Saturday, August 6, 2016

How Did We Get Here? Correction

Correction                                                                    8/7/16

Matthew 3:1-12, II Timothy 3:10-4:8

A baseball season will provide plenty of examples of how to play the game, and how not to play the game.  There are lessons in the losses and slumps as well as the hitting and winning streaks.

In surveying the story of Western Civilization, we find some ways in which societies have successfully honored and been blessed by Scripture’s values.  We are tapping into some of these stories to help us understand the situation we find ourselves in as Christians, and as the Church, in today’s world.

*we are directed into the key that human life is more than survival

*Classical Greece modeled wisdom together

*Ancient Rome sought that which endures

*In the middle of 1st Century Rome, we see God’s breakthrough announcement of the gospel

*the medieval world modeled that we are created for community

*the renaissance beckoned us to behold beauty

*today, we turn our attention to Reformation, to consider the theme of correction. 

If human beings were to create a list of things to talk about, correction would probably not be high on anyone’s list.  Yet, it is a biblical idea, and therefore, essential to our Christian life.  To run or avoid correction is to avoid God’s offer of redemption and gift of salvation. 

What is the definition of correction? 
Correct (adjective):  free from error, in accordance with fact or truth

Correct (verb):  to put right (an error or fault)

Correction:  a change that rectifies an error or inaccuracy

Scripture teaches that people who accept correction are honored, show prudence and gain understanding

Scripture teaches that people who do not accept correction are hostile, stupid, resentful and display refusal.  Scripture also teaches us that refusing correction has social consequences:  “whoever ignores correction leads others astray” (Proverbs 10:17).  We should be mindful of our personal responsibility to open ourselves to correction, for our blessing, and for the people whom we relate to.

Correction is a biblical word, and it also fits with a broader theme in Scripture:  Repentance.  Repentance means to turn around.  Jesus’ first command to his disciples was to repent.  John the Baptist also begins his message with this word.  When we turn ourselves toward God and away from sin, temptation, even self (whether this is an action of the heart, mind, behaviors or literal turning around), we open ourselves to God’s will and intent. 

In our Matthew reading for today (3:1-12), we find the answer to the question:  Who corrects us?  The story provides two answers:   the Lord’s messenger and Jesus Christ himself

In the gospel story, John the Baptist was to be the Lord’s messenger, who would announce the coming of the Messiah.   He was sent to turn the people’s hearts to the Lord.  He proclaimed his message (repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near), lifted up Scripture, lived a simple life and baptized.  He also corrected the people.  He wove together the message with living the message.  He challenged the people to not rely solely on their history (we have Abraham as our father).  He commanded the people that repentance was to be followed with bearing fruit for the Lord’s glory. 

In our Christian life, we should always be open to listening to people.  We might find that God is sending his messengers into our lives, so that we might live fruitfully for the kingdom.  And we ourselves might be a messenger to a brother or sister.

Ultimately, John’s job was to point people to Jesus Christ.  The Messiah would provide the baptism that leads to everlasting life. Jesus Christ was the Lord’s answer to the question of who has the authority to correct.  He is worthy, and lived his life in perfect obedience to the will of God.  Therefore, fully God and perfect human, he can correct us, and point us in the way that leads to everlasting life.

The Lord’s messengers will always point you to Jesus Christ.  They are not different messages, nor are they working for competing devotion.  The messenger should always serve the message.  Jesus Christ is the message of Good News.

We turn our attention to the year 1517 in Wittenberg, Germany.  Martin Luther was dismayed at some of the practices that were going on around him.   He himself was working with all his might to get the message out. 

