October 30, 2016 – Reformation Sunday
by Pastor Pete Scheele
Grace and peace to you as you live in the assurance of God’s love, from God, our Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Each Sunday at the start of my sermon I share with you the grace and peace of God along with a short summary of my goal for that sermon, like I just did. This morning I want to take a closer look at the grace and peace that I am wishing for each of you, along with Psalm 46 and the most famous hymn that Martin Luther ever wrote, ‘A Mighty Fortress.’
The grace and peace that I wish that each of us here and all over the world to have is to hold tightly to the grace and peace that comes from letting God go to work in our lives to reform us to be His sons and daughters. This is the goal of God, our Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. This reformation of our life through God takes place when we let the Holy Spirit go to work in our lives to take and hold onto to the words of Psalm 46 and the words that Martin Luther wrote in the hymn ‘A Mighty Fortress.’
In the midst of all the trials, pain and suffering of this world the shepherd, warrior and King David, through God, tells us in Psalm 46 that, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1) Martin Luther in 1529 understood what King David was feeling as he was dealing with all the trials, pains and suffering that went along with leading the people of Wittenberg and Germany back to God’s Word, and expressed those feelings in this way, “A mighty Fortress is our God, A trusty Shield and Weapon; He helps us free from every need That hath us now overtaken.” (1a)
For Martin Luther in 1529 and the people he served in Germany, the Wittenberg castle and especially the Wittenberg Castle church was their Fortress, their Refuge not just when armies tried to take their lives but when the army of the devil was invading their lives. Where is your fortress and refuge when the armies of the devil and the world try to over whelm you and capture your life? The world that we live in tells us that our fortress, our refuge and strength is in ourselves, our possessions and our country. But is our fortress ever really found there, because we get weaker and weaker as we get older, even when we try to do all that the doctors tell us to do to remain healthy and strong. Do our possessions really help us out in times of troubles or do they cause us to focus on things that would distract us from the very source of our help. Martin Luther found that God’s Word, in all its truth and purity, was both a trusty shield and weapon that would deflect all of Satan’s arrows from striking us and was the sword that not only fought off all our advisories but was the weapon that they feared the most. Yes, as we let God reform our lives through His Word and Sacraments we find that we are freed from all that our sins, the lies of the world and all that the devil would try to do to us. David through the reformation of God in his live tells us, “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.” (Ps. 46:2-3)
Oh, we all have had those day when it feels like the earth is giving way under us and we are being washed away with the tide. In those times, we need to remember what Martin Luther reminds us of as he writes, “The old evil Foe Now means deadly woe; Deep guile and great might Are his dread arms in fight; On Earth is not his equal. 2. With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected; But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected.” (1b- 2a)
In the process of letting God reform our lives we have to remember that it’s not our neighbors, friends or enemies that we are really fighting here on this earth, but the devil, the world and our own sinful self. In the process of letting God reform our lives we have to remember where our source of life comes from. It’s not from our own strength and might, it’s not from the world’s technology and power, but as King David put it in Psalm 46, “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.” (Ps. 46:4-6)
Nature shows us that water is the very source of life, both here in this world and for all eternity. The true river of life comes from God and it not only gives us life but it restores us to life when we have depleted of our strength because of what the Old Evil Foes has thrown against us. Jesus’ very words are that source of life and living water that Martin Luther talks about in the 3rd verse of his hymn, as he writes, “Though devils all the world should fill, All eager to devour us. We tremble not, we fear no ill, They shall not overpower us. This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none, He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him.” (3)
The deed is done because God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to not only come down from His heavenly throne to take on sin, death and the devil for us, but to take all our sins upon Himself and make the full and final payment for them all. Reforming our lives mean giving thanks to God for taking our sins away from us and let Him have them so that we can live in His Love and not in the death that we have caused by our sins. Reforming our lives means changing our thinking about the debt we owe to God, for Christ has taken them all upon Himself because He is the only one who has the ability to make the payment for us. Reforming our lives is constantly remembering that, ‘The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.’ (Ps. 46:7)
Now here is where we all need to have some time to get a clear understanding of God’s Word so that we can clearly understand what God is saying to us through King David’s words. Do you remember who Jacob is from the Old Testament? Jacob was one of the twin sons born to Isaac through Rebekah. Esau was born first and as Esau was brought from the womb Jacob was holding onto his heel. Jacob wouldn’t let go of the birthright, that God had given to Isaac’s children, and later when Jacob was coming back home to meet his bother again after going away in fear of his bother taking His life, he physically wrestled with God and wouldn’t let go. We are told in Genesis, ‘And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have wrestled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”’ (Gen. 32:24-30)
Names in the Old Testament have a meaning and to truly understand what God is talking to us about we need to know and remember what the name means. The name Jacob means, ‘he holds onto and will not let go.’ The name Israel means, ‘he wrestles with God.’ In the reformation of our lives we need to be like Jacob and never let go of God heel, His cross. For it was on the cross that Satan bruised the heel of God and Jesus died for each of us, but on the third day Jesus rose from the grave to give us the assurance that all our sins are taken care of. Yes, we are the people of Israel in this world today, we will have to be the people of God who wrestle with Him and His Word in our lives daily, because that gives us the freedom that God wants us to have. As we wrestle and hold onto God’s Word in our lives we will be reformed as children of God. Oh, like many of God’s Children Martin Luther knew what it meant to holding onto and wrestling with God and His Word. In fact, Martin Luther expressed what it means to hold onto and wrestle with God as he writes in his hymn, “The Word they still shall let remain Nor any thanks have for it; He’s by our side upon the plain With His good gifts and Spirit. And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife, Let these all be gone, They yet have nothing won; The Kingdom ours remaineth.” (4) Our Lord God is with us, as we hold tightly to His Word, for it is through His Word that we find the mighty fortress that will protect our lives and bring us to be with Him for all eternity.
Yes, my hope for all of us on this Reformation Sunday and always is that we would let God and His Word be our mighty fortress, for it is the only true shield and weapon in this world that frees us from every problem, pain and suffering that will try to overtake us and while God is reforming your life don’t forget to share your mighty fortress with your family, friends, neighbors and even your enemies always. For it’s the only way they will find a mighty Fortress against the old evil foe in their lives. Amen.
1God 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.
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.
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.
A Mighty Fortress is our God
- A mighty Fortress is our God, A trusty Shield and Weapon; He helps us free from every need That hath us now overtaken.
The old evil Foe Now means deadly woe; Deep guile and great might Are his dread arms in fight; On Earth is not his equal.
- With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected; But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is. Of Sabaoth Lord, And there’s none other God; He holds the field forever.
- Though devils all the world should fill, All eager to devour us.
We tremble not, we fear no ill, They shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none, He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him.
- The Word they still shall let remain Nor any thanks have for it; He’s by our side upon the plain With His good gifts and Spirit.
And take they our life, Goods, fame, child and wife, Let these all be gone, They yet have nothing won; The Kingdom our remaineth.