Reformation Sunday

Readings: Revelation 14:6-7 | Romans 3:19-28 | Matthew 11:12-19

Text: Matthew 11:12-19

Theme: The Reformation is about the natural beauty of hearing the Word of Christ in faith.

They’re on the side of your head, but they don’t often get much attention (unless something is wrong with them). But on this commemoration of the Reformation, let us focus on the human ear.

I. Different human ears:

a. The ear with the kind of piercings that would shock your grandmother. This is the Reformation understood as breaking away from the powers that be. Luther is the epitome of the “little guy” who stands up against the mighty and he triumphs. He is the German national hero who broke the chains of the Roman papacy and the Holy Roman Empire.

The “freedom” of the Reformation means that no one can stand in the way between me and God. This is the way I am, and God better accept me. No one can tell me how I am to worship, with all the anarchy that invites.

b. The ear with ear buds in. This is the freedom of the Reformation, to interpret the Bible on my own terms. You choose what comes in and cancel out any “noise.”  The Bible becomes a private, self-chosen book of belief. One of the sad outcomes was the magisterium was replaced with each individual Christian being his or her own “pope.” 

c. The ear with beautiful, tasteful gold earrings. Consider the impact of the Reformation on art. One can take pleasure in the music, visual arts, and architecture. J.S. Bach, one of the greatest musicians of the baroque period. Beautiful and colorful stained glass that glisten in the sun and fill the sanctuary with rich colors, depicting beautiful scenes. Grand sanctuaries that have beautiful chancels and high altars which fill one with awe. But while these all have pleasing aesthetics, if the focus is on the human achievement, the Gospel is missing.

This persists in our own day when church music is judged on the basis of how it makes you feel, more than what is being prayed or confessed in the words.

II. The ear, unadorned, unobstructed, in the beauty which God gave.

a. Our Lord says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  This is what the ear was made for: to receive the Word of God, and the heart to receive it in faith.

b. John & Elijah are evoked because they were instruments of the Lord directing His people back to the hearing of His Word in obedience and faith. Contrast Ahab and the Pharisee’s response to Elijah/John: “When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, ‘Is it you, you troubler of Israel?’” and “When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, 30 but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.” (1 Kings 18:17; Luke 7:29-30)

c. The Reformation was about this: The beauty of hearing the Word of God in faith. True freedom is given by this, not breaking earthly bonds. True understanding is given by the Holy Spirit on God’s terms, that we may repent and believe in Jesus, clinging to Him through all. True beauty springs from this Gospel, not the other way around.

III. The necessity for ear care.

a. Lest it be clogged with wax. Discernment is good just as ear wax keeps out foreign objects, but an excess can cause hearing loss. Dr. David Scaer: “I hate Lutheranism!”  A few examples:

i. The idolizing of Martin Luther and imitating him and quoting him excessively.

ii. The devotion to all things labelled Lutheran tradition, as in “This is the way we’ve always done it and how dare you question if the tradition is edifying or the interpretation is faithful to Scripture.”

III. Finally, “I learned that once upon a time in Catechism, and now I never need to learn again.”

IV. Lest the ear be neglected and dirty.

a. Magnifying the freedom of the Gospel can lead to trivializing the Word of God and treating the holy as profane. We must watch out for this in an age where all kinds of other traditions are criticized (especially since Christianity is in a villainized category today). Here, we do well to look to our fathers and mothers in the faith, who revered the Word of God as holy, saw the benefit of piety, and handed these rich practices to us in our own fleeting age.

~ The Reformation reminds us how all things depend on the faithful hearing of God’s Word. This is His gift to sinners, that with ears that hear, we may rejoice with tongues that confess, throats that sing, and lives that profess His grace and riches given to us. May the Lord who opens deaf ears, clothes us with pure garments, and renews our hearts so bless us in this true faith. In the Name + of Jesus.