The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
The Word of the Lord.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,
and though the mountains shake in the depths of the sea;
though its waters rage and foam,
and though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be shaken;
God shall help it at the break of day.
The nations rage, and the kingdoms shake;
God speaks, and the earth melts away.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Come now, regard the works of the Lord,
what desolations God has brought upon the earth;
behold the one who makes war to cease in all the world;
who breaks the bow, and shatters the spear, and burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, then, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.
But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.
The Word of the Lord.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 8:31-36
Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”
The Gospel of our Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I spent some time this week reflecting on God’s blessings to me. I know my life is absolutely – positively full of blessings from our Lord. Seriously – full to the brim – cup runneth over with blessings from God. I know this. And I do try so hard to be aware of God’s blessings to me and to have a truly thankful heart.
But when I am busy and in the hustle and bustle of living my daily life – I can start to forget just how blessed I really and truly am. I can begin to lose my perspective a bit (or a lot)!
For example – I know I take my sons for granted.
Before Jack and Will were born – I spent hours and hours praying they would be happy and healthy. And now they are both wonderfully and delightfully healthy. (And relatively happy – when I am not talking about them in my sermons . . .)
But – of course – I complain about their robust health and happiness and shocking growth of a regular basis. They both eat an absolutely ridiculous amount of food every single day. Which means I have to go to the grocery store ALL of the time.
And then they dare to put all of this food onto dishes which makes for many – many dirty dishes that need to be cleaned and put away.
And the dirty clothing! Seriously – school cloths – work uniforms – church cloths – play cloths – pajamas! Piles and piles and baskets and baskets of dirty clothing that isn’t even mine!?! And it all needs to be laundered!
I prayed our sons would be happy and healthy and thrive and now they are! And because of all of this health and well-being – my life is busy and full and I have been known to complain about it
What about you? What blessings from God do you take for granted? For most of us that list is probably pretty long.
And I would like to add one more item to the list. One blessing we ALL take for granted is access to God’s Word. We take our Bibles for granted all of the time.
Sure – we have them around the house. But we don’t actually read them very often – do we?
This caviler attitude about God’s Word would have appalled Martin Luther and the other leaders of the Reformation. They would have been shocked that we could take easy access to God’s Word for granted.
Martin Luther did many impressive things during his earthly life. He preached 1,000’s of sermons. He composed dozens of hymns and wrote entire books. He taught countless students and started churches. He even helped his wife brew beer! But perhaps the most important thing Luther ever did was translate the Bible from Latin and ancient Greek into every day German.
For centuries God’s Word had been off limits to most folks because the Bible was written in languages only a few – very highly educated people could still read. God’s Word was for the elite. For the rich and the powerful. For the privileged few.
Average people like us had absolutely no idea what the Bible said. But Martin Luther changed that.
When Luther’s German translation of the New Testament was published in 1522 – ordinary folks like us could finally read and understand God’s Word.
Luther’s translation of the Bible spread like wildfire. And soon could be found in almost every German home. These Bibles weren’t gathering dust. People were reading them – studying them – and discussing what they found there.
One scholar of Luther’s day complained that “tailors and shoemakers, even women and ignorant people who could read only a little German – studied the Bible. Some committed it to memory, and carried it around with them wherever they went. Such people deemed themselves so learned they were not ashamed to discuss faith and the gospel not only with other laymen, but even with priests and theologians.”
Martin Luther changed the lives of Christians forever. No longer is God’s Word inaccessible to folks like us. No longer is the Bible the exclusive property of theologians – professors – and kings.
We all have access to God’s Word.
The Bible has been translated into over 700 languages.
There are Bibles in our church library. In the courtyard room and in our Sunday school rooms. You have Bibles in your homes. You can find Bibles at bookstores – big box stores – and in hotel rooms.
When you Google on-line Bibles millions of web-sites are just a mouse click away.
You can download your favorite translation of the Bible to your phone. And if you are too tired to read it yourself – someone will read it to you.
Martin Luther opened God’s Word for us and placed it boldly and firmly into our hands.
But the question remains of – what have we done with this incredible gift?
When was the last time you actually read your Bible? Do you read God’s Word? Or is your Bible sitting on a bookshelf gathering dust?
Can you imagine what your relationship with God might be like if you actually read the Bible? Or if you read it more often?
Imagine if you and your brothers and sisters in Christ were coming to Bible Studies and Sunday school classes in droves – simply because you were just so excited about reading – studying and discussing God’s Word?
Would we be changed? Would our church be changed? Would our community be changed? How about our world?
God’s Word is a blessing to each and every one of us. The Bible guides us – encourages us –and teaches us. The Bible tells us the powerful story of God’s ongoing relationship with his beloved children and reveals to us God’s grace – love and mercy.
Yet we so often take God’s Word for granted.
So I encourage and challenge you – don’t take this blessing for granted.
Read your Bibles – engage God’s Word and talk about what you discover there – in our church – in your homes and maybe even with a friend or neighbor.
This much I know for certain – God’s Word is powerful and it will change your life for all eternity. AMEN.