Reformation Sunday – October 30, 2011

October 31, 2011 at 9:06 pm Leave a comment

Ecclesia semper reformanda!
The Church must always be reforming!

My brothers and sisters,
Thomas Jefferson said,
“I tremble for my country when I remember that God is just.”
But Martin Luther said,
“I rejoice in my soul when I remember that God is just.”

Of course, it took a long time for Brother Martin to get there.
It wasn’t that Luther thought that God’s justice would surely reward him, a just man.
As anyone with a passing knowledge of Luther knows,
Martin Luther struggled with the justice, or righteousness, of God.
He became terrified of God’s justice.
He struggled with it so that his monastic superior recommended
that he become a teacher of Bible.
We can imagine what Brother Martin thought of this idea at first –
kind of like curing a claustrophobic by locking him in a closet,
or ridding someone of their fear of heights by dangling them from a cliff.
The Bible?
Really?
Full of messages of God’s just condemnation of sin,
his anger towards those who disregard and flout his law?

But Brother Martin had to obey.
And so he did.
His superior recommended he start with the book of Isaiah.
And in Isaiah, and Psalms, and most especially in Paul’s letters to the Romans
and the Galatians,
he found in the Bible the gracious God he was looking for.
Jesus, who he had always regarded as a harsh judge,
Instead appeared in the Bible as the forgiver of sins, the one who called sinners like him ‘friends.’
He found in the Bible the message that the heart of God’s justice is not a retributive justice,
one that rewards and punishes according to the worthiness of the person,
but the heart of God’s justice
is that God makes his own people just because he is just,
God himself makes his own people righteous because he is righteous,
and sin, death, and evil cannot keep God from his own.
This is what we call ‘justification by grace,’ and we say we grasp it through faith.
Anyone who is burdened by sin, anyone who knows that they cannot escape it,
that try as they might, they are in bondage to sin and cannot free themselves,
may return to believe in this Gospel,
this good news,
that God freely justifies us, ‘makes us right’ with him, as a gift,
by the redemption that is in his Son Jesus Christ.

It was this insight, this liberating insight,
that led Brother Martin, who was baptized with the name “Ludder,”
sometime in the late 1510s to begin signing his name “Luther,”
after the Greek work eleutheria, Freedom.
Freedom to be God’s child, after all.
Freedom to be God’s child before God had finished working with him,
Before God had eradicated all the sin in his life,
for he trusted the promise that God by the power of his Holy Spirit was working on that.
He trusted the promise that simply by ‘naming’ him a righteous person,
by giving him the name of Christian,
God had accepted him.

This message resonates today in a world that needs it more than ever.
For teenagers struggling with who they are and how to please others,
and yet who wonder how God fits into it all,
this message that a just God loved them enough to give his own Son for them
may yet give them the power to stand against the tide
which would suck them into living the life of trying to constantly please
whoever on earth has the best offer.
For people who are old, who live with the guilt of things they have done and cannot take back,
or who even feel guilty about things they could not control.
For people who are in the midst of life,
in the hurly-burly of parenthood and work and responsibility,
making decisions every day which can be attacked, which can be wrong, which can be misunderstood.
For people who are in the shadow of death,
Wondering whether they will land on the right side of God’s justice.
This world needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ more than ever.

The Church needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ more than ever.
Because it is not only individuals that need God’s justification,
It is the Church that needs God’s justification.
The word of righteousness that says, You people are to bear my message to the world,
You people are to forgive each other and live under my Word,
You people who are by all appearances dying away yet will rise to be my witnesses.

The historical Reformation in the 1500’s was a return to the central message of the Gospel,
that for Christ’s sake God forgives sinners and sets them free,
and that the Spirit is given to them to form them in holiness.
The continuing Reformation, which will always be,
whether or not in God’s good time he brings the separated churches once again to visible unity,
The continuing Reformation will always be people and communities returning to the grace of God.
When evening comes, we reflect upon the day.
We reflect on the good that God has done for us.
We reflect on whether or not we have offended anybody, by our thoughts, words, or deeds,
and perhaps even before the day is out, we strive to begin to make amends.
We go to bed secure in the promise that God has forgiven us in Jesus.
We rise from sleep, as we will in the Resurrection,
to live in the new day of God’s grace,
striving to be open to the Spirit of his holiness,
and returning to the baptismal promise of forgiveness whenever our brokenness gets in the way.
That’s the life of Reformation.
That’s the life of Baptism.
Thank God that God is just, and because of his justice he will show mercy,
not giving up on any one of his children,
because they are as precious to him as Brother Martin,
they are as precious to him as his own Son, Jesus.
Thanks be to God that the promise of freedom is for us, even us,
and though many things may change,
God’s Word shall be ours forever.

Ecclesia semper reformanda!
The Church must, and will, always be reformed.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

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Entry filed under: feasts and festivals, Luther, Sermons. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Sermon October 9, 2011 – The Parable of the Wedding Banquet Results of congregational voting 11/20/2011

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