Trinity Lutheran Church
"Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations." Isaiah 42:1
Sunday Worship: 10:15 am
Sunday School/Bible Study: 9:00 am
Wednesday Bible Study: 10:30 am
Good Shepherd Sunday
500th Anniversary of Martin Luther’s “Here I Stand” Moment in Worms, Germany
18 April 2021
Sermon: “Here I Stand”
In the name of + Jesus the Good Shepherd.
The Lord’s sheep were once more being scattered, as they had in the days before Ezekiel. But the Son of God had come in the flesh. Jesus TOOK HIS STAND UPON THE EARTH—against the assaults of the devil and the world; He took His stand before the church in the person of the high priest and before the state in Pilate and Herod. As the Good Shepherd, Jesus said “Here I Stand” (bearing all man’s sin) as He took His place between His sheep and the wrath of God against all ungodliness of men. And in the resurrection from the dead which we celebrate, Jesus took His stand once more upon the earth. Now because He stands at the right hand of the Father--as His Church struggles on earth--we can stand.
Jesus sent His Apostles, and gave gifts to men by which He built His Church. Could it be that 1500 years later Christ’s Church would be hurting terribly, growing faint from spiritual malnutrition, failing to be comforted, driven from God’s green pastures? The sheep cried, “Good Shepherd, hear us.” And the Lord heard the church’s cry. The Good Shepherd gathered His scattered sheep. He is gathering His scattered sheep still.
The Spanish Inquisition began in 1478, just a few years before Martin Luther’s birth. But the Holy Inquisition against Depraved Heresy throughout the empire had already been established by the pope in the 1200’s. This was to deal with breakaway Christian sects, which included the followers of Waldo, Wyclif, and Hus—and which would include the followers of the recently excommunicated Martin Luther unless he recanted.
I mention the Spanish Inquisition because of the unique involvement of the rulers of Spain in carrying it out. The church and the political rulers were one in the endeavor to rid the country of unbelievers and heretics. Charles V, the young Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, was formerly Charles I of Spain. So when the pope insisted that the emperor do his duty and declare Luther an outlaw, Charles V knew precisely what he was to do. Only the hand of God could prevent a swift end to Martin Luther. God worked through Frederick the Wise, who pressured his nephew Charles to give Luther a hearing. To deal with the situation Charles invited Luther to the Diet at Worms, Germany in April of 1521. There Luther would be made to answer for his teaching. Indeed there Luther would be made to enter the Lion’s Den, for all around him would stand Spanish troops ready to do their emperor’s bidding.
In the year prior to Worms, Dr. Luther had called on the political leaders of Germany in his Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation. He wrote, “Here and now, the German nation, its bishops and princes, should regard themselves as Christians. They should govern and defend in their physical and spiritual goods the people who have been commended to them and they should protect them from these ravening wolves who come dressed in sheep’s clothing as if they were shepherds and rulers.” Luther pulled no punches. He accused papal officials of being a “crawling mass of reptiles” who told everyone, “We are Christ’s agents and the shepherds of Christ’s sheep, and the senseless, drunken Germans must put up with it.”
In another writing that year, Luther began encouraging the church by laying the foundation for his understanding of the sacraments: they were instituted by Jesus with the promise of forgiveness as they conveyed Christ to the people. While Luther would hone his teaching on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and on Confession, as his knowledge of Scripture grew, he rejected already then the other four Roman “sacraments” as means of grace and salvation. While Rome had squeezed out of the sacraments their cleansing and healing power, for example seeing Baptism in terms of the past tense, forgiving original sin and sins already committed, Luther was leading the Christian to the Good Shepherd’s “rich pasture on the mountains of Israel,” of which Ezekiel wrote. Baptism “works forgiveness of sins”—past and future and continually creates the faith it requires. That is the Good Shepherd’s message to His Church through Luther.
Today we must continue to fight against viewing Baptism as an entry level Sacrament which gives place to Absolution and the Lord’s Supper. “Baptism now saves you”—yet today, and every day. Salvation is found in and attached to the water of Baptism. For as Luther taught from early on: Baptism gives Christ to the baptized. Jesus, in His baptism by John, was committed by God to death and resurrection. The Christian is delivered from death and the devil, for he is joined to Jesus’ death and resurrection by Baptism.
Before Luther’s scheduled hearing, in February the emperor was persuaded to go ahead and draw up an edict against Luther. Forget the hearing! But just then the people began to rise up and the report went to Rome, “At the present all of Germany is in a decided uproar. Nine-tenths put up the battle cry, ‘Luther!’ and the other tenth, ‘Death to the Roman curia!’” The papacy feared a riot and revolution would result if Luther were condemned without a hearing.
