Summary: "The truth shall make you free." Grounding ourselves in the reality that we are captive to sin is the only truth that will turn our eyes to the one and only source of salvation, Christ Jesus. His grace comes to us free and undeserved.

October 27, 2019

Reformation Sunday

Rev. Mary Erickson

John 8:31-36

Liberating Truth

Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Today is Reformation Sunday. This religious holiday has a very specific Lutheran flavor. You won’t find it listed on the liturgical calendar of a Roman Catholic or a Southern Baptist church! On this Sunday we lustily sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” We break out the red paraments.

Reformation Sunday is a celebration in which we remember the actions of Martin Luther long ago on All Hallows’ Eve, October 31, 1517. We remember Luther writing a brief essay, only 95 theses in length. He nailed it to the front door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. The essay presented his rationale for disagreeing with the Church’s sale of indulgences. An indulgence was a certificate signed by the Pope. It stated that the purchaser of the certificate would receive the forgiveness of all his or her sins. This person would not have to spend a single day in Purgatory, which was thought to be a place between heaven and hell. In Purgatory they would have their sins “purged” from them, much like metal ore is purged of its impurities in a crucible. Luther disagreed. He said there was no biblical justification for Purgatory. Our sins are fully forgiven by the acts of Jesus. Nothing more is necessary.

That day is long in the past. Relations between Roman Catholics and Lutherans are more vibrant that they have ever been. But as we mark this special day, we remember that the reformation was not and is not a once-for-all event that happened long ago. The Lutheran Reformation isn’t an event; it’s a movement. The reformation of the Church is meant to be on-going. It’s summed up by the statement, “Please be patient; God’s not finished with me yet!”

On this Reformation Sunday we consider a passage from the Gospel of John. Jesus addresses a group of Jewish leaders. They’ve taken his message to heart. Jesus tells them that if they keep on in this way, they will know the truth and “the truth will make you free.” But they take issue with Jesus’ words.

“The truth will make you free.” We like to think that we have aligned ourselves with what is true. But unfortunately, there are a whole host of lies we can mistake as truth. Just because we believe them to be true doesn’t make them so. They’re still lies. They’re still not reality. At one time it was common understanding that the world was flat. Now we know better. Believing it was flat didn’t make the world flat.

When we regard falsehoods as truth, we’re left with a distorted understanding of the universe. In order to see what’s really there – what is reality – we need to leave the hall of mirrors, the distortion of lies, and step into the light, step into the truth.

“The truth will make you free.” Jesus says these words, not to his adversaries, but to those who believe in him. Strange words to say to his followers. By following him, aren’t they walking in the truth? We could understand if he were to say this to his opponents. It would make perfect sense if Jesus were to say “the truth will make you free” to those who were hostile to his message and opposed to him.

But Jesus says this to people who believed in him, people who said “Amen” to his teachings! So if Jesus were to suddenly appear in our midst this morning, he would say the same thing to us, too! “The truth will make you free.”

The response from Jesus’ audience was objection. They said, “Whaddya mean, ‘make us free?’ We’re descendants of Abraham; we’ve never been in slavery to anyone!”

Well, this just wasn’t true. Their early ancestors had been enslaved by the Egyptians for about 400 years. And later on, still other ancestors were captives in Babylon. And currently, their country was overrun by the Roman Empire. So there was a good deal of denial at work in their insistence that they’d never been slaves to anyone.

Jesus counters their remark by pointing out that those who sin are slaves to sin. When we gather on Sunday mornings we begin our common worship with a confession of our sin. In that liturgy we confess that “we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.” Our sins cover the things we have done and also the things we’ve neglected to do. We state that we’ve fallen short of the two great commandments, to love God above all else and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

The first step to freedom is realizing we are in chains. How can we be saved if we don't recognize our need for a savior? To those who question their bondage, to those who believe they are not tangled up in sin, Jesus says, “My word has no room among you;” God's transforming power can find no foothold in the hard heart. He must find a way to show us our radical need.

Copy Sermon to Clipboard with PRO Download Sermon with PRO
Talk about it...

Nobody has commented yet. Be the first!

Join the discussion