First Lesson: Jeremiah 31: 31-34
Responsive Reading: Psalm 46
Second Lesson: Romans 3: 19-28
Gospel Lesson: John 8: 31-36
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Over six hundred years before the birth of Jesus, a well-known Greek poet made the following observation “a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing.”
Philosopher Isaiah Berlin later expanded on the poet’s explanation in a famous essay called The Hedgehog and the Fox. Berlin’s thesis was the following: that all people either see the world as hedgehogs or foxes.
Foxes tend to shape their view of the world through all sorts of different life experiences. One of the most famous fox thinkers of all time is William Shakespeare. Shakespeare was known for having no clearly defining view of the world as he when he wrote plays he took from the best of contradictory Roman and Egyptian theater influences. Shakespeare wasn’t tied down by any stern convictions when it came to religion or personal morals. Shakespeare merely wanted to put on the best play that he could conceive, however he would put it together.
Let’s compare William Shakespeare to a famous hedgehog in George Washington as described by historian Joseph J. Ellis. George Washington shapes his presidency by one, huge idea that America’s future lay to the west. Washington wanted to construct a system of canals based on the Dutch model to reach the Ohio River Valley. Washington’s vision would prove correct nearly a quarter-century after his death with the completion of the Erie Canal helping to bring about America’s birth as an economic superpower.
So Washington and Shakespeare’s example prove that you can find successful people that are both foxes and hedgehogs. There are advantages in both types of people. For example, foxes probably make more interesting dinner companions being able to converse on a wide variety of subjects. If you’re going in for heart surgery, you would probably rather see a book-worm hedgehog that has read every book and consulted every authority on heart surgery imaginable. A heart surgeon’s cooking skills aren’t relevant to saving your life.
So know that you have learned a little bit about fox and hedgehog thinkers. Let’s look at our major event for today in Reformation Sunday. Now there are a couple of different ways to interpret the Lutheran Reformation. A fox might look at the political circumstances in Germany in the 16th Century, The Indulgence Controversy which caused Luther to post the 95 Theses, Luther’s views on the authority of the Pope or the authority of Scripture. You would probably want to talk to a fox about Luther’s Reformation if you wanted to become a scholar on the subject.
What I want to do today is simplify Luther’s life and the whole Lutheran Reformation to one big hedgehog question of “What is the Gospel?”
Today, we celebrate the 499th Anniversary of what is considered by many people to be the defining event of Luther’s life in the posting of the 95 Theses to the Castle Door at Wittenberg. What I want to do this morning is challenge what you think about the life of Martin Luther. The key event in Martin Luther’s life was not composing the 95 Theses; the key event in Luther’s life was his “Tower Experience.”
Luther himself expressed the belief about “The Tower Experience” as the day that he saw the light. It was the day of Luther’s conversion from an anxiety-ridden monk to a bold champion for the Gospel. You understand “The Tower Experience” then you understand Luther’s life and the birth of the Lutheran Church like any good hedgehog should.
The event took place something after Luther became a monk then joined the Augustinian Monastery in Wittenberg in 1508. Luther quickly stood out at the monastery among his brothers and not in a good way. Historian John Cochlaues describes Luther as once suffering a near “emotional breakdown during mass.” Luther seemed to be the monastery’s gray duck. Luther’s superiors then sought out a way to redirect his energies. Luther uses his academic gifts by becoming a Bible professor at the University of Wittenberg. Martin Luther’s academic specialty was the Psalms and the Old Testament.
Luther had amassed considerable book smarts in the preceding years, but could not still shake the despair on account of his sin that he held for his soul. Luther keeps studying the scriptures seeking answers. Luther seemingly could not read the scriptures without hearing words of judgment seemingly directed at him on every page. One night in a tower at the monastery, Luther is studying the Book of Romans. Luther comes across Romans 1:17.
“For in the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Luther began meditating on this verse. Luther began to see God not as a God of anger and wrath but rather as a God of love, mercy, and grace. Luther’s whole outlook on the world would forever be guided by this defining “hedgehog event”: The 95 Theses, Luther being expelled from one church and founding one that would eventually bear his name, even to the point of death.
A couple of weeks ago in Confirmation, we were asked to consider the following scenario. Imagine being asked to walk a “tightrope” only guided by a promise that there is an invisible empty net below. You might be able to say that you believe the net exists, but trusting in the net to catch you is an entirely different thing altogether. If you can’t say for certain that the net is there, then you try to latch onto every other safety net possible.