          I could use two secretaries.  I do almost nothing during
          the day but write letters.  I am a conventual preacher,
          reader at meals, parochial preacher, director o f sutidies, overseer
         of eleven monasteries, superintendent of the fish pont at Litzkau, referee
         of the squabble at Torgau, lecturer on Paul, collector of material for a
         commentary on the Psalms, and then, as I said, I am overwhelmed with letters.  
         I rarely have full time for the canonical hours and for saying mass, not to
         mention my own temptations with the world, the flesh and the Devil       
         (Roland Bainton, Here I Stand:  A Life of Martin Luther, USA:  Abington Press, 1950, pg 63)

The problem Luther saw was the growing popularity of indulgences.  The Pope oversaw the selling of indulgences, which were essentially a paper that could be purchased that declared you would be eternally forgiven of your sin.  If you paid enough, you could buy indulgences for your previously deceased relatives.  This fraudulent practice paid for building projects in the church, and town building projects.  For example, The University of Wittenberg had been approved to sell indulgences for the expansion of town building projects.   But Pope Leo had bigger plans for the sale of indulgences.  He was going to rebuild St. Peter’s Cathedral.  And he needed the sales of indulgences throughout the continent to make it happen.

This infuriated the prideful German pastor.  And Luther makes his appeal to local scholars.  He writes a lecture entitled “The 95 Theses”, and like all lectures in the day, nailed a flyer advertising the lecture to the door of the church.  The lecture highlighted 3 main ideas:  the problem of using funds to rebuild a church in Rome, the problem of the pope’s authority and the problem for the sinner who misunderstands indulgences.

And yet, the call for correction that Luther clearly saw seemed like more than just the posting of a lecture.  It was a nail that drove change into the world.

A 20th century theologian described Luther this way:

          He was like a man climbing in the darkness a winding
          staircase in the steeple of an ancient cathedral.  In the blackness
          he reached out to steady himself, and his hand laid hold of a rope. 
         He was started to hear the clanging of a bell.
         (Bainton, 64)
Correction is like a bell that sounds freedom to those willing to listen.

Paul says as much to his disciple Timothy, in his second letter.
II Timothy:   Where is our correction found?

The Lord will send his messengers, and those messengers point to Jesus Christ the Message.  But the simple answer, is that we find correction when we gather as the Lord’s people.  Paul writes that congregations:

*should model the way of life

          *should help us as we pursue godliness

          *gather us together alongside those who have taught us

          *are to be centered in the Holy Scriptures

  Holy Scripture’s job as God-breathed entity


                   --rebuking   (“to turn back or to keep down”)




Correction is a biblical value, therefore it is essential to our Christian faith. 

Here are three practical steps to prepare ourselves so we might find correction, and the blessed life that comes from it:

1.     Daily Reading of Scripture.   Daily reading shapes two  

     basic human functions:  Listening and speaking.

2.     Listen to one another.   Don’t prepare your response,

listen to what is being said.

3.     Speak Up.  Preach, Correct, rebuke, encourage, great

              patience and careful instruction.

Paul encourages Timothy to put into place the benefit’s that correction provides (vs 5).  Having received correction allows one:

1.     Keep one’s head in all situations

2.     Endure hardship

3.     To do the work of the evangelist

4.     To discharge your duties of your ministry

When we have opened ourselves to correction:   we find assurance.  This happened to Paul as he neared the completion of his earthly life.  What was his assurance?

          He knew he had fought the good fight

          He knew he had finished the race

          He knew he had kept the faith

He knew there is a crown of righteousness that the Lord will award

He knew that he was not alone.

These assurances can guide us when we wonder along the way.  Martin Luther’s lecture did not immediately stop the sale of indulgences.  But it did spark debate, as well as a return to looking to Scripture as the foundation of theology and practice.  Luther experienced extreme persecution in his fight for the health of the church.  He ultimately was excommunicated from the Roman faith.  But his Christian life helped spark a world changing movement:  the Reformation.  And we gather today in part because of his stand.  Opening himself to being corrected brought unanticipated blessings, such as translating the Bible into German so that more people could read for themselves, and eventually a counter-reformation in the Roman Catholic church which essentially acknowledged that change had needed to happen.

In closing, let us consider these definitions of correction one more time:
Correct (adjective):  free from error, in accordance with fact or truth

Correct (verb):  to put right (an error or fault)

Correction:  a change that rectifies an error or inaccuracy

The author of Hebrews says:  correction produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.


Did not Jesus say:  If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed?

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