On the Corner of Insurgentes and Reforma
If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. –Romans 10:9-10
Many years ago, I was the pastor of a Lutheran church in Mexico City, Mexico, Moving to Mexico, especially as one who did not speak Spanish at the time, was quite an adventure. Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world, and simply getting around was a challenge for me. What complicated trying to find my way around the city was that many of the streets and areas of the city have pre-Spanish, Aztec names. I lived in an area named, Chapultepec (for all you Marines, this is the “Halls of Montezuma”), and I had to learn how to get to Tecamachalco, Xochimilco, and Netzahualcoyotl to name a few. Needless to say, I was able to find those areas long before I was able to pronounce their names correctly.
Much to my relief, two of the big streets in Mexico City had simpler Spanish names. One of the main north-south streets was Insurgentes, and one of the main east-west streets was Reforma. Interesting names! The first one means insurgents or rebels. The street was named to commemorate those who led the revolution for freedom in Mexico. The second street commemorated the constitutional reforms that guaranteed those freedoms.
Without going into a lot of detailed Mexican history, the revolution was not a complete success. Why not? Political revolutions, like the revolutions of a wheel, are things that go round and round. That which was on the top now moves to the bottom—and it revolves again and again in endless circles. Freedom-loving people threw off their oppressors and then, some time later, found that there were others at the bottom who wanted to throw them off. Too often this has been the sad history of human political affairs.
Our Lord Jesus was branded as an insurgent, One who rebelled against the temple and One who even preached rebellion against Rome itself. At least those were some of the trumped up charges that led to His crucifixion. Our Lord was not about revolution. He was about mission—to form, or better, to reform all of creation into something new. That “something new” would be the relationship of God with His creatures as He intended it to be from the very beginning. His plan was that He as the Creator would give life freely, and we creatures would use our lives to the glory of God.
Human sin, however spoiled that plan, leading to God’s new plan. Jesus, God’s Son, was sent to reform life from what it had become from human corruption (insurgents, rebels, and sinners that we are), into new life, for right now and for all eternity.
St Paul writes briefly how you can recognized that new life and make it your own. You confess “Jesus is Lord,” and you believe He was raised from death. What goes on in our hearts is labeled as faith—and it saves us on account of Christ! What comes out of our mouths is a confession of our faith—and it saves us on account of Christ! Faith is at the same time a personal belief and a belief that is shared, most notably, but not always in the company of other Christians, where words and actions become concrete in love and concern for one another.
Now what has all this got to do with us? You will hear people today talking, and even arguing, about Christian values or Biblical principles. You will even hear Lutherans talking (or mostly arguing) about “pure doctrine.” None of this is bad in itself, but I would caution that in the search for values, principles, or doctrines, people can miss the Person. I would even be so bold as to suggest that the church only has one doctrine. St. Paul names it: “Jesus is Lord!” This is the faith the Lutheran confessors spoke of in their day. In the Augsburg Confession, the Reformers said and wrote that there is only one fountainhead of Christian teaching. They said it was the “doctrina evangelii,” the “doctrine of the Gospel.”
Jesus is Lord, the Master of life, the Commander of your life. Those Lutheran confessors went on for 28 articles about how the one teaching is Gospel, good news, for us all.
Now, what is good and new for you today? Or, said even better, Who is good and new for you today? Loud hint: JESUS IS LORD! That confession re-forms us—over and over again.