“Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
This Sunday we will celebrate Reformation Day and its recovery of the pure gospel of Jesus Christ given by the Word of God alone and not the traditions of man. We are justified – made right with God – by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone. This is true Christian freedom. This flies in the face of our self-delusion that on our own we are quite free, happy, and essentially good people. Even some of the Jews of Jesus’ day could say with a straight face, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone.” How could they forget four centuries of slavery in Egypt, subsequent exiles, and their current occupation by the Roman Empire?
How could we forget our own bondage to sin and death? Stated more positively: how can we keep fast the knowledge of our true freedom in the Son who makes us free indeed? Reformation Sunday is more than a celebration of our particular brand of Christianity. It is a regular recovery of Christian freedom. We are free in Christ alone. By Word and Sacrament God renews His promises in us. Luther’s catechism teaches about the church in the third article of the Creed, “In the same way [the Holy Spirit] calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.”
Happy Reformation Day, Bethesda!