Your Testimonies before Kings — Reformation Day sermon

augsburg-confessionTitle: Your Testimonies Before Kings

Text: Ps 119:46

Reformation Day (Observed), October 26, 2014

Prior to the Lutheran Church there was no denominational church in western Christendom. There was simply the Medieval Church, sometimes called the Church Catholic. You were either a member of the Church Catholic or, you were a pagan. There were only two options.

An Augustinian Monk named Martin Luther began to see from Scripture that the teachings of the Medieval Church were not in line with Scripture. Over the course of time the first church to be formed in the West was the Lutheran Church.

Many cite the founding of the Lutheran Church in 1517 when Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the church door in Wittenberg. Others cite the writing of the Small Catechism in 1529. Perhaps the most fundamental formation of the Lutheran Church occurred on June 25, 1530 when Lutheran Princes, that is laymen, presented their theological writing called the Augsburg Confession to representatives of the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy.

The second church formed in the West was the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Church embraced in total the theology of the Medieval Church. The Roman Church was defined and formed with the completion of the Articles of Trent in 1563. The Articles of Trent were written specifically to refute Lutheranism.

Lutheran Princes, that is laypeople, told representatives of the Emperor and the Pope what they believed, taught and confessed. They relied on the promise from Psalm 119:46, “I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame.” We just confessed these words in our Introit.

Emperor Charles V and his brother Ferdinand, the King of Austria, met with the Lutheran Princes. They forbade Lutheran preaching in the city of Augsburg during the meeting. Emperor Charles the V commanded the Lutherans to attend the Corpus Christi festival the next day where the body of Christ in the host is paraded throughout the city. Corpus Christi is Latin and it means, Body of Christ. This is the name of a city in Texas. However, Jesus told us to take and eat, take and drink for the forgiveness of one’s sins. Jesus did not say, “parade about the town with the bread—the body of Christ—held aloft on a poll.

When the Lutherans heard this demand from Emperor Charles V a layman George Margrave of Brandenburg spoke, saying, “Before I let anyone take from me the Word of God and ask me to deny my God, I will kneel and let them strike off my head.” Subsequently ALL the Lutheran Princes in attendance knelt before the Emperor and stretched out their necks.

Remember the opening words of our Introit—from Psalm 119:46?

P: I will speak of your testimonies before kings, [O Lord,] C: and shall not be put to shame.

Whether it was in the Old or New Testament the baptized testified about Jesus before kings. I suppose at times the testimony of Christ has been shared on a golf course, my location of preference. But, more often than not such testimonies were given by Christians who were heading off to face lions—Daniel; fiery furnaces—Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego—or, they were to be beheaded like the John the Baptist and countless others were shackled by chains and handcuffs. St. Paul waited to speak to Caesar from a prison cell.

Testimonies of Christ were proclaimed. Anything contrary to the 10 Commandments was labeled sin, not a new insight from sociology or any scientific discipline. And the motivation for this was and always must be love. Love of the sinner that the terrors of conscience drive this person to forsake his craftiness and ability and cling solely to the mercy of Christ. Remember when we cling to Christ’s mercy we forsake our sin, we do not justify and continue in sin.

In both Testaments the Holy Spirit clearly says that the majority of Christians were;

not wise according to worldly standards,

not powerful,

and not many were of noble birth (1 Cor 1:26).

That being the case, how then can kings, princess, and the elite hear the gospel for normally there is not much interaction between these two groups. Jesus in his own mysterious way brings these two groups together. Jesus does so that those who are wise, powerful, and noble may hear of a foolishness, weakness, and commonness that saves the world: the death of Christ and his resurrection on the third day all for the forgiveness of sins. As the Psalmist has said, “I will speak of your testimonies before kings, [O Lord,] and shall not be put to shame” (Ps 119:46)

Jesus is working out the mystery of his will all the time. Have you kept abreast of what is happening in our nation’s fourth largest city? If you haven’t don’t beat yourself up for the mainstream press isn’t covering it or, has been slow to do so—no surprise there.

Here’s the backstory: The Lesbian Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, and City Council passed an anti-discrimination LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender) Ordinance that by law now says: women who feel more comfortable as men may use the men’s restroom and men, who feel more comfortable as women may use the ladies rest room.

