Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Reformation Day

Reformation Day (Observed)

October 26, 2014
Text: Matt. 11:12-19

            That Martin Luther did not die a martyr’s death is remarkable considering he had a bounty on his head for most of his life.  And why did so many want to kill him?  Because he preached the dangerous doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, apart from works of the Law.  That is to say, he preached, as did St. Paul, and as did all the Apostles and Prophets, as did our Lord Jesus Himself, that a man is accounted righteous before God, not by being good or doing good, but by trusting that Jesus’ death and resurrection are for him.  Your sins are forgiven because of Christ, not because of you.  And this is a matter of eternal life and death.  Those who don’t believe that Christ’s death and resurrection are for them, for the forgiveness of their sins, perish eternally in hell.  So this preaching necessarily means preaching against every false doctrine opposed to it.  And that makes people mad.  Luther preached against every man-made method of salvation, methods that were attractive and lucrative for the Church, methods that brought power and influence to the priestly practitioners of the Roman system of satisfactions and indulgences.  Luther was a threat.  So he was told to recant, to renounce and take back his preaching and his writings.  Pope Leo X called him a “drunken German” and issued a bull, a papal decree, declaring him a heretic.  He was brought before the emperor, Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire at the Diet of Worms and once again told to recant.  It was here that he made his famous speech: “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason… my conscience is captive to the Word of God.  I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.”[1]  “Here I stand,” he is reported to have said.  “I can do no other.  God help me.  Amen.”  Were it not for Luther’s own prince, Elector Frederick’s plan to kidnap him and hide him at Wartburg Castle, Luther would undoubtedly have been burned at the stake for his faithful confession.  He did eventually return to Wittenberg and to his pulpit, but for the rest of his life, Luther faced the very real possibility that at any moment he could be arrested and killed.  Faithful confession of Christ is perilous business.
            “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matt. 11:12; ESV).  The prophets and apostles were martyred.  The early Christians suffered torture and death for refusing to renounce Christ.  This morning as we gather together for the Divine Service, faithful Christians around the world are suffering persecution in the Name of Jesus.  Beloved, do you realize at this very moment there are people in this world who want to kill you?  For no other reason than that you are baptized.  For no other reason than that you are sitting in the pew of a Christian Church.  Why?  Why does it bother them so much?  Why does it enrage them to the point of hatred and murder?  Because you won’t dance to the world’s tune.  The unbelieving world is happy over many things that make you sad.  The world mourns over many things that make you rejoice.  “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn” (v. 17), they say to you as they said to Jesus before you.  Your confession of Christ calls upon the world to repent, to mourn over living for the self, to grieve over rejection of the one true God, over idolatry and rebellion.  You’re telling them they are sinners, that they stand condemned before God, that only Jesus can save them.  And those are fighting words, my friend.  Why do they care what you believe about marriage?  Why are they so concerned that every Christian florist, baker, photographer, and even clergyman support and participate in so-called “gay marriage”?  Because they can’t be wrong, and therefore you can’t be right.  Because that would mean God is true and every man a liar (Rom. 3:4).  That would mean that their man-made methods of salvation, their conception of morality, their trust in their own goodness and righteousness, their belief in their own self-determination and their self-justification, these are all exercises in futility.  This threatens their power and influence, their wealth, and their control over their own lives and the lives of others.  And they simply cannot allow this to stand.  For the same reason, according to this world’s mindset, Christians must pay for abortions.  Christian doctors must perform abortions.  And preachers must not preach against these things from their pulpits (well, so much for that rule!).  For we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).  We will speak of the Lord’s testimonies before king’s and shall not be put to shame (Ps. 119:46).  Whatever happens, happens.  Though they fine us, subpoena our sermons as they did in Houston recently, take away our tax exempt status, jail us, seize our property, put us to death… “take they our life, Goods, fame, child, and wife, Though these all be gone, Our vict’ry has been won; The Kingdom ours remaineth” (LSB 656:4).
            Because there is a Judgment Day when everything will be turned on its head.  Then all will know that Christ is King and the devil is a liar.  Then all will see that that tyrants and persecutors of this world had no power beyond what the Lord allowed.  Then all will acknowledge Christians for the royal sons and daughters we’ve been made in Christ, by His blood and death, by His resurrection, by our Baptism into Christ.  And then at the Name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11).  Things are not as they appear.  Christ has conquered every enemy, including sin, death, hell, and the prince of this world, the devil.  You will see it in the end.  In the meantime, we wait.  And we confess.  We confess Christ faithfully.  We confess the biblical truth proclaimed by John the Baptist and Martin Luther.  And we suffer.  We bear it patiently because the end is near.  Jesus is coming to deliver us. 
            Remember what our Lord says: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it” (Mark 8:35).  The Kingdom will be his.  The Kingdom will be yours.  Because that is what Jesus has done for you.  He lost His life to find yours.  He suffered violence and the violent took Him by force, arrested Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, accused Him, slandered Him, spit on Him, beat Him, mocked Him, pierced His sacred flesh, and compelled Him to carry His own cross to Calvary, there to be nailed and lifted up for the sins of the whole world, for you.  “Look at him!  A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners,” they said (Matt. 11:19), and they were right!  For He took our gluttony and drunkenness, our every sin upon Himself, and bore the guilt of it before His Father, offering Himself as our sacrifice of atonement.  He is a friend of tax collectors and sinners, homosexuals and abortionists, liars and thieves, and pharisaical “good Christian folk” like you and me.  He lost His life for your sake, that you might find your life in Him.  In Christ, and in Christ alone, you have life eternal and abundant. 
            So the worst the world can do is kill you.  Your body, that is.  Your soul will be in heaven, with Jesus.  They can’t touch that.  And on the Last Day, He will raise you from the dead, in your body, to live with Him forever in a new heaven and a new earth, where He rules, and there is no more suffering, persecution, or pain.  Maybe a little suffering now, in this life, wouldn’t be such a bad thing for the Church.  It would take away the distractions of affluence and privilege.  It would make us less concerned about making the Church “fun” and more grateful that we survived to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood another day.  It would drive us to pray with the Church Militant of every place and time: “Come, Lord Jesus.  Come quickly.”  It would drive us to keep our eyes on the Crucified, whose suffering sanctifies our own, baptizing it in His blood.  And maybe we’d begin to be a little more concerned about our brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world who are already suffering for the Name of Jesus.  They are blessed.  Their reward is great in heaven.  For so they persecuted the prophets who were before them (Matt. 5:12).  We’ll hear that text again next week.
            Whatever happens, we’ll keep confessing Christ, for the Spirit of God will preserve us in the one true faith.  The Church will keep confessing and the preachers will keep preaching.  For our consciences are captive to the Word of God.  We won’t recant.  We won’t take it back.  We won’t deny Christ.  We will speak the Truth of God before kings and will not be put to shame.  For to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.  And to go against the Word of the LORD is deadly.  So here we stand.  We can do no other.  And God will help us.  He already does.  For we belong to Him.  We are covered in the blood of His Son.  We are marked by the sign of His cross.  His Name is written on us.  No one and nothing can snatch us out of His hands.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.          

[1] Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Nashville: Mentor, 1950) p. 144.


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