October 28, 2018: Reformation

Let us pray: Dear Savior, on this glorious day we recall all those heroes of faith who have walked the pathway of righteousness.  We especially remember what made them into great heroes: faith alone in You!  So, today, to You belongs all the glory, honor, and praise for working out our salvation!  May we never tire of hearing Your Word of truth and never tire of living in its freedom!  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, OUR REFORMATION KING!

TEXT:  Hebrews 5: 1-10

Dearly Beloved Children of God’s Reformation:

What makes a human being great?  Put another way, who would you walk across the street for in order to shake their hand?  Who is worth your time and energy?  Who is worth your praise?  I suppose it all goes back to defining what makes a person great, doesn’t it?

The human race defines greatness is various ways.  Some people are awed by power.  Some by money.  Others by celebrity status.  And that status often comes from some act of heroism or selfless conduct.  I thought long and hard about who I would walk across the street for and shake their hand.  It wouldn’t be for any billionaire alive today.  Few politicians would be worth it.  Hollywood stars?—None.  No, it would have to be someone like a Medal of Honor recipient, or another Abe Lincoln or George Washington.

I’ve already decided on one of the lines on my tombstone.  It is this: Forgiveness Conquers Power.  To me, that’s the bottom line to human greatness.  It’s the bottom line to Christianity.  And it finds total completion in Jesus Christ.  For in Him alone did and does Forgiveness Conquer Power!

I

Dr. Luther epitomized that Christian truth.  Here he was an obscure German monk, who turned the world upside down!  To the human eye he was quite powerless, yet he was given God’s forgiveness and restored the truth of such forgiveness to the world.  Thereby through Luther, God conquered human power.  There is no yearly remembrance of Emperor Charles V’s life (Luther’s antagonist),  but today the Reformation is celebrated around the world and has been for 501 years!

Our text alludes to another person who epitomized Forgiveness Conquering Power.  That person was Aaron, the first high priest of the Jews.  As high priest he stood as a go-between, a mediator, between God and man.  He offered up sacrifices to God for the people’s sins.  In this role he was a type or forerunner of Jesus Christ.  For all those sacrifices were physical reminders of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us.  So, listen to our lesson again.  “Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.  This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people.  No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was.  So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest.  But God said to him, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’  And he says in another place, ‘You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”

II

This passage takes us back to the OT and Abraham conquering the 5 kings of Sodom.  After the battle a shadowy figure comes to Abraham to bless him.  Abraham in turn gives this King: Melchizedek, praise and honor and also a 10th of all the captured spoils of war.  So, exactly who is Melchizedek?  First, his name literally means: King of Salem, or King of Righteousness.  Second, he is identified as a Priest who honors the Most High God.  Third, Abraham worships Him.  Fourth, Abraham gives Him a tithe of the spoils.  And fifth, Melchizedek blesses him.  Some have said that Melchizedek was Noah’s son, Shem, still alive at a very old age.  Others think he was of an unknown branch of ancient Christianity.  But, if you take everything together, isn’t it obvious that Melchizedek was pre-incarnate Jesus Christ?  Isn’t Christ alone deserving of the honors Abraham bestowed?  And by his very name he upholds the truth that Forgiveness (Peace with God) conquers power.

But there’s more!  “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”

III

All truly great humans are: forgiving, self-sacrificing, and humble in their own persona.  All truly great humans pray for others, share with others—especially God’s truth of salvation in Jesus Christ, and ultimately owe everything to God alone for His goodness towards them.  So, yes, I’d walk across the street to shake Dr. Luther’s hand along with St. Paul, Abraham of old, the various disciples of Christ, and many other hand-picked Christian leaders.  But I don’t have to walk across the street to do any of that!  In fact, I’m privileged to shake your hand each week.  For by God’s grace alone you have been hand-picked by the Almighty to do marvelous things with your life!  You are a child of the Reformation!  You have been given grace from the Almighty, hand-picked to be His earthly ambassador.  One of the singular truths of the Reformation is that every Christian is part of the priesthood of all believers. There are no ranks, no hierarchy, within God’s kingdom.  God isn’t impressed by human power or human wealth of accolades.  He is only impressed with the humble heart which clings to Christ’s accolades won on the cross for us.  On this Reformation Sunday we join with Abraham of old in celebrating and honoring our ordination by faith into Melchizedek’s priesthood!  That fact proves that although the world may not call us great, God does!  And it’s all because: Forgiveness Conquers Power!  Power always dies when the one holding it expires.  But forgiveness lives on because its Source, Jesus Christ, arose from death and lives forever!   So, yes, the epitaph on my tomb will someday read: Forgiveness Conquers Power because it sums up the truth of the Reformation and my own faith.   Amen