REFORMATION (OBSERVED) AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Rev. 14:6-7 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. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.
Romans 3:19-28 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
John 8:31-35 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
A fuss. Yes, you could say that there was a bit of a fuss some fifteen hundred years ago. A fuss that had spread throughout the entire Holy Roman Empire. It hadn’t started in the backwoods of the empire, no, not by any stretch of the imagination. Electoral Saxony was an important place, and its Duke, Frederick the Wise, was one of the “in crowd” so to say, but Wittenberg with its relatively new University wasn’t Rome either. And this Augustinian monk and priest, Martin Luther, one of the University’s newer professors, who had started all the fuss, wasn’t really a somebody to anybody.
A fuss. A fuss, indeed. Yes, beloved, they had those back then too, even before the internet, facebook and twitter. It all started on October 31st 1517, when Luther had posted his 95 theses about the practice of selling indulgences to help get people out of purgatory - that place between heaven and hell where Christians, supposedly went after death, to work through the sin stuff that they hadn’t been able to clear up before they died. It had started there, but that was certainly not the end of it, by this point in 1519 things were really starting to roll, as Luther came to understand and publicly point out, just how rotten things had gotten in the Roman Church.
A fuss. Yes, there was a big fuss, a big fuss indeed, but what we need to remember and be clear about was that it wasn’t so much a fuss against something, as much as it was a fuss for something. Many, sadly, for a long time, even to our day and age, believed that the fuss was and continues to be all about being against Rome and its church. Being Lutheran for them is all about not being Roman Catholic, and so anything that looks or sounds Roman Catholic cannot be Lutheran. But you know the fuss for Luther and those who faithfully followed after him was much greater than trivial things like appearances. The fuss was about and for the Word of God.
Luther’s concern was for the Word of God, and so he was only against Rome, where she went against that Word. Luther, you see, had come to know and understand the fullness of this Word that the Lord Jesus speaks to us today. “If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Yes, it’s all about the Word, about staying put, remaining, abiding in it. It’s about not going outside of or beyond that Word with your own reason or thoughts or feelings. This is simply what true followers of Christ do. You can’t be a true disciple without abiding in Christ’s Word.
Why? Because the truth is in that Word and in that Word alone. And the truth that Jesus is talking about, is not a what, but a who, as He makes clear by saying that the Truth will set you free and connecting up that setting free with the Son. The truth that sets you free, you see, is none other than Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life. When you go outside the Word of God, you go outside of Jesus. When you leave it behind, you leave Him behind. When you go against it, you go against Him. This was what the fuss was all about for Luther. It wasn’t about him, it was about Jesus.
Good Lutherans, believe it or not, are not the only ones who get this, beloved, no, not by a long shot. No, the world, the devil and yes, your own sinful flesh get it too, most profoundly. Why else would they all work so hard to try to get you to question and lead you away from that Word? All three of them know, that if they can get you away from the Word, they can get you away from Jesus. Why else do you think that the world and Satan work overtime to keep you away from this place at this hour? And why else do you think that it’s so easy for your flesh to put so much else before this place at this hour?
Indeed, and why else do you think it’s so easy, even for me, to lose sight of the treasure that remains ours in this place with that Word, when there aren’t as many people showing up as there once were, or as many activities going on here as there used to be? Is this not also a turning away from the Word, beloved? Indeed it is, one I repent of most deeply this morning. As long as the Word remains, we have everything because we have Jesus. And if that Word is gone, then we have nothing because we don’t have Jesus.
And yes, Jesus is worth making a fuss about and on account of Him so is the Word. It was worth it 500 hundred years ago, as it continues to be worth it today, as it will be worth it until the end of time, because without Christ you will remain forever lost in slavery to sin and the hell that it is, and leads to. With Him, however, is forgiveness and life and peace with God. Not by your slaving away for it, but as a free gift of God’s grace on account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for you.
This is the Word that Christ calls you to abide in today, the Word that proclaims that the Son of God lived a slave’s life and died a slave’s death on a cross, so that you might be free indeed. He encourages you to abide in it in the truth of your Baptism, where He set you free by making you a child of God. He invites you to abide in it here at the altar, where He nourishes you and sustains you in this life of freedom, by delivering to you once more, the fullness of all that He did to set you free from your sins on Calvary.
Free. Free indeed. That is the Lord’s truth both for you and me, in the face of all the ways that we have failed God and others this week. “Shut your ears tight to the Devil, your own conscience, and any one else,” the Lord Jesus says to each of us this morning, “and abide in my Word and my Word alone, that declares this truth about you today. Forgiven and free. Free indeed in what I have done for you. Free indeed in what I have given and give again to you today. Free in me. Free now. Free forever.”
A fuss? Indeed, beloved, that is something not only to make a fuss about but something to rejoice in, now and forever. Amen.