"Rags to Riches
““Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”” Jeremiah 31:31-34, RSV.
Grace and Peace to you fro our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen
A beggar lived near the king’s palace. One day he saw a proclamation posted outside the palace gate. The king was giving a great dinner. Anyone dressed in royal garments was invited to the party. The beggar was on his way. He looked at the rags he was wearing and sighed. Surely only kings and their families wore royal robes, he thought. Slowly an idea crept into his mind. The audacity of it made him tremble. Would he dare?
He made his way back to the palace. He approached the guard at the gate. "Please, sire, I would like to speak with the king."
"Wait here," the guard replied. In a few minutes, he was back. "His majesty will see you," he said, and led the beggar in.
"You wish to see me?" asked the king.
"Yes, your majesty. I want so much to attend the banquet, but I have no royal robes to wear. Please, sir, if I may be so bold, may I have one of your old garments so that I, too, may come to the banquet?"
The beggar shook so hard that he could not see the faint smile that was on the king’s face. "You have been wise in coming to me," the king said. He called to his son, the young prince. "Take this man to your room and array him in some of your clothes."
The prince did as he was told and soon the beggar was standing before a mirror, clothed in garments that he had never dared hoped for. "You are now eligible to attend the king’s banquet tomorrow night," said the prince. "But even more important, you will never need any other clothes. These garments will last forever.
"Oh, thank you," he cried.
But as he started to leave, he looked back at his pile of dirty rags on the floor. He hesitated. What if the prince was wrong? What if he would need his old clothes again... Quickly he gathered them up. The banquet was far greater than he had ever imagined, but he could not enjoy himself as he should. He had made a small bundle of his old rags and it kept falling off his lap. The food was passed quickly and the beggar missed some of the greatest delicacies.
Time proved that the prince was right. The clothes lasted forever. Still the poor beggar grew fonder and fonder of his old rags. As time passed people seemed to forget the royal robes he was wearing. They only saw the little bundle of filthy rags he clung to wherever he went. They even spoke of him as the old man with the rags.
One day as he lay dying, the king visited him. The beggar saw the sad look on the king’s face when he looked at the small bundle of rags by the bed. Suddenly the beggar remembered the prince’s words and he realized that his bundle of rags had cost him a lifetime of true royalty.
He wept bitterly at his folly. And the king wept with him.
The beggar kept hold of his dirty rags and would not fully embrace the righteous clothes that the king gave him.
He was given the gift of royalty but would not fully accept it.
On the Reformation Sunday, we are reminded of the grace that God through Christ has fully given us.
And like that beggar, we don’t fully accept it. We want to hang on to our old ways of earning heaven for ourselves. We cannot give up our rags to fully embrace the riches that God through Christ has given us.
The beggar was given the new clothes as a gift and we are given salvation as a gift.
Salvation through Christ is a free gift from the Father to his sinful children.
As we leaned in confirmation class, Grace is God’s free, unmerited love for sinful people. It is fee and unearned, there is nothing you or I can do, say feel or think to deserve God love for sinful people. God gave freely from the cross of Christ for you and me.
This morning we are going to look at this gift of salvation and our relationship to Jesus Christ.this salvation is a gift. We can do nothing to earn it, or make it better. God decided to do this for his sinful people.
This is the gift which makes saints out of sinners. Luther liked to say that we are at the same time saint and sinner. Saint because we have the promise of salvation and sinner because that promise is not fully realized yet.
A pastor tells the following:
“A pastor friend said he was trying to get a nonmember to at least examine the claims of Jesus. But this person would bring up this argument: ‘Well pastor, I’d come to your church, but there are just too many hypocrite that go there.’
The pastor looking that man right in the eye said, ‘oh nuts don’t let that keep you from coming. One more won’t make or break us.’”
Yes, the church is made up of saints and sinners. But there is a quality about us which shows other that we are different. We know Christ.
Our sainthood is showing. As we live in this world, we bring a measure of Christ into it. Christ is there to give us the strength to live and in that living we show others who we are. We are saints and sinners at the same time.
And in that relationship with Christ, we find the power to live life among all the brokenness in which we encounter each day. It is Christ’s love for us which enables us to carry on.
It is this love which says to a brother who goes to the grave of his sister, places flower on the headstone, stand there in silent grief shedding no tears. It is this love from Christ which says it is all right to cry, to shed a tear, to feel sorrow, loneliness and the pain of death. it is this love of Christ which continues to say to that grieving brother, I will redeem those tears, I will bring victory out of the sting of death. I will bring you the assurance of the promise there is a resurrection for all who believe.
It is the love of Christ which says to a widow who sits in a chair that has finally molded itself to her say, as she watches the news, the local forecast and the the sports in which she has no interest. She rises from her chair and goes to the TV set. Time to call it a day. She pats the set twice on its top and says. ‘night night. it is the love of Christ which say to this lonely widow, I have come to free you from this loneliness. I have come to help you break the bonds of this despair. I have come to free you so that you can live life to the fullest. I have come to free you from this loneliness and allow you to become a member of the community of Christ in which you will have brothers and sisters who will keep you company.
It is the love of Christ which says to a man who has just lost his business and is wondering how he will support this family now that he has no income. it is the love of Christ which says, I am with you to give you the courage and the strength to try again. It is the love of Christ which assures him that God the father will provides as he does for the birds of the air, and the lilies of the field.
It is the love of Christ which says to a couple who are struggling with their relationship that He can come and help each one forgive the wrong, and in that forgiveness, they can continue to love each other.
It is the love of Christ which says to those who are living with chronic illness, even though you have prayed for healing, my grace is sufficient for you as I give you the courage to live.
It is the love of Christ which says to those who are burden with guilt, guilt of wrongs which have been done, guilt of feeling that somehow you are responsible for the wrongs of others as they were in your care such as parents, teachers and pastor.
It is the love of Christ which says to each person here today, I love you in spite of yourself and because of that love you can have the courage, the strength and the conviction to change, to begin again in and through my love for you.
It is the love of Christ which says to each of us here today, that you have been changed, you are saved and in that salvation you can be “little Christs” to those around you. You are indeed saint and sinner and in that paradox you can live in the love of Christ and because of that love you can reach out a hand to those around you who are encountering the brokenness of live.
It is the love of Christ which says to each of us that you have been given a gift, a gift of salvation, it is not something that you have earned, it is given freely and with that gift you are challenged to be engaged in this world as both saint and sinner.
God says in Jeremiah: and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Written by Pastor Tim Zingale on October 22, 2007