reformation2017-logo-color-vr (1)Reformation Day 2017
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
October 29, 2017
Psalm 46:1-11, Revelation 14:6-7, Romans 3:19-28, Matthew 11:12-19

 

Sermons online:
Text:                            pastorjud.org
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

We dream of glory and greatness.  Boys imagine themselves hitting the winning grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in game seven of the World Series.  Or catching the winning touchdown pass as time expires in the Super Bowl.  Or hitting a buzzer beating basket to win the NBA championship.  Girls dream of winning a gold medal in the Olympics.  Scoring with final goal to win the World Cup.  Breaking the glass ceiling and being the first female president.  I think we all have visions of glory.  Dreams of victory.  We all want to be winners.

Today we find ourselves celebrating the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation.  500 years ago on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  Luther was not looking to start a new church or do anything anti Catholic.  He wasn’t looking for anything except a discussion about the sale of indulgences.  The people were being taught that if they bought an indulgence the penalty for sins would be eliminated either for themselves or someone else; dead or alive.  Luther wanted to discuss this abuse and warn the archbishop and the Pope.  Luther didn’t know that the archbishop and the pope were the promoters of indulgences and so Luther ended up entangled in the church politics of money and he was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church and a warrant was issued that he to be captured, dead or alive.

Despite the many efforts to get rid of Luther and the Lutherans, here we are 500 years later; still alive and kicking.  We kind of want to make a face at the Pope and say nah, nah, nah, nah, nah.  We want this to be a day of triumph, a day to celebrate winning.  We want to bask in the greatness and glory of Martin Luther and his incredible bravery in the face of the threat of being burned at the stake.  We want to celebrate Lutheran victory.  We want to boast in our history, but we don’t have anything to boast about…except Jesus.

It’s still all about Jesus.

We are tempted to celebrate the greatness of Luther the man, but Luther was not about promoting Luther.  Luther knew the truth.  It’s all about Jesus.

The Reformation was a good thing in rediscovering the truth of Jesus, but it wasn’t all good.  It opened the door for a splintering of Christianity.  We see this as we look around at the spiritual landscape in America.  It is pretty disconcerting to see the fragmented mess of hundreds of denominations and thousands of churches who claim no denomination.  Religion in America is chaos.  With a constitutional guarantee of religious freedom America is a breeding ground for anyone who wants to make up their own religion.  We have the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Scientologists, and Christian Scientists along with homicidal messiah figures like Jim Jones and David Koresh.

We have the so-called mainline churches which have abandoned the Bible and are falling all over themselves trying to adjust and erase ancient church teachings to keep up with an ever-changing sexual morality and political correctness.

We have churches for which numerical growth is the most important thing and they are willing to do whatever it takes to fill the pews.  Worship becomes entertainment and sermons focus on self-improvement and success and dreaming big dreams and achieving big things.

There are churches that claim they are about deeds, not creeds.  That it doesn’t matter what you believe it’s all about what you do.  There are churches where week after week the sermon is about feeding the hungry and helping the poor.

There are churches that are very quiet and regimented and there are churches where emotionalism is highly valued.

American religion is a mess.  It is easy for churches to go astray in the quest for success or just survival.  But it is not about making up your own religion, or chasing cultural trends, or having more people in the seats, or achieving your dreams or doing great things or helping the poor or being quiet or being emotional.  It’s not about those things.  It is still all about Jesus.

Jesus on the cross is not how you would imagine God to be.  No one would make up a God who does what Jesus does.  Jesus on the cross doesn’t make sense.  What kind of God is beaten and naked and bloody hanging on a cross?  It is still all about Jesus.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”

It is still all about Jesus.  It is about Jesus ruling as Lord of your life.  It is about Jesus being God in flesh; God with us.  It is about Jesus reigning from the throne of the cross.

It is still all about Jesus on the cross for you.

You want it to be about success and power and winning, but you get the cross.  Jesus on the cross is not an image of success and power and winning, even so, it is still all about Jesus and that is good.  Because your greatest need is not success and power and winning. Your greatest need is forgiveness and eternal life.

Jesus on the cross is not an easy sell to others.  It is still all about Jesus.

Jesus on the cross will not make you rich or powerful or healthy.  It is still all about Jesus.

Jesus on the cross reminds you of the seriousness of your sin and that is uncomfortable.  It is still all about Jesus.

Jesus on the cross is not how you would imagine God to be.  No one would make up a God who does what Jesus does.  Jesus on the cross doesn’t make sense.  What kind of God is beaten and naked and bloody hanging on a cross?  It is still all about Jesus.

Jesus on the cross shows you God’s great love and sacrifice for you.  It is still all about Jesus.

And there is victory.  There is Jesus’ victory for you.  Jesus is victorious over sin, death and the devil.  Jesus dies on the cross for your sins and then rises from the dead to conquer death for you.  Because of Jesus you will rise from the dead on the last day to live forever with the Lord in the Heavenly City.  For now, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear….Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  It is still all about Jesus.

Listen to Jesus.  Obey Jesus.  Follow the Ten Commandments.  Love God and Love your neighbor.  Do what God calls you to do; love and serve one another.  Tell others the Good News that it is still all about Jesus.

It is easy to say and hard to do.  Telling others about Jesus is difficult.  The kingdom of heaven has suffered violence and it continues to do so.  It is not easy.  People reject Jesus and sometimes will reject you because of Jesus.  They need Jesus, but don’t know it and don’t want it.

We so much want to have a method that if we say just the right words in the right way people will have to come to faith in Jesus.  We want a way that we can advance the kingdom of God with deliberate efficiency.  We want to way to make people believe that it is still all about Jesus.  We want a method to easily eliminate sin and temptation from our lives and the lives of others.  But we don’t get any of that.  We get Jesus.  It is still all about Jesus.

This Reformation Day as you remember Martin Luther getting things started 500 years ago remember what Luther was trying to do.  He was trying to get back to basics.  He was trying to have everyone know that it is still all about Jesus.

Luther was troubled by his sin and guilt and could find no peace; no forgiveness.  The Roman Catholic Church over the years had so buried the truth of scripture under a pile of traditions and bad translations and a system of payments that it took Luther a long time to uncover the truth; it is still all about Jesus.

And what great peace and comfort you get from knowing that in the equation of salvation Jesus does 100 percent and you do zero percent.  It is not about you.  It’s about Jesus for you.  Jesus does it all.  Jesus brings you into the Kingdom of Heaven in Holy Baptism.  Jesus gives you the gift of salvation and eternal life.  Jesus continues to forgive you and feed you with His Body and Blood.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”  Struggle against sin and seek to love and serve your neighbor.  You are a child of God because of Jesus.  You are a winner, but only because it is still all about Jesus.

Amen.

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