SERMON FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF END TIME
REFORMATION SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2017
REFORMATION RECONSIDERATION Jeremiah 18:1-11
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it. “Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.’
The first of the End Time Sundays in the Church Year is dedicated to remembering Luther’s Reformation that began at the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Ger. 95 Theses were used to encourage the church leaders and political leaders of the time to recognize that selling indulgences was wrong. Martin Luther was sure the leaders would want to know. They didn’t. Yes, people were buying pieces of paper that they thought would give them the forgiveness of sins. Luther knew that was taking the focus off of Jesus and giving the people an idea that was completely false. You can’t buy the forgiveness of sins. The leaders of the church of Rome needed to fit into the planned mold that God had for the Church. They wanted a different mold that all but ignored Jesus. Luther’s Reformation was an attempt to let people see the truth God wanted them to see, the truth the Bible reveals. It was not very popular with those leaders, but it was the work of God through Martin Luther.
Unfortunately, there are millions of people who call themselves Lutherans who really don’t know or maybe even care about what Luther fought for. We need another Reformation. But it is not just those people out there it is we who need to examine ourselves to see whether we need a reformation too. Jeremiah will lead us in that examination, REFORMATON RECONSIDERATION. God decides the shape he wants. We need to fit God’s mold. Consider whether you’re in the right shape.
1. This is a simple audio-visual aid that God wanted Jeremiah to witness. It was just a matter of watching a man making clay pots. The potter is making pots. He knows what he wants it to look like. It doesn’t come out the way he wants it to look. All he had to do was take the same clay and start over. That way he could have a pot that was what he wanted so he could use it or sell it or whatever. I’m sure you get the point. The clay on his wheel doesn’t tell him how to do his job. Other people don’t tell him how to do his job. Even Jeremiah didn’t go there to tell him how to do his job. All the prophet did was watch. As he did he learned that the potter was the boss. Do you see the lesson he was learning? Do you see the lesson he wanted Judah to learn? We need to learn it too. God formed his people, the chosen people of Israel to be what he wanted them to be. God intended for the world to see what his perfect undeserved love looks like. That’s not what God’s people wanted. They wanted to be what they wanted to be, not what God wanted them to be.
Let’s imagine that we are in Germany around 1517. Hopefully we will see some similarities even though 500 years have gone by. Let’s look specifically at what is happening to religion in general and Christianity in particular. Religion was a way of life, much more for them than for us but there was still something missing. God’s Word was important but it wasn’t a final authority. Christ was important but so was Mary and a lot of saints and the authority was popes and councils. That was not what God wanted and God decides the shape he wants. The center of the focus is Jesus Christ. People are still born thinking that any relationship that I want to have with God has to begin with my move toward him. That won’t work. Blind, dead, enemies of God don’t take steps that get any closer to God. God chooses us, we would never choose God. God decide the shape he wants. We need to fit God’s mold.
2. Do you remember what happened when the potter didn’t like the way the pot he was making turned out? That shape was unacceptable to him. Luther saw a church that wasn’t shaped the way God wanted it to be shaped. He saw a religion based on people, politics, money, and a constant demand to get more out of people than they could give. The church was telling people about rules that were beyond what God required and at the same time disregarding the burdened consciences of the people God entrusted to their spiritual care. The end result was a Christless church with burdened consciences that were offered no relief. Luther was one of them and his conscience worked better than most.
In our day we might wish that consciences worked better and that includes ours. It’s easy to get pretty numb to what is happening around us. Sometimes we can get shocked but after a few of those shocks you can’t feel it anymore. Things have gotten worse and you didn’t even notice. Luther was focused on the law of God on his way to understanding the gospel. The law condemned him. It condemns us too. The One true God whom we have offended is the only One who can free us from that condemnation. That is what he wants for us. That is the way God shapes us to his mold.
3. As Jeremiah concludes his story he talks about God’s right to reconsider what he is doing. He can reconsider his plans. If people don’t want to fit into the plans he has for them they can lose what he has in mind for them. That’s what happened to Judah. That is what happened in the church at Luther’s time. When you take your eyes off what really makes a person a Christian you lose what God wants you to have. When we begin to think that we can contribute something to what Christ has done we lose. When we know our sin and we feel our own guilt and go anywhere but to Jesus to fix the problem you lose what God wants you to have. When anything takes the place that belongs to Jesus, when anything speaks with more authority than God’s Word, we lose what God wants us to have.
I’m sure we can look out there and find plenty of people who need a REFORMATON RECONSIDERATION. Do we? Do we have the courage simply to say that Jesus is the only reason we can expect anything good from God? Do we have the insight to see what happens when wander away from the Word of God? Do we have the courage to say on the basis of what God’s Word says, Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me. It is time for REFORMATON RECONSIDERATION. God decides the shape he wants. We need to fit God’s mold. Consider whether you’re in the right shape.