Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reformation Sunday – “No Password Needed”

As our society has become more and more technologically based I have found that I am constantly being asked to create and remember new passwords. Almost everything we do online requires a password. We have passwords for our email accounts, bank accounts, credit card accounts, online stores and merchants, social networking sites and on and on. Now, if we could use one password for everything then it would be no problem, but we can’t. Each site has its own requirements and these requirements are placed there for good reason: in order to limit access, to us alone. So that no one else has access to our accounts, we then have to remember so many different and sometimes complex passwords and this is also why we may have to change them from time to time.

Of course the idea of a password as a digital key is relatively recent. But having special knowledge or even special status or completing a special action in order to limit access to something is not new at all. This has be a part of our history going to back to ancient times. And it is not just civic or personal management things to which these conditions are applied, they have also been applied to relationships and especially to our relationship with God. Stretching all the way back to Old Testament times we find that people have a hard time accepting the idea of God’s love and grace as being a free and unconditional gift with no passwords needed. So we find leaders like David and Solomon limiting access to God by requiring people to come to the Jerusalem temple, which itself is compartmentalized to provide different kind of access to different kinds of people. So, if you want to experience God’s presence you now have to go to the temple. The Gospels are also filled with conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities of the day because Jesus keeps saying – No Passwords Needed. But the Pharisees keep pointing to this and that and eventually Jesus is crucified because he is not willing to go along with the need for limiting access to God. But as Jesus breathes his last breath, the veil of the temple is torn and in three days the tomb is empty. God again repeats loudly and clearly: No Passwords Needed!

In Luther’s time, the Medieval church also created limits to God’s presence, love and grace. You must do these works, act like this, think like this! Luther points to the Gospels and Paul and repeats – No Passwords Needed! God’s love and grace are free and unconditionally given to all. In our own time there are so many voices that would impose limits on access to God. We hear things like: If you are really a Christian, if you are really saved then – you will believe this, you will act like this, you will think like this, vote like this, hold these positions, only go to these churches, and on and on and on. Like the experience of being online, the number of passwords which are needed is limited only by one’s imagination. The Gospels make it clear that No Passwords are Needed when it comes to access to God! God’s love and grace and forgiveness and presence are available to all – without condition. And the call to follow in response (not as a condition) is itself a gift of grace.

So on this Reformation weekend we again are reminded by Luther that God’s love and grace is free and available to us all, without condition – No Passwords Needed!

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