I love Reformation!
I get all worked up and excited when I can say, in complete confidence, that on my own, in my sin, I deserve nothing but God’s wrath; but in Jesus, I receive nothing but God’s grace.
That’s why I love Reformation: Grace Alone, baby!
I even wore my red, “Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders” Reformation socks to worship this morning.
And I can’t helping feeling celebrating Reformation that way is missing something important, something biblical, something Lutheran.
In his explanation to the 3rd Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Luther can say: “I believe I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ …”
And describing the ongoing work of God who creates and sustains, Luther can say in the 1st Article that God does all this: “Purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me…”
Not by my own strength. No merit or worthiness in me. Grace alone. Sounds Lutheran, right?
But Luther also says in his explanation of the 2nd article, that Jesus “has redeemed me,” paid a price to buy me back, “purchased and won me, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood, and his innocent suffering and death, that I may be his own…”
That I may be his own. Redeemed. Purchased and won. That’s also Luther, and Lutheran.
Two of my favorite parables of Jesus come in two quick verses; blink, and you’ll miss them. In Matthew 13:44, Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like this situation: some guy finds a treasure buried in a field, and in his joy—this is the kind of joy that makes you jump up, spin around, shout “Woohoo!” and start singing your Happy Song—in his joy he jumps up, spins around, shouts “Woohoo!” and sells everything he has so he can afford to buy that field.
In the next verse, Jesus tells a similar parable. The kingdom of heaven is like this situation: a professional pearl dealer, who has a life-time’s worth of experience and a life-time’s worth of inventory, finally finds that once-in-a-life-time pearl. Sometimes it’s called the Pearl of Great Value, sometimes the Pearl of Great Price (price and value are intimately related). At the bargain basement price of every single pearl in his possession, along with is house and his retirement plan and his brand new camel caravan and his cottage by the sea, that merchant makes the purchase of a lifetime and walks away with a pearl that made all those long years of searching worthwhile.
The value validated the price. In fact, the value exceeded the expense, so that this unbelievably high price—everything you own—was greeted with joy and paid in full, with delight.
So, biblically speaking, you are blind, dead, and an enemy of God; but the Bible also has another way of talking about this Jesus who purchased and won me from sin, death, and the power of the devil.
The treasure in the field was never God’s enemy; the Pearl of Great Price was never an object of wrath.
If you ever have cause to doubt your own value, if you ever wonder what your small existence is worth, if you ever find yourself in a dark and lonely place where your inner voice tells you again and again, and sometimes most days in any given week, that you are ugly, or stupid, or worthless—check your price tag.
Because your price tag reads: “The Very Life of the Son of God.”
And Jesus read that price tag, and considered eternity with you and eternity without you, and then with tears of joy sold everything he had so he could afford to buy you.
You made all those long years of searching worth it.
You. You were worth it.
Image Credit: Rebecca Yops; St. Paul, Trenton