We live in a world where all around us are standards which judge us: youth, beauty, finances, and even morality. It’s real easy to look at faith like everything else. We demand proof! We try to think of every other scheme imaginable as a safety net beyond God’s promises. As Luther saw those words from Romans before him he became a witness to a resurrection within himself; he first-hand experienced the power of the Gospel to all who believe.
How should we interpret the Lutheran Reformation? The Lutheran Reformation was not about seeking division. The Reformation’s main statement of belief, The Augsburg Confession, was written in such a way that it highlighted all the things that believers had in common. Luther never wrote the 95 Theses with any intention of breaking from the Catholic Church. Luther only left the Catholic Church when he was told that he could no longer belong. Luther spent his whole life yearning for an eventual reunion. Luther saw a much greater cause than perpetual unity in one church body. Luther’s cause was letting people know about the freedom that he found in the tower. This freedom is not dependent upon the response of the listener.
Jim Collins is one of the world’s most famous management consultants. Collins made the following observation about foxes and hedgehogs that those who make the biggest impact on the world are hedgehogs. Some examples of famous hedgehogs include Sigmund Freud and his theory of the unconscious mind, Charles Darwin and natural selection, Karl Marx and his beliefs of class struggle, Albert Einstein and the theory of relativity, and Adam Smith with his division of labor. All these men took a complex world and sought to simplify it. Martin Luther simplified the world with his belief of “What the Gospel is?” Like any good hedgehog, he kept pressing on with his one belief regardless of what else was going on in the world around him.
One of Aesop’s fables tells the tale of a The Fox and the Cat. A fox and at cat were having a discussion of all the ways that they can reach safety from hunters and their dogs. The Fox was going on and on about all the ways that the Fox could escape. The Cat admitted that he only knew one way to reach “safety.” Pretty soon, the Fox and Cat’s methods would put their methods to the test. Hunters were approaching on the horizon. The Fox freezes as he considers all his options. The Cat decides to use his “one way of escape” by climbing a tree as fast as he can. The Fox keeps thinking about his many things until he is caught by the hunters and the dogs.
It comes down to the cat or the hedgehog’s one big thing.
“Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”-John 8:34
Martin Luther’s tower experience was his day of personal independence. It was the day that he was set free from the previous bondage that nearly destroyed him. Luther’s one big thing was the Gospel. The Gospel is freedom from all sin and brokenness which afflicts us!
Luther heard in the pages of scripture on that dramatic night of his life that no matter what had happened before that “He was truly wanted by God.” So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
The Road to 500 Years of Reformation is coming to an end. This road began in Jerusalem involving a crucifixion and a resurrection; the road continued through Wittenberg involving a tower and 95 Theses, and this road runs now through Sychar where we gather on this day. The road will have bumps, it will have curves, and it will have darkness before morning but rest assured that no obstacle even sin or death can stop the Gospel from getting to a hedgehog. Amen
 The poet was Archilochus. I figured the reference was so obscure that I could simplify it.
 “The Hedgehog and the Fox.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.07. Sept.2016. Web. Oct.24.2016.
 Frost, Bob. “Isaiah Berlin’s Hedgehogs and Foxes.” History Access. 2009. Web. Oct.24.2016
 The Hedgehog and the Fox.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
 Hendrix, Scott. “Legends about Luther: Which are true? Which are not?” Christianity Today: Issue 34: Martin Luther: The Reformer’s Early Years.1992. Web. Oct.24.2016.
 King, Steven. The Apostles Creed: Sola Confirmation Series. Sola Publishing. Maple Lake, MN. Second Edition.2012. Print. P.14. Oct.24.2016.
 Madson, Meg. “What to Preach this Reformation season.” Cross Alone Lutherans. 12.Oct.2016. Web. Oct.24.2016.
 Tranvik, Mark. ““Commentary on John 8:31-36”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, MN. 27.Oct.2013. Web. Oct.24.2016.
 Frost, Bob. “Isaiah Berlin’s Hedgehogs and Foxes.” History Access. 2009. Web. Oct.24.2016
 Frost, Bob. “Isaiah Berlin’s Hedgehogs and Foxes.”.
 “The Fox and The Cat.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation.24.May.2016. Web. Oct.24.2016.
 John 8:36.
 Lose, David. “Commentary on John 8:31-36”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, MN. 31.Oct.2010. Web. Oct. 24.2016.
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.