In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Another year rolls around. Another Reformation Day. The red colour is fun. But does the Reformation still matter? Does anyone really care? When churches are emptying out in Europe and North America why are you Lutherans still doing your own thing, being so rigourous on the Bible, the Bible, the Bible? Or more specifically: the Gospel, the Gospel, the Gospel?
Ultimately, all of these questions lead to this question: does the free forgiveness of the world’s sins through what Jesus Christ finished on the Cross still matter?
I'm here to tell you: yes, it does. People still do actual sins. Even though our culture has spent the last few generations trying to redefine what is right and wrong so that anything goes people are covered in guilt and shame by what they have done. Their heads have been convinced that they haven’t done anything wrong, but their conscience isn’t convinced. So they don’t know what the problem is. But also no one will tell them what the answer is. Left to their own devices they try to do good, they try to be good, they try to atone for what they’ve done. But they fail to get rid of the guilt or shame or sense of cosmic unease. That sense that something is wrong with the world, or with me. They can’t find peace. They are driven by fear, by guilt, by shame.
People still need a saviour. They don’t always know what from. But their hearts yearn for Him, for He is their Creator, the One who fashioned their frame in their mother’s womb, the One who knows every hair on their head, every struggle they have, who loves them for they are His. Twice over: once because He is the God and Father of all, who created all things in the beginning and in His love still sustains this broken world; and a second time we are His because He sent His Son to take your sin, your brokeness into His own flesh. To remove it from you. To claim it as His own and pay the cost.
People need a saviour, but by and large, the Church of today ain’t helping any. Whether the pews are full or not churches are preaching a “god” who sets an example for you to follow. When you are so broken you can’t even walk. So well meaning churches see that and preach a “god” who has ten easy steps to have your best life now. But what does it profit a man to have his best life now and lose his own soul? And if the best this broken world has to offer is the best there is: ouch. That’s quite a “god”. Others know that it doesn’t really work out that well to tell you what to do so they soften God’s Law by saying that their “god” gives you browny points for trying hard, or that their “god” accepts anything and everything, doesn’t ever judge anything as wrong. It’s all good. Well, except for what we as society agree is wrong, which lately seems to be child pornography and bullying, but just wait five more years and the perceived evils will change. And yet none of these messages preached by the churches of our day comforts the wounded soul. None of it heals the heart sick. None of this puts at ease conscience broken by guilt. Real guilt. From real sin. Both actual sins done, and that sinking feeling that you just ain’t right in and of yourself.
That someone is Jesus. He has angels, messengers, with an eternal Gospel. It doesn’t change because human nature has not changed. As much as things change, the more things stay the same. The world does not hate less now than it did 10 or 20 or 100 years ago. All that’s changed is who is socially acceptable to hate. This world just as broken as its always been still needs a Saviour. Why do you think super-hero stories are more popular than ever? Why are zombie stories off the charts? Because something is wrong with us. We all know it.
That Saviour, the only One who can save it, is the very One who created heaven and earth, the sea, the springs of water, and all the peoples of the earth. He is the One who came in our flesh to save us peopl e of flesh. He came to make disciples, followers, who abide in Him who is the world of God made flesh, who remain in His Word, for His Word is life.
His life is a life set free. Free from the Law. The Law of God written on your heart (your conscience). Free from all the accusations, so many of which are true, against you. Free from the Law’s just judgement of you as a law breaker!
This isn’t merely socialized into—though your upbringing, examples and can have positive or negative impacts on your character. For one this force called sin manifests in sexual urges that are not your Creator’s design. For instance, most young men want to have sexual relations with any woman they see. This is not right. It is how they were born. But it is not right. Others are angry. No one knows why. The world owes them and they love to blast you with a look that withers any who fall under their gaze. Making murderers of them in their hearts over and over. Some love everyone else’s business but their own. They can’t stop their mouth from talking. They’ve even tried sometimes. But they conclude their mouth was just created to move. And since they haven’t filled it with Jesus Christ and His Word it talks about anyone and everyone but Him. Some are very respectable. They do what is right and are filled with pride in their well doing. A pride that no one dare besmirch or call them on, not even God Himself. All these things cut them off from life. Life with each other. Life with God. Life to the full. For we broken human beings born this way seek our life, our thrills, our fulfillment in these things that come so naturally and easily to us. We don’t seek our fulfilment in Him. For we are born cutoff from Him. But there is no fulfillment in your natural state.
Your natural state is a slave unto itself, to its desires. Try though you might to fill the insatiable desire you have within you for whatever it is—your ego, your sexual drives, your need to talk, your need for love and affection—but there is still a gaping hole within you. A void that can never be filled. Live for those things that are in your nature and you will become a sad caricature of those vices to which you are drawn.
Does the Gospel still matter today? Yes. Yes. Yes. For the Gospel is the Good News that Jesus, God’s perfect Son, took your flesh, took your sin, took your shame. He nailed it to the Cross, killing it to God’s judgement. Removing it from you as far as the east is from the west. And when you were baptized, when You hear His Word of forgiveness, He abides in you, giving you Himself, His righteousness, His love. So that God His Father is now your loving Father.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON