Archive for the ‘Reformation’ Category

Justified by faith

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

Romans 3:19-28

Dear friends in Christ,
The day has finally arrived. The 500th anniversary of the Reformation is here. We’ve been waiting a long
time for this.
The official date of the anniversary is 31st October. That’s when, in 1517, Martin Luther released his 95 Theses.
At that time the church had turned to the law and forgotten the gospel. It was not teaching the love of
God. Instead it was spreading fear and the punishment of purgatory and hell, selling indulgences for cash
as the way to have your sins forgiven. It needed the money to build a huge new Cathedral in Rome. Luther,
among others, knew this was all wrong, and he decided to tell his bishop.
The rest, as they say, is history. Instead of a pastoral conversation about indulgences, Luther ignited a storm
of change – religious, economic, political and social. The Reformation really did change the world.
Luther’s passion was the gospel. How am I justified before God? How can I know that I have a loving God?
Do these questions still mean anything to us in the 21st century? Why should this anniversary be important?
You might think, for instance, that people no longer care about having a just relationship with God, or any
relationship at all for that matter. Humanity has matured. We are now independent thinking people who
don’t need that kind of crutch. I think you would be wrong. Faith is not a crutch. It is essential to human
well-being.
A Lutheran congregation in the USA recently asked worshippers to write their deepest needs on sticky
notes. They stuck the notes to the walls of the chancel. Words like ‘acceptance’, ‘love’, ‘forgiveness’, and
‘healing’ kept appearing. There was a common theme: lack of self-worth, guilt, inadequacy, failure and
unworthiness. Simply not being good enough to deserve love. From my experience I think we are not so
very different in Australia. Modern hearts have similar problems to those of 16th century Europe.
Or you might think that people no longer care about justification, the key topic of the Reformation.1 That’s
not how we think these days. But we do know what it means to want and demand justice. We still feel the
sting of injustice when we are treated badly. We scratch the itch of self-justification every time we feel
misrepresented or misunderstood. Our media and law courts are full of people wanting to be justified.
We might express our core spiritual questions in different language to the 16th century, but they are
remarkably similar. We have adopted fashionable new attitudes and thoughts but on the inside our basic
human needs stay pretty much the same. We want to be justified, to be right, to be worthy.
Law without gospel means that the only solution is to prove yourself better and more worthy than others.
Your only hope of recovery is to learn techniques of survival and believe in yourself and your own strength
and achievements. Or, in 16th century language, to buy an indulgence so that when you die you wouldn’t
spend so long being punished for your sins.
God’s law, given to us in the Bible, has the insight and authority to show us where we are wrong and where
we need to change. We know the command to love God above all others. We know the command not
to kill and to do good to others. We know the command not to lie and to speak well of our neighbour. We
know the commands not to steal from our neighbour but to protect everything she or he has. These rules,
and others like them, are our built-in minders. They form the bedrock of our society. They help us live well
together.
The law also shows us our sin, disobedience, and rebellion. We know that even under the best
circumstances we humans break the law, first in our hearts, and then by what we do. This happens even
with the human laws that control society. If you drive a car, for instance, you will know how the traffic slows
down when there’s a police car or safety camera nearby. Then, when it’s out of sight, things speed up
again. Law can make us conform but it cannot reform the heart.

1 See the Augsburg Confession Article 4
Sermon for 31 October 2017
500th anniversary of the Reformation Page 2
The gospel, the bedrock of the Reformation, reverses all that. It’s more than a story about a corrupt church
a long time ago. It’s a divine/human story of the renewal of the human heart, body and soul. God gives
us his Word so we can believe the gospel. Faith in Jesus and forgiveness, justification, rebirth and renewal
go back to Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, and reach forward into our time. St Paul and the apostles
preached this faith and wrote it. The church has believed it and taught it from the beginning. Our text
today, dating from the 1st century AD, says ‘…no one is put right in God’s sight by doing what the Law
requires; what the Law does is to make people know that they have sinned… For we conclude that a
person is put right with God only through faith, and not by doing what the Law commands.’2
Of course we know that rules are not the final answer. Of course we know that a patch-up job never makes
the grade. Deep down we have always known that we need to start again from scratch – new people,
with a new life, a new hope and a new salvation. That’s why the Reformation message – the gospel itself –
still matters today.
You can’t earn or deserve forgiveness and justification. You can’t save up to buy salvation like a medieval
indulgence. You can’t bargain for it. You can’t Google a self-help course to practice perfection. It’s a gift,
or its nothing at all.
Jesus Christ is that gift. He brings salvation, justification, hope, forgiveness and eternal life. He is the Word of
God creating us again: reborn, brand spanking new human beings.
When Christmas comes around we often sing about Jesus as ‘Immanuel’. Quite literally ‘Immanuel’ means
‘God is with us’. We need to keep that in our sights because our natural tendency is to separate God and
daily life. When people understand God as a God only of law, they don’t want him too close. When people
choose not to believe in God they are often rejecting an impersonal, legalistic God who doesn’t care
about us. People don’t want a God who controls them through outdated rules and regulations.
The scandal of the Reformation, of the gospel, is that God is nothing like that. Our God is right here on
earth, mucking in with us, growing up with us, suffering like us, and even dying like us. This distinctly Christian
scandal turns the tables on all law-based religious beliefs. In our multi-faith society no other faith believes
in a God who, while remaining in highest heaven, is born on earth and dies as a human being. Agnostics
and atheists don’t think that any god, if one did exist, would personally suffer and die for them. Humans
assume god, by definition, must be remote, impersonal and unfeeling. The gospel of the Reformation flies
in the face of all that. Because of Jesus we know that God loves us deeply, personally and unendingly.
So if you’ve ever felt unjustly treated, inadequate or unworthy, then the Reformation is for you. If you’ve
ever been afraid of failure, or that you aren’t good enough, then the Reformation is for you. If you’ve ever
thought that if people really knew what you are like on the inside then they could never like you or love
you, the Reformation is for you.
Today we need the gospel of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness as much as we ever did, for we are still
‘… put right with God only through faith, and not by doing what the Law commands.’
That’s what this Reformation anniversary means and why it is important for us today. It’s all about faith in
Jesus, and God’s free gift of forgiveness, justification and salvation in him.
Amen.

