Deacon’s Message (March 2017)
Grace and peace to you!
I write this message days before my installation as Deacon of the Lutheran Church of Framingham, having been called by the people of LCF to serve and lead them in partnering in mission and ministry with St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Together, through the grace of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are doing something new here!
Doing “something new” is part of the DNA of the Church bodies – like the Lutheran and Episcopal churches – that grew out of the Reformation. Change within the Church – always being made new – is part of who we are as people of God, as we are always reforming – individually and collectively – so as to come closer to perfect union with God.
The “something new” to which God is calling us is often revealed to us through a process of discernment, a time of prayer and contemplation of scripture. Martin Luther, reformer of the Church, offers an example of how discernment leads to reformation.
As a young monk, Martin Luther was obsessed by the idea that there was nothing he could do to overcome his sinful nature and make himself right with God. He was tormented by the thought that what he desired most in life – to be in a loving and right relationship with God – he could not have by his own merit, no matter how hard he tried. Luther was in agony for years over this dilemma – what could he do to be saved if his own works were not good enough?
One day, as Luther was reading the Bible, the authority through which he sought meaning for his life, he came across this verse from Romans 5:1 – “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ…” (NRSV). Now, I bet that Luther had read that verse many times during his life. This time, however, he read and understood it in a new way. Further reading and prayer led him to new understanding of his relationship with God, an understanding that is still considered to be the core belief of the Reformation and the church bodies that grow out of it:
We are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone.
What does this mean? To be justified means to line up correctly – to be made right – to be declared righteous by God – to enter into a right relationship with God.
Justification before God only happens by God’s grace – God’s free gift of love, forgiveness, and salvation. We receive justification by grace only through God’s free gift of faith, trusting that it is only through the death and resurrection of Christ that we are saved. We do not deserve God’s grace nor is there anything we can do to earn it.
We can, however, respond to God’s gift of grace. When we know and believe and trust that we have been freely made right with God, then we are set free to love God and to love our neighbors without reservation. We are free to let go of what has passed. We are free to go forward together, to embrace the “something new” to which God is calling us. May this be our journey together.
to God be the glory!