The Lutheran Church of the Triune God

5th Sunday after Pentecost                                                                              July 5, 2015

 

2 Corinthians 12:9                               Grace Alone is Grace Enough

 

Dear fellow redeemed,

To live by grace is to pack light.

*          Try identifying with the disciples in today's Gospel.  Jesus sends the twelve out two by two. 

            They are to “take nothing for their journey except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money”;

            not a second carry on; not even an extra tunic to cover up with at night!

            What motivated these men?

*          It was very simple. They weren't thinking of what they had to do to make it to the next day.

            It was all about the message their Lord had taught them.

            Grace Alone is Grace Enough.

*          The Lord would take care of them.  If Christ had supplied everything they needed for

            eternal life, they certainly would receive what they needed for today and tomorrow.

 

It's something many Christians and theologians have struggled with throughout the years.

God's grace is too simple and wonderful to believe.  So they try to water down its meaning.

*          You may recall the consensus document that was adopted by certain Lutherans and Roman

            Catholics in the mid-nineties.  How could you get both sides to agree on what God's grace is?

*          Is saving grace God's undeserved favor, the Lutheran answer? 

            Or is such grace a spiritual power that's poured into the soul, the Roman Catholic answer? 

*          The two definitions have nothing in common. 

            How could they possibly reach a consensus?

*          Well, they never resolved the question.   They simply agreed that we're saved by grace alone

            because of the working of the Holy Spirit.

*          In the end, both sides failed in making their case.  Neither side could say unequivocally

            that there's nothing we must do to get to heaven; to make it to the next day.

*          Liberal scholars have always been afraid to believe it; that God's grace is enough.

            Instead of trusting absolutely in what Christ has done to save us, they insist on making it

            about their life.  There's gotta be something I must do to make it to the next day.

 

And of course the next day could represent our next lifetime, or it could represent tomorrow;

twenty-four hours from now.

*          And it brings to mind another use of the word “grace” in the Greek; not what we would

            refer to as saving grace, but the effects of God's grace, what he pours into us, so to speak.

*          It's this second use of the word grace that's used in today's text.

            When God tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you” he's informing the apostle that he

            can deal with his thorn in the flesh because God's grace has produced in him every gift

            the Holy Spirit promises; peace and comfort and strength and assurance and hope and

            joy.

*          When all is said and done, whether we wish to make it to the next life or make it to

            tomorrow, Grace Alone is Grace Enough.

 

Well, that’s wonderful news. 

*          But we tend to spend more time thinking about making it to tomorrow than we do making

            it to our life in heaven.  And it explains a question we'll ask when we suffer for long

            periods of time. 

*          “I know God’s grace is enough to get me to heaven, but is it enough to get me through

            this life?”  The popular opinion today is that we need to remain strong and on top of

            things at all times.

*          And it’s quite possible that Paul, in his early days as a servant, was of this same opinion. 

            I really doubt whether, early in his ministry, he had a full appreciation of God’s grace.

*          The Apostle, as you know, was able to do many things for the Lord. 

            He had great knowledge and ability.  He had founded many mission congregations –

            bringing the saving message of the Gospel to countless towns and cities. 

            He had written Scripture.

*          Paul may have thought that the Lord would let him remain healthy and strong since he

            was serving Lord in such an important way. 

*          The apostle needed to be reminded of something regarding God's grace.

            The Lord gives it to the undeserving.

*          And so it was in time that despite Paul's success, he was given a bodily burden or illness.

            The exact nature of it we don’t know.  What we do know is that he asked the Lord three

            times to take away what he called his “thorn in the flesh.”

*          But the Lord’s responded, “My grace is sufficient for you”.

            Grace Alone is Grace Enough!

           

Even so, the opinion remains to this day: “I must remain strong and healthy to be the best servant.”

*          And it would seem most of the world feels this way.

            To suffer doesn’t make sense.  It makes “life a waste”.

 1         Our thorn may be that person who’s constantly putting us down.

            We aren't trusted to do our job; or we're not trusted to be the kind of mother or father or

            husband or wife we might be.

 2         Or our thorn may be our schedule.  We'd like to spend more time with our spouse and our

            family.  But we haven't developed the ability to just say “no” to everybody else.

 3         Or our thorn may be our position at work.  We're constantly put in the middle of things

            and we don't know how to stand up to either side.

 4         Or our thorn may be that worsening condition of ours that’s robbing us of the chance to

            enjoy our “golden years”; that throbbing pain; that growing dependence on others.

*          We get to the point where we just want to call it quits; give into this thorn of ours.

*          You may be reminded of coming from a family with bigger brothers and constantly being

            picked on.

            Frank has got you pinned and he's not going to let you go, not until you say the magic

            word.  So you finally concede.  “All right!  You win!  I give up!  Uncle!”

*          It's how we may sometimes see our life.  We just want to scream. 

            Maybe then our God of grace will take notice of us for just a moment.

*          All right! You win! Grace Alone is Grace Enough! 

            Just get it to stop!  “Enough is enough!