I will be good Mummy

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

SERMON ON REFORMATION

pastor-hans-cropWhen Robert Louis Stevenson was a boy he once remarked to his mother, “Momma, you can’t be good without praying.” “How do you know, Robert?” she asked. “Because I’ve tried!” he answered. This brings to mind a story about another little fellow — one who had been sent to his room because he had been bad. A short time later he came out and said to his mother, “I’ve been thinking about what I did and I said a prayer.” “That’s fine,” she said, “if you ask God to make you good, He will help you.” “Oh, I didn’t ask Him to help me be good,” replied the boy. “I asked Him to help you put up with me.”

 Dear Friends! God says in JEREMIAH 31:28 “And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the Lord.

 The world around is broken, destroyed and is filled with evil and so God wants to Repair, Rebuild and Reform our lives but often most people are satisfied to be the way they are as long as others are able to put up with them.

THEME: “JESUS REPAIRS, REBUILDS AND REFORMS US FOR LIFE ETERNAL”

Dear Friends! Look at the world around us or switch on the news on your TV and we hear violence, breaking down of lives, destruction, persecution, hatred, injustice, bombing of the innocent and the list goes on. People in the Middle Eastern world, the ISIS or Talibans or the fundamentalists are trying to destroy this earth that God created.  We learn to put up with all the nonsense and these people take advantage. God’s word has the power to make us stand up and fight the good fight and run the race. We are not meant to just put up with rubbish around us but to stand up to the truth.
We as human beings are so comfortable in our lives as long as people around us are able to put up with us. We don’t see the need to change, to be repaired, to be rebuilt and to be reformed for life eternal.

God promises I will build you up and plant you to be a new creation. We are not called to live lives as unrepairable people, we are called to be people repaired by the Grace of God. A lot of people think they are beyond repair.

Do you feel you are beyond repair?

Hear the good news from Jeremiah 31 “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. From the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more”.

The good news is we are repaired as the law is written in our hearts. Hans Peethala “When the law is written in your minds: we will be slaves to the law and will keep struggling to keep the law and be perfect, But when the law is written in our hearts, it repairs our hearts and rebuilds it so that we may be reformed for life eternal”.

The good news is God has written the law in our hearts and the law is reformed in our hearts and it transforms us to be Gospel living disciples.

Today we remind ourselves Martin Luther saw the church breaking down and losing the Gospel. The Catholic Church was so focused on being perfect and the whole emphasis was on keeping the law. It was all about good works and striving to get to heaven by paying purgatory. Martin Luther stood up and said “Enough is enough” I will not put up with this rubbish anymore.

Martin Luther had tasted the Gospel and he was not able to see God’s children being led astray by working on their good works to be saved. He wanted to ensure that things were put in place and the church was repaired, rebuilt and reformed by God’s Grace. He proclaimed that we are saved by Grace alone. He reminded the church that we need to undergo some repair so that our faith might be rebuilt with Grace, Mercy and Love of God.

Martin Luther said, “I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands that I still possess”.

We cannot save ourselves with our good works, But the good news is God has placed us in the hands of Jesus and It’s by the Grace of our Lord Jesus we are repaired, rebuilt and reformed for life eternal.

God enabled Luther to use God’s word to repair, rebuild and reform the lives of the needy. The Church was reformed as the Gospel penetrated into the hearts of the people. The power of the Gospel has “Repaired, Rebuilt and Reformed our lives forever”.

Paul also was in a similar situation as he was ok as long as people were able to put up with him. But when his eyes opened, He saw that God had “Repaired, Rebuilt and Reformed his life”.

He said “For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”

Reformation is a reminder that we are Reformed people by the Grace of Jesus Christ our Saviour. We are made righteous by Grace and the Holy Spirit will guide us to live by faith. The world around us is being destroyed, plucked down and torn apart but we who have become righteous by Grace alone that we may live by faith. We do not live by seeing what is happening around us in this world, but we live by faith in what is promised to us by God our Saviour.

Romans 3:22 – 26 “The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus”.

Dear Friends! We are justified by the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to be righteous before God. This is the truth that Jesus has given us. John 8:31-36 “Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

This is the truth. Jesus has “Repaired, Rebuilt and Reformed” our lives forever. We are set free by the Gospel, Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin”. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed”.

The Son of man has set you and I free by the truth. The truth is we are saved by Grace and a faith response to the Grace we have received is good works that builds our faith.  Go in peace. Amen

Pastor Hans Peethala

” Flat lining yet alive to live “

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

“Flat lining yet alive to live”

John 8:31-36

 

Mike Holmgren, who in 1997 led the American Grid Iron team the Green Bay Packers to four consecutive finals series play-offs and to their first Super Bowl victory in 30 years, grew up in a religious family in San Francisco.

He went to church every Sunday and at age 11 made a public confession of Jesus Christ as his Savior.But later, in pursuit of a football career in high school and college, he said, “I left God on my bedroom shelf, right next to my dust-covered Bible.” After playing for his college he was drafted to a professional team and then another but never made it.

In his pain of rejection, he went back to his bible and recommitted himself to the Lord and after marrying a committed Christian and coaching football in the high school and college grades he became coach of the Green Bay Packers and after realizing his victory in the Super Bowl he said that: “Win or lose, I now realize what really matters: It’s not winning the Super Bowl prize-it’s the crown of eternal life that Jesus Christ has won for us through His victory on the cross.”
A sentiment, a truth that displays the same knowledge that Martin Luther came to know when he said:

“A person may carry their money wrapped in paper, or they may transport them in an iron chest; yet the treasure is entirely the same. Though you or I have a stronger or weaker faith in Christ, Christ is, after all, the same, and we have everything in Him.”

