What a wonderful day to celebrate. 31st October and we have a lot to be thankful for.
It’s easy to think in this world that we just live by a list of rules. Don’t jump in the puddle without wellies, don’t use the tea towel to dry your hands, don’t put your feet on the seat. But today we celebrate a rediscovery of freedom, a freedom also known as grace. And it all started with a man named Martin and his church notice.
Martin was a monk so he had a lot of rules to follow and he was good at following the rules. Rules about when to pray (always), when to eat (hardly ever) and how much money to give (everything). His confessions were long when his songs were out of tune or his prayers insincere and he spent hours catching up each time he missed. While other monks payed people to do their duties for them Martin would save his for the collection plate to save the souls of those he loved after hearing things like ‘When the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs’. In fact between releasing souls and paying people to perform your duties it seemed that it was hard for someone who was poor to enter the kingdom of God. However, despite not being allowed personal study of the Bible, even Martin knew there was something wrong here, so close, yet so far from something Jesus once said himself. Something had to change and he was prepared to fight for it.
And the rest, they say, is history. Well, very important history as it turns out which brings us to where we are today. One where our friend Martin went from rule keeping hypocrite to a radical activist, brewing his own beer, smuggling nuns in beer barrels and marrying a runaway nun. Now that sounds more like the monk life I could get on board with. He later described his faith as “a living daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.” He did indeed give it everything but not in a joy-sucking, coin-counting routine, filling in his sticker chart of monk duties but in a living, daring willingness to embrace his father’s love. It was a history where many followed in his footsteps, spanned years and wars, threw up controversy and turned a few heads, all because a group of people realised that we don’t have to live by unreasonable and impossible rules. While everyone around them told them that a gospel just of grace was too good to be true, they realised that it was exactly because of that that it must be true!
It’s so easy to think that that was all nice back then but, as we said, that’s all history now. We’re hardly going to try and pay our way into salvation and you certainly won’t find us smuggling nuns when we do. But how often do we count our success as a child of God through what we do? Through numbers, through hours, through hard work? And how often do we really respond with a living, daring confidence in God’s grace? Or do we make the kingdom of God so expensive and by doing so, make grace so cheap?
I’ve just come back from a weekend away where we sang the chorus:
“Who the son sets free, oh is free indeed, I’m a child of God, yes I am.
In my Father’s house, there’s a place for me I’m a child of God, yes I am.'”
What a beautiful truth to declare. We have so many people to thank for pointing us back to the one who bought our freedom. What a day to celebrate! 🙂