Reformation Sunday 2021
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
A Happy and Blessed Reformation Sunday to you all. Today, October 31st, marks the beginning of the great Reformation of the Western Church. On this day, a monk named Martin Luther stirred up a hornet’s nest with his ninety-five theses when he posted them on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.
On that day Luther simply wanted to debate the sales of indulgences – documents the church promised would forgive sins – but he ended up rediscovering the Gospel itself. And in the years that followed, he and other people who discovered this Good News about Jesus would become known as Lutherans.
There is more to the story, of course, but this little bit of history does touch on the main points. Luther did not want to start a new denomination; he simply wanted the church to return to the Good News concerning our salvation through the redeeming actions of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Today, on October 31, Lutheran’s, and other protestant denominations all over the world are celebrating and remembering the courageous actions of Martin Luther and the historical importance of the Reformation. If it were not for the bold actions of Martin Luther and other protestant reformers, the church would have continued down the dangerous course they were on and eventually would have forgotten God’s Redeeming Activity in this world.
Now, before I go any further, I must point out that there is a trap that we could fall into on Reformation Sunday if we are not careful. The trap, of course, is adapting an attitude of victory or superiority on Reformation Sunday.
As one pastor put it “Reformation Day is not simply a self-congratulatory, back slapping day. It is not V-Day. It is not a ‘we got it right and everyone else got it wrong day.’ No. Reformation Sunday is day in which we focus on the truth that our true treasure is the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
In short, the Reformation was and still is about the truth. That is why John 8: 31-36 is our Gospel text today. In the text, Jesus talks about the truth that sets us free.
Listen again to verse thirty-one. “If you continue in my Word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
You know, we do have a couple of strange sayings concerning the truth – such as “truth is stranger than fiction”. Or “the truth hurts”. Or “you can’t handle the truth”. Like Pilate, we too might ask “What is truth?” We say these things because in our post-modern context, anyone who claims to know the truth, or have the truth, is viewed with suspicion.
And anyone who professes to know the truth today is immediately accused of being narrow minded, or arrogant, or uneducated. Truth today is under assault in our post-modern world. Truth today is relative. What is true for you is not necessarily true for me.
But our God is a God of truth. Scripture informs us that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. And Jesus teaches us today in our Gospel text that the truth will set us free. So, the question that begs to be asked is: “What truth do we need to know that will set us free?” And Jesus Himself provides the answer.
To the Jews who believed in Him, Jesus spoke about slavery and freedom. And this was confusing to them because they thought He was talking about slavery in a worldly sense. But Jesus was talking about slavery to sin.
The truth is that we are all born into slavery to sin and there is nothing that we can do to free ourselves from it. Like bonds or shackles, sin is tightly fastened to us, corrupting our entire nature. Everything we say and do is influenced by sin.
And this is a hard pill for people to swallow because it is a truth that we do not want to hear. Humanity does not want to hear about original sin and the influence sin has on our lives.
The Jews that day did not want to hear this either. They told Jesus “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone.” What? Had not the Israelites been held in captivity as slaves in Egypt? Had not the Assyrians cause great suffering? Had not the Israelites been exiled into Babylon? Had not the Romans place a puppet king over them and forced them to pay tax and tribute to him?
In the effort to claim the freedom that comes from having been slaves to no one, these Jews clearly show that they had forgotten their own history as Israelites. And by forgetting their past they have forgotten who had delivered them.
Yes, it is hard to accept the truth. Especially when Jesus points out that we are not just slaves here in this physical world but also in the spiritual realm. Jesus makes it clear that we are all sinners in need salvation. Romans 3:23 informs us that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
But the truth does not stop there because through Christ we are sinners who have been forgiven. And through Christ we are sinners who have been shown mercy. And through Christ we are sinners who have been covered over with grace.
My friends, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And so let us hold onto this Good News that is at the heart of our faith. And let us treasure the truth of the Gospel. And let us find new ways to proclaim this truth to one another and to the world.
For if we continue in God’s Word, we will always be Christ’s disciples, and we will know the truth, and the truth will set us free. Amen.
Let us pray: Almighty God, grant that we, who have been redeemed from the old life of sin by our baptism into Christ, may be renewed by your Holy Spirit and set free from all that separates us from you and from one another. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.