2018-10-28/Reformation Sunday/Community Lutheran/Pr. Joe Vought
Romans 3:19-28 John 8:31-36
Martin Luther said a Christian lives by faith in Christ that he has a gracious God, the forgiveness of sins and the hope of heaven. Each Christian with their baptism is now a little Christ who can serve the neighbor, do good work in the world. Because of this freedom each and every single action a person takes to serve and make a difference has far reaching consequences.
Let me tell you a story: When Norman Borlaug was 91 he was told he was responsible for saving the lives of two billion people. He was an Iowan who hybridized corn and wheat for arid climates. The Nobel Prize committee calculated that Borlaug’s work saved over 2 billion people from famine all across the world and the number is increasing every day. But maybe Borlaug was not the person who saved 2 billion people. It might have been a man named Henry Wallace, who was vice president under Franklin Roosevelt. He was also secretary of agriculture. He created a research lab in Mexico whose purpose was to hybridize corn and wheat for arid climates. He hired a young man named Norman Borlaug to run it. So, while Borlaug won the Nobel Prize, it was Henry Wallace who saved 2 billion lives.
But maybe though, it wasn’t Henry Wallace; maybe it was George Washington Carver who saved 2 billion lives. What people don’t know about Carver is that while he was a student at Iowa State, he had a professor who allowed a 6-year-old boy to go on science expeditions with this student. George Washington Carver took 6-year-old Henry Wallace and gave him a vision about what he could do with plants to help humanity. Carver developed 266 products from the peanut we still use today. But with all the time Carver spent on peanuts, isn’t it amazing that a few afternoons with a 6-year-old boy named Henry Wallace really turned out to make such a difference!
But maybe it was actually a farmer from Missouri, who saved 2 billion people. The farmer, named Moses, and his wife, Susan, lived in a slave state, but didn’t believe in slavery. They were known as “sympathizers.” One cold winter night, Quantrill’s Raiders attacked the farm. They burned the barn, shot several people, and dragged off a woman named Mary Washington — who refused to let go of her infant son. Mary Washington was Susan’s best friend, so Moses arranged a meeting, to get Mary and her baby back. On a bitter cold January night, Moses took a horse and rode hours to a crossroad in Kansas where he met four of Quantrill’s men and Moses traded his only horse for what they threw him in a burlap bag. There in the freezing dark, with his breath blowing hard and white, Moses brought out of that bag a cold, naked, almost dead baby boy. He opened up his jacket and his shirt and placed the baby next to his skin. Moses fastened the child under his clothes and walked that baby out, talking to him every step of the way. He told the baby he would raise him as his own, promised to educate him, to honor his mother, who he knew was already dead. That night the farmer gave the baby his name. That is how Moses and Susan Carver came to raise a little baby, George Washington Carver. So there it is, it was a farmer named Moses who saved over 2 billion people.
So who knows who really saved 2 billion people? How far back could we go? How far into the future could we go to show how many lives you will touch? There are generations yet unborn, whose very lives will be shaped by the decisions you and I make today and tomorrow, the next day, and the next. (“The Borlaug Chain,” by Doug Steele)
We have all been given the gift of faith and a rich legacy of those who cared for us, loved us, taught us the faith. Like the story of Norman Borlaug, you dear saints of God, and youth who are confirmed today, have been given an amazing legacy of faith, parents, grandparents, generations of people who passed on the faith all the way down the line from Jesus and those first disciples. The truth of Luther’s Reformation, God’s good news in Jesus for sinners like you and me is the forgiveness of sins, the communion of saints and life everlasting. This is the Good News that sets us free. We may forget it sometimes and act like we must earn it or strive for it. We may get competitive just like the two brothers who thought they had to earn the Father’s love. That’s why we must return to our baptism and come to Holy Communion to hear the story of Jesus again and again. We don’t have to worry about working our way to God, Jesus has come to bring the Good News of God’s love for us, for all people and the world God made. Because we have been given the gift of faith we claim this Good News in our day and time. We no longer live for ourselves. Each one of us made new in Baptism is a little Christ, serving, loving and bringing healing to the world God loves. Norman Borlaug, Henry Wallace, George Washington Carver and Moses the Farmer who rescued that baby, they all made a difference for God’s sake and brought healing to the world.
Confirmands you are no longer children. Now each one of you are like Jesus, affirming your Baptism, taking one more step in faith to excel in the talents God gave you. How will each of you bring help and healing to the world? Walt Whitman, the great poet said, “The powerful play of life goes on, so that each one of us might contribute a verse and play our part.” Saved by grace, we hear Jesus say it again to each and every one of us, “Let your shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory and praise to God in Heaven.” Amen.