Usually when I think of being Lutheran, I tend to lean to the cultural end of things... Like how we’ll stand in line for hot coffee when it’s ninety degrees outside and we don’t have air conditioning... Or how we instinctively take the back seats in a room... I remember so many Sundays when the most memorable words I heard were “bring a side dish or dessert...”
Yes, we have our ways, but those things don’t make us a Church... We are people of a confession; meaning that our church and our faith are built upon a set of fundamental truths that come straight from the pages of God’s Word. These truths are what launched the European Reformations almost five hundred years ago—and they are the basis for our life and witness to the world here today.
Chief of these truths can be found in our second lesson from Romans 3, that...
To be a Lutheran means that our faith is built upon these promises. And keep in mind that these promises apply to those who aren’t Lutheran, but to all who put their faith in them.
We pull no punches on the problem of sin... We recognize that we are all, all sinners; and that there is no person or persons who are more righteous in God’s eyes based upon all the good things they’ve done and the bad things they’ve never done. “There is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
But we don’t see this truth as a reason for beating ourselves up. We don’t take this as cause for living in fear or in shame...
In fact, we don’t have to worry about whether or not we’re good enough for God to love us. God in Jesus Christ took up the cause of getting us right with God. He suffered the condemnation we deserved by dying on a cross, and through that cross he gives us his righteousness. This means that God does not see you for your failings or your shortcomings. God does not look upon you with disgust. Instead, God sees in you a beloved child. And as a beloved child, God will do whatever it takes to ensure that we love in his love forever.
How awesome a truth as this: that you are loved.
And how hard it is to believe such a truth.
The greatest lies the devil will ever tell you are:
1) that there is no devil; and,
2) that God could never love someone like you.
If the devil can’t convince you of the first, the devil’s going to move right on to convincing you of the second. And the devil’s work in this department isn’t very hard.
Years ago the man who hired me for my first job in business management told me, “no one ever says ‘thank you’ or ‘good job’ in this business. The only feedback you’ll ever get is that you’ve failed and that you’re best is not good enough.” How true his words proved to be...
I don’t think any of us realize just how often we are reminded of our own imperfections every single day. There’s always someone to tell us that we’re not working hard enough or fast enough. Our celebrity-obsessed culture always reminds us that unless we look a certain way or dress a certain way or act a certain way, we’re nobody. Our material-obsessed culture tells us that if we don’t have the best stuff, our life is meaningless. And to top that all off, the people in our lives and the commitments of our lives make demands of us that we try with all our might to satisfy but seldom ever do.
So how can you believe in God’s unconditional love with so many voices telling us that you’re not good enough? And sometimes, there is no voice saying this to you more often than your own...
How quickly we forget, “Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so... Little ones to him belong, they are weak but he is strong.”
That is what we celebrate here today—that God has acted through the suffering and death of Christ to bring us into a right relationship with God’s own self. Our sins are nailed to the cross and we bear them no more.
You are freed from the deadly grip of sin to live in the peace and the joy of God’s love. And you are free to share that peace and joy with others—because Jesus’ righteousness is now yours.
Far too many people in this world know no kind of unconditional love. It is all too rare that someone will experience patience or generosity or forgiveness just because they need it. This is our opportunity. We can show grace to our world. We can meet people’s needs. We can testify to all the world that God has not forsaken the world, but that God so loves the world and that God is in the world. We can make a difference because we are loved by God- and because we believe that God can and will use us to do good in the world. And God will be pleased by our offerings, even if the good we do doesn’t turn out like we’d hoped.
So hear the truth, see the truth, and taste the truth—that Christ is given for you. You are claimed, you are saved, you are loved.
This is what it means to be a Lutheran. This is what it means to be a Christian. We are children of God, claimed for eternity, and sent to love the world that Jesus loves.