Reformation Sunday (2013)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
October 27, 2013
Central Passage
Matthew 11:12-19

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

If you’ve ever taken a history class, especially a history class on a specific time period like ancient Greece or the fall of Rome or the Ming Dynasty or even on World War II, then you have most likely have noticed that the titles and categories we give to history are really only bookmarks in the pages of history. History is far more complicated and beautiful than any categorical assignments can portray. The rise and fall of the Roman Empire isn’t just a bunch of facts that happened, it is a story. The Babylonian Captivity of ancient Israel isn’t just a tick mark in the timeline of history: it was a process, an unfolding. It was a story.

And the Reformation wasn’t a time period that simply began or ended. It was an unfolding; a story. The best way to wrap your mind around history is to consider that no one living at the time you might be studying considered themselves part of history. Even as you don’t today. But you will be. You will be your great-grandchildren’s history. But there is more to you than labels and categories like “The Early Years,” or “College Age” or “Married Life”. You are not the sum of time frames. You are an unfolding; a story.

So let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, on a bright and sunny day, there gathered in the marketplace a gaggle of children who laughed and played. They talked in happy tones and rejoiced in one another’s friendships. They sang and danced, and one even brought a flute. He played his flute, a merry tune, and the children gathered round to dance and sing. What a merry time they had!

At the same time, a ways away, there gathered another group of children. They were not so merry as the first. They were mourning the death of a friend; a good friend; a faithful friend. They did not play the flute or dance and sing of merriment. They sang the songs of mourning, which are not so much songs as wails and lamentations of the heart.

Then comes a stranger to these two gatherings of children. First to those that danced and played the flute. What a sight! So happy and free! At first the children thought he would join their merry band, so intent he was at staring at them. But it soon because clear that he would not be joining them in their merry time. He was only there to observe; to take notes; to ask philosophic questions like why the flute made them dance and why they were so happy.

What a fool. Doesn’t he know that the flute is made for dancing and that dancing?

Then on to that other group of children, mourning the death of their good friend. But there, too, the stranger was unmoved. He only watched and stared at the children as they sang their dirges and wept and cried aloud at the death of their dear friend. But he did not mourn with them or lament death. He only wanted to know why. Why does death make them sing a dirge?

What a fool. Doesn’t he know that dirges are meant for morning, and death is worthy of lamentation?

Befuddled, the children stared in wonder. How could a person be so unmoved? So removed? To hear the flute and not find joy; and to hear the laments of children and not be overcome with sadness. What a fool. For everyone knows that the flute is meant for dancing and mourning is meant for sadness. Indeed, it is wise to dance to the flute and to mourn at dirges. But the fool does neither. The fool is not affected.

The fool knows all about flute playing and what makes a good dirge. He studied well. But since he is a fool he does not know that the true reason for flute playing is to dance and the true reason for dirges is to mourn. And being such a fool, he never joins in. He never truly listens to the music. For if he listened with ears to hear, then he would be moved to dance and mourn.

For wisdom is justified by her deeds.

We are the fool when we do not listen to the tune of the Word of God. When we study and study and watch and observe, yet never join in. When we talk about how we should repent, how we should forgive, how we should show mercy, yet we neither lament our sins or forgive our enemies or show mercy to those that hurt us; when we do not rejoice with our fellow sinners that repent but rather watch on the sidelines thinking that, yes, they should well repent. We are fools when we know the stuff of God but do not do the stuff of our Father who is in heaven. Rather we should listen with ears to hear, to the tune of the Word of God.

Listen. What do you hear? You hear the preaching of John the Baptist: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And you hear the preaching of the Christ: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Wisdom is justified by her children. To the undiscerning ear they sound the same. But to the one that has ears to hear, they hear the notes and cords, the crescendos and the diminuendos. The one with ears to hear will hear the preaching of the law and be overcome with fear and sadness. Not because there is not a Savior, but because sin is worthy of lamentation. Sin is deserving of great sorrow. Not just the sins of omission and commission, but even the inclination to sin. The very state of being a sinner is worthy of great sorrow.

But then, too, the one with ears to hear will hear the preaching of the good news of Jesus, which is not just some plan of salvation or some spiritual twelve step program to a happier life, or even a path to heaven, but it is the proclamation that the dead shall rise and those that are baptized into Christ and have looked to Him for their salvation shall be given the inheritance of eternal life! That is cause for great rejoicing!

So lament and rejoice, O Church of God! Wail and laugh. Weep and shout for joy so that the multitude of unbelievers will not be able to distinguish between the one and the other, just as was in the days of Ezra the priest and the re-building of the temple in Jerusalem. For you are the angel flying overhead with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those that dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. “Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water!” (Revelation 14:6-7)

And you yourself listen to the tune of the word of the Lord. It will guide you through temptations and times of peace. It will guide you through the known and the unknown; the high and the low; the deep and the shallow. It will guide you to the house of the Lord where the lion and lamb lie down together and the children play with vipers and are not harmed. Where the sun is no longer needed for the Lamb in the midst of the throne is their light.

Let those with ears to hear, hear: the word of the Lord is not so much an “it” as it is a “He”. He will guide you through temptation and times of peace. He will guide you through the known and the unknown; the high and the low; the deep and the shallow. He has brought you to the house of His Father where the lion called death has laid down with the Lamb of God, and your children are not harmed by the serpent’s ancient venom. Where the sun is not needed, for the light we need is not for the eyes but for the ears. This is my body, given for you. This is my blood of the new testament, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Listen to the tune of Christ.

+ In Nomine Iesu +