I've never heard a congregation so quiet while I delievered a sermon.
Afterward, as I greeted people leaving church, I heard numerous comments, "You can't resign." "You scared my kids to death. You need to start giving warnings on your sermons if you do that again." "I'm going to go find that letter and tear it up." My congregation president said, "On behalf of the congregation, we reject your letter of resignation."
Those were most comforting. One in humor said, "You got my hopes up there for a minute."
I do know that folks will be talking about that one for a while--which is perhaps a good thing.
I believe that we are often caught between the extremes in our world today. I believe that most of what we read in the news, see on the internet, and hear on radio and watch on t.v. represents the extremes. There seems little or no room in the center anymore.
Yet, as a Christian, I believe that we are called to be caught in the dynamic tension of the center. How so?
As a Lutheran, I am always teetering between Law and Gospel. The Law, in simplified English, are God's rules--what He expects out of us when it comes to living the life we are supposed to live. The Gospel has to do with the overwhelming knowledge that God loves us despite the fact that there is not a single person who can follow God's Law. Furthermore, as I think I pointed out in my sermon, I think every single person purposely breaks some part of God's law and isn't repentant of it.
At this point, I will say, "Spare me trying to explain away Jesus' teaching in Luke 14:33." Either you accept that Jesus meant what He said here, or you can try to do creative explanations to make yourself feel better. I think He meant it just as He said it. And I know that I don't measure up. At all.
But here is where the Gospel comes in: we are not saved by doing the works of the Law. We are only saved through the grace, love and mercy of God. As St. Paul pens in the book of Romans, "We are saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus." It's a comforting thought. Freeing. Paul takes this to the logical consequence in the book of Galatians when he says that because of grace, "the Law is no longer our disciplinarian." Indeed, we have nothing to fear if we break God's Law. He will not zap us. He will not cease to love us. He will forgive us. Period.
Yet, and here is the difficult part, that doesn't give us liscense to do whatever we want. Far from it. In the book of Romans, Paul even goes so far that we are then called to uphold the law. Why?
Well, if God has done so much for us and loved us so much, should we not then try to follow His instructions and rules? Should we not strive to make it a point to obey His commands--not because we fear His wrath, but because we love and respect Him so much?
I think so. Yet, when I strive to do such a thing, I am confronted with my inability to do so, and thus I am driven right back to the Gospel. Who needs amusement rides? If you are a Christian, you are in a perpetual loop! --Caught in between Law and Gospel. --Never able to get to either extreme. --Always drawn between the poles.
Ah, it might be nice to stay at either end. To have everything resolved and easy by gravitating to either end; yet, would one ever grow if not experiencing tension? Do muscles expand when they have it easy?
I think most of the folks in my congregation this morning "got it." I think they saw the dynamic of Law/Gospel at play. Will it have an effect?