Monday, November 13, 2017
Sermon Summary, 11/5/17, “Five Hundred Plus Five” (Romans 1:16-17; 3:24)
Five days ago our first Trick or Treaters were a Dad dressed as Martin Luther, 1st daughter as a hammer, 2d daughter as a nail, 3rd daughter as the 95 Theses, and Mom as the door to the Castle Church. What is the big deal about Martin Luther? Quite a lot. Five hundred years and five days ago, he nailed his 95 Theses on the door and became the major player in the Protestant Reformation. We are sitting in these seats today because of that. John Wesley was profoundly influenced by Luther and because of that there was a Methodist movement.
Before Oct 31st, 1517, laity did not sing in church; laity were prohibited from reading the Bible, it was too dangerous for them; Priests were exempt from being prosecuted (what abuse that allowed), laity only had access to God through the Priests; and most importantly, it was believed that we were saved by works and not by grace!
Luther as a young man struggled with his faith, as John Wesley would 200 years later. Luther was not able to even see a Bible until he was 20, but his reading of the Bible, especially Romans, opened his eyes. When Pope Leo X, decided he would build St. Peter’s Basilica and use indulgences to raise the money, Luther wanted a debate on “The efficacy and Power of Indulgences,” his 95 Theses. Pope Leo directed that Luther be silenced and recant, his writings burned. Martin Luther responded by burning the Pope’s letter! The Pope excommunicated him and the Holy Roman Emperor convicted him. Before he could be imprisoned his friends hid him in the Castle Wartburg where he spend his time translating the New Testament into German, the vernacular of the people. Luther felt that the mother in the home, the children on the street, the common man in the marketplace should have access to the Bible themselves and direct access to God.
From “Romans” he had come to understand that we are saved by grace through faith in God’s acts of salvation though the cross. Two hundred years later, upon hearing Martin Luther’s “Preface to the Romans,” John Wesley declared “that his heart was strangely warned, I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” On this conversion experience of John Wesley, the Methodist movement was born.
Luther and Wesley both experienced doubts. Wesley, asking how could he preach without faith, was told “Preach faith until you have faith and then because you have faith, preach faith.”
We too, experience doubts, and to paraphrase, we should “Live faith until we have faith and then because we have faith, live faith.” We are saved by grace through faith. That is Luther’s legacy for us.
Sermon Summary, 10/22/17, “Who Do You Trust?” (Ex 40:16, 20-21a)
Recall the old quiz show, “Who do you trust?” It begs the question, “Wo do you trust?” It is a big issue today, with couples, between friends, even families, and certainly with and among public servants. A book was published just this week that claims the foremost bias in our nation today is against others of a different political viewpoint. A friend reinforced that by saying that in forming a new bridge club in her town, the only person on the list not invited, held different political views than the rest. In other words, the bridge club was formed completely of one political party. You just can’t trust the other folks.
Here’s the big issue: Can you trust God? Especially this week when we’ve lost one of our own, can we trust God? That was the issue in the Exodus story. Moses tells God (paraphrasing) “God, how can I trust you? I don’t even know your name.” Pharaoh didn’t trust God. That’s easy. They were of different political parties. The Children of Israel didn’t trust God. They mumbled saying, “If we’d only died in Egypt where we had our fill.”
We need trust. We need to restore our trust in one another. God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments and rules to live in community because he cared how they lived. He told them He would be with them in pillars of fire and cloud. They could rely on Him to be there for them. In the fulness of time, Jesus came to live among us. He told us “I am the Good Shepherd.” The Good Shepherd cares for his sheep. Then he told us “The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” Later he would say, “No one has greater love than this that to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus cares for you. Jesus loves you. And Jesus told us that he would be with us even till the end of the age. You can trust God. You can rely on God. You can know that God cares.
The elements of trust are simply this: That you can rely on the other; and that you know that the other cares for you. We began by talking about a lack of trust. Whenever trust breaks down, it is because one of these two elements has broken town. Remember when we used to say “A man’s word was his bond”? We could rely on them. Teddy Roosevelt said, “People don’t care about how much you know until they first know how much you care.” What if we knew today that we could rely on our politicians and that we knew today that our public servants cared about us? What if?
What about our relationships? Can others rely on us? Are we able to convey that we care for them? Trust is essential to personal relationships. As followers of Jesus, we need to let the world know that they can rely on us, that we care, that the world can trust the followers of Jesus.
Sermon Summary, 10/15/17, “Confession is Really, Really Good for the Soul” (Ex 34:6-7; Ps 139:23-24)
What do you fear. When I was five, it was the wood spoon! I hid the wooden spoons in the coal bin. Guess what, no wooden spoons, no chocolate chip cookies. You have to decide the benefits of confession; AND you have to decide who you fear.
In Bible Study, we are in Exodus. I mean, there had been some terrifying stuff. God gives the second set of tablets to Moses (after the golden calf, remember?), decides the children of Israel need to know who he really is. He tells Moses: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and sin, yet by no means clearing the guilty.” (Ex 34:6-7a) The Jewish people have long called these “The Thirteen ways of God’s mercy.” Now that is a God I can confess to!
A favorite author, Richard Foster, in his book Prayer, says that it God not us that we need to examine us. We are either too harsh or too dismissive. We need to place ourselves under God’s scrutiny. “Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way within me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (David in Psalm 139:23-34) This is a prayer we ought to memorize placing ourselves under examination with each devotional. We need to place ourselves under examination and give God a chance to demonstrate his mercy.
As importantly, by placing ourselves under examination, we cooperate with grace. God finds us as we are, loves as we are, demonstrates his mercy and changes us through grace.
How should we best place ourselves? I would suggest by using the great truths, the great values, the great teachings of the Bible. Take a commandment at a time, turn it to an affirmative, eg, instead of “You shall have no other gods before me.” What if you saw God in all you saw, in the creation, in others? What are your shortcomings? How would it change you to live seeing God’s world?
Or the Sermon on the Mount: “But I say to you, whoever is angry with their brother or sister.” What if you were reconciled to everyone? How would your life change? Or the teaching on adultery. What if you broadened it and asked what if I was faithful in all my relationships? How would I be living my life differently?
Or the Golden Rule and the Great Commandment? I would suggest to you that the “do” of the Golden Rule and the “love” of the Great Commandment are active verbs. Not reactive, not passive, but active.
As we place ourselves in grace, we become more and more aware of God’s world and places where we can “love” and “do.” Amen..