9.5 Things Nailed to the Door
October 21, 2022
By Deacon Timothy Siburg
About 505 years ago, Martin Luther famously nailed 95 Theses to a door in Wittenberg. The rest is history, well sort of. In the spirit of the Reformation, I thought that it might be fun to consider some ideas, questions, or fundamentals that the church may be being invited to claim and dig into more now today. But because 95 is a lot more than anyone has time to read, I thought that maybe 9.5 might be a bit more doable. Who knows, maybe these might inspire your congregation to think of its own 9.5 or 95? Perhaps you’ll post some of your own to your own church door in the week ahead. If you do, we’d love to see the pictures, so please tag the synod on social media. And maybe, collectively, we’ll discern a vision for what God in Christ might be inviting the Nebraska Synod to embody next.
9.5 Things Nailed to the Door of the Nebraska Synod for 2022
- God’s love is real. (John 3:16-17) This life-changing and lifesaving love we know through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is central to who we are and what we do. Together as disciples and followers, we all must commit to tell and share the story of Jesus through all that we say and do.
- God grants grace. (Ephesians 2:8-9) It is through grace that we have been saved through faith as a gift from God. We acknowledge this, and as we do, we also must always confess and acknowledge our brokenness, sin and all the ways that we come up short. We do this because we know that through God’s grace, forgiveness and reconciliation between God and each other is truly possible. Through this grace, we all might be reconciled toward one another and truly be the beloved One Body in Christ we are called to be.
- We have freedom as children of God. (Galatians 5:1) Christ has set us free. But we understand that we are freed to serve, share, and love our neighbors. Remembering as Martin Luther wrote on The Freedom of a Christian, that there is tension here. “A Christian is utterly free, lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is utterly dutiful, servant of all, subject to all.”
- God invites us to lean in and follow as disciples. (Matthew 28:19-20) In response to all that God has done: We follow. We listen. We pray. We learn. We grow. We join in. We serve. We live out our baptismal promises. We commit to living life as disciples. And we do all of this knowing that faith is not a stagnant thing but is active through the presence of the Holy Spirit and God’s on-going relationship with all of God’s beloved.
- As children of God, we are to strive for justice and peace. (Micah 6:8) This is the last of the five baptismal promises we make and affirm. We acknowledge that we always have work to do as disciples and God’s people to be bearers of love and justice for our neighbors and all of God’s children that God calls us into relationship with. We commit particularly to the hard and important work of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. So that all might have what they need to live full and abundant lives. And so that all will know that God’s love is for them, and that everyone has a place around the Lord’s table as beloved children of God.
- Leaders need to lead. (1 Corinthians 12:1-31) God through the Holy Spirit entrusts each person with all that makes them who they are. These gifts are entrusted so that life might go well and be meaningful, but also so that God’s work might be done today with and through God’s people. At the same time, we know that things have changed in the way the world works. There are lots of questions, and not so many easy answers. This is a time for all disciples to step up faithfully and to lead as God has called them. (This is true for all disciples and all vocations, not just for a few such as rostered ministers and parish ministry associates.) To commit to learning, wondering, wrestling, experimenting, and especially to walking together.
- We give thanks for all that God has done. (Philippians 4:4-7) We rejoice and give thanks and praise for all that God has done for us. And as we do, we are invited to respond as stewards of God’s love. Deep down, we also know that with the help of the Spirit we can’t help but feel so moved, that we can’t do anything but join in with God in some of God’s on-going work here and now through our vocations and life together as God’s people through the marks of the spirit like faith, generosity, persistence, and hope.
- Vitality comes through questions. (Luke 24:18-19) At the heart of a Lutheran understanding of the gospel is the practice of asking questions. Questions like “What does this mean?” Questions like Jesus asks the two walking on the road, “What things?” Inviting a sense of wonder and sharing one’s faith. A sense of digging in and wrestling with God. Wondering about what God might be up to and inviting. Congregations that are vital, frequently ask questions with curiosity, hoping to learn, and discern with the help of the Spirit’s presence; and they regularly share their learning and questions with their whole community.
- Innovation and experimentation are necessary. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8) Change is a constant in this life and the world, but God’s love and presence never changes. In this time of the church, 505 years after the Reformation, perhaps we are in the midst of a new Reformation. A time of learning how to be the church in this new time and space. To discern this requires courage and risk. It requires learning, adaptation, nimbleness, and pivoting. Each congregation, the Nebraska Synod, the larger ELCA, and the church’s serving arm partners are experimenting, trying new things, and seeing what God might be up to. Not everything any one person, congregation, or ministry tries will work. But even the most spectacular failures are great learning opportunities if we allow them to be.
- God is active and up to something. (Isaiah 43:19 & 2 Corinthians 5:17) We profess a faith in a living God. As we do this, we acknowledge that God is active and up to something, particularly now through the movement of the Holy Spirit. We may never completely know what God is doing, but we are all invited to witness to it, to wonder, and to follow God as God moves in, around, through, for, and with God’s beloved. Let us all commit to paying attention. To wondering. To imagining. To discerning. To experimenting. Together, as God’s people, we may all collectively see the new thing that God is up to and calling us each to be a part of as the church today and into the future.
Now it’s your turn. What are the things that might be on yours or your congregation’s list this year? Share them with your siblings in Christ across the synod and join us as the whole synod as we continue to discern what it is God is up to now and inviting us all to be a part of next. Again, if you participate in something like this, please share your photos with the Nebraska Synod. And thank you always, for being part of this work, ministry, and church together.