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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Oct 29, 2017  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!

Dear friends, listen carefully to what God says at the end of the alternate Epistle lesson for Reformation. I will read that entire lesson from Hebrews 7:23-28

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

We begin in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Did you hear it, that last verse? For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. When the writer of Hebrews speaks about "the Word of [His] oath," in this Epistle, he wants you to know that God’s oath is a very powerful thing. When God speaks an oath, nothing in the universe is more powerful and more binding. And God has spoken an oath to you.

Today is our celebration of Reformation Day. In the eyes of the world, perhaps even in the eyes of our fellow Christians who attend various other religious denominations, Reformation Day may well seem like an arrogant holiday.

Compare Reformation Day to some of the other holidays in the Church Year. For example: Christmas and Easter seem like good holidays for Christians to celebrate together, Lutheran or otherwise. Christmas and Easter are plainly and clearly all about Jesus. Christmas and Easter do not make us feel terribly uncomfortable when we invite to church those friends and family who are not Lutheran. Visiting family might not commune with us during their Christmas and Easter visits, but at least we can sing the old hymns in warm unison and hear the familiar Gospels together.

Pentecost is another example. No one travels to visit family for "Pentecost vacation," but Pentecost is still a good, all-inclusive holiday. Just as Easter and Christmas are all about Jesus, Pentecost is all really about Jesus, too. Yes, we talk about the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, but the focus of Pentecost is the Spirit’s work of pointing us to Jesus; the Spirit’s untiring message to us that Jesus forgives all our sins. Pentecost is about Jesus!

Stained Glass Baptism Window

Compared to Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, Reformation Day can really bother people—Lutheran or otherwise. On its surface, Reformation Day does not appear to be all about Jesus, as the other feast days are.

On its outside, Reformation Day appears to be about Martin Luther and the Lutheran confession of faith and how we Lutherans always think we are right. Because of this outside, surface appearance, Reformation Day can irritate and offend people— especially visitors who are members of another church body.

The seeming arrogance of Reformation Day might even feel a little embarrassing for you Lutherans. Today’s Epistle will help you see that Reformation Day is not about Luther any more than it is about sauerkraut or lederhosen. Reformation Day is about Jesus and only Jesus.

The blessing and benefit of Reformation Day is summarized in today’s Epistle with one phrase: "THE WORD OF THE OATH." Listen again to what the writer to the Hebrews says: "The law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but THE WORD OF THE OATH, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever."

Here is what you are being told in today’s Epistle: Your heavenly Father chose and designated Jesus to be the One and Only source of your forgiveness and life.

God the Father is so serious about Jesus being the One and Only source of your forgiveness and life, that He swore an oath. When God sent His Son to die for you, God swore to you, promising you on an oath, "This Jesus is the One and Only source of My salvation. I swear and promise to you that Jesus’ death will be sufficient payment for your sins; I vow to you that Jesus’ resurrection will become the opened door to your eternal life.

There is no other place for you to look (Mark 9:8); there is no other voice to which you must or even should listen (Hebrews 1:1-2); there is nothing at all that you must do (Ephesians 2:8-9).

I, Your God and Creator, I raise My right hand and I swear: Jesus is your One and Only. If you have Jesus, then you also have all things in heaven and on earth, even life and salvation." "THE WORD OF THE OATH… appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever."

Here is the problem with the oath God has spoken to you—to all people— concerning Jesus: Very few people believe that God’s oath is sufficient! Throughout the history of the Church, the vast majority of Christianity has insisted that there must be something more to your life and salvation than Jesus your One and Only! When I mean is this:

The struggle in the earliest days of the Reformation boiled down to the Roman Papacy. The papacy had begun to teach that you must look to something more than Jesus for the assurance of your forgiveness and life.

The papacy was teaching that you must also rely upon what is called "the shrine of the pope’s heart." All kinds of teachings have spread through the Roman Church because some pope or another has dreamed up some new idea in his heart. They also teach that for the assurance of salvation, for the certainty of eternal life, you must not only listen to Jesus, but you must also rely upon what the pope feels in his heart.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

After the struggle with the Roman Papacy became public, the Anabaptists swarmed onto the scene. The various Anabaptists of the sixteenth century were father or grandfather to many of today’s denominations. The Anabaptists taught—and continue to teach—that you must look someplace other than the pope’s heart: you must look into your own heart instead. All kinds of teachings have spread through all sorts of church bodies because of this look-into-your-own-heart idea.

For the assurance of salvation, for the certainty of eternal life, you must not only listen to Jesus, but you must also rely upon what you feel in your heart—your sense of faith, your sense of commitment to Jesus, your response to Jesus.

The Feast of the Reformation only seems like an arrogant, parochial holy day. But Reformation Day is not about Luther, and it is not certainly about being right. The main point of the Lutheran Reformation— the main point of Reformation Day—is this:

Nothing good can come from any human heart, papal, reformed, Lutheran, or otherwise! In other words, the Feast of the Reformation is about Jesus and Jesus only, who fully and completely forgives all your sins without any contribution from you. In other words, the power and reliability of God’s oath concerning Jesus. "THE WORD OF THE OATH… appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever."

God the Father is so serious about Jesus being the One and Only source of your personal forgiveness and life, that He swore an oath to you. When God speaks an oath, nothing in the universe is more powerful, nothing more binding, and nothing needs to be added to it—not even the faith of your heart.

TO THE CONTRARY, God’s oath to you concerning Jesus will powerfully and miraculously CREATE THE FAITH OF YOUR HEART. Do not concern yourself with what is inside your heart. Nothing inside anyone’s heart— either yours or mine or the pope’s—nothing there is worth noticing.

Look instead at Jesus, only Jesus. God the Father has promised and sworn to save you through Jesus only, in spite of your heart.

When that knowledge becomes yours personally, when that knowledge becomes your reality.......
Your outlook on life will brighten.....
Your stewardship of all God has given you will be brought into the proper place in your life...
Your view of the mission of God’s people will take on a positive new outlook.....
Your life will begin to reflect the life of Jesus Christ.....

That is Reformation Day.

Christ Is Risen.

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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