Sermon for Reformation Sunday
October 28, 2018
God Is Our Fortress
Did you hear that great roar earlier?! Back when that water splashed across Jeff’s head – the sound of swords clashing and winged cavalry lines coming together battle? Did you hear it? Did you hear the anguished cry of defeat and the opposing roar of victory? Maybe you didn’t hear very well but it was there. The hosts of heaven cheered louder than a Bo Sox crowd at a series win and the demonic hoard bellowed as they were trampled underfoot. For right there in that water was accomplished a win that exceeds all other wins and a defeat that will echo for eternity as Jeff was united to the Son of God in His death to sin and in His resurrection unto life. In that water, the devil experienced a defeat that he cannot escape as Jeff was ripped from his grasped and welcomed into the fortress city of our Creator and Protector.
Today we celebrate the anniversary of the Reformation. I suppose that is not an unusual thing for a Lutheran church but unlike what others may think, it is not a celebration about Martin Luther and truly has nothing to do with Luther, although he was a player, for it is a celebration of the Gospel; the very thing that was poured over the head of Jeff at the beginning of today’s service. It is a celebration of the victory of Jesus Christ over the devil and every primeval power that opposes God. We are thankful for the work of Martin Luther and that God chose him as the stalwart figure to rediscover the sweetness of God’s love and not to yield it, no matter what the pressure.
Today’s sermon is not based on any of the previous readings but upon Psalm 46 which is the inspiration for the hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. We will look at this Psalm in three parts.
1 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
Perhaps we can see why this Psalm was inspirational for Luther. When it seemed that no one could save from the powerful reach of Pope and emperor, it was God that was his refuge and the one in whom he found strength to endure. Come what may, Luther knew that his salvation was secure. No politics, whether secular or churchly, could rob from what Jesus had secured for him.
Some days it seems our world is coming apart with earthquake and hurricane, tsunami and tornado. Some times it seems that the entire creation has reached an apex of natural disaster and that we could be swallowed up at any minute. Amidst ever calamity of nature remains a fortress that stands firm. At the height of every earthly assault there remains a refuge to protect and to save. Beyond fear, even as we may be victim in times of trouble, God is present to carry us through and to save us from being victims to the sin that has wrought such disaster upon the creation.
Whether it be ice age or global warming, volcano or asteroid; even if the mountains literally crumble into the sea and the oceans roil against the land as if the elements themselves were at war, we have no reason to fear. For our God has provided for an eternal refuge from sin in His Son and the strength to stand amidst temptation by the power of His Spirit. That very real enemy of sin has been dealt a deadly blow and the answer to its destruction is in the baptismal words of the invocation, the very name of the God that rescues us from sin and has slew that enemy on this earthly battlefield in His Son’s life and death. In this triune name is refuge and strength.
4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
It was a perilous time during the Reformation. With the understanding of freedom in the Gospel misunderstood by so many, the peasants rose in rebellion against their princes and rulers; armies battled armies over religious views and the political ramifications of one’s conscience being captive to a gospel differing from others. Nation raged against nation, and kingdoms tottered and fell in the name of Christendom and for the sake of greed. But the Gospel river from which the Reformers drank made them glad and the God that dwelt in their midst was not moved. He was their fortress.
Many kingdoms have risen and fallen in the past five hundred years. There has been much warfare and death at the hands of armies that one day may be allies and the next enemies. Yet no army can lay siege to the fortress of the living God. No enemy, earthly or spiritual can breach those walls or scale its ramparts. No king, no emperor, no dictator, or instrument of man’s destructive power can breach that fortress surrounding your heart of faith built on Jesus Christ. Where His Word dwells, the river cannot be stopped. It will not dry up and the hope it provides sustains against the long siege.
As you know, it is not the earthly powers that remain at the walls harassing for the long term, but the devil and his army of fallen spirits keep up the siege. They rage and holler. They shriek their war cries against a God that has spoken judgment against them. Their temptations and accusations are not heard within the walls of God’s fortress, for where God has justified the sinner, none can accuse. It is not the Christian that clings to the Gospel in faith that melts. It is the old evil foe that totters and crumbles at the voice of God and at the name of Jesus. He is muted in the very words of the baptismal invocation spoken over those who trust that his head has been crushed under the heal of Jesus.
8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
For those that are familiar with life for Luther, even as a monk and priest, will know that he did not find solace in God. There was no rest for him until he learned of the Gospel and the manner in which God has reconciled Himself with man. It was no longer a matter of what Luther or any other mortal human might do to please God, it was only a matter of what the divine man, Jesus had done to please God. He is the only one that brought an end to man’s war with death. He is the one that has destroyed the weapons of death and death itself when He walked away from it by rising.
The real victory of longevity and the peaceful life cannot be found in science and medicine. The answer is not in diet or exercise nor in cryogenics and reincarnation. They are only the weapons of our futile war against death. Weapons that cease to be and are broken under the God’s death knell against death – resurrection and life in Jesus name. It was such life that has been guaranteed for each of you as was for Jeff in his Baptism this morning. For it is to Jesus and His resurrection that each of you have been united. It is a final word of God against this last enemy. Such a word should put you at ease as it did Luther.
Your strife is o’er, your battle done; now is the victor’s triumph won; now the song of praise begun (LSB 464:1). Death has been overcome and life is yours now, not by struggle and fight done by you, but through faith in Him who has destroyed death and now offers you rest.
It is the same Gospel of Jesus Christ that allowed the Reformers to rest; that allowed them to be still and to know the God of Jacob, the Lord of hosts. When His people; when you are still and you trust that Jesus has done all that is necessary for you and your salvation, God is exalted in the earth, and heaven rejoices. Do you remember that great sound that you echoed following the placing of God’s name upon Jeff? It was that definitive claim of “Yes, yes, it shall be so.” The “Amen” that is the Christian’s response to what God declares.
The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. AMEN.