Wikipedia describes Martin Luther as a “German friar and professor of theology who was a seminal figure of the 16th century movement in Christianity known later as the Protestant Reformation who strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God’s punishment for sin could be purchased with monetary values assigned to indulgences and taught that salvation and subsequently eternity in is not earned by good deeds but is received only as a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin.” Finishing with “Those who identify with these and all of Luther’s wider teachings are called Lutherans even though Luther insisted on Christian as the only acceptable name for individuals who professed Christ.

Punching in Reformation in the online dictionary gave me the meaning of “the act of reforming, and/or state of being reformed”. I like Luther because he well and truly knew that outside of Christ he was certainly no saint which begs the question of why was he given the job by God to reform the Church because as he said himself that “if it wasn’t me and I just sat back drinking Wittenberg beer, God would have still got the job done through someone else”.

So why Martin Luther? I’m sure he had many attributes like courage, heart for the poor and communications skills and so forth, but for me one of the greatest “tools” he had was his knowledge of himself and in that knowledge, his absolute need and necessity to find the Gospel for himself.

God over time has seemingly worked through for want of a better word some “interesting people” and situations, and just as Jesus seemed to gravitate to the poor and outcasts, as my Vicar Father said God seems to not pick from the top of the shelf and if that be the case, we Christians come with some baggage. Baggage that God deals with and prunes over time, but baggage that the dark side knows of and how I heard put so well one time, that for us in Christ, it’s like we are surrounded by a picket fence to keep us in the world but not of the world, but like a lion the powers of darkness prowl around the edge looking for one of the railings becoming weakened, and that is where the attack will take place. The take this thorn from my flesh railings like pride, love of money, jealousy, weakness of the flesh to fight an addictive nature and so forth. The things we know are always nagging at us, and the things that we fall for again and again.

The things that get in the way as we try and follow in the words of Hebrews 12:1 and “Run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The race that is marked out in Christ with the final destination of heaven as our eternal home and of life in Glory with Him.”

The problem is while we in Christ have already passed the finish line, in ourselves we find that we are still trying to get fit enough to make the journey and if you’re like me and unlike in the Melbourne Cup where they put the most weight on the strongest horse, it feels like the weights been put on the weakest, never mind coming from a bad barrier draw. Thankfully we’ve got the right Jockey whose knows his “horse”.

Hebrews 12:1 goes on, so “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”

If only we could because it seems that as soon as we nail back in place the loose picket, another one starts to weaken and so, we like in the Church in Luther’s day are in a constant form of reform. The reform he brought to himself and back to the church which was to re-find the Gospel in unadulterated clarity.

Our personal reformations of seeing things clearly. Of seeing that all have sinned and that being the case, our personal sins are not too great to be forgiven and that is the truth that has set us free.

 The truth as experienced by these people:

 One of the criminals (on the cross next to Jesus) who was hanging there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

And “When Jesus had entered Capernaum; a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralysed, suffering terribly. Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”  The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

And when she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”  “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

A thief, a leader of the opposition allied forces and a lady in a crowd who did nothing much more than acknowledge who Jesus was and what He could do: and Jesus replies: your faith has healed you, I have not found a person in all of Israel with such great faith today you will be with me in Paradise.

Does that not seem overly gracious, it is but we shouldn’t be surprised because John 1:12 tells us:

But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on His name.

Martin Luther penned the famous quote of “sin boldly.” Not to tell us to purposely sin, but to say that when we do and the devil starts telling us of it, we know that he can never back up his allegations of being lost with the truth.

The truth that sets us free that is Christs never ending well of forgiveness.

Free as I once had so well said to me by a fellow student at the sem. who heard me singing and he said I should join the choir. He was probably tone deaf but that’s not the point. The point was I declined as I said I’m a bit shy about such things and he replied “what being saved in Christ not enough for you.”

He was right. Free in Christ why take myself so seriously and not put it out there. But also free in Christ to remain shy in such matters because all that matters to Christ is you.

The world judges us and we each other. Oh she is so successful and I’m only a grape picker.

A bank manager I knew quit his job to work on the production line at Holden’s in Elizabeth. I wonder what some people said behind his back not truly believing the truth of his statement when he said he had never been happier.

It wasn’t so long ago that to be in the Church was to try and look somewhat a devout sort of person and then sneaking into the bottle shop under the cover of darkness. Or of going to Church like butter wouldn’t melt in our mouth and then going home to be our selves again.

Colleagues and I were put through a leadership course where we were asked a series of question that would show the difference in our actions between work and private life. The gaps varied as they should. Except for one which flat lined. The instructor was somewhere between mystified and uncomplimentary and upon remarking that this shouldn’t be the case, I simply remarked-why?

Would I have manipulated my answers for a more pleasing result if I was going for the job instead of already having both the job and the runs on the board? Most probably.

Yet though flat lining, did I still try and be better at my job? Absolutely.

Do we as Christians try and live better lives turning from sin, helping others, being more welcoming and charitable? Absolutely, because we are free to do so because we already have the job and the runs on the board.

The Job Christ did for us on the cross and though you or I have a stronger or weaker faith in Christ, Christ is, after all, the same, and we have everything in Him.”

And should we carry around our faith in rags or a suit, as the CEO or the candle stick maker, believe boldly in who you are. And that is a child of God. A child of God so loved and special that he has given you to be alongside us and all the people he brings before you. So special that as he hung on the cross and was taunted to come down, he saw your face and felt your very being and remained steadfast in the Will of His Father knowing that “tomorrow”, He will greet you in paradise.

The surety of tomorrow that gives you the freedom to be the special person you are today-however that looks. Amen.

