Sunday, October 31, 2010

Today Salvation Has Come to This House

Reformation Day
Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost
October 31, 2010
Luke 19:1-10

Today is a great day. Going on 500 years after Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg on October 31 Lutherans continue celebrate the Reformation. This sparked what people have called the ‘re-discovery’ of the Gospel. So of course it’s a great day, an important celebration.

But that’s not primarily why it’s a great day. You could pick any day of the calendar year and celebrate it as a great day for the same reason today is. The reason it’s a great day is that today salvation has come to this house. We may be Lutherans but we don’t follow Luther. We may attach special significance to Reformation Day but our reason for celebration is not in what a man named Luther did.

What we celebrate today and every day is that salvation has come to this house. In a sense there was a re-discovery of the Gospel in the Sixteenth Century. For too many years peoples’ consciences were being burdened with the Law rather than their consciences being convicted by the Law to drive them to the Gospel. But the Gospel, through the providence of God, has always been made known. So any re-discovery has more to do with us than it does with Jesus. It’s not like He has refrained from making Himself known during certain times in history. We are so much like Zacchaeus, needing Jesus to come to our house to discover us. Jesus is always present. The Gospel always remains. We’re the ones who are in need of reform, and thus the name Reformation.

We can seek Jesus all we want but it’s not until He comes into our life that salvation comes to us. We can seek Jesus apart from the way He comes to us but it’s not until we seek Him in repentance that we can be reformed.

It would be easy to celebrate this day and go away grateful for the action of a young monk. It would be gratifying to go away from the Lord’s House today satisfied with our great churchly and theological heritage. But that is not what this day is about. That’s the same with what every day is about. Every time we enter into this, our Lord’s House, it’s about salvation coming to this house. Jesus said to Zacchaeus that He must stay at his house today. By entering it He made it a holy place. And He did something else. He brought righteousness to Zacchaeus, a man who, in the words of the religious leaders, was a sinner. That’s what that day was about. Jesus said it: Today salvation has come to this house. It came to that house because Jesus came to that house. Where Jesus is, there is salvation.

And that’s why we come here. Jesus comes to us with His salvation. He walked into Zacchaeus’ house, He comes to us here through words that are proclaimed and bread and wine that is given to us to eat and drink.

Even though it’s great that there are a lot of people and a lot of churches that celebrate the Reformation, there’s often a misunderstanding of it. Too many think of it as the festival of the Protestant Church. But the Reformation was not about protesting anything. It was and always is about declaration. The Church through the ages has always declared the Gospel so that all may hear it. There’s nothing to protest, but everything to declare. That is what Jesus did when He saw Zacchaeus. Sure, you could think of His declaration of Zacchaeus and many others’ sin as protesting against sin. But it’s really not protesting. It’s calling sinners to repentance. It’s the declaration of the Law that paves the way for the Gospel. Without the Law there is no Gospel. Without repentance there is no forgiveness.

There is no true celebration of the Reformation if it’s a celebration of a monk who made a declaration of the Gospel. There is a celebration of the Reformation every day if it is a celebration that today salvation has come to this house. That, as Jesus said, “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” That’s really why we come here. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus but Jesus said, I’m going to come to you. That’s what continues to happen today. Salvation comes to this house when our Lord comes to us in His Word proclaimed and His Body and Blood given in His Holy Supper.

There is no celebration of the Reformation if all we’re doing is celebrating some sort of protest. We don’t protest, we repent. We confess our sins as ones who are not worthy to enter the holy ground of our Lord’s righteousness. But we repent as Zacchaeus did, seeing that new life—reformed life, renewed life—comes out of the salvation that comes to this house. We see as he did that our Lord gives us an opportunity to live in the freedom of being forgiven by making restitution with those we’ve sinned against. If we are unwilling to forgive others we are bound in our sin. But if we look to Christ who was raised up on the cross for the salvation of the world we will see the world in a different light. We will see that others are just as we are, sinners who fall short of the glory of God. We will see that Christ suffered on the cross so that we may be free: free from sin, free to live in selfless, generous, merciful, forgiving love.

If we were to raise up Luther on this day as our reason for celebrating we would miss the point of his posting of the Ninety-Five Theses. We raise up Christ alone. We look to Him alone, just as Zacchaeus did. Just as Luther did, for that matter. If we were to celebrate some sort of protest, we would miss the point of the Reformation. If anything, our protest should be against our own wretchedness, our utter sinfulness. That’s what Zacchaeus saw in himself. For that matter, it’s what Luther saw in himself. That’s why Christ comes to us with His declaration of the Law which brings us to repentance. That’s why He then declares the Good News: Today salvation has come to this house.

He comes to us in this way, granting sinners salvation. Proclaiming His Gospel through his called and ordained servants. Giving often His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins in His Holy Supper. If you ever wonder what the big deal about the Reformation is, just take a look at today and what is going on here, what we’re celebrating. What’s going on is Christ coming to us for salvation. What we’re celebrating is that. Our constant need for reform, for repentance. And our unworthy prayer of thanks to a Lord who comes to us with His forgiveness, life, and salvation. Amen.


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