Resets (Reformation Sunday)

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As many of you may know, my undergraduate degree is in Computer Science.  That was a long time ago.  The world wide web didn’t even exist back when I graduated!  And so lots of things have changed.

But many basic things I learned haven’t changed.  The basic ways that computers process information is still based on zeros and ones (at least until they figure out quantum computing.) While processors are infinitely faster and smaller than they used to be, they still basically work the same way.  And the most basic rule of fixing a computer that gets hung up hasn’t changed – when it’s stuck, turn it off and turn it back on!

It needs a reset!  It’s a rule so basic that everybody knows it, even if you’ve never been near a computer science class.  Restart.  Reboot.  Or turn the thing off and back on again.  Even when you’ve studied this stuff, it’s not always clear why that works.  And yet, very often the first step to moving on is to stop and reset.

Even if it’s just with your phone, you’ve all had to do this.  And to be sure, resetting doesn’t always solve all your problems. There were plenty of times when I was in college and needed to reboot the computer.  And then, I’d run the same program, and it would get hung up again, because I needed to fix the program I was trying to run.  But even so, to move forward, I had to start with a reset.

Today, we celebrate Reformation Sunday.  It’s a day when we recall Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and all of the reforms which followed.  And it’s often been the case that as Lutherans have remembered the Reformation, we’ve focused on the changes to the “program” which followed – reforms in church structure or hierarchy or liturgy.

But in reality, Luther’s real intention was simply to begin with a reset.  That is, his call was for folks to take a pause; to stop and consider what they were doing and how they were living their lives as Christians; and to consider whether what they were doing and how they were doing it was really the way the Holy Spirit was calling them to live and act.

The Reformation began with a reset.  But we commemorate this day not so much to remember a reset which occurred a half a millennium ago, but rather to remind ourselves that God is constantly calling us to resets in our lives.  For us, too, it’s occasionally good and even necessary to pause for a reset.

Sometimes, resets are forced upon us – like when I hung up the computer by trying to divide by zero! – or as when everything shut down during Covid.  Things just stopped.  And for many of us, as bad as it was, it also provided an opportunity for a reset.  Because we couldn’t just go on with business as usual, it gave us an opportunity to consider things like how we were working.  Could work be done at home and online or did some things need to be done in person?  If we were working from home, what did a home and work balance really look like?  And when things began to start up again, which things were worth resuming again, and did we need to re-prioritize some of those things?

The answers were different for each one of us.  Indeed, many of us are still working out some of those answers!  But we’ve asked those questions because a reset was forced upon us.  Yet even when resets are forced upon us, God often uses those moments to call us to make good use of the reset to consider who we are as his people and what values and priorities we should have going forward.

Indeed, sometimes the reset moments cause us to realize that we should have paused for a reset before it was forced upon us.  Last Sunday, Jon and Lisa gathered a group of about 10 folks at Prince of Peace to talk about what we might do for Vacation Bible School next summer.  VBS has, for a long time, been an important program at Prince of Peace.  But Covid really did a number on it, when we couldn’t gather kids together in person.  And as we tried to figure out ways to restart after Covid, it occurred to many of us that not only was it hard to just do things like we’d always done them before.  We also realized that – kind of like a phone that’s sluggish and needs a restart – the program hadn’t been running as well as it used to.

So the meeting was really about a reset.  We weren’t just looking to find people to do what we’d always done.  We talked about what we wanted VBS to be.  We considered people who hadn’t been able to participate before.  We wondered if what we were doing and how we were doing it was really meeting the needs of people here.

And so you’re going to hear about some new ideas in the upcoming issue of Glad Tidings.  We’re going to try an evening program.  We’re going to try to include dinner as part of the event.  And we’re going to have an adult class for the first time.  Will it all work?  We don’t know!  But the first part of trying something new is always to start with a reset.

But resets sometimes also happen at happy and exciting times.  Today, as we often do on Reformation Sunday, we celebrate Confirmation.  And in one sense, Confirmation is also like a reset.

Ellie, you’ve been a member of this church since you were baptized here!  In some ways, Confirmation is yet another step in your journey of faith.  But in another sense, today you become an official adult member of the church.  And so you get to answer the same questions your parents answered for you when you were baptized.  You take on new responsibility for your own journey of faith, and your participation in the life of the Christian community.  Today is a transitional moment – in effect, a moment of reset as you consider what it means to be a grown up in the life of the community of faith.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to his disciples, “if you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples.”  For all of us, being a disciple of Jesus – in our personal and communal lives – is a continual process.  And as in so many other areas of our lives, continuing is simply not possible without an occasional reset.

Sometimes, you just need a reset.  And Reformation Day is one of our annual reminders that resets are often necessary to move forward in our journeys of life and faith.  Sometimes, a reset is forced upon us by life.  Sometimes, a reset happens because we reach an exciting milestone.  And sometimes, we just realize we’re overdue for a reset in some area of our lives.

But in all cases, Jesus is calling us to use the resets to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Jesus is using the resets to help us continue to grow and develop.  And most of all, Jesus is promising us that he, too, will continue in our lives as he guides us through all the resets we face.