Nathan Strutz

Pastor Nathan Strutz

Big changes happen in the fall.

The temperatures change. Leaves change. Clothing changes.

At first, those changes seem good. It’s nice when the temperature goes from 90 to 70 (at least that’s the opinion of most). It’s pretty when the leaves change. My parents take an annual drive from Wisconsin to Vermont just to see the fall leaves change color.

I notice people wearing jackets when I’m out for my morning run. I personally resist this change as long as possible, keeping on the shorts and running shirt.

But as those changes go on, we usually don’t like them so much. Seventy degrees becomes 50, 30, 10! The fallen leaves have to be raked up, cleaned out of the gutter. Not much fun!

The comfy sweater isn’t enough and then a jacket over the top isn’t enough either.

Personal changes can be much the same way. It feels good to lose those first few pounds, but then every drive by the Draft House or Fifth Quarter makes you hungry.

You start to avoid social events because there’s too much tempting food. It feels good to get up early and exercise the first two days, but then the knee is sore, it’s dark outside, and it’s very easy to avoid the change.

There’s a special holiday of change I look forward to celebrating every fall.

As a pastor blessed with a Lutheran heritage, I get excited to celebrate a day called Reformation. Reformation means a change, a change for the better.

Reformation recalls the day when on October 31, 1517, a monk named Martin Luther posted 95 theses or statements trying to bring about reform or change to the church.

Now let me be clear, I don’t worship Martin Luther. Lutheran churches don’t bow to Martin Luther. We worship Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

Actually, Martin Luther did not want churches to be named after him. He preferred to be called a Christian. So do I.

But Lutheran is like the term Cheesehead. Let me explain.

Cheesehead was devised by people outside Wisconsin and then stuck and finally was even embraced. In the same way, the name Lutheran was devised by others and then stuck. Finally the name Lutheran was embraced to show a desire for reform, a change back to the Bible.

But reform or change is never easy.

Martin Luther saw in his heart he needed change. He tried joining a monastery to get away from the temptations of the outside world. He realized the real problem wasn’t the outside world.

The real problem was his own heart and his own evil desires. I’m not proud to say it, but I find myself in the same shoes as Luther. I don’t live in a monastery, but I do spend a lot of my time with Christian people in our church. But that doesn’t take away all temptations.

My real problem isn’t out there. My real problem is in here, with me, in my heart. I’m not perfect. I need to change. I need a reform.

Martin Luther found his power to reform not in himself, but in Jesus. The very first thesis that Martin Luther posted quoted the very first word from the very first sermon Jesus preached: repent! Repent, like reform, means change. Jesus began his preaching by saying, “You need a change!”

But wait, I thought that Jesus loves me just the way I am. I’ve heard that Jesus accepts people just the way they are. Jesus affirms me, loves me, forgives me.

Yes, that’s all true. And I live my life thanking Jesus for his unconditional love, his never-ending forgiveness, his mercy for me, the person who is first in the line of the worst sinners of all.

So how can Jesus love me as I am and want me to change? I’ve heard it put this way: Jesus loves you just the way you are. And Jesus loves you too much to let you stay just as you are. Yes, Jesus loves you just the way you are, and he loves you too much to let you stay that way. Jesus loves you with all your imperfections, all your mistakes.

Jesus loves you if you have more skeletons in the closet than you see on front porches this month. But Jesus loves you too much to let you stay that way. Jesus made a change in the heart of Martin Luther.

I’m thankful Jesus has made a change in my heart, that I realize my need for change. I’m thankful for the chance to celebrate the change Jesus brings daily.

Yes, Jesus loves you just the way you are. And he loves you way too much to let you stay that way.

Nathan Strutz serves as outreach pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Verona. He and his wife Elizabeth have two sons, Caleb and Elijah.

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