In the meantime, Luther just continued his work: “I am completely overwhelmed with work,” he wrote late in February, “I preach twice daily; I am working on the Psalms, I have a collection of scriptural meditations for the day in progress, and I am answering my enemies.” When he heard about the public uproar, he wrote, “I would not have it that people fight on the side of the gospel with force and killing. . . . The world is to be won over with the Word.” This we all must remember in every age: from Peter who drew his sword, to the time of the Crusades, in that Reformation Era, even to the present. As we were recently reminded, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord. The Word of God is strong in the hand of all who wield it.
Luther was the most famous person in all of Europe at this point because of the Word of God he spoke. His lecture hall was filled with some 400 students. Now he would stand alone before the two greatest powers in all the world, and yet he was not alone: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Indeed, Jesus had stood there before him. We probably think of Martin Luther as robust with a big German voice, but Luther is described like this: “Martin is of medium size with a body made so thin by cares and studies that you can almost count his bones through the skin. He has a manly appearance and is in the prime of life with a high, clear voice.”
So now we ask: why was Martin Luther in Worms? What teaching was he known for, of which he was required to recant?
Nothing outward “has any influence in producing Christian righteousness and freedom, or in producing unrighteousness or servitude.” Individuals could do what they would, but “even contemplation, meditation, and all that the soul can do, does not help” in making someone righteous before God . . . The other side of the coin was that living within the world and partaking fully of its joys and sorrows could do the soul no harm. “One thing and only one thing is necessary for Christian life, righteousness, and freedom. That one thing is the most holy Word of God, the gospel of Christ.”
How does Jesus say it to us today? “The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” The Shepherd, Peter explains, “who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; even He bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” This is the Good Shepherd Sunday summary of the gospel, the Gospel Luther preached. We all know it in Luther’s most famous writing, what it means to be in Jesus Christ: that He is “true God begotten of the Father from eternity and also true Man born of the virgin Mary; who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature; purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil.” How? “Not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” This the gospel of our risen Lord.
This gospel creates faith. Quote: “To preach Christ means to feed the soul, make it righteous, set it free, and save it, provided it believes the preaching.” Moreover, “the moment you begin to have faith you learn that all things in you are altogether blameworthy, sinful, and damnable.” Endquote. A Christian was therefore to be constantly penitent. Yet at all times he could be fully convinced of the constant forgiveness and love of His Savior Jesus Christ. This is bestowed upon the Christian freely in the Sacraments.
For Martin Luther the central point of the Lord’s Supper was the same as the entirety of the Christian faith. “Thus,” he insisted, “it comes down to the most perfect promise, that of the new testament” in Christ’s body and blood. Quote: “Faith believes Christ to be truthful in these words and does not doubt that these immense blessings have been bestowed on it.”
Once he arrived in Worms in great fanfare, Luther was given one day to think about his answer, whether he would recant of his teachings and of what he had written. In earlier days, Christians were required to sacrifice to the emperor and thus deny Christ. For Luther he need merely FIGURATIVELY bend the knee and kiss the pope’s hand. Back in his quarters Luther wrote, “So long as Christ is merciful, I will not recant a single jot or tittle.” And he did not—for Christ the Good Shepherd is merciful! As with Ezekiel, the Lord lifts up His prophet and makes him stand. He gathers His sheep through the preaching of the truth, as He has gathered us today, and is always gathering more and more. For still the truth of the Gospel is being preached and taught and confessed. Our consciences are captive to the Word of God, to know Jesus Christ and Him crucified—to know Jesus the Son of God, our Good Shepherd risen from the dead. In days to come will the preaching of repentance to all sinners and against every sort of sin be counted as “hate speech” by a swollen and molded Supreme Court. Will the preaching of Jesus Christ as the only Savior of the world from sin, death and eternal destruction be counted the same? We cannot and will not recant anything which the Holy Scriptures teach. We know the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls. His is the grander and holy plan: “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear My voice; and they shall be one flock with one Shepherd.” Here we stand. We can do no other. God help us. Amen.
Trinity Lutheran Church is a small confessional congregation of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod located in the picturesque Pacolet Valley three miles west of Tryon on the road to Saluda.
Built on the bank of the little Pacolet River with mountains all around, Trinity is surrounded by beauty, a fitting framework for the saving Gospel that is proclaimed within its walls and for the Lord’s Supper celebrated there.
The members of Trinity lift up their eyes unto the hills. From whence comes their help? Their help comes from the Lord. They are like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not whither.
A biblical and liturgical church, Trinity draws its members from Polk, Rutherford and Henderson Counties in North Carolina, as well as from Spartanburg and Greenville Counties in northern South Carolina. Locals and transplants from the North are united as one in the saving Blood of Jesus Christ.
Trinity Lutheran Church Is Gathered by God’s Grace, Committed to God’s Word, Faithful in Worship, Focused On Forgiveness, Acting In Love, Sharing The Gospel, Giving God The Glory!
Lutheranism is not "a confessing movement within the Church universal"; it is the confessional movement of the Church universal.