformation; we also celebrate Social Media Sunday. In the very spirit of Martin Luther we nail the hard questions of our society to the door- the questions of social justice, hunger, economy and power. We just nail them up on facebook or Instagram. In the very spirit of Martin Luther we come to the foot of the cross, recognizing that we can do so little, but through the Spirit, our actions can be and are blessed to move throughout the world- we just do it through twitter.
I invite you to join me, in a litany to recognize the power of the word of God, little w, to empower us, to change the world, so that we might all know the freedom of the Word of God, big W, in Christ our Lord and Savior, Amen.
Christ has no online presence but ours,
No blog, no Facebook page but ours,
Ours are the tweets through which love touches this world,
Ours are the posts through which the Gospel is shared,
Ours are the updates through which hope is revealed.
Christ has no online presence but ours,
No blog, no Facebook page but ours.
*based on a prayer by Meredith Gould, The Social Media Gospel
Julie A. Kelly
Vicar - Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
Santa Monica, California
Social Media Sunday
Sermon for Reformation Sunday
Written by Julie A. Kelly
October 24/25, 2015
Mt. Olive Lutheran, Santa Monica, California