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Under God's Grace, and That's It - By Pastor Thomas Engel

With all the issues that we have to talk about in these days, it’s good that we would sit down together and talk about them.

On these issues like climate change, racism, crime, education, and the list goes on and on, we need to have discussions, for they affect us.

A lot of issues mean a lot of talk, but talking with each other is always good.

Well, it should be good, but it’s seeming that our talk today in political, educational, corporate, and social circles is just causing further division among us.

I think I have told you that I’m a terrible person to watch the news with. During interviews, I want to interject more questions.

I know that the interviewer is under time constraints with the next commercial break coming up, but I can’t help but notice the leaps that leave gaps from one question to the next.

I want to fill in the gaps with questions of my own. Even when I read articles that go deeper into the issues, I’m still left with wanting to ask questions.

It’s here that we can say, “Inquiring minds want to know.”

We are born with a desire to know. The way to know more is to ask questions.

After getting an answer, we ask another question. We keep repeating the process, so we keep going deeper into the issues.

It’s when we are determined to go deep that we find solutions that we never would have thought of.

These solutions are like golden nuggets that take some digging to get to.

Rarely, do we find these golden nugget type of ideas on the surface.

Going deep requires us to be vulnerable. If we really want to get to the heart of the matter, we need to let ourselves to be open to other ideas and hear what other people have to say.

For awhile, we need to walk and talk in the gray area of ideas that will take us to solid solutions.

I have to tell you in the first draft of this sermon I wrote we need “to” talk to each other. In the revision, I corrected the preposition. We need to talk with each other.

It seems these days that we are talking a lot “to” each other or to use another preposition that is not much use here either, we are talking “at” each other.

We are standing on our sides and are not going into the middle ground.

I’m not saying to not to hold on to our convictions when we are in what we call the gray area.

The best thing that we can do is to bring our convictions into the gray area when it comes to finding solutions.

For when everyone is bringing their minds and hearts with the intent to join together, we can find real solutions.

It’s in the gray area of discussion that we come together and talk with each other.

It’s on neutral ground where we put the best construction on the thoughts, feelings, and ideas of others.

If I had to say the number one sin of today, if there is such a thing as a number one sin, is that we are not putting the best construction on what other people are saying.

Instead, we are quick to find fault, and we even to go to the extent to demonize the other person for having such a thought that is different from our own.

In the gray area, we listen to other ideas with an open mind. We take in where other people are coming from, and in an open exchange of ideas, and you’ve heard me say this in other sermons, “We can come up with “super-ideas.’”

You know those ideas that we say when we hear them, “I would never have thought of that.”

Don’t we all want the same basic things? Are we not all looking to have the best for ourselves, families, and neighborhoods?

If I can speak for the whole world, I think the answer is obviously, “Yes.”

So, since we are all agreement on the fact that we want the best for all, let’s sit down in the gray area and talk with each other in our circles on how all that works.

Up until now, I’ve been going in the direction of an English instructor teaching about how to write a persuasive essay on to how make friends and influence people.

But, of course, I’m here and you are here today for the sake of our faiths, especially, on this day that we celebrate the Reformation.

Back in Martin Luther’s day, it seems, for Martin Luther, there was no gray area.

Before the church and political authorities of the day, Martin Luther was asked to recant his beliefs.

Martin Luther was to walk back his belief that people are saved by grace and not works, or he had to hit the highway.

For this subject of faith, it was one way and not the other, as it should be.

Martin Luther could not step over to the other side or even into any gray area because his conscious would not allow him. He had to stick to his conscious as it should be.

Martin Luther said we are saved by grace and by grace alone that we know from God’s Word alone that we believe by

God given faith alone.

You know the Reformation catch phrase well: Grace alone; Scripture alone; Faith alone, and that’s it.

We are saved not from by what anything that we do, not even a little smidgen, not even a little crumb, not an ounce.

Martin Luther did struggle with this for a time. Because he was a young priest and that is what the church was doing at the time, the church thought humans can work for their salvation.

But he discovered by his reading of Scripture that the righteous shall live by faith.

For when we think we can put anything that is human into earning our salvation, we ruin the whole concept of what grace is.

Our best efforts can never be good enough to earn salvation.