Here we stand

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

“Here we stand”

 

Today, like all days we come together in worship to receive from, praise to, thank and celebrate our Lord. That’s our focus today, next Sunday and every day in between. The focus of knowing that God the Father sent His only Son Jesus Christ to this earth to take our sins on himself and that in faith in Him and in His actions alone we are saved and given eternal life. We are saved in God’s gift to us in Christ: start, middle and end-that’s it. Yet amazingly God also works through the sinners that Christ came to save. Abraham, Moses, Noah, the 12 apostles, Mary, Paul and all the big “guys” of the bible. Notable messengers of the Word and united as great workers in God’s kingdom, yet also united in the knowledge of their sin.

The clothing of Adam and Eve after they fell to temptation, the release of Gods people from captivity in Egypt, the baby growing in a young virgin named Mary and all of scripture point to one person-Jesus Christ, the start, middle and end.

All scripture whether history, law or Gospel are to bring His saving Words into our hearts and minds. That’s the aim of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit-and all who have heard it and know it for themselves just like those chosen to be God’s mouthpieces during a time of change in the Church brought about by a Catholic monk called Martin Luther who had the audacity to nail 95 biblical truths to a local church door-the local messaging e-mail of the time and start a movement labelled the reformation.

They say that the pen is mightier than the sword and indeed when young Mister Luther made his observations regarding the truth of scripture in order to unleash the truth of Christ, so to he unleashed powers that wished to destroy him, and though Martin Luther and all the reformers that followed him could well stand alongside those great messengers chosen by God from earlier times, I’m sure they all would scowl in dis-belief that here 496 years later we are celebrating their works. But we do and we should. Not because they saved us, but because they responded to the call of God to bring our focus to one who did, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ said I am the way, the life and the truth and through the men and women of the reformation the knowledge and full words of scripture were brought in front of those who in the time had not the access to nor the educational skill to understand the Holy Scriptures and were being misguided and mislead to believe in means of salvation other than through faith in Christ alone.

Upon receiving his Academy award for his role in Gladiator, Russell Crowe born in New Zealand, raised in Australia and finding fame in America said:

“God protect New Zealand, God Bless America and thank God for Australia” and for the reformers and all messengers of the truth of Christ we thank God for protecting them, thank God for blessing them with the truth, and thank God for that truth, the way and the life that is Christ Jesus.

Salvation not of our works or piety, but in Jesus Christ alone who we know is our start, middle and end that we can line up with St. Paul and know that if we boast, we can only boast of Him our Lord and Saviour.

A simple yet revolutionary truth challenged some 496 years ago and though now the Word of God-the Holy Scriptures of the Bible is available to any of us fortunate to be living in a free country, that simple yet revolutionary truth of salvation in faith in Christ is still challenged to this day and seen only recently when I read in a publication placed in many Christian churches an article regarding John chapter 10 verse 10 of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Firstly, starting prior at verse 7 I read to you the word of God:

“So Jesus said again, ‘I am telling you the truth: I am the gate for the sheep. All others who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Those who come in by me will be saved; they will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life-life in all its fullness. I am the good shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep.”

The clear Word of God: “Those who come in by me will be saved”, yet which evoked this commentary which not only brings into question the message of the reformers but the question of why Christ needed to die in the first place. The commentary:

“In John 10:10 Jesus promises the abundant life or life on a higher level. As we approach our spiritual destination on our lifelong journey towards spiritual man so the level on which we live our life climbs. I find it totally enlightening to have come to realise that the quality of my life here on earth is completely in my own hands and depends entirely on the effort that I make over time. (&) when I look at 1 Cor.3:13-15 I am pleasantly surprised to see that the quality of my life in heaven too, depends on my actions now that will result in having natural man born again. It’s all up to me!”

Words from a publication serving God in heartfelt service. Yet words that with its connation’s may unintentionally misguide and words that you will not again find within these four walls as we continue to preach and teach the truth of a message fought for 496 years ago and died for some 1500 years before then.

The Word of God, given for you in his mercy:

“You are justified by faith apart from works of law”, for “all fall short of the glory of God”. “For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it”, because “ through Jesus Christ is preached the forgiveness of sins, and everyone who believes in Him is set free”, as “Salvation is to be found through Him alone and in all the world there is no one else whom God has given who can saves us” because God did not send his Son into the world to condemn you, but that through Him you are saved”.

The message of Jesus Christ -our start, our middle, our end. Our everything. Our Saviour. Amen.

 

MY GOD. THEY KILLED HIM!!

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Reformation Sunday

John 8:31-36

“He wasn’t just whistling Dixie”

The 1969 moon landing did not take place but was put together in a film studio as part of the cold war propaganda. Lee Harvey-Oswald did not act alone and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein was about gaining access to Iraq oil.

Ah, who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory?

I saw a good one about twenty five years ago where this reporter after having investigated the term being thrown at the time around called “The new world order” found out that there was a grand global design in place, and that in regards to Australia, we would basically become like a giant resource pit where after being mined, the resources then would be sent to developing countries, manufactured into goods and then we would buy them back and that this would obviously dramatically effect our production lines was considered collateral damage.

Bruce Springsteen once sang blind faith in your government will get you killed. As Lutherans we believe that our leadership are provided by God for our benefit. I do not argue that at all, but that does not mean that we should not question their actions because they are actually human like the rest of us, and like the rest of us-fallible. When we look at some of the world’s past historic events, it doesn’t surprise that people are led to think of conspiracies. Let’s start the ball rolling by quoting lyrics from Kris Kristopherson:

“There was a man named Mahatma Ghandi

He would not bow down, he would not fight

He knew the deal was down and dirty

And nothing wrong could make it right away

 

But he knew his duty, and the price he had to pay

Just another holy man who tried to make a stand

MY GOD, THEY KILLED HIM !

 

Another man from Atlanta, Georgia

By the name of Martin Luther King

He shook the land like rolling thunder

And made the bells of freedom ring today

 

With a dream of beauty that they could not burn away

Just another holy man who dared to be a friend

MY GOD, THEY KILLED HIM !

