Posted on Wed, Nov 2, 2016
October 30, 2016
Reformation Sunday Sermon
Gospel Text: John 8:31-36
31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?” 34Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
It is Reformation Sunday. What do you know of the importance of the Reformation in its effect on Western culture? Of all the amazing events in human history, what event or events, can you recall that truly changed truly the course of human history… apart from the Chinese inventing paper and gunpowder? An end all and be all event in history that changed things forever? It wasn't any of the “wars to end all wars;” not the internal combustible engine … Tesla products are proving that wrong…
It was the Reformation. 499 years ago, the simple rebellious act of allowing all people to hear for themselves the simple yet profound message of Grace. To hear and studying in one’s own language that God is Love, and through God’s only Son, and God’s faithful obedience, all have been forgiven and are welcome to the Table of God, for now and eternity. This doesn't sound so profound does it? We are free to read and hear these great words everyday if we desire…
You know that phrase, “Knowledge is Power?” Knowledge comes from being able to read, write, and study. At one time it was, the church leaders, the priests and such who were the only ones who could read and write. It was as if the church, not God, was in control; because the church claimed to speak for God, in all matters. Not even the princes would go to war without the permission of the church.
One time, the pope wanted to build what would later become called St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
The church sold these things called “Indulgences” to the people in order to pay for the huge church. There were always building projects to be done, but Luther had some real problems when it was proclaimed that if you purchased one of these pieces of paper, your time in “Purgatory would be shortened…” The story goes, and actually has never been proven, one of Martin Luther’s arch villains Johann Tetzel is claimed to have said, "As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” Luther’s problem was that, as he was growing in his study of scripture, he was convinced that neither the pope, nor any priest could speak or hold any authority on this kind of issue. We are saved by grace through faith, and that gift is beyond human control or alteration.
This may not sound like much, but it was a direct threat to the authority of the pope and the catholic “institution” called the church.
I don't want to lift Martin Luther up too high, but what was the main issue Jesus was fighting against? The Temple System. The priests, scribes and Lawyers had God trapped in a box called the Temple in Jerusalem, as far as the average Jewish person understood. Jesus came to tear the curtain separating the Holy of Holy’s from the people.
Luther, after a trial that essentially convicted him of being a heretic, was a man with a bounty on his head. He was kidnapped and taken to a castle where he began to translate the bible into German. It was an amazingly difficult task as he was working in two very different languages and he would refer to many words as “clever little children at play, changing and pretending to be different characters at any time.”
After the Bible became available to the common person, think about the threat this was to the Roman Catholic Church?! What would become of the role of the church, when the people were free to learn, explore and ask questions of the scripture?
The entire social stratus was upended. After such a great shift in society, you would think there would be a great change, ‘for the better.” As we all know, when there is a threat to the powers that be, there will be conflict; and for many decades there were wars and conflict between the protestors, who became Protestants and Catholics. Both Germany’s Peasants’ War (1524-1526) and Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) were both a direct and indirect effect of the changing attitudes and social changes the Reformation brought about.
But one of the biggest changes was what we would call the Protestant Work Ethic. At that time the greatest vocation anyone could espouse to be was to become a monk or priest. Luther changed all that with his writing on the Ministry of Vocation. You don't have to become a monk, priest or pastor to honor God and follow Jesus; God has created each and every one of us for a very specific and important job to do in the Body of Christ, and to be servants of God and blessings to the world. First and foremost, whatever vocation you do, you must do it to the best of your ability in order to show your love for God, then you do your very best to serve the client, customer to show your love and care for neighbor. First commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind and soul; do this by being the best you can be at whatever you are called or hired to do. The second Commandment is like that, love your neighbor as you have been loved by God, or would like to be loved; Do that by serving your customer, client or boss with the very best attitude of love and service you can possibly achieve.
Luther’s reformation changed the role of family, expanded on capitalism, but most of all, it ushered in the time of the churches starting universities and places of learning all over the world. Think of all the great universities and you will be surprised how many have their roots in some denominational church. In those days, the protestant church was not afraid of scholarship, science and the pursuit of knowledge…
It was the amazing promise of Grace upon Grace, the promise of our eternal reconciliation with God through one man, Jesus Christ. As death was condemned on all people because of one man, Adam; the death was conquered for all people through the faithful act of one person, Jesus Christ. As my colleague Pastor Stephanie Lape said on her facebook page, “Thankful for Brother Martin Luther who reminded us 499 years ago that there is NO barrier - institution, rules, moralisms, prerequisites, good works, payments owed -between a person and God, only love.” As your pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran in America, I am thankful I get to preach this Good (Best) News today, tomorrow, and everyday!
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