Summary: Reformation Day sermon around the notion of passwords and PINs. Martin Luther, through his new awareness of scripture found access to God through Jesus Christ and the grace and mercy we receive in him.
Your Access is Granted
How many passwords and PIN numbers do you have? The other day I did a little tally and realized I have at least 20. We’ve all got them whether we fully realized it or not. Even if you don’t have a computer, but have a bank account, you have a personal identification number and/ or a password.
As I mention those let me ask, are any of you forgetful? If you have passwords and PINs then you run into a time when you have forgotten your access code. Do you all have language control? For some I’m guessing that forgetting your access code has brought you to, what I refer to, as your language threshold. You’ve been blocked out and you can’t gain access to your account. You can’t withdraw money, you can’t see what is in your account, you can’t check a balance, a bill, or a grade. You’re simply blocked out and you have no access unless you call the help line. Because the world we live in is less secure today than previously, we have to be more sophisticated with our security so we use more complicated access methods. We use passwords that must be alphanumeric and include capital letters and punctuation. Then after three months we want you to change it and come up with another password that isn’t anything like the previous one. Because I’m getting up in years and my memory isn’t so reliable I use easy patterns and things to remember. I like to rotate through the names of presidents from the early 19th century. This method pretty much assures me I’ll never ever be able to make a withdrawal on any bank accounts, that money is there forever.
Today is Reformation Sunday. Notice the red paraments and stoles. Today is a festival in the Lutheran Church. Lutherans celebrate this day because we honor Dr. Martin Luther for cracking the code on accessing God’s love. Because of Martin Luther there are no more security blocks to accessing God’s love. No longer are there any barriers that prevent us from approaching the throne of God’s love in Christ because all those codes have been done away with.
The church during the middle ages had grown corrupt. The church capitalized on their power over people when it came to sin. Using that power the church taught that God’s people would be abandoned in purgatory forever unless they could somehow atone for the sin which landed them their. If they had sins which were not confessed they would remain in purgatory for centuries to come. With sins unconfessed they didn’t have access to the kingdom of heaven and with no money for indulgences they were locked out of heaven. However, if they purchased indulgences they could buy their way out and they could also rescue their deceased loved ones as well. Not only that, Pope Leo X could finance the building of St. Peter’s Cathedral at the same time. The selling of indulgences became the primary money making machine and the church was embezzling money out of the poorest of people.
It was during this time that Martin Luther was doing studying himself. He, too, was trying to find ways to access God’s love and mercy. His life in his early preisthood years was all about ‘if-only’; if only I pray enough, if only I abstain from life’s pleasures, if only I suffer for Christ, if only I work harder, if only, if only, if only.
Then one study session while pouring over St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he made a discovery. He discovered a scriptural nugget which he had read many times before. It is simple and appears in Paul’s writing and in the Prophet of Habakkuk. “The righteous by faith shall live.” While he had read that numerous times this time he realized that it could mean that righteousness comes from God to us and isn’t dependent upon us first living righteously. Luther cracked the code. Luther now understood the password. With this discovery he had access to God. No longer did he have to punish himself and torment himself because he wasn’t good enough. He now fully understood that Christ was and is the way by which he approach the throne of grace. We have received God’s love already. It has been poured out for us. God isn’t waiting for us to put in the right digits or letters to reveal God’s love. It is here for us now.
In William Manchester’s book, A World Lit Only By Fire, he credits Luther’s discovery and revealing it to the masses that began to turn the world upside down. The Pope’s money machine came to a grinding halt when people learned they no longer had to buy indulgences and that forgiveness comes freely. As Christ taught, “The truth will set you free.” And it liberated people beyond measure.