The only son of God Almighty

The holy one called Jesus Christ

Healed the lame and fed the hungry

 

And for his love they took his life away

 

On the road to glory where the story never ends

Just the holy son of man we’ll never understand

MY GOD, THEY KILLED HIM !”

If you are going to take on the establishment, whether it is at your work place or at the very top-be prepared for the consequences. People don’t like change, or the truth when it comes at their cost-whether it is financially or status. Being a whistle-blower is not all it’s cracked up to be if you want to just sit back and smell the roses. But there are those people that put it all on the line, not for their own prestige, but because it’s the right thing to do, you could say it’s what they have been called to do-no matter what the cost.

With my brother, I once went to the funeral of a quirky and fallible lady. She hadn’t been “perfect” in perfects sense whatever that is, but she had touched many, many people and after the crowd had dispersed, looking down at her last resting place my brother commented that “this is holy ground”. Martin Luther was a whistle-blower, quirky, fallible and not perfect, but he desired for all to hear the truth, to bring to light the truth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. A rule of warfare whether in victory or defeat, is to have pre-planned an exit strategy. Wise thinking I would suggest even in our daily lives. Whether to invest in this company or that, to start a business, to change jobs or to take out a loan to purchase a house, it will help greatly to think of “what then” if things turn out pear shaped, or vice versa if things exceed beyond belief of how to remain true to your beliefs and integrity instead of being swallowed up with pride. But then there are people and occasions where there is no such luxury of any exit plan being available. William Wilberforce who lobbied in government against slavery, Nelson Mandela against apartheid, that guy that stood before those army tanks in Tiananmen Square and of course Martin Luther and his band of merry men.

Today is our reformation service and give me half a chance I would just stand here quoting Martin Luther all morning. But I won’t because Martin Luther was never about Martin Luther. So I’ll only give you two of his quotes that display what he was about. The first that shows what he was not about, being not about himself

“I did nothing, I could have just sat here drinking Wittenberg beer with my friend Melanchthon and God would have got someone else to do it”.

And a small quote of ten words that encompasses the whole of the truth in which he risked his life for:

“Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense and understanding”.

There is the truth. The fight against what is dished up to us as logic. Which I might add is logical you our human way of thinking. Being that to be accepted by God we need to earn His favour. Being that with our long lists of failures we’ve blown it. Those two suggestions that are placed before us continually are certainly reasonable; they make sense and are easy to understand. Those lies make much more human sense than the truth. The truth that a man on a cross, a thief who he said himself was “getting what he deserved” yet after seemingly simply to “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” is told by Jesus himself that “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”.

There was a time in the reformation that the churches were trashed in the belief that things like the cross on our alter were being looked on like idols and Lutheran’s have been at times accused of viewing Luther like a God.There is but one God, one Saviour and one truth: “That in faith alone are we saved”. These other things, this wooden cross, Luther, your good works are but gifts that God gives us and others to point to that truth. Luther was prepared to give his life for the truth, but he didn’t have to. God was prepared to give His only Son Jesus for the truth, and he did. Jesus was prepared to lie down his blameless life for the truth, and he did.

The truth that has set us free. George Fox, the founder of the Quakers wrote of when he understood the truth that set him free:

“Then, O Then, I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one, Christ Jesus that spoke to my condition. And when I heard it my heart did leap for joy, and then the Lord did gently lead me along and did let me see His love, which was endless and eternal and surpasseth all the knowledge that men have in the natural state or can get by history or books’”.

We have received that truth at a great cost, the life of our Lord and Saviour who asks that in regard to salvation we trample under foot all human reason, sense and understanding and just believe in him, and why he came: To hear his truths, so, let us do so

“Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be betrayed, and delivered into the hands of men: and they shall kill him; and the third day after that he is killed, he shall be raised again.

 

It is finished.

 

I am the door: by me if any person enter in, they shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

 

I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. Amen.

 

More than words.

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

A picture of our faith.


There is a saying that states that “one picture is worth a thousand words”. How true that is on so many occasions. I first heard about the Bali explosions on the radio. The news reporter attempted to give a verbal description of what had happened and the devastation that had occurred in that otherwise peaceful and fun-loving place. However, it wasn’t until I turned on the TV and saw the pictures of the destruction, the stretchers and ambulances, the overcrowded hospital that the full extent of the situation really hit home. Those pictures described what thousands of words weren’t able to do.

A couple of years when another driver attempted to remodel the look of my car by driving into while making a u-turn, I filled out a form for the insurance company. Included in this form was a space to explain what happened in words and another space to draw a diagram of what happened in the accident. The insurance company realised that often it is easier to draw a picture of what happened.

Companies and churches have logos and if they are good logos they tell you something in picture form about that organisation. The Lutheran Church of Australia has a logo. On it you will see a large gold cross, the Southern Cross and flames of fire – that tells you something about the LCA – the centrality of the cross of Christ, the Spirit at work through the church and the location of the LCA.

There is another symbol that is found in Lutheran Churches throughout the world. You will find this symbol on the front of church buildings and halls, you will find it included in the designs of the magnificent stain glass windows of Lutheran churches all over the place (including St Luke’s). You will find it in books and printed materials that are distinctly Lutheran in origin. I am talking about Luther’s Rose. Luther devised this logo as a summary of his faith. But not only of his faith but also that of all Christians. And so this logo is displayed in our churches as a picture of the Christian faith. You might say it is a sermon in picture form. Since today’s service is dedicated to commemorating the Reformation, it’s worth looking at it because it is a picture that will take a thousand words to describe this summary of our faith. Let’s start.

At the centre of Luther’s logo is a cross. The cross of Jesus is at the every centre of the Christian faith. Without the cross, there is no Christianity.

This cross is black in colour. Black is the colour of sin and evil – the darkness in our hearts and in the world that causes so much grief and pain. John’s Gospel says, “People love the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds are evil” (John 3:19). Black reminds us of our sinfulness. “Everyone has sinned and is far away from God’s saving presence” (Rom 3:23), the apostle Paul reminds us. Black is the colour of death – sin leads to death.

