Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Reformation (October 25, 2009)
For an audio mp3 of this sermon, Click on this: Reformation-2009
TITLE: “Abide in His Word”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for the Festival of the Reformation is from John 8:31-36, with focus on the words of the Gospel, If you remain in my Word, you are my disciples.
To be a disciple means to be a follower, but you can only follow Jesus if you can hear Him in His Word. Maybe this seems obvious, but it is far from obvious in our day and age. There is more accessibility to God’s Word today than ever before in the history of the world. Nearly every family in the United States has a copy of the Scriptures in the house. You can read the bible on your computer. You can listen to it in your car. You can read it on your phone, for goodness’ sake! If you wanted to, you could collect over a hundred translations just in English. I’ve got a stack of just a few of them up here right now, and these are only the “Lutheran” bibles, including our most recent contribution, The Lutheran Study Bible.
The tradition of study bibles is actually a Lutheran one. In Luther’s day, they didn’t have bibles in their own language. If they were lucky, maybe there was a copy of the Latin bible, and while a lot more people knew Latin then than they do today, it still wasn’t the same as hearing God’s Word in your own language. Probably one of Luther’s greatest contributions to Christianity was His translation of the bible into colloquial German. Nearly every translation since then has followed in His tradition of care, attention to the original languages, and his desire to allow God’s Word to speak for itself. On top of that, he provided introductions to all the books of the bible that were simple, held up Jesus Christ and the Gospel, and drew the reader into God’s gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation. This new study bible stands in a long tradition of such bibles.
Tragically, the accessibility to God’s Word which we enjoy, however, has not really contributed to more disciples. People in general do not know the story of Jesus’ life today as well as they did a generation ago. While at one time, reading God’s Word together and meditating on it in prayer was fairly common in American households, we lead such frantic, busy lives that we see such things as more a luxury than a necessity or a part of our daily lives together. We are more concerned about sports and television than we are about that actual connection with our Lord in preaching and His Word. Holding God’s Word sacred doesn’t mean keeping the book in great condition: it means wearing it out from such constant use. Today if you spend time in meditation on God’s Word, it’s likely you’ll be accused of being some kind of religious kook. We want our religion to be nice and safe, well contained and not something that is going to interfere overmuch with the more important things of our lives.
But Jesus calls you to a different life than that. He told the Jews in his day that if you sinned, you were a slave of sin. These things of our lives, work and family and sports and food and drink and everything else that makes you tick, these things are all blessings from God. They are gifts from God. But don’t allow the gift to obscure the Giver of the gift. If these gifts from God take on a life of their own and supplant God’s Word in your life, then they cease to be gifts and have instead become a curse. Satan loves to take good gifts from God and twist them to his own evil end.
In Jesus’ day, the Jews were offended that Jesus would suggest that they were enslaved to sin. Are you offended by the same thought? We Americans claim to hold our freedoms dear, yet so often we allow the things that we have to take the place of who we are in Christ Jesus. Jesus says to you that if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed. That is both command and promise on His part. He commands you to follow Him, to remain in His Word, both here in the Divine Service, but also every day of your life in meditation and prayer. That is what shapes you as a Christian.
Jesus Christ is the center and the point of God’s Word. St. John later put it this way, “…these [things] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 19:31 ESV). Our sermon hymn for Reformation Sunday confesses this very well:
2. Christ Jesus is the content of this writing,
The banner of God’s love for all unfurled,
For through the Word the Father is inviting:
“O wayward one, forsake your rebel world;
No greater gift I have than what I gave you–
My only Son for sin–that you might know
The distance that My grace stretched out to save you
And make your scarlet sins as white as snow.”
That is the content and purpose of God’s Word. That, if you were to boil the Reformation down to its essence, is what being Lutheran is really all about. Confessing the Christian faith as Lutherans means trusting God’s Word, and specifically trusting that God frees us from our sins by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the chief message of God’s Word, and it is a message that is worth hearing, reading, studying, meditating and singing every day of our lives.
So be free of the slavery that these sins hold you under! Repent of your sins and turn to Christ. That is the call that His Word sings to you this day and every day. Be free, rejoice in God’s gifts, especially the gift of His Word made flesh for you. Be free, sing the song of salvation, and follow Christ to death and the grave, for you will then come out on the other side, whole and undefiled. Redeemed, restored, forgiven, and alive forevermore in Him. Come and take the Word made flesh from this altar. It is God’s work for you. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.