Abiding in the Word
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Not long before Jesus spoke the words of our Gospel, He encountered a woman who was being stoned because of adultery. The Jews were not interested in repentance and forgiveness. They were interested in separating the good sheep from those they judged as bad—those who behaved properly from those who did not. Our Lutheran heritage stems from a similar problem, because the Pope and his minions were not interested in speaking God’s Word of forgiveness; they wanted to sell worthless pieces of paper instead of giving the forgiveness Christ died to give freely to His people. And some people thought it was worth it to pay for forgiveness rather than to repent of their sin and attempt to live a life of baptismal faith.
This is the problem of sin: not that we do bad things, but that we do not live as if we believe in the one true God. Is any one of us any different than those Jews who wanted to stone the adulteress? Is any one of us any different than those who wanted to purchase and even sell God’s favor and gifts?
Today, we find ourselves in a struggle to maintain our distinctive identity as Lutherans, as people who believe and teach Law and Gospel, as people who hold to the inerrant Scriptures as our rule of faith. This ministry is no more popular today than it was in Luther’s time or even in the days our Lord preached and taught among His disciples. We have found that out over the past few years as the world ignores, ridicules, and despises the truth of Scripture and the faith we hold. Abortion providers brazenly dispose of God’s gift of life, treating the murder of the unborn as a money-making scheme. Political candidates gain worldly favor as they promise to punish Christians and congregations who attempt to live their faith in opposition to sin. Even some so-called Christian congregations abandon the truth of God’s Word to curry the world’s favor.
No matter what is yet to come, our Lord remains faithful to us, all the way to the cross. In this world of uncertainty, ambiguity, and even hostility, this congregation exists to bring the Good News of salvation and eternal life through the suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of God to sinners—even those who may at first and for a time reject it in favor of something more pleasing to them. So we abide; we remain in His Word as His disciples. And He remains in us.
We face an uncertain future as a congregation and dual parish. Truly we trust in God to provide, but we don’t know what that gracious provision will look like. It’s true that our financial situation is not pretty. It’s true that our culture is hell-bent on a spiritual diversity that frowns on anyone who speaks the Word of God with authority, who calls sin what it is. It would be so easy to fill our pews and our plates. All we have to do is sell out the Gospel; all we have to do is sell our souls.
So what does the future hold? Will we have to sell our property? Should we seek out yet another congregation to join with us so that the Word will continue on in this place? Will our pastor face imprisonment for preaching against sin? Will we have to close our doors? All of these are possible. But as we abide in the truth of the Word, our Lord sets us free from sin, death, and hell. We are counted among the faithful remnant. The Holy Spirit keeps us with Jesus in His Church, feeding us the forgiveness of sins in the body and blood of Christ. So even if your pastor is arrested; if we lose our tax exempt status; even if these doors close; “take they our life, goods, fame, child, and wife, though these all be gone, our victory has been won; the Kingdom ours remaineth!” The Lord will continue to provide for your spiritual care. You are His disciples, baptized in His name. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.