When Luther was a young man he was nearly killed and the thought of dying terrified him. He was not ready to meet God the eternal Judge. And so he left all of his friends, his well paid job, his family, and wealth in his search of a way to get rid of his sin and be right with God. He entered a monastery and prayed, and fasted, and studied, constantly. But still his heart did not feel at peace with God. He always felt too sinful to ever be called into the presence of God if he were to suddenly die. He never felt confident that he would go to heaven. So he prayed, and studied, and fasted more.

But the more he studied, the more he prayed, the more questions he had and the more doubts he had about how worthy he was before God. His sin and God’s judgement terrified him.

It was fortunate for Luther that he was studying the Letter to the Romans and gained a fresh insight into 1:17: The righteous shall live by faith. He realised that a person cannot be made right with God by trying to impress God. Salvation is a gift of faith from God – faith that believes and trusts in what Jesus has done for him. Salvation is freely available to all.

This was the answer to Luther’s searching and praying. He was elated. You cannot be saved without Jesus Christ. You cannot by pass the cross. Our sin is so great that it permeates and infiltrates every part of us, including every thing we say, do and think. It is impossible for us to step aside from our sinfulness for just one moment, and save ourselves, or dedicate ourselves to God, or give ourselves to God. Without God’s intervention, we would have no hope.

And so at the centre of Luther’s Symbol is the cross. The cross is the symbol of God’s acceptance, his forgiveness, his grace. Yes, we are sinners, but by the free gift of God’s grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets us free (Rom 3:23). Through faith in Jesus, our sins are forgiven, we are accepted by God, we are welcomed by our loving heavenly Father.

In Luther’s logo the cross is placed on a red heart. Even though the cross is black, a symbol of sin and death and the shame that the Son of God had to die in such a terrible way because of our sin, the heart is red because it is a living heart. The gospel of forgiveness gives life. We have been saved, given life as children of his family, recreated, reborn, given a new heart to live as God wants us to live.

The heart is a symbol of love. Not only the love that God showed in sending his Son, but for the love that flows through us. We have been renewed to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. The red heart indicates that since we are God’s children through Jesus death on the cross, this has an effect on the way we live our lives. As God’s people, we should turn away from everything that is evil and sinful and let God’s love be evident in everything we say and do. Paul says, “You are the people of God…. So then, you must clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Be tolerant with one another and forgive one another …just as the Lord has forgiven you. And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity (Colossians 3:12-14).

 

A heart filled with God’s love is a busy, active heart. There is no room for complacency or laziness. Nobody receives the grace of God for private enjoyment. Nobody receives the gifts of God for private enjoyment. They are meant to be used to serve others.

The red heart is resting on a white rose. The white rose has been connected with the coming of the Messiah. The Christmas carol: Behold, a Rose is growing of loveliest form and grace, etc. The rose is the flower that indicates joy in the midst of the thorns of life.

And so the red heart and living the Christian life rests on the white rose. It is not easy being a Christian, a follower of Jesus in this day and age.
It is easy to be sidetracked,
it is easy to follow the crowd,
it is easy to forget that we have been called by God to be in his family and to do his work. We fail often, we confess that we have not done what God has called us to do. That is part of the thorny world in which we live.

But we experience the joy of the Good News of the Gospel, the joy of being renewed for service, and refreshed with sins forgiven and sent out again to do his work. For Luther, the rose was a symbol of this joy among the thorns of our world.

Because of the joy of knowing Jesus, our service to others is filled with joy. If we served our Lord grudgingly, it would not be service. If we went unwillingly, or with a grumbling spirit, our service would not be worth anything. True service, true worship, true discipleship reflects the joy that we have because of Christ.
What a joy to have a Saviour who loves us!
What a joy to know that our sins are forgiven!
What a joy to know that Jesus gives eternal life!
What a joy it is to be called as Jesus’ disciples in this world to pass on that love and hope of eternal life!

Everything about Jesus fills our hearts with joy. As Paul said: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

 

The white rose rests on a sky blue background. The sky-blue background of Luther’s logo reminds us of the promise of eternal life that we have through Jesus Christ. Because Jesus rose from the grave, we too shall share in the bliss of heavenly joy and we look forward to that day when we will be in heaven with our Lord and with all those faithful people who have gone before us. It may happen that our life takes a turn for the worst – persecution for our faith, tragedy, ill health, crippling old age, the loss of our ability to think clearly – but there is one thing that doesn’t change or decay. We look forward to entering heaven when this life is over.

The sky-blue background reminds us that our life on this earth is for only a short time. We are here and then we pass away – not into nothingness or oblivion – but into the joy of eternal life.

Around the whole logo is a gold ring around. Like a ring that has no end, likewise the joy of heaven has no end, it will go on into eternity. The ring is gold, one of the most precious metals, and so indicating that the promise of eternal life is the most precious of all. In fact, you might say, everything relating to our faith is precious like gold and we value it more highly than anything else in all the world.

So there you have Luther’s Rose; a pictorial summary of the Christian faith. It is a symbol of a faith that is just as true and relevant today as it was in Luther’s time.

The logo not only gives us an understanding of our faith but challenges us to ask:
How central is the Jesus in your life or is he somewhere around the edges?
How readily have you accepted that Jesus has cleansed you from all your sin or do hang on to your guilt?
How ready are you to give up your pet sins and obediently live as someone who belongs to God?
How willing are you serve Christ through humbly serving others?
How well are you sharing the joy of the gospel with others?
How strong is your relationship with your Saviour – or is it a somewhat casual affair?
How confident are you that when you die, you will go to heaven? Or is there some lingering doubt that you won’t be good enough?
In what ways are you letting the love of Christ effect every relationship?

Look at Luther’s logo again and see that Jesus, God’s love, a renewed heart and Christian service are central to everything that we do personally and as a church.

