Immanuel Lutheran Church
                     of Almelund, Minnesota

 

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Reformation Sunday Year B 2018

Romans 3:19-28, John 8:31-36

Immanuel Lutheran, Almelund MN

October 28th 2018

 

Grace that Transforms

 

Dear siblings in Christ, grace to you and peace from God the Creator and our Lord and Risen Savior Jesus the Christ who sets us free by grace and pushes us forward in love.  Amen.

I clearly remember the first time that the teaching of Martin Luther really started to grab a hold of my heart and my entire life really. I was a freshman in college and was spending time with an intern pastor working on state youth gathering for Lutherans in South Dakota.  It was a time in my life where I wasn’t sure really what to make of God completely, or what I wanted to do – I had some inkling into ministry but had made up my mind yet. Was also time in my life where my father was dealing with some legal struggles related to his lifestyle and abuse of drugs. I assumed as well in my 18 or 19-year-old mind that he was living a life that was contrary to the way of God. I was quite worked up about it. I remember clearly talking to this intern pastor and friend- and saying something like how can heaven be heaven if my father is not going to be there.  My friend looked at me and said Justin that’s not something to worry about, you have to realize that God is God you are not – who are you to assume that your dad won’t be there.  He then quoted to me from Romans chapter 3 – the reading you just heard-  citing verses 23 and 24-“ there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”   He then explained to me how Martin Luther founded his reformation movement around that very word of God- and of Grace- we are all sinners- yet by the grace of God we have justification, freedom, eternal life- and nothing we can do- Luther says can ever change that gift.  Wow!  It was like a light went off for me in my brain- the fog cleared, and still today that scripture reminds me of the fact that God’s grace…not what we do or how we live- God’s grace frees us completely. 

 

I hope that today, as you sit here on this Reformation Sunday- a day that we look hard at this idea of grace that you can too be touched by the word of hope that Luther offered the entire church and I think still offers the world today.  This message of grace is so important for us to think about and to live into.  For Martin Luther it was simple, we are all sinful beings- we cannot separate ourselves from that bondage.  There is no difference Paul writes and Luther worked to teach-  now that’s not necessarily good news, all of us, sinful broken people- yet the story does not end there,- as Paul writes all are justified freely by the grace of Christ. Notice, this is a free gift with no strings attached, no criteria for how one must attain it- no it comes out of the love that God has for you as one of God’s children.  A gift that is given, a gift that is complete, a gift that is a call, a call to be free from the feeling that you must attain salvation by your actions- a gift that is a call to serve.  As John writes in the Gospel, the Word of God- the word that is scripture and the Word that is made flesh that being Jesus makes us free- free from worry, free from anxiety, and free to relish in the goodness that is Jesus and free to give to God with thankful hearts as we strive to go forward doing God’s work.  Grace is what it is all about. 

 

But we have to think more deeply about this grace today.  It was the message of Grace that gave me great relief as a late teen worrying about the eternal fate of a loved one.  And it is grace that we hang our hat on as Lutherans still today- reminding anyone that will listen that you can’t earn your way into heaven because you are saved by GRACE. It is grace that we promise to Lucy Moonin the waters of baptism that set her free from the bondage of sin and death.  And it is grace that usually finds its way into conversations I have with people who are trying to make sense of God and find hope to live on.  Grace- the promise that you belong to God and have the gift of eternal life forever because of this grace that is Jesus.  But that grace has to be more than just about a get out of jail free card ya?  Luther even realized that need and in one of his finest quotes ever articulates well what it means to be saved by grace for the sake of God.  He writes, “By grace through faith in Jesus Christ we have been set free FROM sin, death, and the devil, FOR a life of witness and service.”  Do you see that- that important nuance in there- we are free, free from all that may try to bind us- but we are set free for a purpose- a purpose to love to serve to be Christ.  Friends you are saved by Grace- and that Grace gift is a calling to change this world by the very way you embody that grace in who you are and all that you do.  Grace doesn’t end here- but goes there.  How do you respond to that love- do you let it end with you, or do you work to make it go and grow through you?  

 

 

That’s the question really that I want to leave you with today as members of the body of Christ at Immanuel Lutheran church. You, in the midst of your financial stewardship campaign “Graced by the Fruits of our Labor”, will be making responses of faith that come as a response to the grace you know. Yes, financial giving back to God is part of that grace transformation. But the truth is that if we lose sight of God’s calling and gift then no amount of money that we pledge and commit matters.  And furthermore if we lose sight of the beauty of the baptismal promise that you are a child of God forever- sealed by the Spirit and marked with the cross, all we do is for naught.  But…if we allow that promise to change us, to reform us then when we make commitments, when we stretch ourselves, when we allow God to lead us our light shines before others and they see our Father in Heaven through us- that is what matters.   So dear friends, this week as you make your way through this stewardship campaign this fall and think about your commitment to Immanuel for the next year, please think carefully about what your response says about who Jesus is to you- does your response reflect your faith in Christ as the one who has claimed you and set you free and who promise to fill in your gaps?  I hope that all of us can respond boldly in faith with your giving and your living not because you have to, not because you get rewarded when you do it, but because you are so blessed by the gift of Christ you cannot help but want to trust just a little more and show that trust by growing in your giving and your faith and by allowing oyur gift to further the Kingdom and your ministry here and beyond.  Grace frees you friends..what does it free you to do?  Thanks be to God. Amen.