Oct 30, 2016 – Reformation!

Oct 30, 2016 – Reformation!

Today is Reformation Sunday, and in that spirit, I’m going to ‘reform’ my usual practice of preaching strictly from the text of today’s readings. Rest assured I am going to be preaching from scripture, just not the assigned readings only is all. And if that’s not a daring enough overhaul, I’m also going to draw our focus to the reformation using the closing hymn, which is A Mighty Fortress is Our God; Luther’s great anthem of the reformation.

The reformation is not dead history that’s over and done with – The reformation is a daily clash we’re involved in; and if it’s not that, then we’re not Christians.

That might sound a little radical, but that’s what re-formation is. It is a radical thing. And it certainly wasn’t what Luther set out to do 499 years ago this week. He set out, by pounding those 95 theses on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg, to correct the abuses that had arisen in the Roman Catholic Church in that area of Germany. But what came of his pounding on that church door is the radical movement that reverberates down to this very day, which battles against unbelief in this world and in each of our hearts.

The reformation is dead only if we see it as a past thing in history, and not something ongoing in our lives. Luther wrote his hymn, A Mighty Fortress, in about the year 1527 or 28, we can’t say for certain. But for certain by that time, Lutheranism had taken on a life separate from the Catholic Church. Luther draws his themes for A Mighty Fortress from Psalm 46. Listen to selected parts of that psalm:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear… The nations rage… The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress… He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

That last line, of course, leads us into the hymn and when you sing this hymn you will hear some of the themes from this psalm in there.

Now, the 1st verse of a mighty fortress is commonly misunderstood. You can often hear it being sung with such gusto that it seems people think they’re singing about Christ when in fact that line is about Satan. Listen to those words.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing: For still our ancient foe (or satanic foe in some translations) doth seek to work us woe; His (Satan’s) craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate, On earth is not his (Satan’s) equal.

Satan is who’s defeated as we continue on with the other verses. Always remember to never stop singing at just the first verse otherwise it’s the devil and not Christ who is being praised. Also in that first line, as we’ve noted, it says that the devil has no equal on this earth. And that is true. We have no power in ourselves to defeat him. Look at our own situation today. We have death, destruction and despair if not in our own lives, it’s all around us. And that’s what Satan brings. And, according to the hymn, we are not his equal. He is the one who, in the psalms, rages against God and brings wars on the earth.

Then in the second verse we’re told that we have no strength in ourselves to fight Satan but that God Himself has sent a champion to fight. And that champion is Christ Jesus, mighty Lord who died on the cross to defeat the tyrant, and rose again in victory over sin, death, and devil. He is the sure victor. And this again recalls from the psalm, the image from verse 7 of the God of Jacob who is the fortress that does not fail.

If we see reformation as only history, we miss that God’s story continues through scripture down to today through people like Luther, Chemnitz, Walther, Meyer, Meier, and Rast. It’s the truth of God revealed in scripture that both set Martin free and bound him at the same time. He was set free from the fear of an angry God that he had been raised to understand was vengeful and capricious. And yet he was bound to the very word of God that set him free to understand that grace is by faith alone. And that his justification before God was by that grace of God alone. As its says in the reading from today in Romans But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

It was that truth, that God has granted by grace through faith alone, the righteousness of Christ that is in fact our fortress. That’s what allowed Luther to accomplish and do all that history records about him. That’s true for us as well.

We’re also set free and we’re also bound. Luther says that in battle we’ll engage and that the devil’s might is doomed to fail because of one little word. And that Word is the word of God who is Christ who forever shall abide. We are bound to that Word as soldiers engaged in battle.

When we understand the reformation as a battle that we are daily engaged in, though the outcome is certain, our whole life becomes one of reformation. Re-formation is what happens to us by the righteousness of Christ granted to us by grace through faith alone. We are changed from what we were, enemies of God, to what we are now, Christians in God’s army – in God’s service. Re- form-ation is what God does to us and by His word He forms us into Christians. That’s why I said at the outset; The reformation is not dead history that’s over and done with – it’s a daily clash we’re involved in; and if it’s not that, then we aren’t Christians.

