In the gospel reading today, Jesus said to those who had believed in him, "You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." He went on to assure those believers that those who truly are his followers and disciples will live in Jesus Christ forever.
Forever? This world as we have come to know won’t be around forever. It will continue to change as the climate changes. But this truth that Jesus is talking about will never change. The truth that Jesus Christ is with us, and the truth that Jesus Christ has made us free.
Martin Luther was burdened with worry and wonder and wanted the truth that would lift the weight of his worry. He also wanted to share that truth to create a stronger and healthier church in the Word of God. Luther found his comfort in reading the letters and teaching of the Apostle Paul…readings and teachings that emphasized salvation by faith through grace alone.
Martin Luther's discovery of grace, God's love and forgiveness freely given to us, reinforced his belief in the promise of Christ's presence even in the darkest times of his life. As Martin Luther was inspired to share a new way of seeing Christ, he feared for his life as leaders of the church wanted to get rid of him. But, he did not fear for his soul. He did not fear for his very being. He came to know and embrace the freedom of trusting in Christ.
Christ’s unconditional love and forgiveness is central to the teachings of our Lutheran faith. 16 confirmation students this afternoon will be affirming their baptisms. Each one of them was interviewed by Pastor Paul and asked “What does it mean to be Lutheran?” Also, Pastor Paul during the new member class this past week talked about what it means to be Lutheran.
I have to make a confession. I didn’t initially join the Lutheran church 18 years ago because it was Lutheran. In fact I knew very little about the Lutheran church.
This may come as a surprise to you but growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, I didn’t hear a whole lot about Martin Luther. And, I was advice by my parents as a child not to talk about religion with others.
The reason my husband, Tom and I initially came to the Lutheran church was because we were invited by a friend. And, we joined the Lutheran Church because it felt like a good fit for us. But, in time as I learned about grace, unconditional love, and justification by faith it led me to engage and learn more and eventually become a leader in the Lutheran Church.
"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
I remember a specific day in my early days of being a Lutheran when the truth did make me free. When I heard and got a glimpse at a deeper level of God’s grace.
It was the year after my brother, Rich died. I was working as the Director of Youth and Family Ministry at First United Lutheran Church in Sheboygan. Someone in the staff remembered it was the 1st anniversary since my brother died and placed flowers on my desk.
I loved my brother and missed him but for some reason I didn’t cry a whole lot when he died. Maybe because I needed to survive and hold it together for my family, but on that day I unexpectedly lost control of my tears as I saw those flowers on my desk. I just couldn’t stop crying.
Then Pastor Gail guided me to her office and grabbed a Kleenex box. When I was ready to talk I confessed to Gail how much I missed my brother Rich and that I was concerned about my last conversation with him before he died. Rich’s body was full of cancer and depression in his last days of life and he ended up taking his life.
The priest at his graveside talked about God having a room for Rich…the paint just had not quite dried. But, my last conversation with Rich was his wonder if God could ever accept someone like him. Rich did not live a perfect. And, for much of Rich’s life he doubted there was God which left me with a worry about Rich’s life beyond this world.
In the darkness and sadness of my confession to Gail, she talked about God’s grace for all…even for Rich.
She said she couldn’t imagine the loving God she came to know not welcoming in Rich. She emphasized that Rich didn’t need to do anything. Christ was with him.
As she spoke the weight that I carried for that year began to lift and the truth of Christ freed me from my worry and doubt and gave me a new perspective of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.
We often talk about grace in the Lutheran church, but I have found that many of us do not fully understand or believe in God’s grace for us or others. This ends up being a burden and a worry that weighs us down and debilitates us from fully and freely living life here on earth.
The truth of Christ’s unconditional love and forgiveness frees us and motivates us to live life to its fullest. We find hope, strength, and confidence from God's Word and from the visible presence of Christ made real to us in the waters of baptism and in the bread and wine of communion.
When we come to know and truly believe that Christ will never abandon us, we find peace because we have discovered what matters most. We come to the real meaning and impact of this Reformation Sunday which is in the freedom that believing in Christ gives us. You and I are made free through the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
May we discover and embrace the truth and inner peace of God’s grace.
May we be free to live life without the burden of worry and doubt.
And, may we know that Christ has made us free.
For this we say thanks be to God. Amen.