Due to a technical difficulty, only the Readings were able to be recorded.
The Festival of the Reformation (Observed)
Romans 3:21-28; Matthew 12:11-15
The Great Exchange
In Lutheran theology we often talk about the “Great Exchange,” Jesus Christ taking our place, taking on the sin of the world, enduring the punishment all us sinners rightly deserved and then giving us His forgiveness, His righteousness. God on the cross and man in heaven.
But this great exchange was the second great exchange. In Romans 1 Paul discusses the first great exchange that necessitated the second:
, although [man] God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Rom 1:21-25)
Of course, this is about Adam and Eve and all their descendants exchanging the worship, the fear, love, and trust of God for the worship, fear, love, and trust of the creation, exchanging the true God for themselves as god. They exchanged the truth of God as loving and involved in His creation for the lie that God was holding out on them, hat God was denying pleasures to His creation because He wanted them to go without true happiness. And we know where this has landed us and our world. At one point the ungodliness was so overwhelming that God destroyed all the ungodliness with the Flood.
But man was no longer in the image and likeness of God. From the Fall, all children born of man and woman are in the image and likeness of sinners, sinners who, whether they know it or not, whether they like it or not, whether they acknowledge it or not, long for a return to paradise, to the worship of the Creator rather than the creation, to the intimate communion with God in Eden in the cool of the day. Adam and Eve , once they realized their sin, longed for reunification with God. So in His divine forbearance God laid out the plan: In the fullness of time a daughter of Eve would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit one who would undo the enmity between God and man, one who would crush Satan’s head, one who would undo the curse, destroy this ruined world and usher in the new heavens and the new earth. God desired this to be what drove, what sustained His people until the Redeemer would come and execute the new Great Exchange, would come with the shout, the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet of God (1Thes 4.16). God desired His children to teach this promise diligently to their children, to talk of them when they sat in their house, when they walked by the way, when they lay down, and when they rose up, to bind them as a sign on their hand, and as frontlets between their eyes, and to write them on the doorposts of their house and on their gates (Dt 6.6-9).
But until the Last Day, our first great exchange still lingers, still affects our mind and heart, our reason and our senses. Satan still knows our weaknesses, the chinks in our armor, and tries to use them to separate us once again from God. The best way he can do this is not by appearing evil, to be obvious about his end goal. He succeeds by disguising himself as an angel of light and his false apostles and deceitful workers appear as apostles of Christ. They prowl around, not with an eternal Gospel, but the damnation of works, of self-redemption, and of working and earning your way back into heaven—which, of course, is impossible. Bur in our weakness we so often fall prey to this so called “gospel of works,” which is no Gospel at all. Satan has, in time past and even in our own day, clouded the light of Jesus and we have been blinded by the darkness to think that there is some allure in this earning of righteousness, of not needing the second, the true Great Exchange. This has been preached in churches of various denominations, times, and places. But God, in His great mercy and love for sinners, has always maintained the Gospel of Jesus Christ taking our place and freely dispensing His forgiving work of cross and grave. As long as the Word of God, which endures forever, is available, an angel will be flying in the midst of heaven with an everlasting Gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people (Rev 14.6).
Today, as we commemorate the Festival of the Reformation, we are not here to have a mere celebration of being theological descendants of Martin Luther, to have a pride festival that we’re Lutherans, somehow making us better than everyone else. To turn this into a Pharisaical,” I thank You, God, that I am not like other men” holiday is to miss the point, to forget what we prayed for in the Kyrie: the peace from above and the unity of all. Today we give thanks to God for maintaining that angel in midair with the eternal Gospel to proclaim. We give thanks to God for Luther, that one particular angel, but we give thanks, more importantly, for the angels of every time and place who have preached the Gospel of the great exchange, of our fall into sin, but Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, taking our place on the cross and freely giving to us, His undeserving children, the forgiveness He won.
As we give thanks to God for His saving Gospel, for being justified by faith, apart from works of the Law, we pray that the Holy Spirit would safeguard this Gospel, keeping it free from the infection of sin and the devil, and that He would spread its saving news to the ends of the earth until the last soul is saved and Jesus returns in glory on the Last Day.
Salvation unto us has come by God’s free grace and favor.” This is the glorious Gospel of Reformation Day. We haven’t come together to celebrate Lutheranism and honor ourselves, but we are here to hear the saving Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We hear this Gospel as we remember that we dwell in the Church Militant, the Church that must, for a time, endure the attacks of Satan. “Though with a scornful wonder the world sees us oppressed, by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,” God has set watchmen who guard against the sad divisions of Satan, watchmen who never hold their peace, proclaiming “‘Surely your Salvation is coming;’ soon your weeping shall be replaced with song, ‘and the great Church victorious shall be the Church at rest.’”
Jesus tells us that “the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence.” Just a few chapters from now in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus will give the reassurance that the gates of hell cannot prevail over the Church. Even though “the kingdom ours remaineth,” it doesn’t mean it’s going to be a smooth ride. What does it mean that the Kingdom suffers violence? Certainly it means that we have enemies from without, people who cannot stand that the Kingdom exists, that we as congregations exist. They want any semblance of Christianity wiped out. That is violence against the Kingdom. But the type of violence Jesus discusses is doctrinal violence. The days ushered in by John the Baptist were the days of the public ministry of Jesus. He was the voice crying in the wilderness, the one making ready the way. But there were many who rejected Jesus. They knew who He was. There was no question in the minds of the Pharisees and the rest of the Jewish establishment. They know John is the last of the prophets. They know Jesus is the promised Messiah, the one who fulfills every prophecy spoken in the Old Testament. But they will not believe. The truth is plainly spoken to them, but they reject it and then try to destroy the Christ. The Kingdom of Heaven suffers this violence of false doctrine.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.