Take It Personally!
“Don’t take it personally; it’s just business!” Chances are, if you’ve heard that statement directed at you, it was personal, and very hard to take … especially if you’d just been given your walking papers. When it comes to our religion, we seem to want it both ways: we want both a personal God, and a God who “does business.” We want the ability to trade our goodness—our good intentions, good piety, good faith—all for God’s love and forgiveness. How easy it is to lose sight of the real meaning and power of the gospel!
So, it’s good to have a Reformation Sunday to help us remember our heritage and celebrate Martin Luther’s rediscovery of the gospel back in the sixteenth century. Luther’s story begins with a German father’s dream for his child—a dream of success and fame—a dream that his son would grow up to be a great lawyer. But that dream was never to be realized, at least not in the way good old dad envisioned. God had other plans for Martin.
On the way home from classes one day Luther found himself caught in a deadly thunderstorm. A bolt of lightning hit the ground very close to him, and in a panic he cried out, “Save me, St. Anne, and I’ll become a monk!” That was both very personal and very business-like. Luther was bargaining for his life. Long story short, Luther lived…and kept his word.
Why would Luther do that? Quite simply, he was like every other person of his era who was scared to death of a God they saw as hating sinners and looking for an excuse to damn them all! So when a man by the name of Tetzel came along selling “indulgences” that promised people pardon for all their sins, they naturally lined up to get in on this cheap way to heaven. All the church had to do in those days to raise money was to play on the fear of damnation. Just literally scare the hell out of people and you could very easily scare their money out of them too! Not a very ethical approach to stewardship, but it worked—until Luther saw the light!
While teaching at a university Martin Luther came to his own awakening concerning the truth and power of the gospel after an intensive study of the book of Romans, in which he heard, for the first time, the good news God had for God’s people in Jesus. The truth, Luther said, is that God indeed hates sin, but intensely loves the sinner—so much so that God sent Jesus to die for us all, that we might receive forgiveness and new life. That is the unanimous witness of the entire New Testament! Very strange, then, that this truth had gotten lost.
The power of the gospel is this: salvation is a free gift—no strings attached—no good intentions, no good works, no good piety required. It’s free, period! We can do absolutely nothing to earn it or deserve it. And that’s the truth! The only business transaction required has already been completed, by Jesus, on the cross, through his death and resurrection. His death for our eternal life. The deal’s done. It’s over. We are saved! And that’s about as personal as you can get!
Take it personally! Luther said. But make sure you understand that it’s God’s personal love and not God’s anger or God’s hatred that is directed at you. You have been saved by God’s grace—by God’s love—in Christ Jesus, and not by your own works. That’s the good news Luther rediscovered, and that’s the good news we need to celebrate every day. From a Halloween perspective: there are no divine tricks; only our Lord’s saving treat!
~ Pastor Jeff Chubb
Our quilting ladies have been working on “Walker Bags” for residents of area nursing homes. They are also making them available to members of our congregation. You will find a basket full of these colorful and handy fabric bags in the Narthex. Please feel free to take one for yourself or someone you know.
Kids Against Hunger