Reformation Sunday
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 30, 2022
Rev. 14:6-7, Romans 3:19-28, John 8:31-36


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            If you had to sum up the Reformation in one word, what would it be?  Just one word.  Well, not even really a word, more of a sound.  What sound sums up the Reformation?  Shhhh.

            When I teach about the Ten Commandments students can get very frustrated when they realize that they cannot avoid sin.  As you study God’s law you realize that it is not just, “you shall not murder”, but you shall not be angry with someone.  You can struggle against sin but you are helpless to stop sinning and when it becomes clear that you sin in your thoughts as well as words and deed you think, “But that’s not fair, how can I control my thoughts?”  And so you try to justify yourself by making excuses, “I can’t help it.  It is human nature.” 

            Mom walks in as Jason is punching his younger brother Zachery in the stomach.  Zachery doubles up and starts to cry…probably a bit louder than necessary.  Mom looks accusingly at Jason and he says, “Zachery punched me first.”  Jason believes he is perfectly justified in his actions because he has a good excuse.

            It comes naturally to try to justify yourself; to come up with a good excuse.  Folks will come up with a good excuse for missing Sunday worship and then cling to that excuse for weeks, months, years.  I know I should be coming to church every Sunday, but… I have a good excuse. 

            Everyone likes a good excuse.  A good excuse can justify almost anything.

            You lose your temper and yell, but it is justified because that so and so really made you mad. 

            You cheat on a test at school, but it is justified because the teacher should not have made it that hard.

            You know that intimacy outside of marriage is wrong, but everyone is doing it.  “I know I shouldn’t do that thing, but it is okay, because I have a good excuse.” Shhh. 

            Along with excuses you also like to pretend that you have found loopholes in God’s law.  Honor your Father and your Mother, you shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal.  You say, “I know what the commandments say, but I declare there is a loophole in the law so the law does not apply to me.”  Shhh. 

            You try to blame others for your sins.  “It’s not my fault.  If only my mother treated me better…if only that person did not tempt me. It is their fault, not mine.” Shhh. 

You cannot justify yourself by your excuses, or loopholes, or by blaming others. Shhhh.   

            In our Gospel reading last week Jesus gives us another failed method of justification.  Luke 18:9–14 (ESV)  9 [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” 

            The Pharisee seeks to justify himself by talking about all the good things that he does and by thanking God that he is such a good guy, especially compared to the tax collector. 

            But, you cannot justify yourself by a list of your accomplishments.  Shhhh. 

You cannot justify yourself by comparing yourself to someone else.  It is very tempting to do this.  You say, “I may not be perfect, but, I am not as bad as that other guy so my little sins are okay.  I am not as bad as those really awful sinners.”  Shhh. 

            We learn in our lesson from Romans 3 that the law of God stops every mouth and the whole world is held accountable to God.  You want to make an excuse for your sin. Shh.  You want to talk about what a good person you are.  Shh.   You want to justify yourself.  Shh.  You have nothing to say to justify yourself. Justification before God does not come from your clever words or thinking.  So shhh. 

            As God says through the Psalmist in Psalm 46:10 (ESV)  10 “Be still, and know that I am God. …”  Be still and know that God is God and you are not. You are not in the salvation business.  You cannot save yourself, Romans 3:23 (ESV)  23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 

            All have sinned and you are part of all. When you open your mouth to make an excuse or to talk about how good you are…shhh. 

            Salvation is yours, but not because of youYou…Romans 3:24–25 (ESV) 24 …are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation [an atoning sacrifice] by his blood, to be received by faith. …” 

            You so much want to ask, did I do enough, did I give enough, did I pay enough, are my excuses enough?  God says…. “shhhhh.   Be still… and know that I am God.”  The law of God silences your excuses and hushes your bragging and leaves you mute before God. You stand before God in silent weakness. 

And it is in that stillness you find the peace that passes understanding. It is in that powerless stillness that you find salvation in Jesus. 

            In silent helplessness you understand what Jesus means when He says, Luke 18:17 (ESV)  17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”  It is not about you.  It is all about Jesus for you. 

  Salvation is yours, but not because of youYou…Romans 3:24–25 (ESV) 24 …are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation [an atoning sacrifice] by his blood, to be received by faith. …” 

            The peace that is beyond understanding comes from knowing where to look when asked, “How do you know you are saved?”  You do not look to yourself because that is not where salvation comes from.  You look to Jesus.  You look to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection for you.

            This is what Martin Luther rediscovered in the Reformation.  Salvation is not about what you do, or give, or pay.  You cannot buy a piece of paper signed by the Archbishop of Mainz to justify yourself.  It is not about what you earn.  It is about Jesus for you.  And knowing it is about Jesus for you, you can trust that it is true.  Jesus confirms His promise to you in the words of absolution, “I forgive you all your sins.”  Jesus confirms His promise to you in the waters of baptism as we see this morning with little Guinevere.  He confirms His promise in His Body and Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.  The Reformation is about repenting of thinking you can save yourself and rejoicing that Jesus is your Savior. 

            So, Shhhh.  Be still and know that your sins are forgiven by Jesus.  In silence, understand the amazing Good News.  If the son sets you free, you are free indeed.  Amen