Home > Uncategorized > Sermon for Reformation Day, observed

Sermon for Reformation Day, observed

Augustana, 2011

John 8:31-36

Click here for mp3 audio 58 Sermon for Reformation.mp3

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The sermon for today is based on the Gospel for today from John 8.

Jesus spoke these words to some Jews who had begun to believe in him.  They show very quickly how little of Jesus’ message they were willing to receive.  They did not see themselves as slaves to sin and therefore saw themselves as better than the sinners and tax collectors Jesus typically associated with, and worse they did not see themselves in need of what Jesus came to bring, freedom from slavery.  The Pharisees stand out in the Scriptures as a strict warning to us to watch what we make of ourselves.  It is too bad that we so rarely see such attitudes in ourselves.

Today, of course, is Reformation Day.  It’s grossly inaccurate to say that on October 31st, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg and thanks to him we’re finally free.  First, when you read the 95 Theses you are instantly aware that dear Father Martin, not yet Doctor Luther, is not yet Lutheran.  Thesis 44: “Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.”   Second, the 95 Theses are not part of our Lutheran Confessions.  They are strictly a reaction against the selling of indulgences, pieces of paper forgiveness that could be bought with money.  Father Luther still wants people to do acts of penance not buy forgiveness.  That’s not Lutheran, and not the basis for the revolution that would become the Reformation of the Church.  Overly simplistic notions of the Reformation do us no good and pit us as the good guys verses the Roman Catholics as the bad guys.  The real enemy is ourselves, Jesus says and the most terrible part about it is that we are blind to our own slavery.

This happens on a large scale with institutions and organizations and it happens to us as individuals too.  It happens because we fail to abide in the Word of Jesus.  Jesus said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”  Those who have no time for the Word of God are not abiding in the Word.  The longer a person stays away from the Word, the weaker faith becomes.  Eventually, if faith is not nourished by the Word, it will die.  The Word of God is the food of faith, the air faith breathes, the fuel faith burns.  Without the Word faith dies.  It will forever remain a mystery to me why some, otherwise wonderful Christian people, even wonderful church people stay away from the serious study of God’s Word.  I can attest that I am not perfect in this area, no one is, but the attitude of staying away is not only wrong-headed, it’s sinful.  Every time I have grown as a Christian, it has been because of the serious study of and mediation on God’s Word.  Every time I have failed in faith toward God and in love toward others, it has been because I failed to take to heart God’s Word for me.

I always found it more than a little ironic that in a church body that has such a problem with getting people to engage in the serious study of God’s Word, we published a study bible called the Concordia Self-study Bible.  I know what they were trying to say.  You could use this Bible to study by yourself.  Your study Bibles do you no good if they are covered with dust.  But it also can be understood ironically as the Bible that studies itself.  Your catechism does you no good if you do not meditate on it daily.  And I can assure you that all your doubts concerning God and his ability to answer your prayers come from so little fuel for the faith the engine of prayer.  I can assure you that all the anger and arrogance you find leaking out of your heart in your relationships with other people is there because you have first failed to abide in the Word of God.  When we live like this, we live like Pharisees, completely blind to the slavery of our sin and therefore we are slaves to sin.

When we abide in the Word of God we know the truth about ourselves and how God sees us and we know the truth about Jesus and what He has done on the cross to free us from sin and slavery to sin.  That is the truth that sets us free.

They answered him, “But pastor, I’m already confirmed.  I already learned the catechism.  I pray the Lord’s prayer every day.  I don’t need to study it again.  And you’re a nice guy pastor, but you’re not quite the gift to the church you make yourself out to be, so give it a rest, how ‘bout it?  For cryin’ out loud, I’m not in slavery to sin.  I just don’t like those sinners and tax collectors or that politician or that that person who was mean to me.   I have a right to not forgive them.  I’m not a slave to sin.

And completely unaware of the Word of God said even in the Lord’s Prayer daily, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” we so close to the Word and yet not abiding in it and practicing sin.  Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”  The Pharisees were blind to their own bondage to sin as we often are.

That’s why Jesus’ Word first shows us our slavery to sin, so that His Word can bring us freedom from sin.  God’s purpose is to break our pride and bring us ever before Him as no better than anyone else.  But Jesus says, “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  The Word was written down not to give a list of dos and don’ts .  We have the Word of God that we might remain and dwell in it always, not graduate out of it.  The Word preaches to us the truth and that truth is Jesus Christ.  The truth is that truth which Jesus Himself speaks from the cross.  “Father, forgive them.”  “It is finished.”  He alone speaks this truth for He alone is bore our sin, even our sins of spiritual blindness and our prodigal attitude toward the Word of God.  He has born even these sins to the cross.  From the cross flows the forgiveness won for us by Jesus perfect obedience and steadfastness to the will of God the Father.  To know that truth is to live in it, to abide in it and to be free from slavery to sin and to be freed from our callous attitude toward the Word of God, to be freed to listen, to love, to treasure and even obey God’s Word.  That Word sets us free.  That Word abides forever.

Luther and the Reformers risked their lives and all they had for the sake of the Gospel itself so that we might be a people who abide in the Word of God and so that we and our congregation and the congregations with us in the Lutheran Church would be reformed by God’s Word.  Take seriously Jesus’ invitation to abide in Him, to abide in His Word.  He means to use to use it to reform you for the better and for the benefit of those around you according to His own purpose.  He means to free you, both now and forever.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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