nullReformation Sunday 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
October 27, 2019
Proper 25 Genesis 4:1-15, 1 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18, Luke 18:9-17

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org  
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

502 years ago on October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany.  He intended to begin a discussion of the selling of indulgences.  In reading the New Testament, Luther rediscovered the Gospel truth that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  Luther believed the truth of the Gospel and was writing against church practice of selling indulgences in which you could pay a sum of money to erase the penalty for your sins.  The recent invention of the movable type printing press enabled Luther’s ideas to be quickly printed and spread throughout Germany.  Those hammer blows in 1517 led to Luther being excommunicated at the Diet of Worms in 1521 and becoming a wanted man; dead or alive.  With the help of his prince, Frederick, Elector of Saxony, Luther was hidden in the Wartburg Castle for nine months where he translated the New Testament into German.  Under Frederick’s protection Luther’s Reformation was able to spread.

We rejoice at the success of the Reformation in which we now continue to live and worship.  We rejoice, but we need to be on guard against becoming proud of ourselves.  Our pride is only the cross of Christ.  Boast in Christ alone.  St. Paul writes in Galatians 6:14 (ESV)14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.[1]  We must guard against pride because of the essence of the Reformation.  In the Reformation the truth Luther risked his life to preach and teach is that we are not saved by what we do, we are saved by Christ alone.  If it is not about what we do then we have nothing to boast about, except Jesus.  We have nothing to boast about in ourselves.

Boasting is a problem with our human nature.  It comes so naturally to us to look down on others and think about and talk about how we are better than them.  We want to know where we stand and who is below us in the pecking order.  We want to keep score of who is the greatest; in sports, in school, at work, in the neighborhood, even at church.  We want to boast in our abilities, our accomplishments, all the good things that we have done.  We want to be able to boast, but the Reformation takes boasting away from us.  Because the truth of the Gospel is, Jesus has done it all for you.

In our Gospel reading today Jesus is teaching lessons using a parable about two men praying at the temple.  One of the men is considered to be a good guy.  He is a Pharisee.  He follows the rules.  He does the right things.  He is a respected religious leader and a pillar of the community.  The other man is a bad guy; a tax collector; a low life; a sell out to the enemy.  He is an outcast from society and is not welcome among the good people.  They are both praying.  The good guy prays a boastful prayer about how good he is and how much better he is than that other guy.  The bad guy stands far off, will not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beats his breast saying, “God be merciful to me, a sinner!”

But that is not how it works.  The amazing Good News is that Jesus has done it all so, “Did I do enough?” is the wrong question.  The question is, “Did Jesus do enough?” and the answer is “yes.”  Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is enough to save you.  In your baptism Jesus seals you in His forgiveness.  You trust Christ.  You know you are forgiven.  You live your life in His love.  You love and serve others as Christ loves and serves you.

The good guy prays a proud prayer.  The bad guy prays for mercy.  Which one leaves the temple forgiven?  Which one is justified before God?  The bad guy is the one who is forgiven.  He who humbles himself before God and begs for mercy is forgiven and all his sins are washed away.  The one who appeals to his own good works remains in his sin.

This is the Reformation truth uncovered by Martin Luther; it is not about you, it is about Jesus for you.  Salvation is completely accomplished by God.  You have nothing to boast about except to boast in the cross of Christ.  It is not about you.  This may seem harsh, but it is truly such sweet good news.  It is such great good news because if even the tiniest part of your salvation were dependent on your works, you would be in constant doubt as to whether you have done it well enough.  Did I pray enough, did I repent enough, did I love enough, did I give enough, did I do enough?  This is what made indulgences so popular.  You could pay for a piece of paper that transferred the merits of the saints to your account so you could say you have done enough.

But that is not how it works.  The amazing Good News is that Jesus has done it all so, “Did I do enough?” is the wrong question.  The question is, “Did Jesus do enough?” and the answer is “yes.”  Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is enough to save you.  In your baptism Jesus seals you in His forgiveness.  You trust Christ.  You know you are forgiven.  You live your life in His love.  You love and serve others as Christ loves and serves you.

In this parable from Jesus there are two lessons: do not trust in yourself and do not treat others with contempt.  Getting on your knees and confessing that you are a helpless sinner at the beginning of the service is a public confession that you do not trust in yourself.  Live out your life in humble submission to God’s will and do not look down on others no matter who they are.

Ponder the truth that Jesus died for all people and remember it means all people.  Anyone you see is someone for whom Jesus shed His blood.  There is no one you get to dismiss out of hand because they are not good enough.  None of us are good enough and yet we are constantly tempted to look down on others; dismiss others, write them off as unworthy; unimportant.  We are tempted to separate the world into the good guys and the bad guys.  We want to have these categories and yet we learn from today’s Gospel reading that Jesus does not care about these categories and so we should not care about these categories.  We are all the same.  We are all sinners.  We all need Jesus.

So when you see someone whom you are tempted to label as a bad guy, don’t.  When you are tempted to label a group of people and dismiss them, don’t.  When you are tempted to look down on someone else and think badly about them or talk trash about them, don’t.  The only label you should use is, “someone for whom Jesus died.”  That person you want to trash is one of God’s precious creations who needs Jesus as much as you do.

When you are tempted to dismiss someone as unimportant remember the next lesson from our Gospel reading today.  The disciples stopped the people from bringing their babies to Jesus to have Him bless them.  The disciples must believe Jesus is too important and too busy to be involved with a bunch of infants.  But how does Jesus respond?  Luke 18:16-17 (ESV) 16 …Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” [2]  There is no one who is unimportant to Jesus.  We all come to Jesus; not as proud, important people, but as vulnerable, helpless spiritual infants.

So, as you celebrate and remember the Reformation and all that Martin Luther accomplished in bringing us the sweet truth of the Gospel do it knowing that the Gospel truth leaves no room to boast except in Christ on the cross for you.

In 63 days, God willing, I and a number of you will get to stand in front of the doorway in Wittenberg Germany where Luther nailed the 95 theses and unknowingly began the Reformation.  We will stand over Luther’s grave inside the Castle Church.  As you do that, remember the truth that Luther brought to light.  Jesus died for sinners like you.  Remember the essence of the Reformation.  Jesus did it all for you.  Rejoice not in your works, but in your eternal salvation given to you by your Savior, Jesus, the Christ.

Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s