Re-forming People Through the Son’s Cross

The Festival of the Reformation / Pentecost Twenty-One

A Sermon by The Rev. Carl Voges, STS on 1 Samuel 3.19-4.1

October 29, 2017

“…For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus“… [Romans 3.22-24]

In the Name of Christ + Jesus our Lord

You may have noticed in looking at life in this world – it’s mess out there:

  • Diminishing lack of trust in various national institutions
  • Culture that sinks more deeply into violence / degradation
  • Individuals honestly believing that everything revolves around them

You may have also noticed in looking at life in one, holy, catholic / apostolic Church – it’s mess out there:

  • Struggling parishes who grudgingly admit they want their ministries to work better but without making any changes on their part
  • Lutheran presidents / bishops who seem to pay more attention to world’s life rather than to Trinity’s Life
  • Pressures from well-meaning people to re-work or ignore Life of Lord so they can better reflect his Life to trapped people of this world

For those of us who are concerned about such messes, especially those keenly aware of Lutheran tradition, What do we do when we observe Reformation this weekend?

Do we attempt to bludgeon our way into those messes / hold ourselves up as ones who are equipped to take care of them?

Not quite; definitely, not quite!

Instead, we run under those messes while letting ourselves be pulled back into tremendous insight that was thrust upon Martin Luther back in early 1500s

Yesterday morning we spent few hours getting at that insight, namely, that living in Holy Trinity is life of continual repentance

With all material that was generated this year by Reformation’s 500th anniversary (books, film, articles) that insight may have been lost in rush but here at St Matthew’s Church (/ in other faithful Lutheran parishes) there is stubborn determination to not lose sight of that insight – baptized person’s life is one of continual repentance

Vivid reminder is 1953 black / white film on Luther by Louis de Rochemont Associates

In showing Luther’s first Mass, there was dramatic shot of him elevating chalice at consecration but his hands were shaking so badly you thought it might slip from his grasp / crash on altar

It did not crash, but it was powerful reminder that we are not worthy to stand in Lord’s presence on our own, that we need to be reminded continually that lives of Lord’s people are ones of continual repentance

Such attitude is reflected well in First Lesson from 1 Samuel 3

This passage is brief, but working through it, we can understand why it was used in 1958 Service Book / Hymnal as reading for Reformation anniversary

If we think things are messy currently in world / in Church, things were just as messy in years before, during / after Samuel

From conquering of Palestine to settling into land as promised home of Hebrew wilderness wanderers, there were messes

Because of pressures brought by one of Palestine’s occupants, Philistines, tribe of Dan had to move from southwestern to northern part of country

Another pressure was threat that Benjamin’s tribe may disappear

Disappearance did not occur, there was re-building of that tribe’s towns / lives

But it is instructive to note that book of Judges (preceding 1 Samuel) concluded, “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.”

Even Samuel’s birth came about in messy way

His mother was one of two wives in family

The other wife had no problem birthing children; his mother, however, did have problems

It was only after intense conversation with head priest at Shiloh that Lord made it possible for her to become pregnant / to give birth

Out of deep gratitude to Lord, she returned her son to Shiloh to be brought up in Lord’s Life / ways under priest’s tutelage

This continued until he was young man when, in dramatic encounter, he was confronted by Lord / priest alerted him to what is really going on

So his ministry got underway – in time when every person was doing what is right in his (or her) own eyes!

As Samuel matured, the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground

All people from southern to northern parts of country knew that Samuel was the Lord’s prophet

At Shiloh (shrine established where Hebrew wilderness wanderers came into Palestine / where ark of covenant / tabernacle were located from time of Joshua to days of Samuel), Lord revealed himself to Samuel by his Word / caused it to extend to all Israel

Such activity by Lord God still persists today as his Scriptures / his Sacraments of Baptism, Forgiveness / Supper swirl through life of his parish communities

He does this by re-forming his people from life given them at birth to Life given them at Baptism

Because their lives have been traced by Son’s Cross, they now witness to others of their rescue from terrifying realities of sin, Satan / death

This is stunning reality, one that not only rescues us from world’s life, but also enables us to participate in Life streaming in from eternity / running on into eternity!

What Son’s Cross does is to obliterate everything about world’s life, wiping it out / leaving people with nothing

Gods they relied on, selves they nurtured, dreams that motivated them – all of that is gone when Cross storms into their lives!

Thankfully, Lord’s Word does not let that crushing destruction be last reality

While Word does plunge us into that nothingness at our Baptisms, it also catapults us into Forgiveness of Holy Trinity’s Life!

This means that Church’s life is then marked permanently with Lord’s Forgiveness!

This astounding reality honestly clarifies our understanding / exercise of Life into which we have been baptized

The Lord’s Word is constantly re-forming our lives through Son’s Cross

It is extremely healthy for Church to not lose sight of this reality

It is also very healthy for Church to proclaim, serve / teach this reality as its people make their way through world’s life

Every day there are people around us who are totally caught up in world’s life, they are all in with gods they have created, adopted / maintained

We cannot prevent them from signing on with them, but we can remain close to them so that, when their lives with such gods begin to stumble / fall / break apart, we can quietly point to great, mysterious realities that stream out from Lord’s Word / Son’s Cross!

While we live in world / Church, messes will always be with us

But we can always rely on Lord God pushing into lives hammered by those messes / enable such individuals to become aware of rescue he has given them along with  everyone else in this world!

Now may the peace of the Lord God, which is beyond all understanding, keep our  hearts and minds through Christ + Jesus our Lord.