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Viva la Reforme

November 1, 2017 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Mark 1:14–1:15

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
October 31, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Viva la Réforme!
(Long live the Reformation)

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Mark 1:14-15

The Reformation is not dead!

At age 500 it is ailing, but it is not the first time. In the past, many attempts were made on its life and it often lay critically wounded. But by God's grace the Lutheran Reformation continues. It affirms all that is good in the history, theology and practice of the church of the ages. While at the same time rejecting all theological error be it that of Rome, the East, or of its many step-children: the many Protestant bodies in existence today who deny the Gospel, by way of the Sacraments.

The Reformation Faith resists all error and continues to preach the pure Gospel of salvation to sinners by grace, through faith in Christ. It gives light and hope to all who are afflicted with sin and death, and makes sinners sing for joy.

Viva la Réforme!

It further resists Puritanism which delights in making the glorious church of our Lord Jesus Christ odorless, colorless and tasteless. Little more than an association of like-minded individuals, who gather for lectures, assent to certain theological propositions, and excrete what few remaining emotions they have left.

But Luther taught us that true religion does not come from within, but from without. It doesn’t enter us, but we enter it! When St. Paul says, some 90 times in his sermons, that we are “in Christ” he is not speaking figuratively but literally, of holy baptism, by which sinners are purified, and enter divine life.

Viva la Réforme!

In Luther's day people could not believe in the forgiveness of sins. They knew that they were sinners, but the gospel of God's grace that Luther preached was like a strange visitor from another planet. It was too good to be true, and therefore not true! Slavery is like that. It is as comfortable as it is terrible, and we are not always as ready to leave it as we might think. When Jesus says: If the Son sets you free you shall be free indeed, it takes time for that glorious truth to cut through the iron fetters that bind our wills and intellects, that make us destroy everything we touch. “Because whoever sins is a slave to sin.”

“But if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!”

Yes, it took time but the “everlasting gospel” that Luther rediscovered finally captured the hearts and minds of the people, and clear Christian faith once again brought joy to the world.

Viva la Réforme!

But there is a problem. In Luther’s day people could not believe in grace, but in ours they cannot believe they are sinners. They will admit to things like "I may not be perfect.” But no one wants to admit to transgressions against God, that make him liable to judgment. But the Reformation proclaims both. Sin and Grace. Law and Gospel. Judgment and Salvation. But it is this trio of grace, gospel and salvation that is the hallmark of the Reformation!

Viva la Réforme!

But alas the Reformation is once again on a sick bed. On this 500th Anniversary there has been only a tepid remembrance, and not just in Cleveland, once a stronghold of Lutheranism, but across the country. There have been a few poorly attended events here and there this year, but not the grand Reformation Service that as recently as 50 years ago would bring thousands of Lutherans to Cleveland Public Auditorium every Reformation Day. Such a Service was attempted here in Cleveland, but cancelled due to lack of interest.

So, what can we do? Those of us who still consider this celebration worth marking? Worthy of laying aside all other activities in order to thank and praise God here tonight? The answer lies in the Lord’s word: “Repent and believe the Gospel.” For what is Reformation other than institutional repentance?

But what does that look like?

A picture of it is has come back into focus among American Lutheran churches in the last 30 years, and a “New Reformation” is afoot. In a word it is the Eucharist! Holy Communion. The Lord’s Supper.

Influenced by her own step children the Eucharist became an add-on in the church of the Reformation, instead of what it truly is. The New Testament. The he pinnacle of Christian worship, witness and identity. The practice of the Christian religion, and the sum and substance of what it means to be baptized.

With the rediscovery of the Eucharist, and the doctrine of justification by faith well established, Lutherans have also rediscovered the church’s historic worship which tried and true, has once again shown itself to be the very bread of life. Filled with the goodness, truth and beauty needed to nourish the redeemed souls of men. And giving light to the world, wherever it is celebrated!

And so long live the Reformation! And as Noah gave birth to three sons at the age of 500 (Genesis 5:32) may the Reformation yet give birth to many sons to the glory of God and the blessing of humanity!

Viva la Réforme!