A myHT Fortress

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Set Free: A Reformation Homily

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The young priest, Father Martin of Wittenberg, had been haunted for a very long time – haunted by the fear of, “I’m not good enough.” “How can anyone escape damnation?” “If God had to send His Son to die in my stead, He may still be angry!” “I’m trying, but how do I know if I have eternal salvation?”

Still, this priest and professor knew that something just was not right with the teaching on indulgences, and knew it needed to be challenged. The next day would be the Feast of All Saints, and great crowds from the university would gather for prayer and for the Mass. In fact, the festival would begin the evening before, at Vespers. So, like any self-respecting professor, Dr. Luther went to the door of All Saints Church, the “Castle Church,” and posted 95 debate topics on the issue of indulgences.

“As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from Purgatory springs.” So went the ad campaign for raising the funds the Archbishop needed to pay off his bribe to Rome for his title. So, rather than our Lord Jesus’ words from today’s Gospel, the notion was, “You shall know the money, and the money shall set you free.”

Granted, we do a disservice when we say they thought they were buying forgiveness. Rather, they thought they were making a monetary sacrifice to pay off the earthly punishment for their sins, after they were absolved. The problem is, there is no such thing. No remaining punishment to appease God after absolution, and no purgatory mentioned in Scripture.

But where is the real danger for us, here and now? Are you fearing Purgatory? Are you thinking that your financial offerings are giving you some blessed assurance of heaven? I doubt it.

You are in danger, though. You are in danger of the sin of doubting God’s full and free forgiveness. You might be one who speaks of God’s grace and mercy, but turns around and says, “I think I’ll make it to heaven. I hope I’ve been good enough.” What!!!???

Our dear Lord has gone to His cross and suffered, bled, and died for you. He did it all, and purchased and won forgiveness, life, and salvation for you! There is no maybe. The Holy Spirit has given you faith, and you are assured of His mercy and the life He gives you…the freedom from sin and death given through Christ alone.

And there is another danger. For many people, this day in the Lutheran tradition is a day to thank God that we do not teach the errors of Rome. Dear friends in Christ, beware! Do not fall into this trap! Do not be enslaved by the sin of this boasting and sense of superiority. Do not be like the Pharisee, detesting the Tax Collector, saying, “Lord, I thank you that I am not like him!”

Repent of any sense of false superiority. Repent of snubbing others or looking down on people because they belong to the wrong parish or group. Repent of any sin, since sin binds you to the chains of slavery of death and the devil.

Jesus tells you His solution this evening. Yes, you have been bound by the slavery of sin, death, and the devil. But the blood of Christ dissolves those chains. Our Savior comes in the flesh to rescue us from that bondage, and make us free. Not free in the earthly sense of nations and constitutions; true freedom. Freedom from death and hell. Freedom from Satan. Freedom to live in Christ’s Gospel, living lives of love in response to the incredible gift of His grace.

Jesus tells you: “I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” Today He tells you, “The Truth will set you free.” Christ does not speak of some generic truth. He does not mean some vague idea of truth. Jesus Christ is saying He IS the Truth, and He sets you free! Dear, forgiven saints, you are truly His disciples, in His Word, and the Word-made-flesh sets you free.

Now, the Holy Word-Made-Flesh bids you to come and feast on Him, that you may receive His forgiveness and live in heavenly freedom. Receive Jesus in His Flesh and Blood, not from the hand of an angry Judge, but from our dear and precious Savior, who gives Himself gladly and willingly, that you may live with Him forever.

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