Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on Reformation Day 10/31/2021. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 11:00am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Reformation Bulletin
The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for Festival of the Reformation, click here.
This last week’s nor’easter brought with it the Reformation… of our backyard.
Our half-acre became a bit cluttered over the last few weeks. Leaves from trees ornamented the ground, dressing it in bright red, orange, and yellow. It was a beautiful thing to behold.
Any other year I would have raked those leaves into a pile and burned them, just like in my favorite Norman Rockwell painting. But this year we’re trying to sell our house, and you don’t rake up a picture like that.
Then the storm came. And despite how appealing those leaves looked, they had to go. Gusts of 65 mph cleared the ground, and restored our yard to its former glory.
The Reformation was kind of like that. Luther was a force of nature, a storm. And the Reformers, likewise, strong gusts of wind, blown by the Word of God, clearing out the debris.
Keep in mind that the debris which littered the Church at the time was rather attractive. The false doctrines that had arisen were naturally appealing. The Old Adam always wants to pay for his own sins, and from that misguided inclination, Rome created and tapped into a brand-new economy.
The Reformation, like a storm, blew these errors away. The clarity and purity of the Gospel was restored:
An eternal Gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. Revelation 14:6
That Gospel does not tolerate false doctrine. For,
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:19-20
“So that every mouth be stopped…” There is nothing you can buy; there is no law you can keep; there is no excuse you can make, to be justified in His sight.
God’s righteousness, i.e. the righteousness of God, is given to you as a free gift; it has been manifested apart from the law. This righteousness comes to you by God’s grace, given from font, pulpit, and altar. And this righteousness is received through faith in Jesus Christ – faith created in you by the Holy Spirit and not by your own reason or strength.
How will you be justified in His sight? By grace, as gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
There is nothing to buy, nothing to sell, nothing to boast in – that every mouth be stopped.
For all the work the storm did outside the house, the inside of our house was untouched. Everything is now as it was before.
It is not sufficient that the church be reformed institutionally. You, also, must be reformed.
The debris, the errors, the false beliefs – these things that litter your own life must go. If you are holding on to your own doctrines; if you are holding on to your own treasures; if you are holding on to your own sins – the windows must be opened, and this mighty wind must blow through your home and heart.
You: your family, your piety, your work, your play, your finances, all of that, and all of you, must be continually reformed and conformed to the will of God. And, so, we have work to do now in our time.
It is very possible that all this personal Reformation talk sounds painful. Many are comfortable with it theoretically, spiritually, and religiously; but the implications of being radically faithful in a faithless world are scary. After all, you live in the world; and this is not the sort of thing that will gain you friends. You live in the world where a figurative storm is raging. And so much of what is familiar and comfortable is in jeopardy. But I tell you, in 504 years, not a single anniversary of the Reformation has ever been marked by world peace, civil righteousness, and universal celebration of the Gospel.
And so, the motto of the Reformation holds true: Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum – The Word of the Lord endures forever. (1 Peter 1:24-25) That’s what the “VDMA” stands for on the back of our crucifix.
“Forever” means the Word which endures is unchanging, steady, and true. It is not contingent on conditions in the world.
God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved:
Though the mountains be swept into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam;
Though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Psalm 46
Though the world’s princes go mad; though our kingdoms crumble; though everything so obviously true and beautiful be slandered and mocked… No fear.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
He utters His voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46
That river flows from the side of Christ, the Crucified One. It flows over your head and into your heart. You are baptized, remade, reborn, reformed, refreshed, and rejoiced over by men and angels.
So, sing loudly and confidently today, for the God of Jacob is Your Fortress. Psalm 46
It is He who made the heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water. Revelation 14:7