Heirs of a Divine Inheritance: Reformation Sunday October 30th 2016
Reformation Sunday October 30th 2016
Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 Psalm 46 Romans 3:19-28 John 8: 31-36
Heirs of a Divine Inheritance
Mark sang our Justification by Faith song from our Luther Musical. What a musical experience! Thank you so much! Mark, you have found your vocation as a singer, which I’d say that you received from your Opa and Oma, your grandparents, Rudolf and Gertrude. They too expressed their exuberant joy by singing like song-birds. When my father was a soldier under the Kaiser, the commander would order my father to start the singing for the marching company: “Krey, Lieder anstimmen!” “Krey start the singing!” he’d start right on pitch and he’d know all the words. Then as a young pastor supplying at a church, he heard a beautiful voice up in the choir, went up to see who it was and later married her. So here Mark is their heir as you can tell. More to come at the coffee hour, if you have the time. (Mark and I gave a concert of fourteen of the songs from out Luther Musical.)
In the song, Luther tells about his change of heart, his change of mind, the change of his way of thinking. And that is also the challenge for us – we who are believers today also need a change of heart and soul in a reformation of the church. Luther wrote the words that Mark sang when he was already an old man looking back at what had started it all.
Bibles were hard to come by in those days. Laity were even forbidden by priests to read them. Luther found one chained to a lectern at the university and read and reread it. He said that the Romans passage that we heard today was the climax of the whole Bible. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God – not just some of us while others are righteous. There is no way that we can identify with the righteous and call others sinners. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and we all have nothing to go on but God’s mercy. If we think we’ve got it, we don’t. When we become aware of our sinfulness then God can forgive us.
I remember way back in my family of origin not being able to sleep because the lights were still on, because my older brothers were studying deep into the night. On one of those nights, it must have been three in the morning, one of my brothers broke down crying at his desk. “What’s the matter?” my other brother asked him. “Nothing.” He said. “I was reading a psalm and it got to me. It made me feel so blessed.”
Have you had that kind of an experience with the Word? Psalm 126 really touched me that way once. Luther had that experience with Romans 1:17: “For the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Suddenly God changed from being a monster in the sky to being his sweetest friend, who in Christ died on the cross for him, that is, to save his life. How would you be able to thank a friend, who like a body guard, stepped up and took a bullet aimed at you, so you would not be killed. Then later you discovered that you were his beneficiary in his last will and testament, and were now the heir of his whole divine inheritance? After your “Good Friday” grief and his resurrection proclaimed, wouldn’t you call that good news? Wouldn’t you jump up and down for joy, like you were still a child? Or would you ignore it, like Bob Dylan, the Nobel Prize? I think not. (Yesterday I heard he’s celebrating and accepting it.)
So why aren’t we like cups running over, overflowing with joy and happiness at our marvelous fortune? We are children of God with our places around the Table of the Lord! The good news for you and me is that we are in Jesus Christ’s will and we stand to inherit the divine fortune. “Believe it and you receive it. If you don’t believe it, you won’t.” In German, it’s, Glaubstu so hastu, glaubstu nit, so hastu nit. It’s yours to have if you believe God and trust God with all your heart.
You were living a lie and you became alive in the truth! You could not stop being a curse to everyone who had the misfortune of relating to you and suddenly you changed into their blessing. Everybody has to be trouble to somebody and God says, “You can be trouble to me. I’ll stick with you. You’re mine, I’ve called you by name, you’re not heavy, you’re my child. I’ll bear with you until you are born.”
Jesus takes all our sin and exchanges it for integrity deep within. That’s our inheritance. Jesus’ dying makes us his heirs. That’s what’s called the new testament, which in this sense of the words does not mean the second part of the Bible. Jesus’ last will and testament has your name and mine on it so all our inadequacy, all our sin, all our failings, our disorientation and the meaninglessness of our lives are taken by him, and in exchange we get the life of Jesus Christ, a life that this world has stood amazed in for over two thousand years. Just imagine! We receive all that grace and truth!
Jesus gets short-changed and we make out like bandits. My teacher Timothy Wengert explained the marvelous exchange this way: before he married his wife she drove a brand new BMW and he drove an old broken down wreck. After they were married, he drove the BMW and she drove the old wreck. It was a marvelous exchange! From Jesus we get the divine Attributes of God, he gets our corruption, our sorry presidential campaign, our racism and divisiveness, and we get the peace that passes all understanding.
We too get altogether born anew, like the gates of paradise opening up for us too. The whole scripture receives a new face, showing us God’s resplendent grace.
Now good works are not an obligation. We can’t help doing them because God does them in and through us. We no longer live but Christ lives in us.
The power of God and the strength of God makes me strong, forgives my wrong, sets me free, knowing to whom I belong!
We receive God’s wisdom and God takes our ignorance in exchange. God’s wisdom makes us wise. Your intelligence is not fixed; it’s elastic. When I taught in the community colleges, I would joke: as a kid I must have been very intelligent. My mother called me sonny. My I.Q. was 20/20. They would first cover one eye and then the other. I acted as if I thought that was an I.Q. test. Forget I.Q. tests! Pray to God who will make you wise, so you’ll be able to tell the truth from lies, and the lying liars that tell them.
The glory of God is that by which God glorifies us – when we understand real humility and God’s salvation saves us, by dying for us to live. God is dying for us to live!
We often talk about liberation theologians today and we forget that Luther proclaimed the Freedom of a Christian in face of the Babylonian Captivity of the church in his time. We talk of de-colonializing the church today. And we forget that St. Paul wrote: “For freedom Christ has set you free. Stand fast, therefore, and do not submit to the yoke of slavery again.”
The Reformed Churches following John Calvin say that they completed the Lutheran Reformation. My Professor Robert Bellah used to say there was the Reformation and the High Reformation, which he felt described John Calvin’s. But Calvin’s Reformation does not complete Luther’s Reformation. No, when the Catholic and Orthodox churches have come together with us, and when we convince the Jews that they should be Jews for Jesus, and convince our brother and sister Moslems, that not Mohammed, who was short on love and forgiveness, but Jesus is the prophet, and what’s more, the Son of God, whom we should worship: then the Reformation will be somewhat more completed to the glory of God. let’s pray for God’s Reformation on this Reformation Sunday. And what good would God’s Reformation be, if it passes our congregation, CLC? May we also embark on the renewal of our faith-life, so we become a beacon of God’s light on this little hill in El Cerrito. Amen.