In verse 3 of the hymn Luther tells us ‘let this world’s tyrant rage, in battle we’ll engage.’ Daily we fight against the tyrant, which is, among other things, the sin that never lets us alone so we can enjoy God’s victory and peace here and now. Our peace is not of this earth anyway, it’s in the heavenly city of God, that is the new fortress that is ours by faith.

We sing that Satan’s defeat is sure, but the battle for us continues. The battle is not to bring about a new victory, the psalm says in verse 9 that it is God that breaks the bow, shatters the spear and burns the chariots. The victory is God’s and He grants that to us.

The battle for us daily is over who is God in our lives; us or Him. Verse 10 of psalm 46 reads, be still and know I am God, (which means you and I are not!) Verse 3 of the hymn again says the tyrant rages, but we tremble not, un-moved we stand – the tyrant brings the battle to us and yet he is doomed to fail because God’s word subdues him and God’s word is ours in Christ who is the Word.

The word of God is what defeats the tyrant of ignorance, fear and sin, because the Word is Christ. The word is the gospel which had been hidden from the people in Luther’s day. So the question for us is, what or who is the tyrant today?

And for us living where we do and when we do some 499 years after Luther, the tyrant is disbelief, unbelief and belief in self as the ultimate authority. No longer do we think we answer to God. God must now meet our standards. We have become the tyrant when we place ourselves above the Word.

And that is what we, our friends and neighbors face as, this tyrant of self keeps hidden the comfort of the gospel. That is what battles against re-form-ation in peoples’ lives. And we have the word that Luther put in our hands, the gospel, that must get into our lives and those of our family and friends. We all need that fortress of comfort just as Luther wrote about.

And in the final verse of the hymn, we sing that God’s word will forever stand, no matter who opposes it. No matter what is stripped away from us externally nothing can defeat God and His word. That is the message we take from here today and engage the enemy that rages against us and our friends and loved ones.

We have been given God’s word. God, through using this one monk, Luther, has seen to it that the gospel is withheld no more by outside, external forces. Remember, the reformation’s not dead history that’s over and done with – The reformation’s a daily clash we’re involved in.

Our orders for battle from verse 4 are to be prepared as God fights by our side with spiritual weapons that cannot fail. Let’s go from here and see what God’s word, that we get to spread to others, will do and watch Him subdue the tyrant as He has accomplished the victory in the cross of Jesus Christ. We go forward reformed and renewed in that word, Who is Jesus Christ, In His name, amen.

Sermon #851 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO

First Reading Revelation 14:6-7 (Fear God and give Him glory)
6 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

PsalmPsalm 46, antiphon: v.7

Pastor:  The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Lectern side:  God is our refuge and strength,

Pulpit side:  a very present help in trouble.

Lectern side:  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

Pulpit side:  though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

 Lectern side:  though its waters roar and foam,

Pulpit side:  though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

All:      The Lord of hosts is with us;

 the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 Lectern side:  There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

Pulpit side:  the holy habitation of the Most High.

Lectern side:  God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;

Pulpit side:  God will help her when morning dawns.

 Lectern side: The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;

Pulpit side:  He utters His voice, the earth melts.

All:      The Lord of hosts is with us;

 the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Lectern side:  Come, behold the works of the Lord,

Pulpit side:  how He has brought desolations on the earth.

 Lectern side:  He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

Pulpit side:  He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

He burns the chariots with fire.

 Lectern side:  “Be still, and know that I am God.

Pulpit side:  I will be exalted among the nations,

                    I will be exalted in the earth!”

All:      The Lord of hosts is with us;

             the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Pastor:  Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;

All:      as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

The Lord of hosts is with us;

                the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Epistle                                                                                                Romans 3:19-28 19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

Holy Gospel  John 8:31-36
 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”  34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.