“Word for Today” – Ephesians 2 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

October 30, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Luther 1The other day, I was updating some information on my Facebook profile.  Under a section titled “Personal Interests,” I came across the obligatory list of “Favorites,” a standard feature of every social networking site.  Favorite music? Anything country.  Favorite movie? Shawshank Redemption.  Favorite book? Hmmm, let me think real hard.  Perhaps I should go with the Bible.  Favorite quotation? From my favorite book, of course:  “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

We all have favorites.  My favorite color is green.  My favorite team is the Texas Longhorns.  My favorite food is cheese.  For all the favorites we’re allowed to have, however, there are some instances when playing favorites is generally considered taboo.  Parents, for instance, are not supposed play favorites amongst their children.  Pastors, like myself, are not supposed to play favorites amongst people in their congregation.  Do you want to know a secret, though?  I play favorites.  In fact, I have a favorite member.  She’s five foot four, has curly brown hair, beautiful blue eyes, and an effervescent personality that brings me ever-increasing joy.  Her name is Melody.  And the best part is, she’s not only a congregational member, she’s also my wife.

This may come as a surprise to you, but just like I play favorites with my wife, God plays favorites too.  Indeed, this is precisely Paul’s assertion in our reading for today from Ephesians 2: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (verses 8-9).  Paul here decries the deficiency of human works while extolling the complete sufficiency of God’s grace for salvation.  The Greek word for “grace” is charis, meaning “favor.”  In other words, God’s favor toward you serves as the source of your salvation.  You are God’s favorite!

On Saturday, the Christian Church will celebrate the 492nd anniversary of its Reformation, traditionally commemorated when a monk named Martin Luther nailed ninety-five theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, protesting the false doctrines and practices which had arisen in the Roman Catholic Church of his day.  At the heart of Luther’s Reformation was an insistence that we cannot earn God’s favor, or grace, but that God freely gives it because of the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Before Luther properly understood God’s grace, he lived in paralyzing anxiety, always afraid that his sin would turn back God’s favor and instead incite God’s wrath.  But then he discovered the beautiful promise of Ephesians 2: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves…”  Our works, no matter how pious, do not make us God’s favorites.  Rather, God freely and recklessly plays favorites with those who are undeserving and ill-deserving out of his love and because of his Son. As Luther himself so eloquently says:

Grace is freely given to the most undeserving and unworthy and is not obtained by any strenuous efforts, endeavors, or works, either small or great, not even by the efforts of the best and most honorable men who have sought and followed righteousness with a burning zeal. (What Luther Says, 1840)

You are God’s favorite!  This is the message of the Reformation and, more importantly, this is the message of the gospel.  When humans play favorites with others, it usually leads to jealousy, suspicion, and dissension.  But when God plays favorites with us, it leads to our salvation.  Praise be to God for his charis – his favoritism!

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Ephesians 1 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Ephesians 3 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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