A Reformation Sermon - By Rev. Robert Rahn - Director of The Lutheran Heritage Foundation
October 31, 2017
A Reformation Sermon
by: The Rev. Dr. Robert Rahn
Executive Director of The Lutheran Heritage Foundation
(Note by Pastor Kavouras: There are some amazing facts in this sermon, such as the fact that the Lutheran Church of Ethiopia is presently the largest Lutheran Church in the world with 8,000,000 members. Also that Lutheran churches in Germany, which have sat mostly empty for decades, are now beginning to fill up again. But not with Germans. But rather with Iranians and Pakistani's. See below.)
Now, the sermon.
“Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:8-12
I used the above as a text for my Reformation Sermon on Sunday afternoon for the St. Joseph, MI Circuit Reformation Rally. It isn’t the usual text for Reformation but it seemed to fit perfectly in view of what’s going on in the football arena.
I introduced the sermon by asking what’s going on this afternoon??.... in the NFL and all the football games being played. The big question is the question posed by the text on this Reformation Day celebration, this 150th anniversary of this congregation and the 25th anniversary of the LHF, the question is prompted by the problem the NFL faces with those players who refuse to stand during the National Anthem but “take the knee.” It prompts me to ask the question “WILL YOU TAKE THE KNEE FOR TRUTH?”
It’s what Luther refused to do. He refused to take the knee to Councils, Emperors, Pope, Indulgences. Luther was appalled at the ignorance of the clergy and provided the handbook on doctrine- the Small and Large Catechisms, he was also upset over the lack of lay participation in the dominant clergy run church, so he championed the doctrine of the priest hood of all believers. What finally broke the camel’s back was the sale of indulgences as a way to pay for your way to heaven.
He was brought before the Council and it was demanded that the retract, recant, but Luther refused to bow the knee to anything but the Truth and stated those words of infamy- “unless convinced by Scripture…councils have erred…my heart is captive to the Word of God, I will not recant, Here I Stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Words to that effect spoken.
WILL YOU TAKE THE KNEE FOR TRUTH, for the Name of God? Will you be bold confessors of the Truth? Problem today is that many REFUSE TO TAKE THE KNEE FOR TRUTH. We today suffer from a severe case of TRUTH DECAY. During the recent onslaught of mahem and destruction due to hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes and shootings, there are those again who raised the question WHERE IS GOD? The same people asking the question are on the forefront of
· Taking prayer out of schools, disallowing team prayer before games
· Taking God out of our pledge, off of our money
· Removing ten commandments from public buildings
· Disallowing Christmas carols/ manger scenes in the public square
· Businesses shut down for refusing to serve gays
· Hate speech policies introduced, Bible truths ruled out of order
· Free speech demanded but not applicable to those who profess teachings of the Bible
· Wholesale abandonment of the Truth/ adjusted or modified
· Ken Ham made announcement “going to take back the rainbow” and give it its Bible background
· Hate speech followed and acceptable
· Name used only in context of cursing and swearing
All of it could best be summarized by a statement from a congressman who ran for president and serving in congress still. When Trump announced a cabinet position, this congressman viciously attacked the appointment: “deemed unsuitable for the office because he believes that salvation is found along through Jesus Christ. He said someone with that kind of religious belief system is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.”
The Reformation reminds us that the Word brings new life, we are called on to continue in the Word, to take the knee to Truth. The Reformation is not about structures of today that have to be destroyed or demonstrated against. The Reformation is not a call that the Word has to be changed. It is about Christ being sufficient. Don not indulge God by suggesting that you can contribute- our contribution – we brought sin. Christ has brought all- it’s all about Jesus. Let us kneel for Truth and not place ourselves and OUR NAMES as superior to GOD’S NAME. No place ourselves as judges of God when He alone has the right to judge us. Reformation is a call to repentance, a call to take the knee. We too often have refused to bow the knee, forgiveness is needed, it is our deepest need.
Look to Jesus, Who took the knee for us in the Garden of Gethsemane – “Not my will but thine be done.” Became a slave, his knees caved under the weight of the cross He bore for us. His knees could not endure the weight of pain as he hung on the cross for the sake of your sins and mine. He finished the task of saving us by His suffering, death and resurrection. He did not fail us, He met our deepest need, the forgiveness of sins. JESUS NEVER FAILS is the bookmark statement. Take the knee, confess His name, the name above every name.
Yes, there’s a time to take the knee by praying, preaching and printing the Good News so that others may join us kneeling before the Name of Jesus. And print so that every tongue and in every tongue the Name of Jesus is revered and referenced, His name is confessed.
We might today sigh and say- if only we had such a Reformation in our day. I’m here to tell you today that the Reformation is continuing, I have placed the evidence on this front pew, it’s books piled according to languages where the Reformation is happening. But first let me allude to this volume, which happens to be a facsimile of the book to be printed in December as a result of this circuit’s sponsorship- with your two year effort to generate $25,000 you are making it possible for us to put into print the Vietnamese Book of Concord. This is the Reformation happening in VN. The Reformation is happening in
· Sudan, no Lutheran church 20 years ago, today 150 cong and 140,000 membes
· Cambodia, no Lutheran church 10 years ago, Khmer Catechism, 35 cong, some 3,000 members
· Finland, Lutherans gave up Truth, new church body has formed, mostly young people, 50 cong, 2,000 members, mostly served by defrocked Lutheran pastors who stood for Truth and were removed from the state church of Finland
· Ethiopia, has just become largest Lutheran church in world, 8 million, now have Book of Concord in their language
· China, secret Lutheran house church, Lutheran literature being published and distributed
And a host of other book titles (885 total) so that the Reformation can continue through the printed page
· Germany- most significant event of the 500th anniv of the Ref. is what LHF has done, following the pattern set by Luther when he put the Bible into the language of his people, we have put the Catechism, which explains the Bible, into the language of the people who are filling up the empty Lutheran churches of Germany. LHF has published the Farsi Catechism, a language spoken by Iranians and Afhanistani people who are filling up the Lutheran churches of Germany. Hugo Gevers, Pastor of the Lutheran Church of Leipzig has had attendances of 700 and 900 as compared to 50 five years ago. THE WORD WORKS STILL TODAY as we work in 90 countries and in over 100 languages. We print so that every tongue and in every tongue the name of Jesus is honored
Take the knee in honor of His name
Take the knee and confess His name
Take the knee and declare His name by our witness in prayer, preaching and printing
The Reformation lives on in the lives of all children of the Refromation.
Lutheran Heritage Foundation-LHF
The WORD at WORK
Macomb, MI 48042