Delivered on October 29, 2023.
So it’s my tradition after the prayer of the day to bring a message to all of God’s children. And I wonder – have you ever played Peekabo? Let’s play it together. Play Peekabo. It’s a silly game – but an important one – because, for babies, when you cover your eyes, they really do imagine that you’ve vanished. You’ve hid – and they do not expect you to come back. But then you do – in the place they least expect – and they smile, laugh, coo because your presence brings them joy, kindness, and love.
If we’re not babies, though, maybe a better hide game would be Hide and Seek. So look around the sanctuary. If we were going to play hide-and-seek right now, where would you hide? Accept answers. All great places to hide – and the person seeking would have a hard time finding everyone in those spots. But imagine, for a moment, you were the seeker – where’s the place you wouldn’t expect anyone to be hiding? It might be in a very obvious space – maybe sitting in a pew – or standing at the altar or something else. If we’re playing hide and seek, we’d go for all the obvious places we’d expect someone to hide at. But the least expected place is one we might visit last – or not at all.
Today is Reformation Sunday – a day when we celebrate the Lutheran flavor of Christianity. We are all Christians – followers of Jesus – but there are different ways to think about God and Jesus so that has led to different versions of Christianity that emphasize different parts of Jesus’ story. 500 years ago, a monk named Martin Luther posted 95 concerns and complaints about how the church functioned in his day. He nailed them to a church door which was the bulletin board of his town. But he also mail a copy to his boss – known as an archbishop – who wasn’t thrilled with what he wrote. Legend says Martin Luther posted these 95 thoughts on October 31 and we mark that as the birthdate for Lutheran Christianity. We take time on the Sunday before October 31 to remember our Lutheran birthday and I like to think about one of the parts of Jesus’ story that Lutheran Christians choose to emphasize. And one thing we emphasize is how God shows up in the places we’d least expect.
God – created everything and God continues to create. God is powerful, divine, immortal, who is beyond space and time. God is beyond the limits of our imagination and we imagine God as powerful, ultimate, even more powerful than any superhero in the Marvel universe. And so we’d imagine, when God shows up in our lives, for God to be just that powerful. God would be strong and mighty and always in charge. God would be whatever we imagine power to be. But where God chooses to show up – as we see in Jesus’ story – is on the Cross. God chose to discover what it’s like to be a child; to learn; to grow up; and to be cared for. God chose to live with people and in creation and to have friends and those who didn’t like him. God chose to love and serve and challenge all the images of power we hold. God showed up to us in Jesus – revealing who God is – and this Jesus even died on a cross to show how far God will go for each of you. The Cross is the unexpected place we’d find God to be and yet that’s where God shows up because love is bigger than anything we try to do to end it.
As Lutheran Christians, we emphasize a lot of different things. We emphasize faith as a gift; grace as something we are given; the joy of reading the Bible in our own languages; and how we are saints and sinners all at the same time. We emphasize what God has done before we talk about what we can – or should do – and we notice how God shows up in unexpected places. There’s no place you can hide – nowhere you can go – where Jesus isn’t with you. And that is a gift that helps us grow into the people God knows we can be.