Reformation Day Sermon – Law & Gospel: Living in the Tension

Full Text

One of the things ministers (at least Lutheran ministers) talk about all the time is what do you lead with. What I mean by that is this. The proclamation of the Lutheran is Law and Gospel. The law, in all its fierceness, says repent you poor miserable sinner. The Gospel announces the grace of God on all who do repent. The problem with that is followed to its human logical conclusion means being the human sandwhich-board walking down main street with ‘Repent-The Kingdom of God is Near’ painted on it. That may be the reductio ad absurdam of the the law proclamation, but it is rarely effective. It is my impression today, to get someone to hear the law rightly, that you almost have to sneak up on them. I think the culture assumes that the Gospel applies to them universally – we are all universalists when it comes to heaven. Jesus was anything but a universalist (Matt 7:13-14) and the entry gate on that narrow way is repentance. Stealing a line from a fellow circuit minister – “people know about Jesus, they don’t know Jesus.” Where is Martin Luther’s day the public perception about Jesus was a cruel tyrant (I think Luther actual used that term to descibe Him in Martin’s days in the cloister), and hence the society was ready to hear the gospel as it was already cowering under the law, today the public perception is one of the ever accepting Jesus – so accepting that he’s ok if you worship him under anygiven name, as long as you are true to yourself. Fostering a true encounter with Jesus means getting people to have a healthy fear of God first.