Monday, November 1, 2010

“The Eternal Gospel” (Revelation 14:6-7)

S-1216 Reformation/3C 10/31/10 Hymns (O) #593 LSB; (S)#262; LS #473; #376; (C) #261

Text: Revelation 14:6-7; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36

Theme: “The Eternal Gospel” (Revelation 14:6-7)

Question: “Do you consider yourself to be totally free?”


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation this morning is from the book of Revlation: “Then I saw another angel directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water’” (Revelation 14:6-7).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen and beloved, this day is very special to all Lutherans, because today, we observe and celebrate the Reformation movement—A movement that began like a little spark in Germany and spread like wildfire throughout the whole world. Reformation celebration is nothing but realizing that we have been freed and have freedom.

But what is “freedom?” Is it being merely loosed from some chain or shackle? Is it living in the United States that offers you freedom of speech and religion? When a prisoner is let loose from his cell, is that enough? No! Being “free” and being “free, indeed!” are as different from each other as light is from darkness and as oil is from water.

The first is simply an escape; the second is liberation to life! The first can be undone; the second cannot be taken away nor diminished. Pastor Paul, in prison during his many imprisonments wore steel on his ankles but his heart and soul were preaching the Eternal Gospel - the same Eternal Gospel proclaimed in Revelation 14, our first reading. These shackles couldn’t bind him, restrict him or hinder him from enjoying what the Savior has giving him in the Gospel—FREEDOM that lasts beyond prison cells, sickness, or casket in a grave. PAUSE.

493 years ago today, as the nail pierced the parchment to hang 95 points of dispute on the church door at Wittenberg the Reformation was born. Luther was more than just a monk. He was a true servant of the most High God. He was a professor of Old Testament, a true and brilliant scholar, a master debater, an engaging preacher, a fiery foe of false faith. He was a faithful shepherd, a loving husband and doting father. We can make him out, like the statue of him on the Seminary grounds in St. Louis, to be “larger than life.” Let me tell you what he was and what he is: He is a SINNER, enslaved to the devil, who was more than unshackled from a chain - this man became a new creature in Christ - one liberated to life. As Pastor Paul reminds us: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). You see, the Eternal Gospel worked its renewal in the formerly tortured soul of a man who yearned to be free. Luther didn’t escape from the devil’s grip - oh no! So much more, the Lord of Life Liberated him to a life that was and remains full and abundant.

And the good news this morning is this: There is nothing “special” about Martin Luther. His liberation from the condemnation of sin is yours and it is mine, and now we get to speak even as the angel in Revelation 14:6. That word Angel has a fuller meaning than just one of those pretty little ladies in the white flowing gowns with golden trumpets, flittering from cloud to cloud on the Sistine Chapel or hanging in the Louvre. An Angel is a messenger with a specific message from the God of the Universe. We might read Revelation 14:6 this way, Then I saw another messenger flying directly overhead, with an Eternal Gospel to proclaim... to all people! The messenger doesn’t matter, but the message does, right?

Well, almost. Yes the message matters. But the message is that the messenger him- or her- self matters to almighty God. This particular messenger is above the earth where the great dragon, the evil One, cannot harm him. Though he may breathe fire, he cannot win, the deed is done, one little word has felled him. The message is that God is victorious, that He who made all that is, the heaven and the earth, the sea and the springs of water (i.e., all life) is the judge. He has spoken and He has acted, and in judging His Son guilty of your sin and mine, He has loosed the chains of sin and liberated us once and for all. Now the message is for the messenger. Now the message is in the messenger.

If this day means anything it is that God has put His Eternal Gospel into formerly condemned hearts and lives. By placing that Eternal Gospel into you, He has set you free, indeed. The result is amazing: Not only is Luther a holy messenger, but so are you. Think about where you are planted. 38 years ago, I was a young lad growing up on the slopes of Mt. Carmel, but far away from God, His Church and His Word. But then, by His grace I migrated to the USA and lived in Huron, SD. I attended Huron College and lived in Churchill Hall. Right across from my living quarter was a large building—the library. At the entrance of the library were etched these words: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free!” (John 8:32). I didn’t even know that was part of the Bible. I really didn’t know what that meant at all. Each day I walked by the library I saw the words and read them. Then, one day, while I was attending Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church Pastor Paul Schwan (who is sainted) spoke of the freedom that this truth gives to us—sins are forgiven on account of Christ Jesus.

Know these words most beloved of His: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free!” YES, YOU ARE FREED. Today, you witnessed this freedom given to Tayla Ann Hinckley in the Waters of Baptism. As the Word of promise was spoken over her and the water touched her, she was unshackled and delivered to be a recipient of the Eternal Gospel—a Gospel that sets you free forever and ever. What a blessing given to Tayla Ann Hinkley - her name written in the Lamb’s book of Life - assurance for a troubled soul - how grand is that. PAUSE.

Most Holy and beloved people of God, today, you stand above the condemnation of the dragon. For Pastor Paul penned these words: “There is therefore now no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus!” (Romans 8:1) As a messenger, you stand, even as did Luther some 493 years ago, as one who can tell those in your world that each of them and all of us who reside here, do so at His pleasure, and that He has given the ultimate payment for all that put us into prison! The Hour of His judgment is this: The Cross! Ah, Jesus Christ crucified and risen did happen once in time and as such is a matter for the history books. But just as freedom is more than just having the shackles fall off, just as liberation is so much more, so also is the Cross of Jesus more than a footnote in Palestinian history books or on the soil of the Holy Land.

Today we celebrate history but more importantly HIS Story. The milestone or mile-marker that is the yearly observance of Reformation reminds us of the Eternal Gospel that keeps us, yesterday, today, and forever in the pierced-hands of the One who died and rose for us—Jesus Christ. What would be horrible would be to know peace, true peace, forgiveness, being loosed from the chains and shackles and to have the prison door swing open... only to have the peace, the forgiveness, the life, withdrawn after a time or a season. It would be cruel to save us, if that salvation was only temporary. Worse yet, what happens when we give this freedom away?

What do we call a “temporary promise?” – You know the answer to that, don’t you? IT IS A LIE! If the Gospel was anything but eternal it wouldn’t be “the Gospel.” Luther wanted you to know that yesterday matters to God, that today is blessed, and that “forever and ever, amen” is redeemed. Luther wanted every cloud of condemnation, every deluge of doubt; every clank of the chain of the prisoner has been answered in Jesus. Luther didn’t want the Church to preach anything less, anything other than this Jesus. One of the 95 Theses #16 says, There is the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, almost despair, and certainty {assurance}! The Eternal Gospel is the eternal promise, the certainty, the assurance that Christ Jesus and His blood on the Cross is more than sufficient to bring not just release from the jail-house, but true “forever and ever, amen” style liberation.

We sang A Mighty Fortress today and that is good, but if its refrain is just a piece of music, we lose its true meaning - truly, the kingdom ours remaineth is the joy to guide you and me as we fly overhead, where the eternal consequences of sin are paid in full, to say to those who are still struggling, this is the day of judgment: this is the Judgment of Almighty God - He loves you. Your debt is paid - in full - for all time. You are loved enough to be brought into the family. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” John 1:29. Amen!”

This is the Eternal Gospel, and this is He who owns you, who cherishes you, who preaches the Gospel through you, in your vocation, even today. With that grand honor bestowed upon you, forever, rejoice! Amen!

Now the peace…


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