Reformation Sunday (2014)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
October 26, 2014
Central Passage
Matthew 11:12-29

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

Do you know what it means to be justified by your deeds? It means that what you say is backed up by what you do, which turns out to be the right thing to do. So if a man says he loves his wife yet never does anything to prove it, then he is not justified by his deeds but rather condemned by them. If a son or daughter says they will honor father and mother and yet disobey and rebel, bringing shame to their parents, then they are not justified by their deeds but are rather condemned by them.

Wisdom is justified by her deeds. She does what she says and it is the right thing to do. The Christian, too, is justified by his deeds. Not the phrase a Lutheran congregation wants to hear on Reformation Sunday, but true all the same. So our Lord says a little later in the gospel of St. Mathew, “By your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). And St. Paul says that the Lord will render to each one according to his works (Romans 2:6).

Now here we’re not talking about being justified before God. That is, we’re not talking about being righteous before God. No one is righteous for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and are freely justified for Christ’s sake. Instead when we say that we are justified by words we mean that we are either proved to be tellers of the truth or we are proved to be liars. We are saved by grace. We have done nothing to earn God’s favor. Not our faith nor our good works nor our kindly disposition has earned us God’s favor. By grace you are saved and that not of yourselves lest you should boast. But we boast in the Lord who bled and died for us, for we preach Christ crucified for our sins and for the sins of the whole world.

That was the point of the Reformation and still is. The Church is still in need of reformation as she will always be in need of it because we, individually, are always in need of it. Which is why the law and the gospel are preached: to reform us, as it were, from self-secure sinners to children of God depending on our heavenly Father for salvation and all good. The Lutheran Church is still the reforming church. We should still be in dialogue – and we are, here and there – with other Christians about the teachings of our Lord and His apostles. We should still be bold to correct error – correcting it based on God’s Word and not our own fancies. We should still be bold to condemn heresies. But all too often we are found on the sidelines, living and let living. Except that such living and let living really isn’t living at all. For the righteous shall live by faith. And faith demands that the truth be told. Faith cannot compromise or it is no longer faith. Faith cannot abide in falsehood or else it is a false, misleading faith; a faith that leads to death.

But what is the faith that saves? What is the faith that rejoices in the truth and resists lies to point of shedding blood? It is the faith that we are justified by grace. It is the trust that for Christ’s sake we are children of God and heirs of an eternal kingdom, poised to be raised from the dead in the blink of an eye. The truth has a form and substance. It is not free form or changing. The truth does not shift from one age to the next; it is not in flux – as many believe. The truth is solid and firm. It is rigid and unbending. The truth is timeless. And it is life-giving.

The truth is that Jesus died for your sins and was raised for your justification. The truth is that as many as have been baptized into Christ have been buried with Him and raised in Him. The truth is that whoever looks upon the Son of Man will be saved. The truth is that as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes in the future. The truth is that by the strips of Christ you are healed and by His wounds you are made righteous. The truth is that the Son of God became the Son of Man so that we sons of men would become the sons of God.

The Son of God came eating and drinking and unbelievers call Him a glutton and drunkard. They call Him that because unbelievers always do and think the opposite of our Lord. He dances and rejoices in His Father, the unbeliever thinks it better to be somber and sober. The Lord cries and a laments sin and weeps over sinners. The unbeliever thinks that too much, too fanatic, so he merely “tsks” his tongue and hopes sinners will do better, all the while thinking he does fine when it is over him that the Lord weeps and sings a dirge.

Wisdom is justified by her deeds. Rejoice, therefore, O sinner, and let the world see your mirth, for the light of Christ has shown on you and all mankind! Lament, O child of God, and let the world hear your mourning, for the deeds of wickedness are great! Tell the truth for Christ is the truth and He is true and all who listen to Him are on the side of truth. Rejoice in the love of your heavenly Father and weep at the depths of wickedness that so plague this world, even your own life. It is not too fanatic to tell the truth, to call a thing what it is. For that is what our Lord does. He tells the truth and calls you what you are: sinners saved by grace, children of God made holy by the Lamb of God. Heirs of the kingdom of heaven.

+ In Nomine Iesu +