Jeremiah 31:31-33 John 8:31-34
Have you ever been lost? Have you ever felt like you were wondering aimlessly in the wilderness of life? With no meaning, no purpose, no direction? Have you ever felt that the church was dying and loosing it’s meaning and purpose in the world?
Many conversations I have had with many church going people and clergy have focused on the decline of the church in our world today. Talk has focused on the large cathedrals in Europe that hold small congregations on Sunday mornings—places of worship that once housed large crowds and now are indicators of the lack of interest or commitment to worship.
Many mainline congregations are like ours today, more gray haired folk then families with children. It can certainly be discouraging. Even large mega-churches like Willow Creek in Illinois and others like it have come upon hard times. And we wonder, will the holy Christian church as we know it survive? Many millennials—people in their 20’s, 30’s and even 40’s consider themselves to be “nones.” That is, no religious affiliation.
Yet there is hope! I believe the church is still relevant. I believe the church is not dying out. The holy Christian church is the body of Christ in the world today. As such, it is God’s Church, the Kingdom of God on earth, God’s tool—God’s hands and feet in the world—for impacting and changing the world.
As we remember and celebrate the Reformation today we call to mind the past mistakes the church has made. We remember with humility the painful faults of “organized religion,” which has reflected more of our human sinfulness than God’s grace and truth.
I am not sure what the church will look like in the future, but I do believe it is still relevant and important. I do wish more of us were committed to worship—giving God His worth, taking time out of our busy lives and weeks and just saying, “thank You God!” “Fill my heart and soul with Your Word and truth again today!” “Let me live for You, Your honor and glory!” “Let me make a difference in my family, community, and world by how I live out of my faith!”
So…this morning, let me say, “Thanks for being here! Thank you for making worship a priority in your life!”
Secondly, I want to challenge us to look for evidences of grace, God’s work in and through us and our fellow humans anywhere and everywhere we can find it!
Looking for evidence and signs of GRACE—good news—in today’s world.
In the news this week is the story of Albert Lexie who made all of $10,000 per year as a shoe shine man at a hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. He did this for almost 30 years. His donated tips came to $202,000.
Mr. Lexie said, “I wanted to see the kids get well, to see they got well and got better and things like that…I made myself happy.”
The hospital’s president is quoted as saying, Mr. Lexie was a “perfect example of how just small, incremental acts of kindness can have a really significant impact over time.”
Another unusual evidence of grace comes by way of a young person by the name of Anick. Anick’s story is covered by BBC News. Anick is 23 years old and was born “intersex,” meaning his genitals were neither female nor male. The United Nations says 1.7% of the world’s population fit into Anick’s category. Anick has been told all of “his” life that he is abnormal and has had hundred’s of operations trying to “fix him.” I say “him” because Anick is trying to be male, and now through all the multiples surgeries he has had he has a “male penis.”
I see this as evidence of grace because Anick is in the process of learning that he can celebrate who he is regardless of what others think or say. Anick has discovered that his experience is not solitary. There are others like him, yet not of their stories are identical. But that’s okay.
There is no mention of God in either story, but I see the strong evidence of God at work in behind the scenes!
Discovering God. Discovering grace. Discovering God on the move. That is Reformation talk for me.
Luther used the phrase, “stand on your head for joy” when he discovered and experienced what it means to be accepted, loved, forgiven and welcomed home by a gracious loving God.
He had falsely learned that God was an angry demanding God who chastised and punished us for the perfection we failed to attain.
You and I oftentimes live in our own dungeons, our own dark caves of gloom and depression, our own self-made prisons when we falsely belief we must somehow earn or deserve the acceptance and love of other people and of God. The world teaches us that. We don’t learn it accidentally.
But the world is wrong.
The freedom of the Gospel, the hope and promise of the good news of God in Christ sets the world’s false demand on its head. Forgiveness is complete. Not simply because God is a push over and forgives us and welcomes us back home like a jolly santa clause. God’s love in Christ, the Christ who was born as one of us—a baby, lived for us under the law, and died in our place on a cursed tree—that love in Christ sets us free. Christ who became human so that He could bring us back into the family as sons and daughters who belong to God. Because of Him! Because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. God’s gift of forgiveness and life in Jesus is hard won. Yet it is a gift. It is free. Are you ready to rest in it. Claim it. It’s yours and mine in Christ Jesus.
In Jesus’ name. Amen!