Posted on Wed, Oct 28, 2015
John 8: 31–36
October 25, 2015
Gospel Text: John 8: 31–36 “The UNBREAKABLE Truth”
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”?’
34 Jesus 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 for ever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
SECOND READING: Romans 3: 19‒28
Paul's words stand at the heart of the preaching of Martin Luther and the other Reformation leaders. No human beings make themselves right with God through works of the law. We are brought into a right relationship with God through the divine activity centered in Christ's death. This act is a gift of grace that liberates us from sin and empowers our faith in Jesus Christ.
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For "no human being will be justified in his sight" by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
21 But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28 For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
It is Reformation Sunday! For die hard Lutherans we know the traditions, wear Red, Sing ‘A Mighty Fortress Is our God,’ and behold that statue beholding a strong and firm Martin Luther holding one of his books and saying proudly, “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”
Upon which we all swoon and think to ourselves… “Why cant’ Pastor Tim preach like good old Uncle Marty?” “Oh, how they could preach in them thar’ old days!” Our Lutheran Blood flows strong and red with pride on this day! … But for most people in the world, who are not Lutherans, all of this means little or nothing… Like Jay Leno or David Letterman ask anyone on the street if they know who Martin Luther was, or what happened during the Reformation!
But does it really matter? What would Martin Luther think if people didn’t remember his name, or his very colorful theological language? Frankly, I don’t think Martin would care if people remembered his name or not. It was not his intention to create a new ‘protesting’ church that would bear his name. He never envisioned the church celebrating ‘Reformation Day.’ Our former Presiding Bishop said that we don’t “celebrate” Reformation Day; we only remember the day, acknowledge the day, and continue to let the Good News of unconditional grace reform each and every one of our church and us each and every day. We are not to celebrate a correction of a terrible time of corruption and pain, we are to live in the new promise and direction the correction (The Reforming) gave to us.
But people tend to like to celebrate special days of the past and make them into something they probably weren’t intended to become. There are tons of traditions congregations follow on this day… No, I am not going to dress up as Martin Luther and deliver a sermon some day! Wearing Red, and singing “A Mighty Fortress” is enough. Martin Luther didn’t care if we would have feelings of nostalgia or not. One definition of Nostalgia I found was, “Homesickness; esp., a severe and sometimes fatal form of melancholia, due to homesickness.” The past is over, live in the Light!
It is not like Martin Luther created a new theology, and his understanding of grace wasn’t totally his own at the time either. The suffering and corruption in his day was monstrous. It was dangerous to be a peasant, and later dangerous to be a nobleman. The church was corrupt and drunk with power, and the people were spiritually lost.
Luther was plagued with knowing if God was a loving God or not, or if indeed, we were all condemned, and that is all there was. If this is the case, what is the meaning of life, faith, the church or anything? He was troubled beyond words with these questions that never left his head. Why would God give us the church, yet condemn us to death in the end?
But then, the words of the Gospels, Paul’s letter to the Romans and Titus grabbed his heart, and he began to understand that regarding our salvation and forgiveness, ‘we are nothing but beggars’ and it is God who reveals true forgiveness and grace for our salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul writes in the Book of Titus 4:3-7: For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
These are transformative words, “while were once foolish, the loving kindness of our God, our Savior appeared!”
Reformation Day is not about being nostalgic, wearing red or even singing A Mighty Fortress, it is about realizing that it is not according to our knowledge, works or anything about us that salvation has come to us. This is a day to remember that it is while we were, or are, broken or lost, or better yet, ESPECIALLY when we were/are broken or lost, this is exactly the time our savior comes to us in grace and love. Forgiving us when we were/are rebellious, this is God’s justice! While we were/are rebellious children, God loves us and calls us God’s children.
It is also not a day of congratulating ourselves for our great theology… but a time of humble yet joyful renewal! It proclaims another new beginning and ushers in another day the Church can live, worship and serve in the amazing power of Grace and love. Don’t look back trying to recreate a day we never really understood in the first place. Let the Good News of Gospel recreate you as a Child of God, part of the Body of Christ! And then church, preach the Gospel, use words only when necessary! Amen.
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