Monday, October 27, 2014

Reformation Sunday Sermon: "Free Indeed"

Reformation Sunday - October 26th, 2014
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Rev. 14:6-7; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 Why do you celebrate Reformation day?

Is it because it’s fun to wear red and play pin the 95 theses on the door? Well, no. Though festive ways of remembering the Reformation are good. But the Reformation wasn’t about fashion statements even if Luther did let his hair grow back on the top of his head.
Is it because it’s a day to pat ourselves on the back for all we’ve accomplished in the last 497 years? No. The reason Luther is such an important teacher of the faith and the reason the Reformation is still celebrated and still needed, is because Luther wanted the church to abide in the word of God, not the works of man.

Is it because it’s like church spring cleaning; time to smash the stained glass windows, topple the statues, remove the crucifixes, and stick out our tongues at the pope and declare our liberation from the papacy, right? No, not at all. Remember, Luther didn’t set out to start a new church; but to reform the church. To bring the church back to abiding in the Word of God. Not a restart, but a return to the true catholic confession of faith. Luther didn’t want a riot, but a reformation. Luther taught Christian freedom, not anarchy. Now, some did riot and revolt; it’s called the radical reformation. They smashed and burned, huffed and puffed and tried to blow the whole house down. They wanted revolution. Luther wanted reformation.
This is why Luther kept, and Lutherans to this day still keep and treasure the practices and ceremonies of the church, things like chanting, vestments, processions, singing hymns, using the liturgy, stained glass windows, and other works of sacred art. Why? Because all of these things point us to Christ when they are taught and used rightly. Luther was a conservative reformer, correcting what was wrong; preserving what was right.

Is it because the Reformation is over and it’s time to party? Well, no. Not exactly. The Church is always and ever being reformed. The Lutheran churches. This church. It’s not simply a once and done deal where you can kick back and relax. There’s always error, always drift, always a little sideways current or wind that blows the Church slightly off course. We too are ever in need of reformation. It’s not about once confirmed always Lutheran or whatever other false security blanket we try to wrap ourselves in. Rather, rejoice in your Baptism. It’s a daily gift, a daily dying and rising, a daily reformation.

Why do you celebrate Reformation day? Because of God’s promises in these words:

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. 

It doesn’t get much clearer than that. There’s the heart of the Reformation. And the heart of the Christian faith. You, a sinner, are justified, saved by Christ’s death on the cross, apart from the works of the law. Free gift. By grace you are saved. You live by Christ’s mercy, not your merits.

Now that sounds like a reason to celebrate. But there’s more.
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

God’s Word is the common denominator. God’s Word is an eternal gospel, proclaiming that all nations are saved by the Lamb who was slain and lives. God’s Word declares that you are justified by faith apart from works of the Law. God’s Word sets you free from slavery to sin.
Everything is founded on the Word of God. Here I stand – upon God’s Word. So, your Faith in Christ is born of the Word. Faith is fed by the Word. Faith is sustained by the Word. And without the Word, faith dies. Apart from Christ the Vine you, his branches, wither and die.

The Jews answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
What irony. Even as this conversation was taking place, the Jews were enslaved to the Romans. And before that there were the Persians, the Assyrians, and the Babylonians. Oh, and don’t forget that “little” extended stay in Egypt.

How soon they forgot. How soon we forget. As bad as the Egyptians were, there is a worse master: Sin and Death. The truth is, you are a slave to sin, just as Israel was once a slave in Egypt. Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.
Whether you’re a son of Abraham or Luther, it doesn’t matter. We are born slaves; captive by Sin and Death. And it’s not just our thoughts, words and deeds. No, it’s much deeper than that. Capital “S” Sin. We’re stuck. We’re enslaved. And we’re powerless to liberate ourselves. Any attempt at self-emancipation only make matters worse. It didn’t work for Luther. It won’t work for you either.

The Law is more than a mirror that shows us our sin; it’s a magnify glass. It reveals and exposes our sin and then silences all of our excuse making and “but it’s not fairs” and our wagging our fingers at the sin of others. By the Law every mouth is stopped, and the whole world is held accountable to God. As Paul goes on to say, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…
But don’t forget to read the next verse. Commit it to memory. And are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

It’s true. You are a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad sinner. Just like the Jews in Jesus day. Just like Luther. Just like me. But it’s also true that God took your terrible, horrible, no good, very bad sin and placed it all upon His holy, perfect, innocent, and righteous Son Jesus.
The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.

The Son came down to us. The Son joined us in our humanity. The Son stood side by side with the slave to free us. He paid for your rescue with his own precious blood. He was not enslaved by Sin, He was Lord over Sin. And as Lord, He came under the Law that accuses us, that gives our consciences no rest, which kills us. He took up our Sin and our Death and nailed it all to His cross.
God does not hold you accountable for your sins. Jesus entered our captivity to rescue us. Jesus was bound in death’s chains to bring you life and freedom. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the end of your slavery to sin. For the Son became the slave so that the slave might become the son. And if the Son sets you free, you are free as free can be.

This is what Luther discovered: The joy of hearing that Jesus was not a righteous judge, but one who was judged in order to give us his righteousness; The good news that Jesus came to bestow God’s undeserved kindness and favor upon us, not to be an example of earning God’s favor; The truth of Scripture that grace is not something earned, but given freely.
And today Luther’s joy is our joy.

In Jesus you are free. Free from the obligations of the Law. Free from the Law’s condemnation. Free from enslavement to Sin. Free from Death. Free to live before God as a justified sinner. Free to serve your neighbor in love. The slave is made a son. Should you ever doubt this or wonder if it applies to you, remember you are baptized. Baptism is your adoption paper. Rejoice! You are no longer slaves; but you are sons with the full rights of inheritance. You have a permanent place in the house. And you have a place at the table. Come, eat and drink. Abide in the Lord’s word and promises as his body and blood abide in you for your forgiveness. You are forgiven. You are free.

This is why we celebrate.

A blessed Reformation Sunday to each of you…
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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