Summary: A sermon for Reformation Sunday, October -2009 It focuses on the these listed in the title.
Reformation Sunday October 25, 2009 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you are the Creator of the universe, the very author and giver of life here on earth. We owe you our humble obedience, thankfulness and praise. Yet we have failed to live as you desire, and to acknowledge your sovereign lordship over all that exists. Still, in your great love for us, you sent your Son to live among us, to reveal your grace and truth, and to atone for our sins. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, strengthen us in faith, humble us in spirit, and enable us to accept your gift of salvation with thankful hearts. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Several weeks before rally day, Joanne called to share with me her plan of having our students paint the tables they use in their Sunday school rooms as a rally day activity. Since our tables are nearly 45 years old and showing signs of wear, I thought this would be a great idea. Then she told me that she would like to have my class paint their table as well, and that I needed to come up with some verse of Scripture and some symbols that I would like my students to paint on the table.
I must admit, that at first, I wasn’t expecting that assignment. I thought we were just going to give the tables a fresh coat of enamel, but Joanne had the great idea of having the kids personalize their table with their own mark. Since I teach our confirmation students, I felt it would be good if we had some basic symbols of the Christian faith, such as symbols of the sacraments, the trinity, the gift of God’s Spirit, and of course, a symbol for Christ and the cross. And for the Scripture verse, I originally thought of a portion of this morning’s lesson from Romans. After all, this is the text that led Luther and other leaders of the Reformation, to confront the church about abuses, and to call her back to embrace the Scriptures as the basis of faith.
But I later changed my mind. I thought that with all the symbols that would appear on the table, the verse would make everything look too busy. More than this, I wanted to condense this lesson from Paul’s Letter to the Romans into something that would be easier for them to remember for the rest of their lives. And so I condensed this lesson into the three catchword phrases that came to define the Reformation. These three phrases are simply, “Grace alone.” “Faith alone.” “Scripture alone.”
So let’s look at our second lesson, from the perspective of these three phrases. For it is my hope that if I can bring my kids to embrace what these three phrases truly mean, they will be able to grow in faith, and defend their faith in the years to come.
First, is the phase, “Grace alone.” To understand this phrase, we have to come to terms with Paul’s assessment that in the first covenant that God made with Israel, which was based on obeying the Ten Commandments for human life, we fall short. In fact, Paul actually tells us in the verses that precede our lesson for this morning that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, even the Gentiles.
In addition, Paul believes that the law now serves a second function. Rather than providing guidance, the commandments now serve to make us aware of our failure to live as God intends. In Paul’s words, “For no human being will be justified in God’s sight, by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.”
This idea that we are O.K. with God, if we have never committed adultery, or if we have never stolen anything, or if we have basically lived the good life, is a lie. Even Jesus pointed this out in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel, when he talked about looking at a woman (or man) with lust, or failing to help the poor, to be a sin. We just don’t seem to get it. We all are in need of redemption!
Paul puts it on the line. In the eyes of God, we do not live up to his dream of what life would be like on this planet, according to his plan of creation. And the responsibility for our failure to live as God created us to live, is not according to a design failure in God’s plan for creation, but an inability for us to embrace God’s sovereign will, to curb our lustful desires, and to uplift the life of others.