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Reformation Sunday

October 29, 2006

Reformation Sunday                  Trinity Lutheran Church                                                        
29 October 2006                          Murdock, NE

+ Jesu Juva +

Romans 3:19-28

A few years ago it was Bret Favre.  Then it was Rush Limbaugh.  Today it’s Lindsay Lohan and Anna Nicole Smith’s son Daniel.  Addicted to pain killers.   Slave to the pills to mask the pain.  And they’re not the only ones.  So are thousands of Americans.  They had to be confronted.  Had to own up that they weren’t in control of their lives.  The drugs were.  So they went to detox.  To be set free from his addiction.  Except for Daniel Smith.  Too late for him.  He died from the methadone.

The blessed apostle Paul knows all about addiction.  But not to drugs.  To religion.  The religion of works.  And from this we must be set free.  Detoxed.

The apostle knows we’re all druggies.  Walking in the stupor of imagining there are things we have to do — some additive of religious works we have to put into the gasoline of grace — if we’ll ever be saved.

It’s amazing how people in Paul’s day and ours scour the Bible — Old and New Testaments — for every “requirement,” “principle,” “rule,” or “condition” to slap a behavioral surcharge on salvation.

Salvation by what we do or don’t do.  That’s the addiction.  The religious drugs of works give us the illusion of control.  Control of our lives.  Now and forever.  With our neighbor and with God.  We love the religious drug stores.  Where the pharmacists dispense grim pills:  “If you want God to love you, then you must be circumcised.  Stop smoking.  Quit the cursing.  Knock off the drinking.  Stop the sinning.  God doesn’t like sinners.  If you don’t stop sinning, He’ll throw you into hell.”

Good dope we think.  Slaves to it we are.  Religious potheads.  And so it’s off to another drug dealer for the latest religious and moral Vikodin.  Paying any price.  Making every sacrifice to swallow the Oxycontin of obedience.  Bible reading.  Praying.  Fasting.  Church attendance.  And the biggest religious drug of all:  CONFIRMATION.  Talk to any Lutheran and you’ll find out that they’re confirmation junkies.  Confirmation coke heads.  The sine qua non of salvation.  Jump through that hoop and you’re in like Flynn.  The religious work par excellance that insures our salvation forever.  “Look at me God! I’m confirmed!  What’s your problem Reverend?  I’m confirmed!”  A powerful narcotic.  Noses powdered with our works.  Stoned out of our minds.  Like foolish slaves we cry:  “I’ve done what was required.  Put in my two years, four years, or whatever.  Glad that’s over with!  Free at last!  Free at last!  Thank God Almighty I’m free at last!” 

What a delusion.  Time for a some major league detox.  The religious drug stores are all closed.  And in their windows the apostle Paul has put up this sign:  “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”  Big time wake up call folks.  From the blessed apostle.  You don’t go to heaven because of what you do or what you don’t do.  You’re not in control.

God is.  He’s revealed a righteousness apart from the law.  The righteousness is Christ Jesus Himself.  He comes as pure gift from the Father.

While we were yet sinners Jesus died for us.  Calvary.  The Cross.  Good Friday.  There, God flat out announced that all has been done.  “It is finished.”  The salvation job accomplished.  There’s nothing we can add to that perfect work.

Listen again to the text:  “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.  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement.”

Jesus.  He’s the answer to our addiction to a salvation that we accomplish by what we do or don’t do.  Jesus drops dead.  And in that death all sin is forgiven.  All sinners are redeemed.  In Jesus.  Before we could ever get around to doing or not do anything.

That’s why the Absolution in the Divine Liturgy says so beautifully:  “Almighty God in his mercy has given his Son to die for you and for his sake forgives you all your sins.”  It’s why we sing the words of John the Baptist to Jesus right before the Lord’s Supper: “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.”  And He has.

The addiction to salvation by scorekeeping and bookkeeping is over.  Those drugstores are closed.  Boarded shut.  Condemned.

Behold, the Lord who died for you has set you free.  Nothing but pure grace here.  Jesus is all that counts here at Trinity.  He’s the truth that really sets you free.  His life.  His faithfulness.  His sacrifice on the Tree.  His empty tomb.  All for you.  He’s healed you.  Washed and purified your hearts in Holy Baptism.  In the Absolution and sermon He tells you that His death counts completely and always for you.   And then the Lord’s wholesome and soothing salve.  The medicine of immortality.  His Body and Blood.  Just Jesus.  Always and always Jesus.

So if you’re going to be addicted to anything, let it be Jesus and what He’s done for you.  Go ahead and believe.  Trust only in Jesus.  Remain in His word of forgiveness.  He’s the Savior.  You aren’t.  Thanks be to God.

Have a happy Reformation Sunday.  In the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

From → Sermons

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