Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Are we trying to renew the Christian faith...or change it?


So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.  John 8:31

NO other section of the Christian church celebrates Reformation, but Lutherans do.  Some say it is divisive, but Reformation is one of the most important events in the history of the faith, and it should not be forgotten.

In Eastern Orthodoxy today's Festival isn't even a blip on the radar.

For Rome it is an event that ignited tremendous fear and rage.  It initiated a mighty "counter-reformation" that tore through the world like a bull in a china shop, one that never lost steam until the early 1960's.  Now Rome speaks of the reformers with faint praise.

Protestants of every stripe think of the Reformation as "a nice start," but one that needed them to bring it to completion.  Their completion, known as the "radical reformation" with its denunciation of liturgy, ceremony and sacraments, has done more damage than good.

But for dyed-in-the-wool Lutherans, Reformation is a festival day; a day to rejoice in the glorious liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which was restored to God's people;  the holy unadulterated Gospel of salvation, which cleanses us from all of our sins, and promises us the unending favor of the Most High, not as something merited by our good behavior, "for there is none that is righteous, no not one..." (Romans 3:10), but founded on the grace of God, grounded on a disposition within the heart of Him who is all compassion, to rescue us from ourselves, to save us from sin's curse, sin's penalties and the devil's tyranny by the redemption He provided for us in Christ Jesus.

We should also remember today that Reformation is, in the eyes of many, a case of conceit.  For those who are committed to the doctrine and practice of the Lutheran confessions believe themselves, and not Rome, to be of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.  Christ Lutheran Church is among that number, but there is no sense of superiority, only deep humility; deep humility and endless praise and glory to God that the everlasting gospel can still be found on the earth, that there is a church to tend to the needs of our souls, one that will never harm us or encumber our already burdened consciences with pious-sounding instructions on how to attain God's favor.

There are some things we should realize about this remembrance that stirs the blood of every one who humbly wears the name Lutheran:

First, note that it is called Reformation and not Revolution!  There was never any intention to start a new church, as if such a thing could even happen, for there is "one Lord, one faith and one baptism," only one.  All others are impostors.  Instead it was an earnest attempt, with divine aid, to restore the true church to the true way.  Anyone who reads the Augsburg Confession, the chief Symbol of the Reformation, will find it to be a statement of, and subscription to, the historic catholic faith.  They will find that it retains the true doctrine and practice of the centuries while just as strongly rejecting those that harmed God's people, of which there were terribly many.

Secondly let us remember today that the church constantly needs reforming.  Lutherans in America today are in grave danger.  Our distant cousins in the ELCA have gone the way of the world.  They "love the praise of men, more than the praise of God." (John 12:43) so they bless whatever society blesses, even the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah.  If we were Roman Catholics we might pray to St. Jude, who is the patron saint of hopeless causes, but instead we pray, Kyrie Eleison, and take heed lest we fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

If the ELCA is faithless Israel, the LCMS is her younger sister, faithless Judah who eventually adopted all the sins of her older sister.  It just took her a little longer.  Our church body is in shambles.  There is little knowledge of, and even less hunger for the historic Lutheran faith, which is both catholic and orthodox.  Neither are the solutions political ones, electing the right Synodical President or establishing better policies.  Though the solution is unclear, it is your pastor's opinion little good will occur in our Synod until the Sacrament is restored to its rightful place; until it is as highly prized as the sermon.  With that blessing it is possible that a new era of grace may descend on the LCMS and that her other problems might quickly dissolve.

The words of our Lord in today's gospel lesson are a harsh rebuke, but do you remember who they are directed to?  Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  Jesus is the Word and His Word is the truth.  We are not talking here about a religious proposition to be examined, debated, and if found acceptable to be subscribed.  Instead, we are talking about Jesus as a flesh and blood reality.  In the beginning was the Word, the spoken Word, the discourse uttered by God, the Word which, in fullness of time became flesh in the person of Jesus, who resided in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, raised from the dead on the third day, seated at the right hand of God and received on our lips in the Eucharist.   This living Jesus, still true God and true man, is the truth who roots out deception from us, cleanses us with the hyssop of His blood, and instills His truth in our inward being. (Psalm 51:6)

It is by trust in Him and trust alone, without the works of the law, that sinners are justified before God.  We are those sinners, so justified; justified and made new creations who love one another as Jesus loved us, who lay down their lives each hour in sacrificial love for one another.  By this and by the faith we confess each Lord's Day in the church, all men will know that we are the Lord's disciples.  Amen.

Rev. Dean Kavouras

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