“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” --John 8:31-32
The order of the words in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s tagline, “God’s Work, Our Hands,” is important. I appreciate the fact that, whoever came up with this tagline, put “God’s Work” first. Unfortunately, sometimes we get it backwards. We turn it around and act like “Our Hands” comes first (even if we that’s not what we intend). That we are the ones who define God’s Work. That it is our work that will save the world and that God simply blesses it. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Instead, the tagline makes it clear that God defines what we do with our hands, not us. To put “God’s Work” in front of “Our Hands” says that we ask what God wants and needs from us instead of what we need and want from God. If we are going to do God’s work, we need to learn what God’s work is. This process of discernment drives us into scripture and into the story of God’s work in, through and among God’s people down through the centuries. It necessitates developing more than just a passing familiarity with the story of Jesus: his life, death and resurrection. It means cultivating our prayer life and an awareness of the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit at work in us and in the world around us.
Jesus’ words in this week’s Reformation Sunday Gospel come in the middle of a conversation with the Pharisees about the relationship between Jesus and his Father. (John 8) The truth that sets sinners free is the truth of this relationship, the truth that Jesus is the “Word made flesh” who embodies the will and the way of the Father. Jesus and his teaching and his way of being in the world unlocks the truth that will set us free.
In a world where “truth” and what is “true” has become perilously difficult to figure out, Jesus’ word gives us a solid place to stand. It can help us discern and define what it is to do God’s Work and can guide us in knowing what we need to be doing with our hands as God’s servants and friends in the world. That’s true for us as individual Christians living out our lives day by day, for our congregations as we consider how we carry out God’s mission of forgiveness, reconciliation and healing as communities of faith, and for our denomination as we determine future directions and engage the complexities of our world with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
It is the truth of the Word that must continue to guide the ongoing Reformation of the Church that we both commemorate and affirm this Sunday, not our own agendas and desires.
Pray for all those involved in the renewal of the church! Thanks for reading.