Monday, October 28, 2013

Sermon for 10/27/13--Festival of the Reformation



Faith and the Truth

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Any Lutheran should be able to say, “Good works don't get me to heaven.” But many wrongly say that “believing” is what counts. That makes faith into something that is about you. Here's where repentance comes in. Jesus says, “If you remain in my Word, you are truly my disciples.” The problem with making believing into something going on in our hearts means that we don't really need the Word. The fact is, people all the time say, “No, I don't go to church, but I believe.” They don't desire the preaching of God's Word. They don't receive Christ's body and blood. They don't learn and grow in the Scriptures. But they still say they have faith? Such a thing is impossible. It is the means of grace, the Word and Sacraments, which give us faith and keep us in faith. Without those things, faith withers and dies.

There is nothing we can do to be saved. Christ has done it all and given it all. But by despising and ignoring His Word, we can surely give it up and have nothing to do with it. When Jesus tells the Jews that they are slaves, they don't believe Him. They believe they don't need Jesus because they think they're free. We think the same way when we think we don't need the Word or its not important to come and hear and learn it. People say, “I don't need church,” or “I don’t need organized religion,” or “I don’t want to be around all those hypocrites,” or other silly things, as if they can still be Christians apart from what Christ gives through the Church. You can't. Let me be very clear: those who give up church and Christ's Word are cutting themselves off from Christ. Jesus Himself says so. If we don't remain in His Word, then we aren't His disciples, no matter that our names are on the member list of a congregation.

But there's repentance for all of us. For none of us cherishes and treasures that Word as we should. Ask yourself: What is it that keeps me from learning the Word of God? What keeps me from crying out constantly for the body and blood of Jesus? What keeps me from church? What keeps me from Sunday School? What keeps me from hearing and reading God's Word every day? What keeps me from learning and growing in it? No matter how much of the Word we think we have, there's always more! Such repentance is given to turn us to Christ in faith. True faith clings to Jesus and trusts in Him and what He gives. To have faith is not to stand around and say, “Oh, sure, I believe.” What do you really believe? Faith that believes in Christ lives every day in the promises of Baptism. Faith that clings to Christ confesses sins and rejoices to hear absolution. Faith that truly believes in Jesus comes to hear His Word and learn and grow in it. Faith that genuinely trusts in Christ eagerly eats and drinks the body and blood of Jesus. Faith that trusts in Jesus doesn't make excuses for not coming to receive Christ's gifts, for not demanding them constantly, while saying at the same time, “I'm still a Christian though.” In other words, faith is not found just in your heart, in your private thinking about God. Faith is found when Jesus returns you to the font each day, when He reminds you of your baptism. Faith isn't just some facts and information in your head; it's when Jesus brings you to confess your sins and be forgiven. Faith isn't your name on a list of some church; it's you, at the altar of Christ, feasting on His flesh and blood. Faith isn't you apart from Christ, it's you clinging to Christ and receiving what He has for you. Faith and the object of that faith go together. True faith goes hand in hand with Christ crucified, with baptism, absolution and the supper. False faith goes hand in hand with itself. True faith means that it is Christ who saves you. It is Christ who sets you free and makes you free indeed.

The Reformation is about Jesus turning you away from doing anything to save yourself and joyfully confessing that He does all things for your salvation. The Reformation is about learning to come to church for the right reason: that it is here that you receive the Word in which you are made and kept as disciples. It's about Jesus teaching you repentance. The Reformation Gospel, which is the Good News of Christ and the church of all times and places, is that it is on account of Christ that you have God's favor. It is because of Jesus that you are a child of God. It is for Christ's sake that your sins are forgiven and you have eternal life. Jesus and all He has done for you and gives to you—that is the foundation and center of your faith. Jesus is the Truth; Jesus sets you free. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.               

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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