Our human ego wants to say, “Hey God, look at me. Don’t you think I’m so awesome? You gotta love me. I’m so good.”

I can say quite confidently that if you would go to the school during religion and ask our upper grade students, “What can you do to get God to love you?”

I know that they would answer because I have asked them, “Nothing. Because God already loves us so much.”

I hope they can keep that answer as they get older. For when as adults, we start letting that ego build up that wants to tell us that we can do things to make things happen.

We just think that we are so smart.

It’s at this point that things do get a little tricky.

We do know that we are saved by grace alone in Christ. Knowing we have salvation by grace alone, how do we live in God’s grace?

We know we can’t earn salvation, but we know we react to our salvation by doing good works, but then it begs the question, “How many acts do I have to do in my response to God’s grace?”

What I mean is that this world is such a mess, and we have to admit that at times our lives can have some rough spots.

We want things to be better in the world and in our lives. Don’t we?

Of course, we do.

Again, if I can speak for the whole world or at least all of us today that we are in agreement that we want things better. Then, again, it begs the question, “Why don’t we get along to do exactly that, make the world better, our communities better, places of work better, our schools better, our families better?

Here’s a few ideas to put out there: let’s end world hunger, let’s stop wars, let’s fight to end injustices, and here’s the real kicker, let’s end a pandemic.

But, the poor will always be here. Nations will always rise against other nations. Oppression is here as long as people are selfish. People can be so hard- headed, and from that stubbornness, conflicts of all kinds will be here.

And as far as the pandemic, my knowledge of medical things can be put in a thimble, but I think, as we are finding out from the last two years, that the eradication of a virus is far from a straight forward process.

To cut to the chase of why there are such on going problems with no end in sight for solid solutions is that we know all this is because sin is always here, and sin always has it’s “bad” consequences.

I know you know that sin is the problem because we all came here today to confess that we are poor miserable sinners.

As long as this old world keeps going around, people, even those like us who know of salvation, will sin.

It’s our human nature to sin.

From the fall into sin from the first parents of the world, we have inherited sin, and from that inheritance of sin, we will die a physical death and sin will cause problems.

Some problems will have minor “bad” outcomes to horrible consequences.

It’s just that we can’t get away from sinning. We surely can cut down on our sinning, but sin is here, so sadly to say, sin is here to say.

This is the tricky part, so what is all this talk about God’s grace, and that’s it?

It seems that if we are to be living by faith in God’s grace that the world and my life should be far better off.

Let’s start here with talking about God’s grace. We will get first things first.

By the grace of God we have forgiveness of sin. This forgiveness means we have a right relationship with God.

This relationship brings us close to God. For us today keeping with the theme of the Reformation, from the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress,” we get a deep but hard explanation from these words, “And take they our life, Goods, fame, child, and wife, Though these all be gone, Our victory has been won; The Kingdom ours remaineth.”

The whole hymn is so powerful that I could have taken any line. But, these lines have always stuck out to me because I don’t want to hear how true it is that everything that is dear to me can be taken away.

But, knowing how all can be taken from us, we still can be comforted, can have peace, can have joy, can have strength.

Our faith can give us all these things at any time, for our faith says that we have victory over all that wants to harm us.

Look at the situation here: Sin is here. Satan does roam. Physical death will come. But, because of the death and the resurrection of Jesus, we have his victory over sin, Satan, and death.

All done by the grace of God, and that’s it.

We want answers to our questions, we want things fixed, we want things better, we want solutions to all of our problems.

It seems awkward for me to say this to you, but we won’t get those things all the time.

What we do get is God’s grace, and that’s it.

Is it enough? Do we get enough of God’s grace to get through all these issues of the world and the problems of our lives?

Faith says that grace is quite sufficient to get through all that comes our way.

It’s all about God’s grace, and that’s it.

Are all the problems of the world solved? No. Are all the rough spots of our lives made smooth? No. Do we get all of our questions answered? No.

But, by faith, we get God’s grace, and in that grace, we peace, joy, comfort, and strength that is beyond anything of this world and of ourselves.

Let’s now go back to the sides of issues that we take, let’s now go step into the gray areas, and let’s go into the world and our lives by God’s grace, and that’s it, and let’s just see what happens when we all have faith in God’s grace, and that’s it.

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