Many years ago, Sharon baptized her niece Kennedy, she was six years old at the time.
One day we went to visit her brother and his family and Kennedy’s mom asked her to tell us what she had said about God.
She was a little embarrassed at first, but then after some prodding she said with a great sense of confidence and authority… “ONLY GOD CAN GIVE YOU REAL FREEDOM!”
And with that, a six year old summed up the Gospel!
ONLY GOD CAN GIVE YOU REAL FREEDOM
Jesus was talking to the Jews who believed in him …and told them
“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples. And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus reminds us that real freedom is spiritual freedom. Real freedom is the freedom from sin and death and that freedom can only be given by God.
Weekly Reminder – Confession of Sins
Each week, we begin our worship with the corporate confession that reminds us of this truth.
The pastor says: If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sin, God who is faithful and just with forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
And then we pray together: we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.
There it is, without God’s help we are not free. We cannot earn, or buy, or conquer our freedom because we are enslaved to sin. It is part of our human nature.
Martin Luther Described This True Freedom
“Our wills are bent or curved towards ourselves so that without God’s help, everything we do ends up being about us.”
You see we are not in bondage to our sins, those things we do wrong that come and go. We are in bondage to our own human nature which always puts ourselves before God.
And that’s exactly why Jesus came into the world. To free us from our bondage and save us from ourselves. Jesus went to the cross and went head to head with our sin so that he could pay the price required to set us free.
So I encourage you to live out your freedom. Let your life be an reflection of the Glory of God, and an example of the amazing things that living in true Freedom, TRUE FREEDOM… can produce.
Those of you who know me even marginally well, know that I love my boys. Luc is a 14 year old Bichon Frise, and Oscar is a 15 year old Maltese. For Christmas one year I received a new T-shirt from an animal rescue site called “Advice from a DOG”.
This advice includes the following:
Delight in the simple joys of a long walk
Unleash your talents
Hide your favorite snack
Make new friends
Learn new tricks, no matter your age
When loved ones come home, always run to greet them
Now, I might suggest that we “share our favorite snack” instead, but the others are pretty good advice! We can learn a lot from our four-legged friends as this poem by Amy Dean reminds us:
Each day comes to your dog new and fresh and full of promise; your dog is not bounded by days of the week, business meetings, deadlines, and commitments that prevent you from looking forward to the day.
Perhaps it’s time to start today to adopt more of your canine’s outlook on life. Each morning can be a new beginning – a time for joy and play, a time for fresh air and sunshine, a time for bounding around, a time of canine delight!
Advice from Martin Luther – Remember Your Baptism
As we start this new ministry together, may our animals inspire us to start each day anew. Martin Luther emphasized that it is important to begin each day by remembering our baptism. When we awaken, we are to make the sign of the cross and remember that God has claimed and sealed us in baptism. Each day we are given a new start, a new beginning. The old is washed away. We are made new each day in Christ.
Advice From God
With a little adaptation, our T-shirt advice could easily shift from “Advice from a DOG” to “Advice from GOD”.
In other words:
Trust in me with all your heart and soul and mind.
Delight in My creation while strengthening your physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Use the gifts and talents I have given you to benefit the common good.
Share your favorite snack and your cloak and your tunic.
Make room for everyone.
Welcome others as you have welcomed me.
Be creative for the sake of the Gospel because you all have the capacity for spiritual growth regardless of your chronological age.
Like the Father who ran to meet his prodigal son, run to greet those returning home.
Receive others with the grace with which I have received you.
So let’s together feel God’s unfailing presence, embrace the gift of each moment with joy and anticipation.
Peace and Joy,
Pastor Tim, Sharon, Luc, and Oscar
Image by Thang Nguyen from Nottingham, United Kingdom (135209) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia
By now you have heard of our 2018 Stewardship Appeal: Welcoming All—Growing, Engaging, Building. It’s our focused effort to propel our mission into 2018 through shared generosity. We are asking for a lot… hoping you will earnestly evaluate your life and your commitments for continued alignment with God’s work through Grace. A stewardship appeal further binds us together.
