Reformation Sunday – Vicar Ferguson
In the Name of Jesus
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We as American Lutherans really like this phrase. We like the Word, we like Truth, and we love Freedom. The Word, in St. John’s Gospel refers to Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So Jesus is the Word. If we abide in Jesus, the Word, we will know the truth. We are told later in John’s Gospel, that Jesus is the way, the Truth, and the life. So again if we abide in Jesus, we will know Jesus, and we will be set free? Free from what?
The Jews in the temple who heard this did not quite understand what he meant. “Jesus, you’re thinking of some other people, We’ve never been slaves to anyone. And as we are not slaves how can we be freed from slavery?” The Jews on paper were free. They were not literally owned by someone else, but they did have a problem with the Romans. I am sure that if Jesus was going to rid them of the Romans, the Jews would have be fine with it. But to say that they were slaves to Rome was pushing it. So if they were not slaves, how could they be freed?
Jesus corrects them, “You will be freed from Sin. For if you do sinful things, you are a slave to sin.” To accuse some one of being a slave to a sin is quite an insult. To prove that they are a slave to sin is devastating. Imagine some guy coming up to you on the street saying, “You are a slave to sin.” There are two responses possible. You could either think of that one sin that keeps pestering your soul, or you could write him off as a lunatic. If you think he is a lunatic, you are like the Jews in this reading. They write him off as a Samaritan or a demon-possessed man, and go on with their day. They don’t believe that they are slaves to sin, they are slaves to no one and nothing. So for Jesus to say that they are slave to sin is laughable. They could quit sinning anytime they want, they just don’t want to. This is not slavery, this is a choice, (a lifestyle perhaps) and Jesus would say, “Yes. You are slaves to sin, you choose sin, and you do prefer this lifestyle, just because you like sin does not make it freedom”
Jesus does not address their sin situation lightly. He does not let them off the hook because to ‘err is human. He tells them that they are sinners and that sinners will die in their sins. Jesus just before this text informs them that if they do not believe he is the light of the world, they will die in their sins. If they walk in the darkness of sin they will die in the darkness of sin. I would personally not like to die in the darkness of sin. So how do you not die in the darkness of sin? Luckily Jesus tells us. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will free you.” So, we are back to the original question. Are we slaves to sin?
In 1 John we get the answer. If we say we are not enslaved, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. We are indeed enslaved to sin. It is hardly surprising if you think about it. We love to sin. Sin is our master and we serve him diligently. He turns us from the Love of God and the Love of the neighbor and turns us to the love of sin. Sin becomes our drug of choice; we hate it because we cannot control it. But we crave it, we need our fix. We have lost control and our lives have become unmanageable. We are truly addicted to sin and cannot free ourselves.
As is the case with support groups for addiction we must confess that we have no power over sin. We must rely on divine intervention to help us every day. This is what it means to be free. It means that we are freed from sin and bound to Christ. We see the Light of the World, and enjoy the sunrise. We live day by day in the grace of God, who keeps us from straying. We know the truth. We know that sin is bad, that our choices are bad, and that our lifestyle is bad. Our only hope for mercy is God. There is no salvation apart from God.
This is the point of this day. The High and Holy feast of the Blessed Reformation commemorates the cleansing of the Church from distractions. Indulgences, Masses, Pilgrimages, and other papal inventions do nothing but distract us. They distract us from our sins and our savior. They teach us that our sins are easily atoned for and that salvation has a price tag in dollars. They teach that we can be free from the consequences of sin in ways other than the liberation that Jesus offers. They force our attention from the Light of the World, to the darkness of ourselves.
There is no freedom apart from God. When we think we can find freedom from sin other than in Jesus, we are plunged into slavery to sin all the more. This was the point of the Reformation. We are to know that Jesus is one who sets us free. Not the saints in heaven, not the clergy, not your works of the law. But Jesus alone sets us free. This is the truth that sets us free. “If the Son sets you free, you will really be free” Free from Sin. Wouldn’t it be nice to be free from the bondage of sin and death? Yes it would.
Where does Jesus point us to? Where does he point those who desire this freedom? His Word. Let your comfort in this life come from the Word of God. The word which says that God sent his only Son to die for your sins, the word that says that God didn’t send his son to the world to condemn the world, but that the world would be saved through him.
Luther recounts a story, during a sermon of his, in which he recalls the early days of the Reformation. This was 1530, it was a different time, you understand. If you were a theologian who looked to the Word of God for the truth, you were a heretic. And The group that would later be known as Lutheran was preparing to deliver the Augsburg confession. Luther tells us that everyone thought this was going to go badly. They truly believed that the Pope and the Emperor would have them all killed for holding to the Biblical doctrines. Luther says that they expected that within a month the entirety of Germany would fall and return to the Papal doctrines. Where did they go for support in this time of difficulty? They clung to the word. They knew that the Lord was their protection in the midst of whatever would come their way.
The reformers clung to the word of God and by doing that they knew the truth. The truth which would set them free. They did not fear what would come their way at Augsburg, for they knew that everything was in God’s hands. They were even so bold as to say that God has promised that he who trusts in God’s word will not be put to shame. They abided in the word and knew the truth from the word and the truth set them free from fear of what ever would come their way. They were liberated from slavery to sin and given the freedom to be in the household of God.
In the Name of Jesus