Summary: A sermon for Reformation Sunday
Reformation Sunday, October 26, 2008
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you came among us in the person of your Son, Jesus the Christ, to reveal your will and grace for our lives. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to hear your Word for our lives, that we might acknowledge our sinfulness and need for your redeeming grace, poured out for us through Christ’s death and resurrection. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Before I turn to our text for this morning, I must admit that Pastor Blair was at it again, working to help me become a better preacher. He suggested that I take a second look at one of the articles printed in the last issue of Forum Letter, published by the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, in preparation for my sermon for this morning. “It is something that needs to be preached, especially on Reformation Sunday,” he said.
A couple of days later, I set out to reread that article, only to find that I couldn’t find that issue of Forum Letter. So I called Ralph and asked if he could bring his copy to church last Sunday for me to copy the article. He suggested that he could drop everything, and bring it out to me that very hour. I said, “No Ralph. I won’t have time to get to it until after Sunday anyway.”
Well, after rereading the article, I can see why it was so important to him that I do so before writing this sermon. Reformation Sunday is a time for us to recall our basic Lutheran doctrine that the Word of God confronts us as both Law and Gospel. This article, entitled, “Retrieving confessional identity – for the public good,” goes to great length to document how the Lutheran Church in North America has drifted away from this, our basic understanding of Scripture. Yet, our unique understanding of the Word of God as being both Law and Gospel, is desperately needed by our present day society.
But I’m not going to go into the article itself. If there are any who would like to read it, I would be happy to make a copy of it for you. Rather, I would like to turn to Paul’s letter to the Romans, and allow the Word of God to speak for itself.
First, let me say that our second lesson for this morning is only a part of the message that Paul is expressing to us. This is one of those times that I wish we did have one of those long lessons that couldn’t be printed in our bulletin inserts. For from the first chapter of his letter, up until our text for this morning, Paul has been proclaiming the law, making his case for the guilt of all humankind.
Let me share with you some excerpts that precede our text. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth… Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way
also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another…
They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, and malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die – yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.”
“Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge are doing the very same things.” End quote.
In other words, from halfway through the first chapter until we come to our text for this morning, Paul is trying to convince his readers of the universality of sin, and its consequences. As Robert Kysar points out in his commentary on our text, “Paul’s whole point is to bring us to a sense of our responsibility for our sins and the realization that we cannot rescue ourselves.” End quote. [New Proclamation, Fortress Press, 2005]
For Luther, and many in his day, awareness of his sinfulness was not the problem. He was constantly seeking relief for his conscience, striving to please God, but always coming up feeling inadequate. That was because the law of God was strongly proclaimed. But in today’s society, we don’t here much about the law of God. In fact, Pastor Blair included a note tucked into his copy of the Forum Letter asking me when the last time it was that I actually preached about sin.