Monday, January 23, 2017

An Idea that Changed the World!

Martin Luther changed the world with an idea.
If you were here last week you heard me say that what makes us Lutheran is our theology.
I am amazed at how many Lutherans don’t know that theology.
So this morning I want to start by sharing with you Martin Luther’s theology as it was taught to me in seminary by Dr. Timothy Wengert.

The question that every religion asks and seeks to answer is how to we get to God.
God is above us, or beyond us.
And as humans we desire to know God, to have a relationship with God.
How does that happen?
In almost every case the answer is like a ladder.
Here are the rungs one does to get closer to God.
Prayer, worship, care for the poor, meditation…Whatever it is.
This was the religion that Martin Luther knew.
It is what he spent his life trying to do.
He tried to climb higher on the ladder.
He became a monk, prayed, fasted, studied, he denied the desires of the flesh.
The problem was that no matter how high Luther climbed on that ladder he could never discover God.
We still have ladders today.
We still kind of believe that if we only could know the secret, meditate more, study more, worship more, give more, we would grow closer to God.
Think of it we put people on the ladder.
Mother Teresa is higher up, right?
Dali Lama, Desmond tutu?
Holy people who are better than us at reaching God?
What if we could just be like those people then we would really have it all together.
This is what Luther was trying to do.
Until, he discovered the truth, in the scripture, in the person of Jesus Christ that we don’t go up to God.
God has come down to us!
God comes to where we are.
Here in this place God is pleased to dwell.
Here with us sinners that we are.
This is grace.

Sometimes at this point in the conversation someone will say, “But how far will God go?”
There are limits right?
Not to murders and thieves?
Not to Isis?
Not to my enemy?
Surely God hasn’t come that far into our world.

Today’s Gospel story is a good example of how far God will go.
Today’s story is a familiar one to us.
Jesus comes to the lakeshore.
Jesus calls Simon and Andrew to be his disciples, and they follow him.
What I didn’t know about this story is how extraordinary are Jesus actions.

In order to become a disciple in Jesus day you had to be the very best of the best.
You had to be the smartest person in your village, city, and town.
It starts when you are 6-10 years old and you start studying the Torah.
This is called Bet Sefer.
If you are the best of the best at reading the Torah you go on to when you are 10-14 to study the prophets.
This is called Bet Talmud.
If you are the best of the best then you go on to Bet Midrash.
You go and you find a Rabbi to teach you.
And even then a Rabbi will make it difficult for you.
If you are the best of the best then you can become a disciple of Rabbi and take on his yoke.
Look at what Jesus does in our Gospel this morning.
First of all he breaks the mold by searching out for disciples.
No rabbi would do that.
You show how important you are by having people come to you.

And second, we know that Simon and Andrew are not the best of the best, because they are still fishing.
If they would have been they would have been studying under a rabbi by now.

This is how far God comes to us.
He comes after us.
Jesus searches us out, and calls us.
And we are really unqualified.
Jesus doesn’t pick the best of the best.
He picks us, imperfect people that we are.
We are the people that Jesus wants.
We can’t be Mother Teresa, Desmond tutu, or whoever.
We can only be us.
And God has come to us.

There is no need to climb a ladder.
Anytime that we are told that “A good Christian does ……..” we should be suspicious of that person.
There is no such thing as “good Christians”.
There is only us imperfect as we are receiving the grace of God.
We don’t deserve it because we are not the best of the best.

This is what Luther came to understand.
He found in the pages of scripture not an angry God who is mad because we can’t get up the ladder, but a loving God full of grace.
A God willing to come down and walk here on this earth with us.
A God with sand in his feet.
A God with the hair that smells like the sea.
A God who eats with sinners.
A God who calls fishermen to be his disciples.
A God who is for you and me.

I want you to know that this theology saved my life.
I mean that literally.
When I discovered it I was relieved, because I am not the best of the best.
I am not meant to be here this morning.
I should not be your pastor.
If you think I am horrible pastor, I agree with you.
I am not good enough, nor smart enough.
I was never the best student.
 I was never the best athlete.
I was never the best looking.
I was never the most holy person.
I was just me.
And this theology freed me from having to be anything other than the mess I am.
I didn’t have to climb the ladder any more.
I know that God comes to me.
How far?
To the Lakeshore…
But ultimately God is willing to come all the way to the cross.
God is willing to die for me.
God is willing to know the pain of this human life.
It sounds silly to many.
“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The good news is that we don’t have to climb ladders to know God.
We don’t have to be Mother Teresa or the Dali lama.
We have to only be us, because we have a God who comes to us, and call us to follow him.
We have a God not of ladders, but of grace.
That is an idea that can change the world.

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