 

Well, if we’re not able to make sense out of the sufferings of St. Paul, or our own suffering, or the

suffering of loved ones, we should know we’re not alone.  In this life, after all, we’ll never be able

to make complete sense out of them.

*          But don't conclude from this, that God’s grace is sometimes lacking or not enough.

            God’s grace is enough when we realize why we’re here on this earth.

*          We're here not to remain strong or to make a name for ourselves. 

            We're here to make a name for our Lord.

*          Imagine the temptation that St. Paul faced to think of himself as someone very important.

            It wasn’t difficult to measure his success: the countless converts he had brought to Christ;

            the many congregations he had started; to say nothing of how far the Gospel had spread

            geographically as a result of his efforts. 

*          He was well loved and respected.  Grace alone? What did he need that for?

*          But this thorn in the flesh would keep him humble.

            It would help him keep his perspective.  He was just a human being. 

            And as a human, he was the Lord’s instrument.

 

Having said this, we can understand the Lord’s response when Paul asked to have his thorn removed.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

*          That is to say, God could not work through someone who did not consider himself weak and

            was hung up on himself.  Such a person wouldn't wish to make a name for the Lord.

            He’d slip back into the mindset of the world and try making a name for himself.

*          And that’s what Paul came to understand.

            He knew that without that thorn he’d very likely become puffed up; hung up on himself. 

            And he didn't want that any more than the Lord did.

*          That's why he would say eventually: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my

            weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me.”

*          Paul had found contentment in his suffering, for he came to realize that it wasn’t a proud,

            perfect Paul the Lord would use.  It was a limited, defective Paul he would use.

*          It was in this way that he'd make a name for the Lord.

 

That’s how the Lord works today.

*          The most powerful confession of faith often comes not from the pulpit but the hospital

            bed or the humble confines of one’s home.

*          We might think back on former parishioners from Triune God. 

            I speak of your mother or wife, your grandmother or daughter.

            Her hours on earth are few.  But she's neither pessimistic nor subdued.

*          Instead, she listens as you read from Scripture about heaven and the last day.   Or she

            smiles at her pastor who speaks of the resurrection of her Savior and every believer.

*          And when she’s done listening, her words are faint but clear enough for you to hear.

            “I’m ready for Jesus to take me home!”

            Although she’s being rejected by her own body, she has every confidence that she will

            not be rejected by her Lord.

 

Grace Alone is Grace Enough when we realize why we are here on this earth; to hold up the

name of our Lord and bring attention to his grace.

*          But there’s a second reason we’re here that we’ll want to be aware of.

            We’re here so that we might be made ready for the day we’ll be taken home.

*          Of course, here too people hold to two very different beliefs.

1          Some believe that we make ourselves ready for that day, and that we prepare ourselves

            for the Lord by making different changes in our lives. 

            We better our attitude, we better our behavior.

2          Others believe, as you and I do, that God makes us ready for the next life. 

            After all, we could never get ourselves ready.

            As St. Paul reminds us “(we) were dead in our trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

*          Having been filled with sin throughout our being, we were disabled spiritually.

            Therefore God has to be the one to go to work on us. 

*          And that he does.  He works on us through his Word and sacraments. 

            He works on us through the news about our Savior who would live and die for us and rise again.

*          He gives us faith, assuring us that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours

            only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

*          By this simple Word, with its wonderful message of grace, God saves us.

 

It’s also what keeps us in the faith or restores our faith when we stray.

*          And that finally is how we’re able to make sense out of the same suffering and burdens. 

            You see, sometimes to get us deeper into that Word, our Lord uses life’s events; even the

            most trying events.

 1         I speak of that worsening health of yours;

 2         Or that individual who doesn't believe you can function properly as that parent or

            husband or wife;

 3         Or your unbelievable obligations which have deprived you of a healthy family life.

 4         Or that job that keeps you questioning whom you should defend and whom you should

            confront.

*          As the Lord nudges us a little deeper each year into his Word, we become a little more

            ready to leave this world behind.  With each year we find a little more comfort in the words of Christ.

            “Do not let your hearts be troubled . . . In my Father’s house are many rooms . . .

            I am going to prepare a place for you.”

*          “Do not be troubled” Jesus is saying: “God’s grace is enough.

            For there's room in my Father’s house for every last one of you.”

 

To live by grace is to pack light.

*          You don't have to weigh yourself down with thoughts of making it to the next life or the

            next day.

            In the words of Jesus, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious

            for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34).

*          Let God's grace have the final say, our Lord is telling us.

            For we can count on his grace even with regards to our suffering.

*          The question is not: “can God get me through to tomorrow despite my suffering?” 

            The question is: “why does God get me through my suffering?  I'm nothing but a sinner!”

*          And the answer is, God is love.  God operates by his grace. 

            Therefore God desires that we learn from suffering; that we learn how Grace Alone is

            Grace Enough.

*          Consider, finally, Paul’s words to the Romans: “I consider that our present sufferings are

            not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

*          The glory of heaven is more than enough to make up for every affliction and sorrow this

            sinful world dishes out to us.

*          So let our sorrows have their way until God's grace and glory have their say.  Amen.

                                                                                               

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.