I really don’t like preaching on Paul’s writings. Paul’s words, in spite of being the foundation of much of our theology, are tough to parse, so I’m stuck in the role of Paul’s translator and I don’t much like it. For example, in Galatians today Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” And Paul says, “If justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” And we say, “Oh yes, Paul. Give us another!” Something about grace and faith; something about the law serving a purpose but salvation is through Christ, etc, etc. There is more Paul in the Lutheran Confessions than anything short of the Gospels, but just because this is what the church confesses doesn’t mean it’s easy. Instead, I find that it leaves people asking: But now what?
That’s the problem. I basically have one sermon in me and it centers of grace. I preach on grace pretty much every Sunday and some of you buy half into it 99% of the time, others of you buy into it fully about half of the time; still others have no idea why any of this matters and you are waiting for me to reference some cultural marker you can relate to so you can perk up. Nothing is more offensive than grace because feels like I might be saying “None of this matters!” And that’s what we’re afraid of after all—that none of this does matter. So when the pastor stands up and proclaims not expensive grace, and not cheap grace, but free grace—grace that is yours free of charge, no acceptance necessary—well, that sounds like a free pass to meaninglessness paved on a road of anything-goes. Just the kind of thing we want to be telling our graduates, right? Anything goes?
What do we do with this grace?
For graduates it comes in the following questions I’m sure you have heard once or twice recently. “So, what are you doing next year?” “So, where are you going to school?” “So, what kind of work are you doing?”