Sermon Recording for Reformation Sunday – October 25, 2020

+ Reformation Sunday (observed) – October 25th, 2020 +

Series A: Revelation 14:4-6; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 

“Justified”

 

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

 

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.

 

Now, I can guess what you’re thinking. “What in the world does Humpty Dumpty have to do with Reformation Sunday?” “Maybe the mountain air last weekend went to his head.”

 

But if you think about it, this little nursery rhyme has something in common with the Reformation. It’s a window into the world we live in, and into our own sinful condition. If the world was a giant femur the doctor’s diagnosis wouldn’t be a hairline fracture. But a complete crack. Snapped and shattered beyond repair. The world is broken.

 

And no matter what we do or say, no matter how hard we try, it seems we’re no better off than all the king’s horses and all the king’s men. We can’t put it back together again. We can’t make it right.

 

Paul says the same thing in Romans 3, albeit more theologically: “No one is righteous. No, not one.” “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” “By works of the Law no human will be justified in God’s sight since through the Law comes knowledge of sin.”

 

That word – justified – is more common than you might think. From the Supreme Court all the way down to Judge Judy, lawyers will argue that their client was justified. Or, if you’re formatting a document on Microsoft Word, or whatever,  you can format your text to the left, to the right, to the center, or so it’s justified. A judge declares the defendant justified. The text of your document is put set straight. To justify means to put right.

 

This is what God is doing in a far greater way for us in Jesus. In Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we are justified. We are put right with God. We are set straight and nothing —as far as the judgment of God is concerned—is out of place. You are justified in His sight.

 

This is what St. Paul declares in Romans 3. In Jesus crucified and risen, you are justified, saved, declared not guilty, innocent. This word, justified, is at the center of Romans 3; the center of Scripture; the center of God’s saving work in Jesus crucified for you. Justified – or justification – was at the center of Luther’s life and the Lutheran Reformation as well.

 

Luther wrestled with the question, “How can I find a gracious God?” The answer, Luther discovered, wasn’t found in his brains, feelings, hands, or even his own goodness – but in the goodness and grace of Jesus crucified. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

 

For Martin Luther – and for us – God’s gift of justification in Jesus is that important; it’s more than a slogan, it’s a matter of life and death.

 

The same is true today, some 500 years later. Even though Luther’s question no longer seems relevant. Even when people could not care less about God. Grace. Justification. Even if the questions of our day sound far different: “Does God exist?” Or, “Who cares?” Or “Who are you to tell me I need God or saving?”

 

Even then, underneath all the excuses, denials, and indifferences, the problem remains the same. Our broken world is full of broken people who are constantly seeking justification. From the days of Adam and Genesis 3, fallen humanity has a restless desire, an habitual need, an insatiable appetite to be right. To justify ourselves.

 

That’s what the Pharisees and Jews in Jesus’ day taught and believed. Justification came by their ancestral blood and their keeping of the Law. That’s what the Roman Church in Luther’s day taught and believed too. Justification came by works of the Law: pilgrimages, penance, indulgences, the monastery – an endless system of self-justification.

 

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Humanity is still on a fool’s quest for self-justification. The word “justify” may not be on everyone’s lips, but the need for justification is written on our hearts. In simple ways: “Sorry officer, I didn’t see the speed limit.” “But he pushed me first.” We’re constantly trying to justify ourselves. And in far deeper ways. We deny our sin or point to others’ sins. Deceive ourselves: “Well, at least I’m not like one of those antifa rioters up in Seattle.” We make excuses. We blame. We accuse.

 

Like the fallen world around us, like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, like the Church in Luther’s day, we seek justification in all the wrong places: in our pride, or our politics, or even in our piety; in our sinful thought, words, and deeds.

 

This is why God gives us his Word of Law. Not a ladder to climb into heaven. But to put a lid on our excuses. To shut our mouths. Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped…For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight.

 

Paul’s words cut to the heart. It’s a death blow. How do we get out of this grave we’ve dug ourselves into? You don’t. You can’t.             …But Christ has. Christ does. Christ will. It is Christ who justifies you. In Jesus, God declares you fully accepted. Pardoned. Slate clean. Not guilty. You belong to me.

Reformation Sunday is a day we rejoice in Jesus, the righteous judge who came down to earth and rendered his judgment – not upon you, or me, or anyone at all – but on himself. Jesus bore the judgment in our place. Jesus assumed the punishment for sin that we deserved. Jesus took all our excuses, blames, accusations, all our sinful, self-justifying ways and nailed them to the cross.

Yes, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  but…you are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

You, a sinner born in Adam’s sin, stand righteous before your God in Christ’s righteousness. You stand righteous before your God not because you have done good, but because Christ has done good for you. You stand righteous before your God covered not in the resume of your religious works, but in the Blood of Christ your Savior.

Who is to condemn? No one. It is God who justifies. You are justified in Jesus. Set right. Saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. And if the Son justifies you, you are justified indeed.

A blessed Reformation Sunday to each of you…

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

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

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