A homily preached by Pastor Robert Schaefer
First and Spring Creek Lutheran Churches
Holy Cross – September 14, 2003
Friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
I’d like to begin my sermon this morning with a slight departure from the norm, and share with you a few things that have me excited. As you may know, I’m a Lutheran, born and bred, cradle to pew. As a matter of fact, when I grew older and began to learn who Martin Luther was and what he taught, stood for, and believed, I realized that I would have chosen to be a Lutheran, even if I hadn’t been “born” one! I came to believe that there was something important about this pastor who lived 500 years ago, and about his insights into the Christian life, something important enough that I was proud to call myself by his name: Lutheran.
As you may not know, Martin Luther is hot stuff this year. Just a few weeks ago PBS stations across the country aired a two-hour documentary on Luther and the way his beliefs changed the world. Down at the Melberg bookstore in Moorhead, one of the hottest-selling items is the Martin Luther bobblehead doll. And in just shy of two weeks, a major motion picture called Luther will hit the movie theaters, the first time Martin Luther’s story has been told on the big screen in fifty years. This movie promises to carry on the renewing and reforming tradition of Martin Luther by introducing him to a new world of people who truly need to hear his voice.
I’d like to take a few minutes to share with you a videotape that arrived in the mail this week. In it you’ll find a sneak peak at this exciting new film.
<show video: 3 min.>
Who was Martin Luther? Why did he matter 500 years ago? Why does he still matter today?
If you’ve ever wondered why we call ourselves Lutherans and what difference being a Lutheran makes, I’d like to invite you to our adult forum this fall. We’re taking a bit of a detour from the material we studied last spring in order to jump on the Martin Luther bandwagon. We’ll be kicking off the forum with a trip to see the new Luther film after church, two weeks from today. I don’t have all the details worked out yet, but you can plan on enjoying the movie in Fargo and talking about it over a bite to eat at Perkins afterward.
Then, two weeks later, we’ll start to dig into the life of Martin Luther. In the wake of the movie’s release, several new books have been published to tie into what you see on the big screen. I’ve chosen one book, Luther: Biography of a Reformer, to be our textbook this fall. As we read the story of Luther’s life together, one chapter at a time, we’ll start to learn what he believed and what made him a great teacher of the church. We’ll talk about what it means to be Lutherans today even as we learn about our history. We’ll spend time watching movies and reading some of Luther’s most important writings together, and we’ll honor the scriptures that Martin Luther loved so much by taking the time to read God’s Word and letting it guide our conversation about Dr. Luther. We’ll even sing a song or two written by old Martin Luther himself.
In short, we’re going to have a good time learning about our history as Lutherans, and thinking about how Martin Luther’s ideas might change the world again in our time. This is not going to be a study for anyone who enjoys being bored to tears! But if you’re curious about what God has done in the past, or excited about what he’s doing now, this just might be the study you’ve been looking for! I’d like to invite you all to study the life and teachings of Martin Luther with me this year.
Today is the first day of Sunday School, and Martin Luther was a great teacher of the church to people of all ages. Today is also Holy Cross Sunday, and if there is one thing we can learn from Martin Luther today it is the value of the cross of Jesus Christ. Luther once said, “The cross alone is our theology.” Think of that! Here is a doctor of the church, a man who has studied all of the great thinkers and theologians produced over a thousand or more years. Here is a man who has not only read all 150 psalms, but has memorized them. Here is a man who has not simply studied the Bible, but has translated the entire book, cover to cover. Here is a man who has knows all about all of the great things that God has done in, for and through his people, and yet he can confidently say that none of it matters at all without the cross of Jesus Christ. The Holy Cross.
It is in this cross that we are saved, friends. As important as teachers are, they cannot save you. As wise as theologians are, don’t turn to them for help on the last day. As helpful as pastors may be to have around, don’t ever for an instant believe that we can take away your sins and give you new life. As powerful as heroes like Martin Luther can be, unless they point us to the Holy Cross as he did, they are worthless in the end.
Because it was on that cross that the great battle for you and me was fought and won. It was on that cross that the Son of God died to rise again, and it was with his cross that you were marked at your baptism. The cross of Christ is his claim on you, and it is his promise that because he lives, you too shall live. The cross alone is our theology, Martin Luther said, because only the cross has the power to save us.
And so even as we look ahead to learning about our great teacher Martin Luther, we look for our salvation to the cross that he has always lifted high, for all the world to see. Thanks be to God for his gift of faithful teachers, and thanks be to God for the great gift of his Holy Cross. Amen.