3/5 – God’s Story, Our Story
Have you ever noticed that life doesn’t come at you like a math problem? No – it comes at you like a story – scene by scene. You wake up – you start your day – what will happen next? You don’t know – you have to enter in and take the journey as it comes. The day has a beginning and an end. The sun might be shining – it might be raining outside – there may be tornado sirens. You just never know.
Life unfolds like a drama. There are all sorts of characters and settings and situations. Weeks and months and years go by like chapters in a novel. Sometimes it seems like a comedy – sometimes a tragedy – but most of the time it just seems like a soap opera. All of life is a story.
And who doesn’t love a good story? Stories inspire us – they move us – they make us laugh or cry. They help us make sense of the world. They help us remember who we are.
That’s why this year, 2017, the story of the Reformation is getting a good amount of attention in the press and in the church. It marks the beginning of the modern age for some – the end of the Middle Ages and beginning of the Renaissance. For us, the story of the Reformation is more than that, for it bears the values that are important to us and that define us. That we are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, found in Scripture alone.
With the beginning of Lent, we once again embark on a journey in which we follow Jesus as he goes to Jerusalem – to the cross and to the empty tomb. Now, it’s interesting that what we include and what we exclude in the story says something about what what we value and what is important to us and what isn’t. In this case, the gospel writers don’t spend much time on the life of Jesus as a child, teenager, or young man. Instead, they focus mostly on the last three years of His life, and most especially the very last week of His life. As has been said, the gospels are basically just passion narratives with long introductions. So why this emphasis?
Because this is the key to understanding why Jesus is so significant. The key to unlocking the importance of his life for us. It is these last three years, and especially the last week, in which Jesus carries out the mission for which He entered the very world that He had created. A mission to redeem and reclaim a fallen world from Satan and all those who sought to destroy it. A mission to restore the world back to what it was intended to be. So we follow in his footsteps on this 40 day journey of Lent.
But this year, the story of Jesus’ journey takes on a special historical quality. This year, we make that journey in a year in which we commemorate and celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. This is not just a story important to us, but a story important for all Christians and for all people everywhere. Why?
Because Martin Luther had become convinced that the story of Jesus had become diluted and distorted in such a way that it had stopped being a gospel story – a story of good news for you and for me. The focus of Jesus’ story had shifted from what Jesus did for us to what we must do for ourselves. In other words, the story had ceased to be a gospel story, of truly good news, and had become a moralistic story where we’re urged to imitate Jesus and become perfect like Him if we have any hope of being saved. What an impossible and burdensome task.
Instead, Luther argued, we are saved by grace – not by our works in which we imitate Christ – even if those works are assisted by a tidbit of grace – like some sort of spiritual vitamin or steroid. Jesus’ story is much more than an inspiring and motivational story that pushes us to pursue perfection. It’s much more than a tragic story with a happy ending. The story of Jesus is a good news gospel story! And it is a good news gospel story for you!
The Gospel is your story. You might even say – it is your life. Back in the 50’s and 60’s there was a popular TV show called “This is Your Life”. It might even have been the original reality show. The host would bring on a different person each week and surprise them by saying – this is your life! At which point the host would bring out important people and talk about significant events in the person’s life.
Well, in a very real sense, the Gospel surprises us by declaring – this is your life! Everything that Jesus did in life and in death, He did for you. To save you, to forgive you, to redeem you, to open up the door to heaven for you to eternal life with God forever. This is what makes it a Gospel story. So what is it that makes this story a story of your life?
Because by virtue of your baptism, God’s story is now your story by grace through faith in JC. You have been adopted into God’s family. You are now connected to Christ in a very powerful and profound way. You have been caught up into God’s story in a way that you probably won’t fully understand until you reach the other side.
An important bible verse that Luther found during his re-discovery of the Gospel was this one – “The righteous shall live by faith.” Living by faith means living in total and complete dependence on the promises of God. It means receiving the good and gracious gifts that God has to offer and using them as He intended. It means living in the peace and joy that God grants His people through faith in Christ. Luther once said that faith is a living and daring confidence in God’s grace so sure and certain that he would stake his life on it a thousand times.
Living by faith in God’s story involves how we make sense of the world in which we live and our place within it as the people of God. So what does this mean?
It means that we learn to see all of life and the world in which we live as gifts of God. It means that we learn to expect good things from God and ask Him for all that we need, as well as to give thanks to Him for all that we have received.
It means that we seek to have our faith in the promises of God renewed and strengthened through His gracious promises that are spoken in worship, preaching, scripture, confession/absolution, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Our life within the church is a life where faith is given, nourished, and strengthened.
It means that we turn our minds toward God each day and all throughout the day – when we get up, when we eat, when we travel, and when we go to bed. It means that we live out our faith in love toward others within the various walks of life in which God has placed us and in which we find ourselves. That includes our workplace, our church, our community, and especially our home.
Nothing in this world compares with the joy of living by faith in God’s Good News Gospel Story. It is an incredible adventure – and it is incredibly freeing. You know the song – He’s got the whole world in His hands. It captures nicely the art of living by faith. To live by faith is to live in the hope and confidence that God holds us firmly in His hands.
For His hands are not only strong, powerful, and loving, they are also the hands that bear the scars and nail imprints. They remain the hands of the One whose love for us knows no limits. And so, as He gathers us up and carries us into His holy presence this season, His story becomes our story, His life our life, His family our family, His home our home. Amen.