Confess it, believe it and live it!!

Luther’s Rose

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Reformation sermon on Luther’s rose

 

Our celebration of the Reformation, October 31st, the day Luther nailed theluther 95 theses to the Wittenberg church door, is not a day to boast and be puffed up with pride, because Luther founded a new church or new religion.  No, we celebrate, give thanks to God and remember the reformation because of what God had done in using Martin Luther, as his tool, to bring to light the TRUE GOSPEL for all Christians, all over the world…not just for the German church.  The rediscovery, that ‘in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last’ is the rediscovery of Christianity itself.

 I often hear and have in the past said it myself:  ‘I am Christian first and Lutheran second.’  While this commonly said statement seems to make sense and appears to make us more accepting of other Christians.  After reflection, I believe it doesn’t actually make sense.  Let me tell you why.  To say ‘I am Christian first and Lutheran second’, is to say something like ‘I am a human being first and a man second’, in order to express equality with women; it just doesn’t make sense.  You can’t separate being a human from being a man or woman. To be a man is to be human.  To be a woman is to be human.  There is no human-ness that is before and prior to being either male or female.  To be human is to be male or female.

To be Lutheran is to be Christian; to be Christian is to be Lutheran.  There is no generic Christian-ness that comes prior to being Lutheran.  Have you ever had a nick-name?  Lutheran was a nick-name given to the Christians who followed Luther’s attempts at reforming the Roman Catholic Church.  To be ‘Lutheran’ was to be named as a Christian who believed and taught that we are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone and scripture alone is the source and foundation for all doctrines of faith.

In a perfect world, where nick-names don’t stick, we would simply be called ‘Christians’, as Luke records in Acts 11:26 ‘The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.’  However, this is not the case.   We are Christians called Lutheran’s.  Lutheran’s who happen to also have as their symbol of identity, and theology depicted in Luther’s Rose.  The Luther Rose, also known as the Luther Seal, is easily the most recognized symbol for Lutheranism, and for good reason. Martin Luther personally oversaw the creation of this symbol. It provides a beautiful summary of his faith, and this is the important part, a faith that is common to all Christians, of every place and every time; a Christian symbol-like the ‘fish’.

Yesterday and today we have been watching on DVD, Bill Hybels teach us some simple techniques to help us make the walk across the room, to speak to someone about Jesus.  However, there is one major presumption made; we know a little something about Jesus and what hid did for us.  We could all learn more about justification, about faith, about the bible, about Jesus as our substitute and sacrifice, but if we waited until then, waited until we knew all we could about faith and about Jesus, before we went and spoke to someone about him, we would never start.  Perhaps that’s why many of us feel the step across the room is too hard, and we can’t even shuffle one meagre step.  We fear we might get things all wrong, or worse, they might know more then we do!!

Don’t worry, even the disciples ‘trembled with fear and never made one step across the room, because of the Jews’.  But once full of the Spirit and the truth of the gospel, they began to take large steps across many countries spreading the gospel of Jesus.  The power that changed them and the courage that ignited them to speak about Jesus, came when the Spirit opened them to the scriptures.  The Spirit received at Pentecost inspired them to know and proclaim the basics of the faith: that Jesus died for sinners; that he rose again; that the righteousness needed to get to heaven came from God himself and that faith in Jesus alone saves and makes people righteous, as the Old Testament testified ‘the righteous will live by faith.’

You have been baptised, not only for salvation and eternal life, but you have been given even more.  Not only have you been covered in the righteousness of Christ, but you, like the disciples, have received power from on high.  The Holy Spirit inspires you with wisdom and hope in the knowledge of Jesus.  To know and aspire to the truth, that our righteousness rests in Jesus and not our efforts, as Paul says ‘But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known.’  This is the true Christian gospel that Luther rediscovered nearly 500 years ago. 

 Luther’s Rose, the symbol of the Christian faith, can encourage us to make that step across the room.  It gives us an opportunity to stand on the shoulders of those who have already taken the walk before us.  It is the ideal teaching tool for faith and mission.  The Rose is simple enough to memorise, yet so profound you can never plumb the depth of its meaning for faith.  It is basic in design, yet so intricate in theology for mission, that you will never exhaust its treasures.  It is the ideal mission and outreach companion.

The cross is central to the Rose.  All faith and mission begin at the cross of Jesus.  It is the centre and core of your faith and is the power that changes lives by forgiving sin, as Paul writes ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’  Our first step in faith and mission is to believe and confess that Jesus died to redeem us from sin, death and the devil.  The cross, which is black, etches in our mind the purpose of the cross…to put to death.  Not only did Jesus die on the cross and bore the punishment that was upon us, the black reminds us that we now die to sin; die to self and die to indulging in our sinful lusts.  It reminds us ‘Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.’ 

How much could we talk about that or relate that to our own faith journey.

The black cross is centered in the red heart, the core of our being, to remind us that our faith is not subjective or a feeling, but is anchored in the crucified Christ, as Paul writes in Romans 10:10 ‘For one who believes from the heart will be justified’.  Luther comments ‘Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive….’  We live by faith in the crucified.  The heart, the symbol for our current life, is sustained in faith and kept alive until heaven by the preaching of the cross and the blessings from the cross, the sacrament of Holy Communion; the true body and blood of Jesus.

If we speak to some about ‘Jesus, all about life’, by learning about how Jesus gives and sustain life through his word and sacraments…we have something concrete and life changing to talk about.

The cross and heart are centered in a white rose.  Luther writes ‘to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace…the believer is placed into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives.’  Only the gospel of Jesus can bring this sort of joy; the joy that inspires us to tell others about him.  Only in the joy that comes from the free grace we receive in Christ, can we even begin to take a step in mission.  I can demand and urge all l like, but you will never freely reach out in mission, or even want to, if you have not first experienced the joy of Jesus’ reaching out to you from the cross, to freely open the door of heaven for you, as he said in Revelation ‘these are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut.’

