Monday, October 31, 2011

Reformation Sermon

Matthew 11:12-19 (ESV) From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. [13] For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, [14] and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. [15] He who has ears to hear, let him hear. [16] "But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, [17] " 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' [18] For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' [19] The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds." For John came neither eating nor drinking and they say, “He has a demon.’ The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, “look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds. But wisdom is justified by her deeds. “Wisdom is justified by her deeds” Well this is the only place in the text where the word justified is used, and being reformation Sunday then, I’m figuring this is the key to the working of this text into the theme of the day, which has to be justification. Did I mention it is Reformation Sunday? Some Churches celebrate this day with church in the park, followed by bratwurst and so-called Lutheran beverages of the kind Luther used to brew for the town of Wittenburg. And other churches that have a conception of church and religion being a bit more like the fasting of John the Baptist, look at us a bit askew. But we pay no mind, because we left that conception of Christianity behind when we departed from the Roman Catholic Church. And if others accuse us of drunkenness and gluttony, well we will remember they uttered those death threats at our Lord Jesus too. Certainly he was not a drunkard or a glutton, but neither did he think it prudent to make fasting the center of religion, he brought the kingdom of heaven down to earth for us, The feast of heaven to us, that we might get a foretaste of the feast to come. Yes others might look at us askew, but we know that wisdom is justified by her deeds. Today we celebrate the justification of wisdom, we celebrate justification by faith alone. Justification by faith alone. It is central to Lutheran Theology, Lutheran doctrine and teaching, central to Lutheran life, and the Ethos of Lutheranism, which by the way we see as nothing but Christianity as it should be. We didn’t choose this name, it was foisted upon us as a derogatory remark by those who would have us give up our birth right, give up justification by faith alone. Rather than doing this we decided to glory in this persecution and where it proudly. When people accuse us of being Lutherans, they accuse us of being Christian, disciples of Christ who take his word as serious as a heart attack, and then celebrate it. There is nothing more precious to celebrate in life than the gift of life itself, and this is what it means to believe in justification by faith alone, that our life, eternal life, is a gift from Jesus who begs us to enjoy the feast he sets before us, even amidst this dismal world that knows neither how to dance or how to mourn. For John the Baptist came eating nothing and drinking nothing and they said he had a demon. He came playing the dirge. There are times and places for that. Some people reacted, he in fact drew large crowds, but the Pharisees and the Priests, the religious leaders would not repent when even the prostitutes knew to repent. The Pharisees the Sadducees the priests thought he had a demon, his way of life was to strict, his demands of repentance too much. But John just preached the law as it should be preached, so that it would silence every mouth, make every defense the old adam could muster moot. The Pharisees don’t like that, they want the law to be easy. We see it in our own day, when so many want to water it down. So many want to equate God’s law with our law, the laws that we set up in society to live by, to determine who is good and who is not. The Middle Class values we all want our children to grow up with. But God’s law is not so easy as being polite to your neighbor, he demands you love him. Politeness is but a start. Even today, you see this, perhaps with the churches that would look at us askew. So many of them preach against things not forbidden, and make the kingdom of God a matter of eating and drinking, rather than a matter of righteousness peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 14:17) For instance, take Halloween which we celebrate tomorrow night. I caution you against joining a witches coven or holding a séance in your living room. But for the life of me, I cannot see the harm in dressing your kids up for a parade around the neighborhood asking for candy. And please, bring them by my place. Where is such fun forbidden in scripture? But every year you here more and more about how bobbing for apples is satanic activity. Churches start having fall festivals as an alternative to fun. And then we wonder why kids resent the church and Christianity as they get older, when that has been the excuse their entire lives to keep them from enjoying life and harmless fun. The same could be said for the ridiculous rants against Santa Clause and the Easter bunny. I mean it shouldn’t replace church altogether, but there is no harm in a little make believe fun at those times of year either. The only time this becomes a problem is when you think the death and resurrection are also make believe, your kids can tell the difference. Jesus had a different conception of what the kingdom of God should be about. He came eating and drinking, even if he wasn’t a glutton and a drunkard. He made friends with tax collectors and sinners, ate and drank with them, danced and mourned with them. Just as he does with us sinners here today. And for this they uttered death threats, a glutton and a drunkard they called him. The elders of the town were to stone men like that outside the gates, put them to death. Something along the lines of he who does not work, shall not eat, not of the towns hard earned food. But they proved to be more than threats. Our Lord was then crucified, when stoning was no longer an option to the town elders. Put to death. But there wisdom is justified by her deeds. Because it was the wisdom of God that after they stoned the prophets and killed those sent to her, God would send his very own son to the town elders of Jerusalem, that he might die for the sins of the world, and give us life in the feast he sets before us, the body and blood of our dear Lord Jesus Christ, in with and under the bread and wine, where he forgives our sins, and in eating and drinking gives us the kingdom of God that we might know righteousness, peace, and Joy in the Holy Spirit. A righteousness, peace and joy that spills out over into all of our lives, whether dancing or mourning, fasting or eating. Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.

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