Houston, we have a problem. The good people of the city were dismayed and upset. A City Ordinance states public redress is allowed when more than 18,000 signatures are collected. With over 55,000 signed signatures the Mayor and City Hall threw out the petition for whatever reason. This is when the firestorm erupted.

And now the Mayor and City Hall have subpoenaed sermons and all forms of communication from five Houston pastors. From First Things magazine we read:

 A big-time law firm took on the case to defend the city of Houston. It then used the usual shock-and-awe tactics of Big Law, which in this case meant subpoenas designed to beat the adversary into submission. Thus the insanely broad demand for all sermons, memos and so forth that mention homosexuality. In short, this is not a city-initiated fishing expedition. Instead, it’s a “how-dare-you-challenge-the-Establishment” punch in the gut.[1]

This discrimination is being promoted by those who are anti-discrimination—imagine that—and it is a political tactic meant to silence opposition and free speech. This subpoena has a chilling effect upon those who disagree with the State. The citizenry will now be concerned whether they too will investigated with threats of court if they advance a referendum, permitted by city charter, of which the government does not approve.

The Mayor’s latest ruling is totalitarian and coercive for it tramples the Frist Amendment right to free political and religious speech. In the Apocalypse the thirteenth chapter St. Paul speaks of apostate government as that beast which rises from the sea (Rev 13:1-10) making league with the apostate church—that beast rising from the earth (Rev 13:11-18)—to promote things which are not holy or right.

As always when advancing sin, anti-discrimination laws are a one way street. To be sure pastors hold a public office and everything done by pastors short of Private Confession and Absolution is public. So, pastors should be eager to speak of Christ’s testimonies before Mayor’s, City Council, and kings. To that effect there is a call in social media for pastors around the country to send to the Mayor’s office their sermons and communication on homosexuality. And so on Monday (Oct., 20th) of this past week I sent to the Houston’s Mayor’s Office two articles I wrote on homosexuality which appeared in the Henning and Perham, MN newspapers two years ago this October. This is done not to be a show-off, or be funny.

I sent my articles to advocate for my weaker brothers and sisters, and the next generation. For I want them and all to have the freedom to practice their faith without looking over their shoulder in fear. I, and many other pastors and lay people are doing so to fight against the totalitarian tactics of Houston’s Mayor and City Hall.

Martin Niemoeller was a Lutheran pastor in Berlin who stood up to the totalitarian regime of Adolf Hitler. Like the Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, Hitler became angered by Niemoeller’s non-conformist sermons which brought religion into public life. Hitler had Niemoeller arrested in 1937 in attempt to silence him. Niemoeller was brought to court and sentenced seven months in prison. Then Hitler ordered him arrested again, and Niemoeller spent the next seven years in concentration camps. Before he died in 1984 he frequently traveled the United States and ended his speeches with these words.

 In Germany, the Nazis first came for the communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t Jewish. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Finally, they came for me, but there was no one left to speak up.

Or, hear this quote from Ben Franklin at the signing of the Declaration of Independence which is also applicable.

 We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.

But also the motivation is and always should be love for the sinner. We are called as Christians by Jesus to love the neighbor regardless of what pet sins they have embraced. Could it just be that Jesus in his own mysterious will is working the situation so that those

not wise according to worldly standards,

not powerful,

and those not… of noble birth (1 Cor 1:26)

might be given opportunity to speak of Christ to kings, (Ps 119:46) to Mayors and the elite, that they may hear that the wages of sin is death, and the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ (Rom 6:23). May the Reformation continue this day and always. Amen.

[1] R. R. Reno, “Gay rights and Ideology,” First Things <http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2014/10/gay-rights-and-ideology>> [Accessed October 20, 2014]

About Pastor Karl Weber

Karl has been serving St. Paul’s Richville LC and St. John’s, Ottertail, MN since Labor Day, 2004. He was raised in the Roman Church receiving his BA from Fordham University. Before going to seminary he was a computer programmer in Minneapolis. He served as a short term missionary in Guatemala and Kenya, East Africa. He spent time as a member of the ELCA and studied two years at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN pursing his M. Div. before transferring to the LCMS for theological reasons and continuing his studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. He was ordained in 1991 and earned his D. Min. in May 2002 from the same institution. He has contributed study notes to The Lutheran Study Bible. He enjoys deer hunting, going to the gym, swimming, and reading. He is married to Mary and has five wonderful children.

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