According to Albert Mohler the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary this week in his pod cast said that the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America our congregation is a part of it.) was not a church.
In response to the ELCA calling our first openly gay Bishop in California Mohler said, “It is by this act and by many prior acts distancing itself by light years from the actual faith and conviction of Martin Luther,”
Mohler said in a Monday podcast. The ELCA has “demonstrated itself to be neither Evangelical nor Lutheran and, as G.K. Chesterton might say, not a church either. That just leaves them in America.”
In Mohler’s eyes we are sinners, not fit to be called Christians.
This morning I would say that Mohler is right.
We are sinners.
I know that I am sinner.
I make no bones about it.
I don’t deny that I don’t always do the will of God.
I don’t deny that I don’t always have all the answers.
I don’t deny that at times I question and wrestle with historical views of doctrine and practice of the Church.
I admit freely that I embrace gays, lesbians, bi-sexuals, transgenders.
I admit that I am friends with and pray with people of other faiths.
I admit that I have told dirty jokes in order to make non-religious people feel more comfortable around a pastor.
I admit that I swear.
These are just the things that I do outwardly.
What about what happens in my head and heart.
I haven’t even touched on my selfish nature, my insistence on my way.
I could go on and on, but the point is that I am a sinner through and through.
But it is sinners that Jesus comes for.
“I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
It is the sinner that Jesus eats and drinks with.
It is why his opponents called him a “drunkard and glutton”.
Sinners are Jesus friends.
This woman sinner knows better than the Pharisee that Jesus is her last resort.
For this she risks public humiliation to come and wash Jesus’ feet with her tears.
Jesus knows that those who sin know of their need for forgiveness.
Know of their need for love.
Jesus is friends with sinners.
Jesus is here for sinners.
In fact, if you are not sinner than I am not sure you even need Jesus.
As for straying from the teachings of Martin Luther, I think that we are OK here.
I don’t know what Luther would have said to our particular post modern social issues.
And I don’t think that Albert Mohler could say what Luther would have thought either.
But what I do know is the gift that Martin Luther gave to the Church was the idea that we are saved not by our actions, not by being “good Christians”, but only through the grace and love of God.
Luther believed deeply that we cannot on our own live up to the standards of God’s law, and so we need Jesus to save us.
The only way one can get there is to know of our own sin.
Luther once said that we should “sin boldly.”
Luther meant that none of us is free from sin without faith in Christ.
This world is filled with sin and we cannot escape it even if we wanted to.
Writing to Philip Melanchthon Luther wrote, “If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin.
God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners.
Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world.”
So I am happy to be part of a church that is full of sinners.
I am happy to be part of a church that “sins boldly”.
I am even happier to be part of a church that believes in God’s grace even more boldly.
I accept Mohler’s idea that the ELCA is a sinful church.
Because it is only a sinful church that can be saved.
If you are perfect you have no need for Jesus.
Jesus knows this and he tells his guest that only those who know of their sin have love in their hearts.
The problem with the law is not only that we demand that God act in our ways, but we come to think of ourselves as superior to others.
That we are better, because we have lived up to the standards of God while others have failed.
This is always the problem with applying the law to Christian morals.
The Christian moral is simple it is only about love.
Everything else takes a back seat to love.
Jesus acts towards sinners in love, he goes out of his way to break man made laws in order to show love.
How did Christians become Pharisees?
It should be said that we are not alone in Mohler’s attacks.
The Presbyterians are also in trouble, and don’t measure up to Mohler’s standards of a good Christian.
Mohler went on to attack the Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Louisville-based Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), for his statement in the wake of historic losses in the denomination’s membership in 2012.
Parsons called for the denomination to make greater efforts to connect with the growing population of religiously unaffiliated but spiritually minded Americans. Mohler said:
“Here you have in the face of such incredible membership losses and unprecedented loss of congregations the stated clerk is saying what the church needs to do is to connect with people whose spirituality, whatever that is, isn’t even so significant that they’re members of any church or even have the slightest religious affiliation.
In other words, he appears to be calling for his denomination to define its theology down so far that the religiously unaffiliated feel absolutely at home.”
Last week was our annual synod assembly for New England.
Part of what we did together was to listen to seven people who have no religious affiliation.
I am a sinner and believe that we need to listen to the voices of those who are not coming to church.
We need to understand why and how.
We need to see ourselves through their eyes, because Jesus did not come for the religious, but the non religious.
He did not come for people that had it all together.
He came for this woman.
This lost woman.
This woman at his feet crying tears for her sins.
That is what it means to be a Lutheran.
It means that we are not about legalism, we are about grace.
I am proud to be the pastor of such a church, I am proud to be a member of such a church.
If that is not considered a church by some people’s definition that is fine with me, because I would rather not be a member of church instead be a forgiven sinner of Jesus Christ.
If Church membership is just about ascribing to one set of beliefs that were manmade back in the 14th century then I am not worried about being part of that.
But if being part of the Jesus movement is about seeing our need for God’s grace given in Jesus Christ then I am happy to be part of it.
May all of you sin boldly but believe in God’s grace even more boldly!