To do or Not to do - Reflections 10-28-21

Texts for Reformation Day 
October 31, 2021

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 46
Romans 3:19-28
John 8:31-36

Each week I am surprised that my to-get-done-this-week list is longer than my week. And recently, for reasons that are both helpful and not so helpful, writing this devotion has fallen to the bottom of the list and started the new not-done list.

Just to let you know I did have wonderful thoughts about last week’s Gospel (Mark 10:46-52), connecting it to the concept of “Living Word” from my sermon on October 10 which was related to the lesson in the confirmation class the week before. My central thought was that Bartimaeus who was blind was confronted with Living Word moment "saw" the invitation of the moment and experienced the 180-degree transformation. Neither the man in my sermon on the 10th nor the disciples from the Gospel on the 17th "saw" and lives were left unchanged in that moment by their encounters with Jesus.

For those seeking the abridged version of the definition of Living Words 
(taken from Dan Erlander’s book Baptized We Live from Augsburg Fortress)

Through the Holy Spirit, Living Words happen anytime when stories and encounters and events break into our lives. Living Words call for repentance and redirection. Turning 180-degrees toward a new life, new values, new commitments. Living words shatter the walls we put up - walls of old ways, walls of selfishness and fear and illusions. And in all Living Words you find in the center Jesus, the Word made flesh.

So, I was delighted to realize that my musings about the Living Word are also totally appropriate for the texts and the context of Reformation Day. 

Check out these verses from Sunday’s texts:

I will put my law in them, I will write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. Jeremiah 31:33

Be still and know that I am God Psalm 46:10

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:23-24

If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:31-36

Words of repentance and redirection… of new life, new values, new commitments..


1) Back in the 1500’s, Martin Luther was literally thunder-struck as he began his journey of encounters with God as Living Word. Those encounters truly transformed his life and set him on a different path which eventually led him to being in the center of an effort to reform the Roman Catholic church at the time (called, appropriately, the Reformation).

The Roman Church was selling something called indulgences that were, in effect, tickets into heaven. These tickets provided a contingency plan in case you didn’t work hard enough, didn’t do enough good works, to make it to heaven your own. His most famous encounter with the Living Word came through later studies in the Bible which showed him that God’s mercy flows freely from the heart and spirit of God and most definitely not because of anything anyone does or buys. In a renowned teaching document called the Small Catechism he said (in German) I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or strength believe in Jesus Christ, or for that matter, call him Lord. But the Holy Spirit came and called me through the Living Word (the Gospel), enlightened and sanctified me, and kept me in faith. 

Note: I struggled with that when I was a teen: I told my Sunday School teacher, that I can at least believe on my own. A thought proven wrong many times since then.

2) At Gloria Dei our ninth-grade class participates in a rite called Affirmation of Faith on Reformation Day. And not coincidentally, these are some of the very people who, through study, worship, and service, meet the Living Word through the work of the Holy Spirit in Bible, sermons, classes, families, relationships, creation, etc. This day and Rite celebrates that.

A quote from my 7th and 8th grade class earlier this month (the center of all this thinking on the Living Word): If you remember nothing else from this class: God’s word to us is alive. If we listen to it, it will change us and change the world.

So, I can now move weekly devotion from my to-do list to my to-done list. And I do not believe that I did this by my own understanding or strength.

And you can prayerfully consider when you encountered the Holy Spirt 
by feeling God’s presence, 
or an invitation from a favorite scripture verse 
or a connection to a person or maybe a community of faith. 

We are surrounded by Living Word moments.

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245