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For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:24-25 ESV) Grace Alone” (sola gratia) is the core teaching of the Reformation. This simple concept has helped the church focus again and again on what God has done for us in Christ alone. As Paul so clearly states – salvation is a gift! Here at International Lutheran Church, we have been exploring the Reformation Sola’s of Faith Alone, Grace Alone and Scripture Alone as they point to Christ Alone. More than any other aspects of the Reformation, these teachings continue to shape our faith today.

Grace Alone is the eternal message that comes to you and me, not from ourselves, but from outside of our own actions and doings. It goes against all that we constantly try to “do” to improve our own situation. Like Faith Alone and Scripture Alone, Grace is simply a gift of God – THE GIFT of His Grace! We experience this grace in two major ways: in Baptism and at our Lord’s Table.

In Baptism we are declared to be children of God, adopted and made members of His family, citizens of His Kingdom, not by our action, but by His. God in Christ through Baptism connects us to the death and resurrection of His one and only Son. We are united with Him in His death and raised to new life in His resurrection. The grace of God is ours in Baptism as He washes away our sins and restores us to the image of His own Son. We are clothed by Him. We become His lights in the world today – even as He alone is the Light of the World. While very personal and something we experience only once, this Baptism into His grace has an everyday consequence. We can say with Paul in full faith and confidence, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.” This is not of ourselves, but it is the gift of God. Grace Alone!

Yet, this experience of God’s grace is not singular, but rather ongoing. At His Table we are gathered to receive together His grace and forgiveness, the fruits of His cross in, with, and under the Bread and Cup. These are ordinary vessels, yet bring to us from the outside the very promise of God, the word of God, the grace of God – our forgiveness and salvation. We eat His Body and drink His Blood as His word declares and as our faith believes. As often as we gather, not as individuals, but as the body of Christ, He gives to Himself as He did on the night when He was betrayed.

Today as we commemorate the Reformation, we also remember and mourn the loss of life due to the Itaewon Crush one year ago. We pray for the families and our community here that God’s grace would give us courage to care for our neighbor. We look on at a world filled with violence and unrest, yet our trust and faith are in a God who acted in grace to deliver all. His Grace Alone gives us strength, even as Martin Luther penned for his day his famous hymn based on Psalm 46: “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Our rest is in Him even as we point the whole world to His Grace Alone!

Pastor Carl