Summary: Reformation Day: A message remembering God’s work to preserve the truth of forgiveness by grace through faith and what that truth does for us today.
It’s been just a bit over five years since Sofi and I met many of you. Lots and lots of water has flowed under the bridge since that day. There have been hard times and good times. There have been sad times and happy times. Some of the folks that were here with us at the beginning have since been called to glory and are now resting in the arms of their Savior. Some folks have decided – for whatever reason – that they needed to move on and find a different place to worship. The Lord has led others of you here at various times during that five year period.
There are all kinds of folks here. There are folks who have lived in this community for years. There are folks that live clear on the other side of town and drive a long way to be here. There are people here, like me, who grew up as first generation Americans – in a home where Spanish was the first language and English was a challenge to be overcome – and is still being overcome! There are folks here who grew up in the North and Midwest and even from Tennessee! There are folks here who live on very, very small incomes. There are folks who are very comfortable. There are some young folks and some middle-aged folks and some who are just a bit long in the tooth. There are small town folks here and others who grew up in the big city. There are White folks, Black folks, Red folks, Brown folks and some who are a bit of this and a bit of that.
How in the world has it been possible for this extremely diverse group of believers from so many different places and backgrounds to come together? What is it that has brought us together. This isn’t like a job, where the potential to make a living brings people together. There it’s easy to see why people come together. Most people here normally receive no money, food or clothes. As the IRS says – we receive no tangible material benefit by gathering here. So what makes this thing called – Christ Our Savior – Cristo Nuestro Salvador – happen? How is it that we are gathering today to celebrate our 5th anniversary as a church?
Let’s read about how this has come to be. Turn with me to the First Lesson in our worship folder. [read First Lesson, Jeremiah 31.31-34 here]
“The days are coming” declares the Lord, “When I will make a new promise.” These prophetic words given to Jeremiah point to a time when the status quo would be radically altered. They speak of a time when the rut of religious ritual would be leveled. Indeed – a time when every valley would be filled and every mountain would be laid low. Jeremiah was pointing to a coming of the Messiah – a time when worship of God would no longer be depended on the ritualistic, priestly mediation – but on God Himself. Jeremiah speaks of a time when the basis for our relationship to God would be the forgiveness that He Himself would offer to his people.
This is what God promised to do and what He did do in Jesus Christ. What Jeremiah is saying is wonderful! “I will put my teachings in their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people… All of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me, because I will forgive their wickedness and I will no longer hold their sins against them.” (Jeremiah 31.33 & 34)
But that wonderful promise of forgiveness by grace through faith has been the target of satan for centuries. The devil couldn’t stop Jesus from conquering through the Cross. He couldn’t stop Jesus from winning forgiveness and offering by grace through faith. And so the devil instead has tried to muddy the waters. He’s tried to make the message unclear. And so through the centuries the wonderful forgiveness of Christ was obscured - but at a tremendous price. The people Christ came to free were again enslaved by a gospel that was no gospel at all. When God’s free forgiveness in Christ is offered at a price – it keeps God’s people in bondage. It makes them believe that God is a tyrant Who doesn’t really care.
There’s a story of two cows who were grazing alongside a highway. A big tank-truck of milk passed on the road next to the field. On one side of the truck - in big red letters - was a sign that read, “Pasteurized, homogenized, standardized, Vitamin D added.” One cow turned to the other and remarked, “Makes you feel sort of inadequate, doesn’t it?” (Adapted from an illustration by Marcus Naugler – SermonCentral.com)