Reformation Sunday (10/26/2008)

Enthusiasm

Lessons: Jeremiah 31:31-34 Psalm 46 Romans 3:19-28 Saint John 8:31-36

Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age. Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial, defend them against all enemies of the gospel, and bestow on the church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Stewardship Text: St. Matthew 13:44-50

13:44 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. 47 "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.


St. John 14:25-31, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

This month, at Saint Peter, we are conducting our Fall Stewardship Campaign. The theme is ASPEN, and the focus for this five-week series is:   10/5    Anxiety St. Matthew 6:25-34   10/12   Sacrifice St. Mark 12:41-44 10/19   Peace St. John 14:25-31 10/26   Enthusiasm St. Matthew 13:44-50 11/2    Now 2nd Corinthians 8:1-16 On November 9th, I'll return my attention to the Revised Common Lectionary, with a message based on St. Matthew 25:1-13.

This weekend our church celebrates "Reformation Sunday." We do it every year on the last Sunday in October. It is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the heritage that Martin Luther and his associates left us: the heritage of a Christ-centered and a faith-centered life, and a church that is dedicated to stay focused on the good news of what our Lord has done.

Martin Luther was a man of deep faith, but for the first portion of his life, he was a man of troubled faith. He was constantly worried about what God thought of him. He, like most people in his day, thought of God as an angry, vengeful judge, who would condemn him to an eternity of punishment if his faith wasn't sufficient. But as a young college student, Luther had a series of moving experiences which led him to understand God (and the Christian faith) in a completely different way. His study of the Bible revealed to him that God wasn't an angry, vengeful being - but, instead, a loving and gracious one. That revelation turned his life around. It made all the difference in the word. From that point on, for Luther, life would never be the same.

Luther became one of the most enthusiastic proponents of Christian faith the church has ever known. He shared these re-discovered insights about grace at every opportunity. He didn't do it out of a sense of obligation or duty. His life was so dramatically changed, and his heart was so filled with joy, that he desperately wanted others to have the same experience. For the rest of his life, he would stop at nothing to share it with them.

It reminds me of a conversation one of our young members reported to me this week. She told me about a friend who had rejected religion - who had decided that the church was "too controlling." I thought, how sad! And how wrong! The church of Luther's day may have lost its way, and may have become terribly controlling. But the church of Luther's legacy understands that God has no interest in controlling us. God wants, instead, to love us. And when our hearts and souls are touched by God's love, we too become incredibly enthusiastic about God and about God's plans for us.

It is our enthusiasm about God's grace that compels us to share the good news with others. It is our enthusiasm about God's grace that compels us to serve our neighbor. It is our enthusiasm about God's grace that compels us to provide strong financial support for the ministries of our church. It is our enthusiasm about God's grace that compels us to give of our time and our energy, so the church can be strong. Like the man who finds treasure in a field, or the merchant who catches a glimpse of a valuable pearl, we enthusiastically become involved with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind.

When the life of faith becomes an enthusiastic response to the grace of God, then we are offering the most appropriate tribute to Martin Luther and the other 16th Century reformers. That is how he came to experience (and enjoy) the presence of God in his life. And that is what he would want most for each of us today.

Amen.

David J. Risendal

Exploring This Week's Text:

  1. Why was Martin Luther afraid of God during the first part of his life?
  2. What caused him to be so enthusiastic about the Christian faith in the second part of his life?
  3. How is Luther like the two individuals in today's Gospel lesson?

 Connecting with This Week's Text:

  1. When has faith or religion felt like a somber duty to me?
  2. What makes me most enthusiastic about what God has done?
  3. How can I share that enthusiasm with the people I know and love?