Sermon Preached by the Reverend Dr. Howard W. Boswell, Jr.
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost, September 24, 2017
Kenmore Presbyterian Church
Kenmore, New York
This sermon will conclude
the first three sermons in the Sola Series.
On the first Sunday, we looked at how the Reformers believed
God saves us through grace alone.
Last Sunday, we explored how they affirmed
we receive grace alone by faith alone.
Today, we come to “Christus Solus” or “Christ alone.”
As I began to reflect on this sermon,
I realized how a sentence emerged from
these three central statements of the Protestant faith.
We might compose the sentence in this way,
“God saves us through grace alone
by faith alone in Christ alone.”
Or we could change the order of the words slightly,
“God saves us by faith alone
in Christ alone through grace alone.”
Another possibility presents itself,
“God saves us in Christ alone
through grace alone by faith alone.”
No matter how one says it,
the Reformers believed you and I need
no other mediator with God than Jesus alone.
Before the Reformers, we had other go-betweens:
saints, the Sacraments, good works,
or the whole hierarchy of the church.
This situation made Jesus seem distant,
even detached from the ordinary believer.
The editor of Reformed Worship,
Joyce Borger makes this point well in her sermon notes.
She begins, “It sometimes is hard to get an audience with
someone in authority.”
She continues, “It seems that the higher up people are
the tougher it is for a regular person
to be able to talk to them.”
Borger goes on to point out how one has to go
through several intermediaries,
not to mention security clearances,
before one can have a face to face
with someone important.
Her story suggests what the medieval church was like.
Oh, priests could converse with God anytime they liked,
even members of religious orders had an inside track,
but the common people had to go through
the appropriate, sometimes costly, channels.
Borger concludes her comments, saying,
“Before the Reformation, Jesus seemed that inaccessible to the common person. Because people couldn’t speak to him directly, they depended on the priest to speak on their behalf. But Scripture teaches us that Jesus is our priest, and that anything that kept us from direct access to him has been taken away.”
I believe that’s the entire point of Hebrews 4:14—5:10:
Nothing needs to separate us from Jesus.
He stands between God and us.
He gets us.
Yet, I wonder whether we grasp how good this news really is?
In one of our confessions, the Heidelberg Catechism,
after reviewing the entire Apostles’ Creed,
the writers asked, “What good does it do you,
however, to believe all this?”
Now, if you’ve memorized the Heidelberg Catechism,
please keep the answer to yourself,
because I want to attempt
another answer to this question.
I think it’s only natural at some point along our faith journey
to wonder, “What good does it do you, however,
to believe all this?”
It happens in different ways, at different times,
for different people.
Some of us ask this question when a loved one dies.
Others of us wonder about it when a relationship ends.
Some of us raise this question when we encounter a tragedy,
like a hurricane or earthquake or a terrorist attack.
Others of us come face to face with it when
a book or a person or another way of looking at the world
makes us stop in our tracks.
Yet, as natural as asking the question may be,
there is something else that is normal.
Let me share it how I see it.
At some level, all of us carry around a burden,
a weight of one kind or another.
Some of us may recall a damaged relationship.
Others of us may remember some wrong we did.
One way or another, most of us may feel
as if we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders,
but we don’t understand why.
Yet, I believe all of us desire the same thing.
We wish someone or something could take
the burden off of our backs.
We want someone, anyone to understand us,
really understand us.
Now, there are many places, people, and things
to which we may turn for relief.
While there is nothing wrong with most of them,
some of them are deadly,
like addictions of one kind or another.
Yet, even the best of them only alleviate some of the problem.
Here’s how I see the problem: In each of us is an empty space,
which we try to fill with a whole lot of stuff.
However, only one person can truly fills us and
only one person truly gets us—Christ alone.
Do you remember what one hymn says?
What a friend we have in Jesus,
all our sins and griefs to bear?
What a privilege to carry
everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit;
o what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer!
Through his life, death, and resurrection,
Jesus lifts the burden of sin and grief from us.
As Hebrews 4: 14-16 says,
Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Going back to the Heidelberg Catechism,
here’s how its writers answered the question,
“What good does it do you, however,
to believe all this?”
They wrote, “In Christ I am righteous before God
and heir to life everlasting.”
In a way, they said something similar to what I did.
Somehow, we sense something’s not right
and we want it to be corrected.
Most of us long to know “life everlasting,”
new life in Jesus Christ, beginning now.
Now, some of you may want to ask me,
“But, Howard, what happens to those who don’t believe
or who believe in something other than Christianity?”
Well, I would need an entire sermon,
maybe even another series, to answer that one.
Yet, I’d probably start by saying something like,
“I don’t know and no one does.
That call belongs to God alone.”
For today, I want you and me to come to terms
with what it means to affirm Christ alone
and to know deeply the difference he makes.
©2017 Kenmore Presbyterian Church