It’s that binding in grace through Jesus which draws me to an unlikely image… training a canine pet.
I’m an abject failure at dog obedience training.
Lifetime Training Track Record – 0-6
As a teenager I attempted with my mother to raise a German Shepherd. This was the third dog ‘raised’ under my tutelage. How come our dog Lady didn’t behave like Rin Tin Tin? After Lady knocked over a precious vase, she was consigned to an outside pen. When a four foot fence wouldn’t contain her, we added four more feet.
Lady jumped over the first fence and climbed over the second. Neighbors knew our phone number by heart. After these same neighbors could no longer handle nights made sleepless from Lady’s incessant barking, we gave her to the Asheville Police Department.
Lady needed to get out of our jail. I failed with three other dogs after that. We survived each other largely due to their temperaments.
A Raleigh neighbor trained a Golden Retriever he named Trapper. Leashed to his master the young Trapper learned to successfully walk around the block. The two were in step with each other. As an adult dog Trapper strode next to his master gripping that leash in his teeth. He didn’t need to be restrained. A darting rabbit or squirrel would not send Trapper in pursuit. This canine willingly walked beside his master. The leash was just a connection point between master and dog.
It was a beautiful thing to witness. The dog preferred to please its master. He wanted to follow his every stride.
Martin Luther defined Christian freedom this way:
“A Christian is perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.
A Christian is perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.”
(Treatise on Christian Liberty)
A Call to Christian Freedom
What a rich understanding of our place in this world. We know we don’t have to walk beneath another; we choose that path. It should never be forced on us. There may be nothing worse than a collar choking you into submission. Constraint does not beget willing service. There may be nothing more beautiful than a servant who in freedom grips the leash in his/her mouth.
You do not have to give anything to support Christ’s work thru Grace Church. There is no leash pulling on you. This appeal is a call to Christian freedom!
Seeking the Fullness of Life in Christ,
David A. Sloop, Interim Pastor
On October 31st, 1517 Martin Luther very innocently posted 95 reasons for there to be debate concerning Roman Catholic doctrine and theology. The doors of the Wittenberg Church were pretty much the bulletin board of the university. Luther was calling for faculty and students to come together to discuss the direction in which the church was heading; a direction that he felt was contrary to scripture and the fundamental principles upon which the Christian Church was founded.
These Ninety-Five Theses were translated from Latin (which was intended for the university’s population) into the German language and widely distributed. Thus, an attempt at scholarly debate became an irritant among clergy, theologians, and heads of state, especially where the sale of indulgences was concerned. In his explanation to this document, Luther wrote that “the law is fulfilled not by our works but through faith, not by anything we offer God but by all we receive from Christ.”
In other words, God’s grace is a gift that cannot be earned by any human endeavor.
Although the five hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation will not officially be observed until October 31st of 2017, the ELCA is encouraging Lutherans and others within both Protestant denominations and the Roman Catholic Church to utilize this intervening year as an opportunity for study and discussion. Long before he posted the Ninety Five Theses on the doors of Wittenberg Church, Luther had carefully studied the scriptures and written countless papers and letters in an effort to express his concerns.
I will be making recommendations to the Equip team in the near future for our providing opportunities within the congregation for study regarding Martin Luther and the impact of the Reformation upon the church and the world over these last five centuries. It is also important for us to view how Reformation history will continue to impact us far into the future. I encourage each of you take note of opportunities that will be provided in coming months within our own congregation, our synod, and among Lutherans and people of other denominations within our own community. It is also important for Lutherans to know, not just the history of where our legacy originated, but also how our understanding of justification by grace through faith impacts our mission, and our service as Christ’s disciples both now and into the future.
In the nineteenth century, Nicolai Grundtvig set these words to Martin Luther’s tune, A Mighty Fortress: “God’s word is our great heritage and shall be ours forever; to spread its light from age to age shall be our chief endeavor. Through life it guides our way; in death it is our stay. Lord, grant while time shall last your church may hold it fast through-out all generations.”
Passing the faith from generation to generation is, indeed, an endeavor worth pursuing.