Let us pray: Dear Lord Jesus, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! How awesome is the purity of Your loving heart! No human being deserves Your honor, Your mercy, or Your grace. And yet, You have chosen us in love and poured Your grace into our hearts. This gift, this fact, is beyond human comprehension. And the Reformation of Your blessed Church, undertaken 500 years ago by Dr. Martin Luther, is the living proof of all this goodness. Indeed, we as inheritors of this legacy are living proof of this goodness. So today, we bask in Your divine light and give You our humble thanks, tinged with wonderment and profound awe. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD, THE GIVER OF GRACE!
TEXT: Philippians 4: 4-13
Dearly Beloved Lutherans:
500 years ago The United States of America was nothing. It didn’t exist. No settlers or colonists had yet landed on its shores. 500 years ago England was engaged in civil war, the War of the Roses. The Spanish Armada hadn’t even been imagined, much less sent to sea. 500 years ago the Mayans and Incas ruled South America and the Aztecs were engaged in human sacrifice in Mexico. 500 years ago the Ming Dynasty ruled China and Russia was a sleepy backwater. Yes, much has changed throughout the world since Dr. Martin Luther began the Reformation with his nailing up those 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany!
But since that time, one thing hasn’t changed one little bit. It is this: the entire world is still in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The entire world still needs to be set free—free in their minds and souls—from the ravages of sin, from the evil influence of the devil, and from the paralysis of a guilty conscience before God Almighty! The entire world still needs to hear and take to heart that singular truth: We are saved eternally by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us! And we will only know this truth from Scripture alone and apprehend it by faith alone. Yes, God used Dr. Luther to restore to us the freedom of the Gospel. And today, on the 500th anniversary of all this, we join together in saying: “Thank You Lord Jesus!”
In these intervening years, these last 5 centuries, it is the Gospel that has spurred on the best of life that we see around us today. Freedom of conscience has led to tremendous scientific inquiry and thus the technology we so take for granted. It has led to democratic values which elevates the individual person. And make no mistake, it is the Gospel, which teaches God’s Son died for each human being, that undergirds the value of every human life including yours! The Gospel says that we need never live under the jackboot of Godly punishment for our many sins, but instead can embrace life with joy and gladness because Godly forgiveness is our Divinely given birthright. A birthright that doesn’t spring from our human flesh, but from being born-again, born anew, of water and the Spirit in baptism. Yes, the Gospel teaches us total appreciation of literally everything we are and have, since Christian faith is “a gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast.” All these blessings were lost and/or obscured during the first 1500 years after Christ went to heaven. But in 1517 their restoration was begun anew. And we are living proof that that restoration still lives on. This, my fellow Lutherans, is your blessed heritage.
With all these things in mind today we join with St. Paul when he writes: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near! Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present yourselves to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Those words encapsulate today’s focus, don’t they? They describe us to a “T”. But, as living Christians we dare not simply gaze upon past history, no matter how awesome it may be. No, as living disciples of Christ we must make our own Godly history, right here, right now. We must provide the heavenly hosts with new material to sing about in eternity. So, how can we do so? After all, we’re all just “poor miserable sinners.” What can we offer to God Almighty? The same things our spiritual forebears did! Again, Paul encapsulates it very well in these words. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
Have you ever thought: “Why me?” Have you ever pondered why God made you, gave you life, brought you to faith in His truth, and still allows you to breath, walk, talk, think, and do on this earth? What’s the purpose of life? What’s the purpose of your life? What does it all mean?
My friends, we’re not simply cosmic dust. We’re not a product of blind chance. We’re not mindless pinballs spinning around in some great machine governed by nothingness. This is what the unbelieving world teaches and this is why people often embrace evil because evil is mindless nothingness. No, each of you is a Lutheran Christian! Each of you knows God’s truth in Christ which sets you free from Satan’s pinball game and gives you a purpose for living. Your purpose is to “let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify the God who made it all possible.”
When we think of the great Christian heroes of faith, we all conjure up a mental image of how they looked. We think of them as larger than life. But inwardly we all know that we’re not “larger than life” don’t we? So, I’ll let you in on a secret: none of these heroes of faith: Abraham, David, Job, St. Peter, St. Paul, or Dr. Luther felt “larger than life” either. They all knew that they were frail flesh, dust of the ground, with all the attendant human insecurities and inadequacies that we possess. But, by God’s grace alone they were more. They possessed God-wrought faith in Jesus Christ! And that faith enabled them to accomplish herculean tasks which we still celebrate today and will until the end of time. They all knew and embraced the little truth that St. Paul ends our lesson with: “I can do everything, through him who gives me strength.”
Grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone—right there lays our strength. There lies YOUR strength! It has sustained believers since the world began and in these 500 intervening years of Reformation. Use that strength daily by rejoicing in the Lord always! Amen