October 28, 2018

Remember When?

Reformation Sunday

First Lesson:       Exodus 14:10-14

Second Lesson:  Philippians 1:27-30

Third Lesson:     Joshua 24:14-16 & 18

Fourth Lesson:   James 5:7-11

Fifth Lesson:       Matthew 16:13-19

Sermon Text:      Romans 3:10-25

I think some of you will enjoy this, but I want to warn that it will, at the same time, also make you feel very, very old. Let’s start with a question.  What is the cheapest price you can ever remember paying for a gallon of gas? Think about that. 10 years ago gas was almost $4 a gallon. Now we hover around $3. When I started driving, gas was 89 cents. I’d scrounge through the change bin, grab a fistful, and get enough gas to get through the week.  If I was bold, I’d fill the whole tank on my 79’ Chevy station wagon - a whopping $15. To fill my truck costs over $50. Boy, remember when gas was that cheap?

A similar question - what was the first car you drove or that you remember your family owning? (find oldest one) Let me guess what your car was like then. It had a fine leather interior, with seats that recognized on their own who was driving and adjusted properly to fit the driver’s likes and dislikes.  It probably had a state of the art sound system.  The wheels were custom, and the hydraulic system was amazing.  Does that describe your car?  Not at all.  But that does describe many of the cars we see on the road and drive ourselves.  Boy, remember when cars reflected the times – slower and simpler?

Think about phones, ones used for the purpose God intended – making phone calls. How many of you know what a party line is or had one when you were young? I remember my grandma sitting quietly in the corner listening in on Jane Wexler’s phone calls. As a kid, we had one phone with a really long cord. If I wanted to talk to a friend/girl in private, I’d drag the cord all the way through the kitchen into the bathroom.  What is the current reality?  If I had a friend in Morocco, I could punch up his number and be talking to him in a few seconds. He’s on the other side of the world, yet we could communicate as if we were standing next to each other.  Remember those days, the days of collect calls, rotary phones, and no voice mails?

TV.  Do you remember the 1st time you got a TV in your home? It was black and white, and so fuzzy you knew people were on the screen but they looked like moving, talking blobs. There were 3/4 channels, and the closest thing we had to a remote was whacking a younger sibling and telling them to change the channel.  And remember the whole family gathering around the watch The Honeymooners, I Love Lucy, or the Dukes of Hazzard?  We didn’t have on demand.  For a while, we couldn’t record anything.  Now no kids watch live TV, and they can watch recorded TV 30,000 feet in the air.   Remember when TV was worth watching, when our nation had shared events as everyone sat down to watch this program or that game?

One more. Remember when our church used to talk about sin, where it came from, and the mortal danger it is for all of us?  Remember when our church taught that mankind – us – could in no way repair the relationship with God that we, by our sin, broke? Remember when our church taught we deserve nothing good from God and everything bad because we cheated on him, because we went against his will, and because we have no excuse for what we have done?  Remember those days?

And do you remember when our church taught that while we are the problem, Jesus is the solution? Remember when we’d focus on that cross every time we gathered in this place? Remember when we’d talk about him being a true human being – able to take our place, live perfectly, and die innocently to remove our sins? Remember when we’d talk about him also being true God, a fitting sacrifice who could wash us from head to toe and make us a part of God’s family? Remember when we’d talk about the Holy Spirit working through the Word and baptism to create faith in our hearts? Remember singing and praising God because we know, on account of his Son’s work, we’re loved, forgiven, and heaven bound?  Remember how great it was to come here and hear that message and respond to it with songs, hymns, and the like?  Remember that?

Of course you do.  Why?  Because that is exactly what we did last Thursday/Sunday.  If you don’t remember what we talked about or weren’t here, we focused on our relationship with God and how we should come to him when we fall prey to temptation and sin.  We don’t come arrogantly, demanding he forgive us because that is what we want.  We come humbly, knowing we did the sin and there is no excuse. But we also talked about how when we come humbly to him, the forgiveness we seek he gives. Jesus doesn’t use words like maybe or possibly. When we come humbly and in faith, he takes our hands, leads us to the cross, and makes it clear to us what he accomplished there means we are loved, forgiven, and now and always a part of God’s family. As I was doing the “remember when” in spiritual matters, I hope you wanted to shout, “Yes, I remember. I remember because talking about sin/grace, Jesus and our need for him is what we do here ALL THE TIME!”

And, I hope you realize what an absolutely amazing gift from God that is.  I’d say at least 1/2 times a month, someone will call or stop by. They tell me their current church is getting away from the Bible.  Maybe it is mixed up in the gender identity discussions, changed its stance on marriage/sexuality, or no longer talks about creation even being a possibility.  You know the list – no need to repeat it.  When I talk to them, there is a longing in their voices, a longing that essentially sends this message: “I remember when my church used to teach God’s Word.  How I miss those days.”

