Saint Matthew 11. 12-15
The Festival of the Reformation: 31 October Anno Domini 2013
Father Jay Watson SSP
In The Name + of Jesus
“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Well, how are you going to use that inspired verse penned by blessed Saint Matthew, quoting the God/Man, to attack Pope Francis or any of the Romanists before him? Well, you can if you’re a bigot or ignorant, but, the violent and rebellious treason committed against the Lord and His Anointed, against the “kingdom of heaven,” predates 1517 by a few years it would appear. The violent perpetrators of violence are not Turks and Papists and Jews so much as they are all sinful men. The violence is the violence of YOUR sin. Ever since the Garden, the enemies and adversaries have been Satan, the world, and your sinful flesh.
But people do need heroes don’t they, men “larger than life” to look up to and to follow. Young boys aspire to be like their Dads and almost everyone has role models and aspirational guides. The sin is of course to break the 1st Commandment by giving to man what belongs only to God: fear, love, and trust above all things!
Ah, the Festival of The Reformation…what a conundrum this calendar date—becoming a Church date—creates for a follower of the Augustana and the Book of Concord, QUIA (i.e. “because”) they comport to and are faithful expositions of SCRIPTURE—the very Word of God! It’s a narrow line that a good Lutheran must walk to be a Scriptural disciple of the Nazarene. It’s a fine balance of both pride AND a deep appreciation of Dr. Luther’s awareness of sin and the utter falleness of man. These both need to be remembered on 31 October to keep it from becoming mere triumphalism and vain hypocrisy. Luther was heroic but he was no “plaster saint.” The Reformers who took up his mission and carried his banner were both brave confessors AND fallible and broken men. Martin sinned daily every bit as much as Pope Leo, Cardinal Cajetan, and Tetzel. Repent Ye!
We also need not be, and indeed must NOT BE, socialist levelers who delight in attacking heroic men and women by slandering every courageous activity and choice of brave conscience. Sinners, your sinful self, naturally follow Satan’s lead and gleefully pull others down into the sewage of sin so as to diminish their own guilty stink! Repent Ye!
We celebrate the bold testimony of that Augustinian monk who on the Eve of All Saints Day nailed his theological theses to the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church, not because He was “Lutheran” but because he was Evangelical and Catholic, i.e. he was constrained by the Gospel to preach, teach, and confess Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins and justification by Grace through Faith, in Christ alone, to the entire Catholic Church---Jesus’ own Kingdom of Grace in all the world.
We should remember, honor, commemorate, and even have statues for the faithful Reformers, Confessors, and Martyrs—ESPECIALLY the Martyrs. Honor and recognition needs to be given for Saints: Jan Hus, Patrick Hamilton, William Tyndale, and legions of others from modern times to centuries past; from 16th century reformers to 4th century reformers; from confessors to Disciples and Apostles. But what did they die for? What did they confess with their blood as well as with their words and writings? They died for what they lived for and for WHO lived in them. For that which sustained proto-martyr Saint Stephen, and Saint James Zebedee, also sustains and animates you: Jesus Christ the crucified and risen God in the flesh AND in your flesh.
What was the very first of Luther’s propositions that he wanted the Church to consider, to take-to-heart, and to be reformed by? Thesis #1 reads: “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite (Repent Ye), willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.” Repent Ye!
Luther was simply bowing his knee to Christ and His Word. This is what Saint John Baptizer lived, taught, and died for by the power of the same Holy Ghost which he saw descend upon Messiah. Repent and believe is the real and joyous teaching and confession of the Reformation. We are not here to insult Romanists or Reformed; though we do that (I do that) far too often. Christ came not as a roaring Lion (the Lion of Judah) with a sword to kill and wreak vengeance; He came as the silent Lamb with a sinless Body to keep all the Law that you break and to let that sinless Body be tortured and killed on the Tree. Jesus lived and died to atone for all Leo’s sins, yes; but also for all Martin’s. Repent Ye!
And though John Baptizer was the greatest of men, he was the greatest of sinful men. He too had his black foul misdeeds, and crimson crimes washed away in the blood of his kinsman by flesh—the same kinsman King who is your brother by adoption + into His Sacred Body and Precious Blood. John’s message was simply the message of Adam, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel. Repent Ye! The message of Law was preached by all the Law and the Prophets; it was confessed by all the Reformers including the greatest of the Old Testament saints Elias. But it wasn’t the Law and the commands that Elias and Saint Moses discussed with your Savior at Transfiguration; it was Jesus’ upcoming Passion and Death at Calvary—the Gospel of forgiveness by Christ’s crucifixion—Paul’s message—Luther’s message—your message of Mercy for Jesus’ sake by faith in Him alone.
The Lord of Hosts, Jesus is with you. Jesus is here this evening in His absolution and in His Supper—for you and all of your corruption. He reforms you by giving you Himself. His God Blood is the transfusion you need to be reformed and healed of the blood cancer of sin. His God Body is the food you need to vivify and reform your corpse body and make you glorified in the eyes of His Father. His Words of peace spoken into your ears reforms your nature and makes you part of Him. The God of Jacob—Jesus the Christ—is your refuge—A Mighty Fortress indeed!
You celebrate the Festival of the Reformation not by bashing the false communions of Trent and Geneva, nor by burning to death Muslims and secular opponents; but rather you are reformed by the Righteous Branch Himself.
Salute Luther; yes of course. Pray for the conversion of the Mohammedans, such is your love as Christians. Confess truth and be willing to die for orthodoxy when needed and required against the erring and heterodox all the while praying for their enlightenment in He Who is the only Light, such is your privilege as heirs of Martin, Athanasius, Paul of Tarsus and Elias of Mount Carmel.
But this day, be reformed by The Reforming and Merciful God at His Table with His Body and Blood. Repent Ye! Take eat and drink and believe the Good News!
In The Name of The Father and of The + Son and of The Holy Ghost