Summary: We learn about the most important aspects of the Reformation through the example of the Trapeze artist...
Sermon 102509 Reformation Sunday
Happy Reformation Sunday! What is it that we are celebrating today? That’s right, October 31, 1517 is the day that a Professor of Theology and Monk named Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses onto the door of the Chapel at Wittenburg. And with the sound of that hammer hitting that nail, a revolution that changed the world started. The revolution was one of returning to God’s word, returning to a proper understanding of God’s grace, and one of beginning to see God once again, as God presents Himself to us.
This had tremendous implications for the Church. Pretty obvious as we are worshipping more than 500 years later in a Lutheran Church! But if you look at the Reformation, or read about it, or see TV shows related to it, you will see that all kinds of changes took place in the world because of Martin Luther’s Stand against the false leadership, and false teachings of the church in those days. People talk about the cultural change that went along with getting the Bible into the common person’s hands in their own language. Sociologists talk about how much society changed when someone finally challenged the Pope and the leadership of the church. Educators praise the change in educational philosophy that went along with educating all people so they could in turn educate the members of their own households. There is so much that we can talk about!
But here, in this place, in God’s house, we need to remember the main point of the Reformation. The Reformation wasn’t about education, or sociology, or culture. The Reformation, in 1517, was simply about returning to the Freedom given to us through the Gospel. And that is what it is still about today. Of all the 95 Theses, (and I read them through every year), there is one that stands out to me like none other. Number 62 – “The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.”
I know this doesn’t sound like anything profound to us here today, we talk about the Gospel and the Grace of God all the time. But let’s go back in time and see things through the eyes of this young monk Martin Luther for a moment. This young guy was all set to go to school to be a lawyer. His Dad worked hard to give him an opportunity he himself never had. And much to Dad’s dismay, young Martin told him, I am going to go to school to be a Monk. And he took to his studies with a vengeance. But this is where the problems started.
As he began to learn from his teachers, he discovered how much was lacking in his life, and how much sin he had in his life. If he read the first two verses of our Romans reading, he would have know exactly what this meant, and how to apply this message of condemnation and Law to his life: “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
The Law of God was clear to Him. The problem was that no one was teaching what the Bible actually teaches us about how to find peace and freedom in Christ. So the more Luther learned about his sin, the more he tried to fix the problem of sin on his own. He tried to make things right by his own efforts. He wouldn’t just confess his sins, he would sit in the confessional for hours trying to recall every single thing that he did which fell short of God’s commands. Even for the best of us, this is an impossible task. He tried to treat his body severely, to punish himself for his sins. He would beat his body, he would whip his own flesh, he would go out and lie in the snow all night without so much as a blanket. But the more he tried to please God with these actions, the more he would realize how foolish his attempts were, and fall deeper into despair. Until he eventually fell into a deep depression, and got angry at God. “How could God set up such strict rules, all the while knowing we would never be able to satisfy Him, that we would always fall short.”
But he continued to study. And as he read through the Psalms, God made something click in his brain. He read Psalm 51, and started to see that there was another side to God. He started to understand that God does inflict us with standards for holiness and purity which we cannot attain on our own, but God is ALSO the answer to our sins. The first verse of Psalm 51 was especially powerful for Him: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.”