Saved from ourselves: a Reformation day sermon

This isn’t so much about Luther, I just love Joseph Fiennes, even with the monks haircut. Also, I’m a big Luther fan.

I’m still a little in awe over the things we witnessed earlier in the morning. This morning, at the 8:30 service we were witness to two amazing moments of faith. In the first, the Brakken’s renewed their vows of 50 years of marriage. 50 years of trust in one another and in God’s participation in their lives together. That is no small thing.

In the second, five young adults, whom you have raised up in faith, pledged to turn from sin and towards life in Jesus, affirming the promises made for them at their baptism. This, too is no small thing. There are a million reasons to not do this. First, it’s inherently not cool. We try really hard to make Jesus cool, but we can’t. Because cool is trendy, cool is fleeting. Jesus is eternal. He is bigger than cool. Second, it’s not easy. Jesus asks us to do all sorts of things that are really hard – like put God and other people before ourselves. Our society makes this really, really hard. In fact, to do this perfectly is impossible.

I didn’t want to tell them this, because it’s no way to start off a new day in Jesus, but they will fail. We all do. It’s just not possible to live up to God’s high expectations. It’s not possible to live up to all of the rules. For centuries, people have tried, but they always end up coming up short. We mess up. We forget about God. God becomes inconvenient, God is not cool, the law is complicated and we really aren’t geared towards it. Plus, there’s so much shiny stuff out there to distract us. Wealth, status, power, beauty, lust – these are just a few of the things that catch our eyes and pull us away from Jesus.

But God knows that.

God knows that we can’t do it. God knows that our nature makes it impossible to fully live out the law, to fully follow the commandments in both body and heart. A lot of people don’t like talking about our sinful nature, but seriously – we mess up all the time. The things we want for ourselves are often things that won’t help us at all. The law is there to guide us. It is there to help us in times of trouble, to provide us boundaries. We weren’t so good at following it from the tablets so God wrote it on our hearts. We all know the difference between right and wrong, we all hear God speaking to us saying, “No, don’t… doh! Ah, well.” When we are distracted by the shiny and we can’t hear the law that is written on our hearts, we have the law written in the Bible and as lived out in Jesus. We have so many examples. But we still can’t do it.

I feel like God thought we could, at first. He gave us the written word and we couldn’t do that. So he wrote the word on our hearts and we still couldn’t follow that. Tired of punishing us, realizing that we were never going to get it 100% right, that it was just not in our nature, God sent Jesus down to earth to teach us how to live and to die to atone for our sins – to at one, to bring us into a new relationship with God.

And that is Paul’s word for us today. Now, I find reading Paul to be like eating raw kale – I know it’s good for me, but it’s difficult to chew and to digest. His words often need to be chopped up and then boiled down. So here it is: We are flawed. We can’t get it right. And that’s okay, because Jesus got it right for us and, with faith in Jesus, we can be saved from our brokenness, from our sin.

But why do I need saving? I’m a good person. I do good things. I give to charity, I live a good life. These things, they are all justifications. We are always trying to justify our lives.

Jesus saves from ourselves.

Jesus saves us from the constant keeping track of the good and bad that we do every day, from keeping track of what everyone around us is doing. He saves us from keeping score. Jesus also saves us from those who would have us keep score. If someone tells you that by doing certain things or being a certain way, you are going to hell, you can have confidence that that person is wrong. If you hear that by praying a certain prayer or living a certain Biblical way, you can get wealth or power or any other earthly desire, they’re wrong. God doesn’t work that way. Jesus saves us from the scorekeepers in our hearts, in our households, and in the world.

Jesus saves us from the stress of keeping up with the Jonses. Seriously, how difficult is it to constantly keep an eye on the people around us, trying to make sure that we have what they have (or more). We work ourselves to death (sometimes literally) trying to make sure that we measure up to the people around us. We lose time with our families, time with friends, time with God, and time to ourselves when we press and press on wealth and power and status. We lose the things that are vitally important to our lives so we can have more tv stations or a nicer car or a vacation house. Jesus saves us from this, and saves us for our families and ourselves.

Jesus saves us from the stress of the search for perfection. Because we can’t be perfect. We can’t do perfect. We can do really well, we can be awesome, but we can’t be perfect. Say it to yourselves. Get comfortable with it. You don’t have to be perfect. It’s okay. You’re going to mess up. Live into it. Jesus rescues us from our drive to perfection.

Jesus saves us from judging other people and ourselves. If we are living in Jesus, living the knowledge that God loves us, then that little voice that says I’m not enough disappears. Because I know that I am enough.

I know that I love to judge other people. It makes me feel better about myself. Why else would we watch reality tv or read gossip magazines or “people watch.” Have you ever noticed that the more judgey you are, the more you assume people are judging you. I’ve noticed that in myself and in others. When I let go of judging, I feel less judged. The judging is up to God, not us. Jesus frees us from it.

But all of this is not easy. If it were, we wouldn’t need Jesus. We wouldn’t need the law. We wouldn’t need the holy spirit’s inspiration or Christian community that we call church to support us.

There are thousands of examples of how we are saved by Jesus in this very room. Little moments when God has saved us from ourselves, moments when God has saved us from the world. Share them. Don’t keep them to yourselves. This is how we spread the good news of Jesus. By telling the stories of our brokenness and the times when God has fixed it, when Grace has come in and made it all make sense or easier or better.

Life is hard. It is full of distractions. If we walk in Gods path, if we trust in Jesus, we can learn how get over ourselves. We will be able to love in ways we never thought possible. We will see transformation in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We will be saved from ourselves.

 

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About Elizabeth Rawlings

Lutheran. Feminist. Child of God. Thinking about how to be a leader in a church that is trying to rediscover itself and what it means to live simply so that others may simply live in tandem with what exactly is the fast God asks of us. Chronic alliterator. Generally silly person. View all posts by Elizabeth Rawlings

2 responses to “Saved from ourselves: a Reformation day sermon

  • ecopastor

    Jesus is more like Miles Davis, ala Birth of Cool.

  • jpserrano

    Elizabeth, this is a fine sermon. I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you for sharing it.

    I especially liked, “I find reading Paul to be like eating raw kale – I know it’s good for me, but it’s difficult to chew and to digest. His words often need to be chopped up and then boiled down.” It’s a great line.

    I highly recommend N.T. Wright’s book Justification. It really changed my perspective on Paul.

    This end line is so freaking good,”Life is hard. It is full of distractions. If we walk in Gods path, if we trust in Jesus, we can learn how get over ourselves. We will be able to love in ways we never thought possible. We will see transformation in our lives and in the lives of those around us. We will be saved from ourselves.”

    Keep up the good work. I’m sure I will be allocating some of your thoughts in the future. =)

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