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Matthew 11:12-19
Vicar Christopher Stout

 What’s this Reformation Day about? If it’s not what the Bible is about, if it’s not what Jesus is about, then why are we celebrating it today.  John the Baptist began his preaching about the kingdom of heaven with message of repentance.  Jesus’ first words in the Gospel of Matthew are, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Hear these first words of the 95 theses, a document that basically began the reformation.  “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ says ‘Repent,’ he wills that the entire life of the Christian be one of repentance.”  Repentance.  “Confess your sins.  Reject the delusion that anything you do can in any way, whole, or in part, bring about your salvation.  Do it often.  Do it all your life. Constant repentance for you, dear Christian; and for me” too says Jesus and all the Law and Prophets. 

It’s been a consistent message for the Church throughout all of history.  It’s a message that’s not usually received very well.  It was received harshly by leaders of the Roman Catholic Church then; it’s received with anger and denial now.  It’s met with a “Who me? What sins? You do it first, you repent first.  Then I’ll do it, maybe.”  It was received with violence 2000 years ago.  Jesus says that,  From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.     

 We certainly feel the effects of this violence from those hostile to the Christian message.  

 Yet, a lone focus on this can lead to a self pity party to the violence that the kingdom of God suffers that is not in step with constant repentance.  Repentance is also about the recognition of the violence we do to the kingdom of God.  

Jesus compares his generation to children in the marketplace, We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.  No matter what was sung, there was no response.  They just weren’t satisfied.  Yet, this word for Jesus’ generation encompassed all of history and it covers the now-generation of today.  God says to us today, “But, what shall I compare this generation? I called you to repent of your sin of your lack of love toward me.  I called you to repent of your lustful thoughts and selfish desires, yet you said, ‘that’s too harsh.’  I called you to faith in what I’ve done for you and how it is finished, don’t doubt.  Yet you said, ‘that’s too easy, I must do something more for my salvation.’” No matter how God preaches, we are often not pleased and fulfilled with His Word of condemnation or forgiveness.  When we treat God’s Word and God’s works with apathy, we do great violence to the kingdom of God. 

When we don’t confess our sins constantly- when we don’t even recognize them all - when we do recognize them, we may deny them or scoff at them and say, “how silly these little sins are when measured against that guy,” we do great violence to the Kingdom of God.

 But, we are called to measure ourselves to God’s expectations for us in His Law.  He calls us to complete obedience of our parents, bosses, professors and other authorities over us with 100% effort, 100% of the time.  And don’t you think bad about them, either. He calls us to constantly and completely trust in Him above all things, even when He seems absent to our situation and pleas.  He calls us for our deeds to be perfect and for them to have no selfish motivation behind them.  Those are the expectations, that’s the Law.  Now we know that whatever the Law says it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  In the hour of judgment, no excuses are possible before God, for our mouths are stopped.  No room for comparisons, as we are personally, each and every one of us, held accountable for our deeds done against God.  

 Repent today, like you did yesterday, and like you will tomorrow.  God wills your entire life as a Christian be one of constant repentance.  Confess your sins and you know them.  Reject the delusion that anything you do can in any way, whole, or in part, bring about your salvation.   That’s the Law.  That’s part of repentance.  If it’s the whole thing, then that leaves us rather depressed and desperate.  In a world which admires self-esteem, why would God lead us to such self-denial?  To leave us no options that we must completely and constantly turn toward him and hear the “but now’s” that God has done for us.    

But now, the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.

But now, God’s righteousness, not your own, is on you. But now, wisdom is justified by her deeds, says Jesus.  If it’s our deeds, our mouths are shut.  But now, Christ has been judged and held accountable for all of your deeds -- 100% guilty for your disobedience -- 100% guilty for your failure to trust in God.  He was 100% guilty for your false self pity parties you throw.  It is by this deed that you are justified.  You were not right with God, but now God makes you right through faith in Jesus.  You were accountable to Him for all your evil thoughts, words, and deeds but now your sins are washed away.  And now, Jesus delivers those justification gifts to you by his grace.  He comes among us sinners as the Great Physician.  Those who are well have no need of Him, but we sick, repentant ones need His healing and forgiveness.

 The entire life of the Christian is one of repentance.  Confess your sins.  Deny your works constantly so that you constantly receive the “but, now” that Jesus does for you now.  Now, God violently drowns your sins in Baptism, so that He lives in you.  But now, the blood that was poured out as a propitiation for you, to cleanse you, is here for you to drink.  But now, God passes over your sins as He sees the justice done for them on the cross of Calvary.  

  Wisdom shut the mouths we guilty ones.  What becomes of our boasting? It is excluded.  The whole life of the Christian is a life of repentance -- confessing your sins and receiving from God, Himself forgiveness.  Wisdom speaks today: He who has ears, let him hear.  Jesus, who is here, now speaks: “Now, you are justified by my deeds, I forgive you.”  This is what Jesus is about, and this was what the Reformation is about.  Truly, this message is spoken to us constantly, not just Reformation Day.  Amen.       

 

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