So, what are Lutherans, exactly? You ever get that question? You've probably heard the answer "Catholic Lite." That's the one we hear and chuckle at because maybe we don't always know how to answer that question. Lutherans don't worship Martin Luther. We're not really Protestants like Baptists and Methodists. We have a liturgy and creeds but we aren't Roman Catholic. So how DO you answer that? When someone asks you, "What is a Lutheran?" or "What are Lutherans like?" or "What does it mean to be a Lutheran?" what can you say? Here's how you answer: To be a Lutheran is to be all about Jesus. That's the short and simple answer. Sometimes you need to expand on that so if the conversation keeps going you say: To be a Lutheran is to be all about Jesus who was crucified for our sins, rose the third day, and gives us His salvation through baptism, absolution, the Gospel and the Supper. And the reason we add those words is because we need to make clear to those who ask that the Jesus we believe in isn't just any Jesus. It's the Jesus who makes us free.
Martin Luther was not free. He was a monk and he could never confess his sins enough. His conscience always bothered him. For him, God was the angry Judge who was always looking over his shoulder and ready to throw him into hell. When Martin Luther read Romans and heard that there is a righteousness that is apart from the Law, he realized that true rightouesness comes through Jesus Christ. To put it another way: Luther realized, from God's Word, that he couldn't get rid of his sins but that Jesus already had! And he didn't have to make up for his sins, Jesus already paid for them. He didn't have to figure out what God was all about, Jesus shows us by His death and resurrection to save sinners. And Luther didn't have to try to find some assurance in his heart, Jesus already took care of that with rock solid, unchanging gifts: the water and word of Baptism, the pronouncement of holy absolution, the preaching of an unchanging Good News, and the body and blood of Jesus given to sinners to eat and drink. You see, Martin Luther wasn't free. His conscience was bound. Trapped. In prison. But Christ made him free with the Good News that Christ has done everything. And so Luther preached and proclaimed that. No strings attached. No conditions. No qualifications. No "You do your part and God will do His" nonsense. Just straight-up, what has been called 200-proof Gospel in Jesus Christ!
So if you talk to people around you. And if you reflect on your own life, you'll find two types of religious people. You are probably one or the other. There are those who despair. They worry that they have sinned too much. Messed up one too many times. Pulled a whopper so big that there is no way God will forgive them. The answer to that sort of thinking is Jesus. To that Jesus says, "The Son sets you free." But there are also those who side with the Pharisees. They think they are pretty good people. Their sins aren't that bad. They believe God loves them because they are doing OK in life. What's the answer to that? Same thing! Jesus, who teaches us through repentance and faith that without Him, we are doomed, but with Him, and because of Him, we are saved. If you think your sins are too much, then remember that Jesus has taken ALL of them away. And if you think you're a pretty good, worthy person, repent and believe that Jesus paid for that sin too! When it all comes down to it: it's not about you at all. It's about Jesus. On the cross. Empty tomb. Font. Altar. Pulpit. Book. This is what the Reformation was all about. It's why Luther taught what He taught. It's why there are Lutherans. And so the next time someone asks, "What's up with Lutherans?" now you have a simple, definitive answer: Lutherans are all about Jesus and Jesus is all about setting sinners free and giving them eternal life. Happy Reformation in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Sermon Topics: John