First published in The Sunday Page, October 22, 2017

This Changes Everything

It’s easy to imagine Martin Luther poring over scripture looking for the Love of God that would set him free from the all-consuming weight of guilt that plagued him. He felt unworthy and beneath God’s notice. Then to come upon Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus and read the words, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” He probably thought to himself, ‘Well, this changes everything.’

Few of us may have such a clear point where our life changed direction but I can firmly say that participating in the Youth Gathering is one of those times, both in my own life and in the life of youth I’ve taken over the years. Experiencing the Kingdom of God through worshipping with 30,000 other people is a feeling that changes everything. Seeing the impact youth brightly clad in t-shirts can have on a city simply by walking its streets, changes everything. Seeing adults take the time to mentor and lead youth, changes everything. Having the opportunity to hear from others on how Christ is making a difference in their lives, changes everything.

This past week, we officially registered Good Shepherd participants for the Youth Gathering in Houston next summer. These youth will have their chance to feel part of something bigger. They will grow in faith, in leadership, in service, and in their sense of self. The theme for the Houston Gathering is “This Changes Everything,” just like what Martin Luther experienced 500 years ago. For Alec, Autumn, Claire, Emma, Laura, Mackenzie, and Vince, this Gathering can be a turning point in their life and their faith. As they learn to live in response to the grace described in the Gathering verse, Ephesians 2:8, they will also hear God’s invitation to be part of the change. The Gathering is a unique catalyst for reform and change.

We are a church founded on change. The Reformation changed everything! It changed the way people understood faith, the Bible became accessible to more people, and it even changed how church structure works. The Reformation reminds us how one person can start a massive reform.

As we observe the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this month, we remember that we are to be an ever-reforming church, living into our daily lives as Christ has commanded us. We can use this time to look at where we are as a church today, how we continue to reform, reshape and renew in many ways. Reform isn’t just one thing. It shapes our theology, our life, our worship, our thinking and doing. We continue to look for ways to engage in new insights and ways we can move into the future, bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to all generations and cultures.

God of hope, we give you thanks for those who work to reform our church and our society. Help us to be ever reforming, so we don’t become stuck in our ways, but rather meet our fellow humans where their needs are. Let us live out our hope in you and share that with all the people we meet. Together, we celebrate Martin Luther, the Reformation, the youth of the ELCA, and that it is by the gift of your grace that we have life anew in you. Amen.

Allison Pate,

Faith Formation & Service Director