My Army unit recently lost a Soldier. He died in a car crash and we will have a memorial ceremony soon. Preparing for that as a Chaplain I work with non-commissioned officers. Tradition has it that I outrank them, even though they may have far more experience on the job. A lot of times their answer to me will be “Yes, Sir!”
That’s usually how the church sees itself in its relationship to God. God Almighty has the command and it is our solemn duty to answer with a prompt “Yes, Sir!” whatever God may say. Sometimes it goes even farther than that. Ancient middle Eastern texts aren’t afraid to use terms like servant and master. We are slaves to God, our Master and say “Yes, Sir!” Jesus tells the disciples a parable and instructs them to repeat after him: “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” When it comes to our relationship with God we don’t call the shots but all we can do is respond faithfully.
This past week I introduced our confirmation class to Martin Luther, the 16th century reformer who challenged the authority of the church and its hierarchy. Thanks to the reformation the church has learned to flip the hierarchical pyramid on its head. No pope rules over other Christians. In 1520 Luther elaborated on the freedom of a Christian: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”
That is the Christian message in a nutshell. We need to say “Yes, Sir!” as promptly and sharply as we can when God calls. Human requests, especially those that fancy to come from a moral or ethical high-ground simply don’t have as much authority.
This election season all kinds of ideologies want to sway us one way or another and we absolutely have to do that. But the truth is that there is no absolute truth. We are totally free to make our own choices in life. But when it comes to our relationship with God there is no free will. The motto here is “Yes, Sir!” God has consistently called us to serve our neighbors and love our enemies. As God’s servants we are called to be everybody’s servants.
“A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” With the period at the end of that sentence it took Martin Luther 128 characters to express this profound concept.
Martin Luther’s message spread rapidly throughout the world simply because book printing just became more accessible and affordable. The great Reformation was really a social media event. In crafting brief, powerful quotes, Martin Luther followed the advice that the prophet Habakkuk had received from God over 2000 years earlier: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.”
The words of biblical prophets and great reformers matter. You know why? Because they were clearly communicated and stood the test of time to reach us here today. We are hundreds and thousands of years removed from them. How do we make our words stand the test of time? How is your vision one that can inspire generations down the line? Well, you gotta write it down and put it out there. What God said to Habakkuk I now say to you: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets.” No really: The preacher just gave you permission to pull out your electronic devices during the sermon. Grab your phone or tablet – Habakkuk probably was talking about stone tablets – but I think our social media devices are okay, too. Then on the social network of you choice write your own plain vision on that tablet.
A few more rules:
– Please include the hashtag #plainvision.
– Make it plain, that means no frills, keep it simple and short.
– The basic question is: What’s your elevator pitch for your faith?
– How do you say what the Word of God means to you in a tweet?
On Twitter you have 140 characters. Now we have to deduct 13 for the hashtag symbol plus a space. That brings us down to 127. Remember Martin Luther’s message in a nutshell?
That takes up 128 characters. So we’ll have to lose the period at the end. That still works out okay, doesn’t it?
You can write a whole lot in 127 characters. Today we receive the Neighbors in Need Offering. This year’s theme is this:
That could be the gospel in a nutshell for you and only takes up 33 characters. At our church we have two major food drives per year but really we support hunger relief through donations and volunteer work year round. “No Child Should Go To Bed Hungry.” is actually a real good battle cry to represent a lot of what we stand for. 33 very powerful characters.
Also we celebrate World Communion Sunday today. This year’s theme is:
Wow, bringing together millions of Christians all over the world in just 56 characters. When Jesus invites all his disciples to gather around the table together regardless of denomination, race, gender identity or expression, then you know what unity is. “We are one in the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” is a #plainvision that is so easy to forget. It’s so tempting to just do church with people that are like you, to worship with your own and stay in your comfort zone. Christian unity is about diversity in the body of Christ as it transcends our individual congregations. All God’s children are called to share these 56 characters “We are one in the Spirit and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Now it’s your turn. I checked Facebook and Twitter and here is what people put out there as their #plainvision
#plainvision a Christian is here to love. Not judge.
Come together to eat and drink without conflict to celebrate life as a whole in peace. #plainvision
United in spirit and in love. #plainvision
#plainvision Love yourself as you love your neighbor.
Love the life you live, live the life you love. #plainvision
Faith Hope Love #plainvision
#plainvision Be Kind Be Kind Be Kind
Be who you say you are. #plainvision
#plainvision We are one in the spirit in Jesus Christ. We are all God’s children and thus real family.
Whether your #plainvision is about justice, or Christian unity or freedom, the important thing is to get it out there. Family members, friends and coworkers of my dead Soldier and everybody who is hurting or grieving need shining examples of hope. “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.” Tell of the love of God the way you understand it, so that that those who run away from fear and anger may see it.