All this is set in the beautiful sky blue that is incased in a golden ring.  Why blue with a golden ring?  The blue we see and experience as the sky above, is really only the beginning of the endless universe beyond our reach.  Beyond that is the gold of God’s heavenly kingdom that encases the whole created universe.  All that has happened to us so far; grace through the cross, a new heart, joy in the Spirit, is only the beginning and a down payment of what is yet to come; it is the blue of the sky.    We live by faith, in the blue that separates us from heaven, trusting in the promise of God until that day we cross from the blue of faith to the gold of heaven. 

The golden blessedness of God’s kingdom and eternal life, the gold ring that surrounds us, that is beyond us, is the comforting hope and assurance that God, through Christ, has already encased us in his kingdom. 

Luther’s Rose, from the black of cross to the gold of heaven, is summed up in just a few words of St Paul in Romans 3, ‘This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.’

Wow!  What a story we have to tell!  Amen

The search for the truth

Friday, October 31st, 2008


John 8: 31-36 The search for the truth

 

Everyone can remember a time when we had to line up before our parents, perhaps together with our brothers and sisters, to give account for something we had done wrong; perhaps we lied about something or broke a window but denied it.  All standing in a line, dad or mum would walk up and down asking for the truth to be told; demanding that the truth of the matter be revealed so that the issue at hand can be dealt with and the wrong put right.  ‘Now what happened, which one of you did this’?

 

Finding out the truth and putting right what is wrong is justice; its making sure wrong is dealt with so that the injustice does not continue.  Yet as all of us are painfully aware, getting us to tell the truth is the hardest battle. Getting us to admit that we are in the wrong, can take an effort of biblical proportions!  Often we don’t want to tell the truth because we can’t or don’t want to face the reality of the truth.

 

I have a short clip from the movie ‘A few good men’.  Its a story about two lawyers trying to get to the truth out about a murder that happened within a military camp.  I want you to take note of the accused man’s response when caught out lying to the jury. (play clip)

 

‘You can’t handle the truth’.  This man justified his lies about what happened because he couldn’t face the truth about himself.  He couldn’t face the reality of what he had done and so justified his actions by blaming the lawyers, blaming the pressures of his job and blaming the system.  It was everyone else’s fault; they can’t handle the truth. 

 

The reality is, we who are at fault can’t handle the truth!  We can’t handle the truth about who we are before God.  We can’t handle the truth we are sinners that are going to die.  Jesus himself said ‘”I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.’  And a moment before this Jesus repeated three times ‘you will die in your sins’.  Jesus is standing before those around him and he is standing before us saying ‘you can’t handle the truth.’, the reality is ‘you are slaves to sin and you are going to die in your sins.  Stop blaming everyone and own up!’  They are fighting words, and they are the words which sent Jesus to the cross to be crucified.

                                                                                                          

Martin Luther couldn’t handle the truth of Jesus words either.  He couldn’t handle the reality of his sin.  He couldn’t handle the reality of Jesus’ words ‘you will die in your sins’.  Like the army officer, like us all, he blamed everyone but himself for his condition; he even blamed God.

 

 I quote

‘‘Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God… I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, … I was angry with God, and said, “As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the 10 Commandment, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel of Jesus and also by Jesus words threatening us with his righteousness and wrath’ (LW 34: 336).’

 

This was Luther’s struggle against God which sparked off the reformation, and often its our struggle against God.  ‘We can’t handle the truth about ourselves’.   Jesus came to earth full of the truth and he said ‘I am the truth and the life’, and he also said ‘my words are truth’.  Jesus came to tell us the truth, and the truth hurts.  Yet if we are prepared to hear the truth about ourselves, we will hear the truth about God.

 

In today’s reformation gospel reading Jesus says ‘If you hold to my word, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  To be a disciple of Jesus, a Christian, means to take Jesus words as truth.  This is very important.  If we don’t hear and remain in Jesus words as the truth, then we lose the gospel; we lose Jesus and we cannot be free.  Jesus said ‘when you know the truth, then you will be free. 

 

The truth of Jesus words to us lay at the centre of the reformation and Jesus words are still at the centre of our confession as Lutherans.  One of the key discoveries of Luther, which paved the way for the reformation of the church, was the realization that when God speaks to us, his words are truth.  And when he speaks to us he speaks in two ways; first the bad news and then the good news; both are the truth and both are essential for salvation.

 

The truth of our condition is as clear and stark as Jesus says ‘you will die in your sins’.  A truth that we can’t handle and many don’t.  That is why our churches are emptying and why the prophet Jeremiah laments ‘o whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.’  It is so sad that many don’t want to hear the truth because we need to hear the truth, and handle it, because the truth of God’s word will also set us free from sin and death.

 

This is the good news, the other side of God’s word.  Jesus came to set us free from our condition.  He said ‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.’ When we remain in Jesus words, take them to heart and apply them to ourselves, them the words of Jesus set us free.  When we believe Jesus at his word, we have already crossed from death to life. 

 

This was the keystone of the reformation; we are saved by grace alone, in faith alone, in Christ alone.  Today, as you hear the words of Jesus, ‘if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed’, apply them to yourself, and take them as the truth and the truth of Jesus word will set you free. I don’t know what you need to be set free from, it is between you and God.  Perhaps its from past hurts, perhaps its from guilt from past sins, perhaps its from the torment you feel as you hear God’s word of bad news, what ever it is, hear Jesus word to you today ‘whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life; he has crossed over from death to life..

 

The truth of Jesus words speak loudest to us in Holy Communion. Jesus is truly present in and with the bread and wine to set you free.  Hear, touch, hold onto and then swallow the words of Jesus and know they are true ‘, “Take and eat; this is my body.  “take and Drink, all of you.  This is my blood, which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins. 

 

Jesus said ‘‘If you hold to my word, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’.  Once we understand the truth of God’s word, both bad news and good news,  then we can join with Luther and say, ‘Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.’