Sermon, Reformation Day, October 27, 2013.
Never been unloved
31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
Friends, I love Reformation Day. This church is my church now, This story of the rediscovery of God’s grace is my story of discovering God’s grace in this church.
We don’t celebrate this day to be in any way exclusive or arrogant, but thankful – thankful to the Lord for all he did to reawaken the good news of Jesus in the hearts of billions through everyday people used for God’s extraordinary purposes. – like Martin Luther, and no doubt his wife, Katie, and Philipp Melanchthon, and those around them and after them, and now.
Today is reclaiming who we are and giving God the glory for our privileged place in his global, ecumenical community of love and forgiveness, the one holy catholic/Christian church, the communion of saints, without which we would be cut off from life – the life that Jesus Christ came to give all people (John 10:10).
We are called to be still and let God show us again that we are truly his and truly right with him – not because of anything we can bring to the table but because of what he has done in Jesus to make a new table for sinners – fully forgiven. We now are part of the longest lunch in history – a meal that goes on and on and on across the world in a billion places as sinners respond to God’s grace and Jesus…
But there can be a problem brooding in our hearts for we are still not there yet. We are all still on the journey of faithfulness to our Teacher and Friend, Jesus. The desire to serve ourselves and ignore his call lie within and will do so until the great wedding lunch of the Lamb of God finally takes place.
We have need to be still – to pause as we remember, reclaim and enjoy today. What’s to pause about? What need to pondered today?
Play Deep thoughts video
The problem is what Bonhoeffer called “Cheap Grace”. Do and be and decide and live what and how you want because God is gracious. Go right ahead and say and do things against his holy will because you’re already “in”. You’re baptised. You’re on the membership books of the church…. You’re out of jail so live large and free and the way you determine…
With this cheap grace kind of heart, there’s no sense in changing your ways or dwelling in his Word on life because you can’t get “extra Saved”.
We have the problem of coasting. We believe we can coast on through life because we are insured from sin and death and the evil one.
And of course, we keep our Christianity to ourselves, to keep the line up at the heavenly theme park awaiting us chosen people short so we don’t have to wait too long to get in…..
Cutting words aren’t they?
They need to be today; not to condemn us but to enliven us to the beautiful grace of our heavenly Father who should never be taken for granted.
So we are not as OK as we might think. We people of the Confession of Augustana – the Augsburg Confession, first confessed in the German city of Augsburg before kings and priests in 1530 need to pause just like everyone else.
We pause to both acknowledge that we are still susceptible to cheap grace faith but then to also gratefully receive God’s good news that we are is, we have hope, we can be his and do his work proudly bearing his name.
The message today is that we all still need him. We still need his Word, his church, his gifts of baptism, holy Communion, sharing the story, bearing witness, learning to love each other his way. We need him. We need his freedom to be truly human and truly alive.
The Pharisees were relying on their family heritage, believing that they were in no need of God’s reformation of their very souls.
There was no need now to listen to a radical preacher. There was no need to embrace the non-Jewish person. There was every reason to exclude and deride the non-church people… it kept the line up to God’s blessing short at the temple!
The medieval church relied on all kinds of practices and pursuits to secure what they thought was freedom – although it was just more bondage for the souls of millions. They thought that if they saw holy words being spoken, participated in church ritual, gave of their money, even paid money to spring their dead relatives out of the jail called purgatory, they would earn their righteous place by a just God and be welcomed into the kingdom as they waited in line.
Luther was one of many who said, “enough!” He heard the Spirit of the Scriptures speaking of this new covenant written on the human heart and based on the forgiveness of God not the keeping of the rules and paying of money. He then heard Paul speaking about this new righteousness – this new freedom and love with God being given through a man – Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God – and no other.
“There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
His heart was changed and he acted. He spoke, He wrote, he told the story of his faith and millions were released from slavery to the keeping of the law to gain God’s acceptance.
Enough self-centred living; Enough prideful chasing and making of idols. Enough sacrificing to others or self to be OK. Enough being trapped in relying on people and things that cannot and so will not deliver the peace for which we long.
Enough aimlessness for young people; Enough sense of going nowhere as people, as church, as a worker a parent a fiend to another; Enough deafness to God’s holy word; Enough rejection of his loving character and costly promises, for this relationship he offers cost him everything.
When and how will we say, “enough”? When and how shall we say “enough” to this community – not to condemn anyone but to raise up the wonderful love and kindness of Jesus for them.
Friends, we are free in the grace and love of God by the death and resurrection of Jesus who has freely made us acceptable and holy and pleasing and beloved of God in our baptism. Our baptism tells us that we have never been unloved. Despite our unloving, we have never been unloved by Him.
Play never been unloved media file… Michael W Smith – Never Been unloved
“Even I can see the sacrifice you made for me
To show that I have never been unloved”.
“While we were still unable Christ died for the unglodly”
Friends, let’s as a church community of Jesus’ love and hope help each other and those we know step away from the cheap grace mindset today again. Let’s acknowledge that we have never been unloved by God and that our live is lived from this self-sacrificing love of Jesus Christ.
Let’s re-engage in the process of being loved by him; being a learning, living, freely loving disciple of our Saviour and Friend, Jesus. It is the better way to be. It is the only way to be fully human and fully alive – to be a person and a church with purpose – Reformation Purpose!
Today we bask in the wonderful acceptance and freedom of Jesus Christ, and so we should! It is good freedom! We have never been unloved. This uninterrupted love and commitment by God for us requires a response today. The laying down of the heart, the giving of your life, the re-commitment to say “enough” and show them that they have never been unloved by God.
Friend, you have never been unloved.
When you think of the word, “Reformation” what do you think of in terms of our Lutheran History, our current situation, our future as a church? Share your thoughts…..
The Reformation seemed to happen quite by accident, or at least naively! The young Luther, as an Augustinian monk studying the classic theologians and seeing the corrupt practices of the Church of his day simply said, “Enough!” and pinned those 95 Theses or points of contention on the Church door in Wittenberg. it started a wildfire of reforming momentum he never expected.
Luther found himself caught up in this great movement of reshaping, redefining, re-forming of the one Christian church. he never wanted a church named after him. he just wanted the one church to recover the gospel. What does this story make you think about our church today? How does today’s church need to be re-formed, reshaped? Share your thoughts…
Read John 8:31-36 slowly taking note of things that come to your mind and share those things.
The Pharisees relied on their family heritage and law keeping to believe that they were at peace with God. The medieval church relied on the payment of indulgences to free people from judgement, ritual observations, superstition and had to live with a corrupt and largely ignnorant/uneducated clergy. What do you think the modern culture relies on to convince themselves that they are OK with God?
Where does St John point the Pharisees to in our text? What does Jesus do (according to John) for people who are relying on their own family name, history, or “being good”?
If we are truly free in Jesus from earning God’s favour and blessing by “keeping up appearances” and keeping the law, and outward observations of rituals and ceremony, then how might we tell someone else about this?
How does being free in the grace of God in Christ affect you life as you work, worship, spend time with friends and family and make decisions in your life? Share your experiences…..