This was a central idea of the Reformation that we are saved by faith alone.
What does it mean to live by faith alone?
How do we get faith?
Most of us don’t like this idea.
Well…most of us have probably never really thought about it that much.
We might want to live by faith.
But most of us live by works.
We live believing in our works.
We live believing that we have lived a good life, a hard working life.
During the time of the Reformation this saying was about getting to heaven.
That you got to heaven by faith alone, through grace alone, because of Christ alone, that was shone in the Word alone.
Those things formed the core of what the Reformers were trying to teach.
It was through Christ that we are saved.
And to have faith meant to trust in Christ and his promise of eternal life.
It is great, but I think we are uncomfortable with it because we want to do something.
I can’t tell you how many times in my years as a pastor I have been challenged on this point.
People say something like, “If you don’t have to be good, then you will just do whatever you want.”
In other words, it can’t be that simple.
It can’t just be about trusting in God.
What do I have to do?
Our Gospel for this morning is a good example of what people are trying to get at.
We don’t like the idea that people get something for nothing.
We are usually like the people hired at the start of the day.
We feel that we have worked harder, done more, then the people hired at the end of the day.
When I first read the Gospel for this morning I thought it was about grace.
But it is more about faith.
In our relationship with Jesus what do we come to know?
That God is gracious and loving.
We know this because we have come to experience it ourselves.
We see that so much of our lives are out of our control.
That the things we want to do we don’t do.
And we come to see our own need for God.
For God to forgive us, lead us, and help us.
Because of this we learn to trust God, and place all things in God’s hands.
That is what is missing from the workers in our Gospel, a trust that God is God and works on a different level that we do.
Our faith is putting our trust in God’s hands.
The powerful core of our shared faith is that God is generous beyond our simple mindset.
And we really need it.
I can hardly keep up these days with all the things that are going on in the world.
It seems that bad news is coming at an ever increasing pace.
Earthquakes in Mexico, multiple destructive hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, people dying in terrorist attacks, wars and rumors of wars.
As the 80/90 Rock Group REM once sang, “It’s the end of the world as we know it.”
When people ask me, “how I am?” it is a hard to say.
I am fine, but I see the rest of the world falling apart.
And this doesn’t even take into account the personal struggles of people I care about.
My mother’s cancer.
My friend’s cancer.
Or your struggles that I hold in my heart.
Getting older and struggling with life changes.
All of the things that happen in our congregation that I worry about like people coming to church less and less.
All of these things are on my mind.
I am sure that you have your own list of things that are troubling you.
If I lived by works this would be impossible to keep up with.
It would be devastating to think about all the problems of the world, and how few solutions there are.
But to live by faith is to trust in a gracious and loving God.
As Martin Luther wrote, “The law says, ‘do this,’ and it is never done. Grace says, ‘believe this,’ and everything is already done.”
Faith alone is to believe that the world with all of its problems has at the center a God of grace.
We don’t live there very often.
We live in a world of judgment.
We judge each other.
We live in a world of anger.
We are angry all the time at each other.
It is nice to think that the other side is getting what we think they deserve.
When we build a relationship with God we come to find out it doesn’t work that way with God.
Jesus tells us that, “the first are last and the last are first”.
The parable he tells this morning is one that the original hearers would be shocked and angered at.
And I suspect the same is true for us.
To think Jesus is being overly gracious.
Except it is parable about the kingdom of God.
It is a parable about the way that God works that contradicts the systems of the world.
Jesus tells us today that the only way to live in the kingdom is by faith alone.
I think the only way to live in our world is by faith alone, because the whole thing is crazy.
It is out of control.
It doesn’t make sense.
And so all I have is a God of grace.
How do we get this faith?
According to Luther we get by hearing God’s word.
Coming to Church and receiving the sacraments are part of that.
For me, often it is through you and some act of kindness that I am reminded of God’s promise.
Like this card I got from Alva for my birthday one year.
“Have faith in untraveled roads….Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive if you have faith” (Matthew 21:22)
Often I will get a card or nice word from one of you that will help me.
I know that you also do that for each other.
The Word of God reminds us of God’s grace and love.
It reminds us of God’s promise and brings us back to our faith.
One of the great things about being a pastor is that you get to see people’s faith all the time.
Many people that I have had the privilege of being the pastor to have shown great faith in their lives.
They are people that have experienced great heartache and pain, and still trust that God has their best interest at heart.
They express this faith in different ways, in different language, but it is all the same thing.
Faith is not believing in some doctrine.
It is not having the “right” words to say.
It is about a deep relationship that one develops over many years.
It is relationship that develops of hearing God’s word over and over again.
In that relationship one learns to trust God.
One learns that life happens, good things and bad things.
“That if we live we live to the Lord, and if we die we die to the Lord.”
Today I wish for all of you faith alone.
Faith that keeps you going.
faith that helps you get through those hard times.
Faith that keeps you from becoming too cynical.
Faith to know how much God cares about you.
Faith that keeps you believing in a Gracious and loving God.