Summary: A look at what it means when Jesus tells us that holing to his teachings will set us free. What does it mean to be free in Christ? This is a Reformation Sunday sermon that shows us the freedom in Christ which two great men taught: the Reformer of the C


John 8:31-36

Reformation Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stephen H. Becker, M. Div.

St. Peter’s Lutheran Church

For us Lutherans, today is an especially important day, as today is Reformation Sunday. It’s the day in the Church year where we remember the events that lead up to the “Reformation”—the things that were going on and the things that Martin Luther did to eventually RE – FORM the church, to help God’s earthly Church, which was definitely heading in the wrong direction, to change course, and to lead Jesus’ flock in the direction that the Lord Himself had described. You see, before the Reformation, the Church, it’s leaders and the people in the Church were all being help captive—were all being made slaves as it were to sin. Now those of you who know my theology know that I am a big teacher of Grace—being saved by believing in Jesus’ work on the cross as the only way to God. Yet, before the Reformation, there were few people in the church, especially in the Roman Catholic Church, who understood what FREEDOM IN JESUS meant. They were being taught to work hard in any way they could to try to “earn” their way into heaven, instead of relying on Jesus’ work as a completed task, relying on Jesus’ death on the cross as the guarantee of freedom from the bondage of slavery. For Jesus said, “if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Amen! So today, on Reformation Sunday, I’d like to take a look at what it means for us Christians to be a slave, and what it means to be free. How we go from one status to another. How others have done it before us, and how Jesus has set the way for us into stone. Let’s open with prayer…

My ancestors immigrated to America in 1952, right in the middle of the civil rights movement. And as Lutherans we typically talk about Dr. Martin Luther today on Reformation Sunday—I’ve already mentioned him, but I want to mention another very great Dr. Martin Luther, but this time I’m talking about the great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior: a great American who had a vision—a dream of freedom for all people. Dr. Martin Luther King gave up his life for what he knew to be right…the freedom of all people, regardless of color, religion, or ethnicity. You see, Dr. King knew that without such freedom, we Americans were being held captive as slaves to ways that fall not only outside of human decency, but certainly outside of God’s laws as well. Dr. King knew that as slaves, we were just like Jesus said in our reading tonight: “A slave has no permanent place in the family” “but a son belongs to it forever.’ Dr. King was fighting for the civil rights of those oppressed in America during his time, which were mostly black people. But I honestly believe that Dr. King’s looked past that fact that it was his own race that was being oppressed. He was looking to the fact that people—any people—God’s people—were being oppressed, being held as slaves as it were to a society that wanted to hold them back. And so this became Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s life’s mission. One that ultimately cost him his life.

Dr. King was a great American. But he was no god or no prophet. Just like Dr. King, his name-sake, Dr. Martin Luther, was also a great person. About 450 years before Dr. King, the Reformer of the Church, Dr. Luther, saw the wrongs there and, without fear and through the power of God the Holy Spirit, set out to publicize those wrongs in order to set them right. As I mentioned, during the time of the Reformation, Luther knew that the teaching of the Church during that time had gone grossly wrong. So on October 31, 1517—exactly 490 years and three days ago, Luther wrote down what he believed to be wrong with the Church’s teachings and nailed those ideas—those theses—to the door of the most famous church in town—a church called the Castle Church. Just like Martin Luther King Jr., the great Reformer of the Christian Church, Dr. Luther wanted God’s ways to be emphasized and to be put first. Where Dr. King saw so many of America’s people being held captive, being held as slaves as it were, to a social system that put them down, Dr. Luther saw that Christians everywhere were being held captive by a Church that refused to teach them the truth about Jesus Christ. You see, the Church and its human leaders of 1517 were interested in only one thing…keeping the people in their place by scaring them. The Roman Catholic Church of that time taught that we were all sinners, doomed because of God’s Law. True enough, and I agree with that teaching ; however instead of then teaching the Good News of Jesus Christ—that He died for you and for me—they instead taught that the only way one could get into heaven was to be a member of that specific Roman Catholic Church, by paying certain amounts of money to the Church, and additionally by doing other things, one could theoretically earn their way in God’s heaven. The leaders of the Church of 1517 were holding Christians as slaves to fear of the Church. And so on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther wrote down these gross errors and put them in a public place for everyone to see. And the Church that you and I are worshiping in tonight is here because of that teaching of Martin Luther. But it’s not Luther’s teaching. It’s Jesus’.

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