Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Higher Things SOLA conference
[Reader’s note: this is a sermon I preached at the 2009 SOLA Higher Things conference. It’s not really about zombies, but I did mention them. It apparently generated a fair amount of conversation after I left. -LL]
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “The Work of Art”
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Zombies. We haven’t had a zombie sermon yet this conference, so it’s about time. Paul really lays this out for us nicely in Ephesians 2. You are a dead one walking, following the prince of the air into the darkest holes of hell. You are by nature zombies, the walking dead, mindlessly following the spirit of disobedience, doing what comes naturally, and let me tell you, what comes naturally ain’t good, people. Anger and hatred are probably some of the nicer things that come naturally to us children of men. You are dead, at enmity with God, following the passions of your body, like dogs that cannot help themselves but do what comes naturally. Ugh. Blech. Not good, people. Not good at all.
So why? If you are all these things, and do all these things, why would God raise you up to the heavenly places in Christ Jesus? Why would the Father send His Son to death so that you may live together in Him alone? We don’t deserve it, that’s for sure. We talk a lot about what God does, but that question of why is one that every child of man must struggle with at some point. Why does God care about me at all? If I am so bad, if I screw up so often, if I am, as Luther would put it, a maggot sack, the walking dead, with the stench of the grave wafting out of my pores, why does God do all of this wonderful and great stuff for me?
The word, dearly baptized, is Grace. Breathe that word it. We can even use Luther’s language and say grace alone. Say it with me. GRACE ALONE. It is perhaps the most Lutheran of words. If it isn’t THE Lutheran word, it is certainly in the running. Grace. What does it mean? Originally the word meant something like beauty. You might say in greek that a beautiful woman had ca¿riß, had grace. Grace was a character or a quality in the person. So we might say that God is full of grace. It is who He is.
But grace also means favor or attitude or disposition, like a rich landlord would show grace to his tenants or servants. One of the wonderful things about this word grace is that it’s hard to distinguish between the gracer, the one giving or showing grace, what his attitude is toward you, and what he actually does or gives to you. The nature of God and the actions of God go hand in hand. One flows from the other. And God, who is rich in mercy and full of grace, shows you who He really is in sending His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross so that you might live.
Since you all are mostly Lutheran geeks, that probably means that a good portion of you are also Lord of the Rings geeks. One of the many great scenes in the book is when Samwise slips up and gives away that Frodo carries the One Ring. But Faramir is given a chance to “show his quality.” His quality, his essential character, was that he would let them go and continue their journey to their doom and the salvation of all.
So this is who God is, that he is rich in mercy, full of grace, that God is love, always giving, always moving outside Himself and to His creation that He loves. You, dearly baptized, are His doing, his workmanship, His work of art if you want. God could no more abandon you than He could deny his own nature. His nature of love, of mercy, of grace, of favor, is to give you all things in His Son Jesus Christ. He has raised us up in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, why? “…so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:7).
In other words, He shows you His grace, gives you His divine favor, sets you up in the heavenly place in Him, so that in the coming ages he might show the world the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Higher Things in higher places for higher people. This happens not by your doing or mine, but solely by grace, by His work. He has revealed His saving love. And He will use you, dearly baptized, He will use you for His good purposes in Christ Jesus. You are His living work of art, His beloved, His chosen. You aren’t zombies, the walking dead. You are alive in Christ Jesus, washing in Him, holy, lifted up, and favored by Him.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9).
In the name of Jesus. Amen.