+ Reformation Sunday – October 29th, 2017 +
Revelation 14:6-7; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In a sermon Martin Luther preached in Lent of 1522, he had this to say about the Reformation: “I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept [cf. Mark 4:26–29], or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”
The Word did everything.
Luther spoke God’s word in the pulpit and pub; taught God’s Word in classroom and catechism; sang God’s Word in hymns and liturgy; illustrated God’s Word in the visual sermons of sacred art; translated God’s Word into language that people could read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.
But in all of this, Luther was a servant of the Word, like John the Baptist, Luther wanted to man’s work to decrease, and for Christ crucified to increase. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.
This Word, God’s Word of Good News – Christ crucified and risen for you – did everything.
And 500 years later, it still does.
In our preschool, music academy, and Sunday School; in the Bible studies, choirs, and Christian fellowship; some sing, teach, learn, or ring bells; others herd children, prepare food, or invite friends; some plant, others water, but God gives the growth.
As it was in the Castle Church in Wittenberg, so it is at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Huntington Beach: God’s Word does everything.
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples…
God’s Word is our life. For man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your Faith in Christ is born of God’s Word. Your faith is fed by God’s Word. You’re sustained by God’s Word.
To be Jesus’ disciple is to be connected to his Word, to abide in the Word of him who is the Word made flesh; to hear Jesus’ Word and to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it; to receive the Word made flesh weekly in his body and blood; to live in Jesus’ Word given to us at Baptism by daily dying to sin in repentance and rising again in Christ’s forgiving Word of absolution. And apart from God’s Word, our faith dies.
Imagine if we treated our daily eating habits like we do our hearing and reading of God’s Word: “I don’t want to eat today, I’m too tired. I ate last week, I don’t need to go and eat this week. I’m just so busy, I can’t seem to find time to eat.”
When it comes to food for the body, there is wisdom in moderation; it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Not so with the daily bread of God’s Word. God’s Word isn’t meant to be read and heard in moderation. You can never receive, read, and hear too much of God’s Word and Sacraments. There’s no such thing as receive God’s forgiving, healing, saving, undeserved, grace and mercy too many times. We can’t hear enough the Good News all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and you are justified by his grace as a gift in Christ Jesus.
For as our bodies waste away without nutrition, and as a branch withers and dies apart from the vine, so too, our faith is starved and dead apart from God’s Word. But where Jesus’ Word abides, here in your Baptism, here in his body and blood for you, here in the forgiveness of sins proclaimed and given freely for you, you abide in Jesus’ Word.
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
And yet, like Luther, we are not free; rather, we find ourselves captive to sin and death; and yet, continually try to free ourselves by something we say, do, think, or feel.
For Jesus reveals the truth that, “Whoever commits sin is a slave to sin.”
Are we slaves? That sounds rather harsh. But…what does God’s Word say? Do we fear, love, and trust in Him above all things? Do we call upon God’s name in every trouble; do we perfectly pray, praise, and give thanks? Do we gladly hear and learn God’s Word? Do we honor father, mother, and other temporal authorities? Do we help our neighbor in every need? Do we keep marriage pure and encourage others to do the same? Do we help our neighbor protect his property? Do we defend the reputation of others by putting the best construction on everything? Do we desire what doesn’t belong to us? Are we content with what we have?
No, truth is we are slaves to sin, just as Israel was enslaved in Egypt. We’re born enslaved, captive to Sin and Death. And we cannot free ourselves.
Luther discovered that as well. Luther knew his sin. But he only saw Jesus as the righteous judge and taskmaster, not a righteous savior. And so, he sought comfort in every word of the Papal playbook: relics, prayers to saints, pilgrimage to Rome, endless torment. And yet, he found no word of comfort, only commands; no Gospel, only Law; no freedom, only tighter chains.
Thankfully, by God’s grace, Martin Luther discovered another Word of God in God’s own Word, Good News that had been long forgotten. Truth that had been buried in the pages of history, under piles of relics and stacks of indulgences. Luther found a Word that sets us free from the demands and punishments of the Law, from God’s wrath and judgment, and from sin, death, and hell forever. Luther found an eternal Gospel.
For we hold that man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
This Word, God’s Word of Good News – Christ crucified and risen for you – did everything for Luther. And today, 500 years later, God’s Word does everything for you too.
By the Word Jesus created the heavens and the earth, calmed the wind and sea, and made the paralytic man walk again.
By his Word Jesus opened the deaf man’s ears, raised Lazarus from the dead, and he died and rise again, just as he said.
By his Word Jesus washes away our sin, clothes us in Christ, adopts us as his children, places his name upon us, buries us in his death and raises us in his resurrection, and saves us in Baptism.
By his Word Jesus forgives, absolves, and pardons all our sins freely, by grace through faith in Christ crucified for you.
By his Word Jesus gives us his body and blood in bread and wine to eat and drink forgiveness, life, and salvation.
By his Word Jesus declares righteous, holy, and without any stain of sin.
By his Word Jesus sends you as free, baptized Christians out into your vocations where you declare God’s Word of Good News and free grace in Christ to your family, friends, and neighbors.
Jesus took up our Sin and our Death and nailed it all to His cross. The Son became the slave so that the slave might become the son. And if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. By his Word Jesus sets you free, just as he did for Martin Luther 500 years ago.
That’s the Word of God that Luther preached, taught, and rejoiced in.
And so do we.
Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word, we pray and sing.
For this Word, this Good News – JESUS CRUCIFIED FOR YOU – does everything today and always.
A blessed Reformation Sunday to each of you...
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.