Now, flip that around.  I have been a pastor for over 16 years.  You know how many times members have contacted me and said they were leaving because we are teaching something that is not true?  Once – in Ohio.  And the issue was whether or not children are sinful.  By the way, the lady who struggled with this didn’t have kids – shocker.  And even that, she knew what the Bible said.  She just didn’t want to believe it because it contradicted her feelings.  If there are others who have left for this reason, I did not hear about it.  I have probably received over 200 calls of people lamenting the road their church is heading down and only one misguided call about someone who laments what we were doing/teaching.

Again, do you realize what a blessing that is? I’m sad about these phone calls. I want all to stick to the truth of God’s Word.  But what I love is when those people talk about remembering their church’s good old days, I love being able to say, “We don’t have to remember that here.  We preach it and teach it every Sunday and every other day of the week that ends in the letter Y.”  I love being able to invite them to worship without a second’s hesitation, because I know what is on the menu that Sunday is a solid dose of what we always serve – the truth of sin, and the truth of a Savior from sin – Jesus Christ.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the blessing is this. You don’t have to remember with tears how things used to be. You don’t have to wish for the better days of the past when you were reminded how much you need God.  You don’t have to pine for the days when you’d leave church refreshed as you were again told how great God’s love for you is and how amazing the benefits are now/eternally. You don’t have to wish out loud we’d get back to the Bible about marriage, creation, Jesus, or heaven. You don’t have to do any of these things because we’ve never strayed from that.  And why haven’t we?  

God didn’t let us. Again, today we celebrate the Reformation. The Church was heading down bad roads spiritually.  The truth of sin and Jesus was basically lost.  Well, God brought it back.  He used guys like Martin Luther (had to say his name once – it is Reformation) to get the Bible back into peoples’ hands and to teach them the truth of what it says.  Whom did those people teach? Their kids and neighbors. Whom did they teach?  Their kids and neighbors.  Whom did they teach?  Their kids and neighbors.  You know those ancestry commercials you see and hear all the time?  The one reason I would like to know what my family line is is so I could go back through time and find the first person in my family who was taught the truth of God’s Word, the person who had a child who had a child who had a child, etc. until I came to my name.  

Do you think it is an accident God used the people he used, and maybe some from 100s of years ago, so you’d be sitting in church today hearing the true message you’re hearing?  Do you think all that happened by chance?  What you believe and what you teach is not our message.  First and foremost, it is God’s.  But it is also the message of our parents who passed it on to us, which their parents taught them, which their parents taught them. You sit here today, with a confident, comforting faith because we still hold to God’s message, a message he passed down for years until it finally came to us.

And again, what is that message?  I will let Paul share it with you, making minimal comments. (Read Romans 3:10-18.) Not easy words to hear, I know.  But Paul is talking about each one of us without God in our lives.  We are not good, noble, loving people on our own.  We are sinners who needs saving in every way possible.

Keep going.  (Read vs. 19-20.)  Here Paul shuts the door on any chance we can do anything to get ourselves out of this situation, any chance we can do anything to be right with God again.  We have no excuses and no bargaining chips. We’re simply beggars who don’t deserve anything good, but need everything good in the greatest way. Again, do you remember the last time we talked about these things? Yes.  Last week. And we did because it is the truth God wrote down in his Word, and it is a truth passed on to us by our Christian parents, be they blood or not.  The good is not the news of our situation.  The good is that our eyes are open and looking for any help, any solution God can give.

And what a solution indeed!  Once more to Paul. (Read vs. 21-25.)  There are 25 sermons in there, so I need to summarize, but what Paul just said is the 4 chambers of our Christian hearts.  We can’t be holy on our own.  But we don’t have to be.  Jesus was holy for us.  It is a gift, not something we can/have to earn. It is a result of grace, God’s undeserved love for us.  We fall short – every day in countless ways.  But God’s grace is up to the challenge.  It washes us clean inside and out, and it does because Jesus made atonement. He made things right between us and God.  And he did it by removing every sin for all eternity from us.

Pause again.  Remember when we last talked about God’s amazing grace, Jesus’ perfect work, and the stunning beyond words result of it for us every day of our lives and for the rest of our everlasting life in heaven? Thank God you do! And thank God that message, the one he laid down and taught to people who taught people who in time taught us, found a place in our hearts. And like a fire in a cold room, there it warms us, fires us up, and fills us with peace for eternity.

On this Reformation Day, thank God for the confidence you have about your place in his family.  Thank God for keeping us on the biblical straight and narrow and for making the promise to do so for the rest of our lives.  Thank God for all the people he used in the past so that we would know, believe, and fully accept these truths.  Thank God with your mouth.  Thank God in your heart.  Thank God in your lives.  And thank God by continuing to pass these truths on so faithfully, that never will a future generation every have to say, “Remember when we used to base everything on God’s Word?” Instead, that generation and all generations will praise God just as we are doing today for the exact same reason.  We know the truth of our need.  We know the truth of our Savior.  Amen.