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               Divine Liturgy 10:30 AM

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What Christians Are Afraid Of

May 27, 2018

Verse: Psalm 46:10

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
June 3, 2018
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

2nd Sunday after Pentecost
What Are Christians Afraid Of?

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Until 50 years ago Christians were bold people. We had numbers, influence, money and the ear of society. Churches were packed, life was good, the church was here to stay … until it wasn’t.

Today churches, of all denominations, are in serious decline. They struggle to keep their doors open, and the anxiety level of the few remaining continues to rise.

What are we afraid of?

Institutional death. We fear that one day soon the church will no longer be there to comfort and strengthen us in life and in death.

Once the decline began, some 50 years ago, it did not take long for people to get inventive with the goal of turning things around. Over the last 50 years our church body devised hundreds, if not thousands, of programs designed to turn things around. Everything from knocking on doors, to social work. And though nothing has stemmed the tide church leaders keep urging more programs on us.

Not new ones, because there are no new ones at this late date. But only old ones with new names that still don’t work. But in the process they broke something in us. They jumbled our thinking, and degraded our doctrine, with the result that faithful Christians now suffer confusion and guilt on top of anxiety because they are told that the burden of saving the church rests on their shoulders.

And so hear the Word of the Lord Oh Christ Lutheran Church: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). Let us stop worrying, stop fretting, but by all means continue doing the one thing that Jesus did give us to do: “This do in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)

The church is not commissioned to organize basketball leagues, nor are her members qualified to be missionaries, or community organizers. But her commission is of a very different nature. It is to forgive sins, even as our Lord teaches: “As the Father sent me, in the same way I send you. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any they are retained.” (John 20:21)

But, you might say, people are not coming. That is, obviously, untrue because you are people, you are here, and you count! But why doesn’t everyone come? Or at least more people come, to receive the greatest blessing of all? Because, “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”

The thing that has gotten lost in the last 50 years of frenzied programs is that we are not the Holy Spirit. And that “Unless the Lord build the house the workmen labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1) But the Lord and Giver of Life has definitely not built THIS house: a church that shed its faith, by shedding its practice, so that the world might flock to her doors. But it hasn’t! And so she gave up her glorious dress for nothing.

In a major miscalculation of cause and effect it was decided that people are staying away because they don’t like our services, music or message. And so we changed it; softened it; and made it more palatable. More in keeping with what we imagine people want. But still the pews cry out, “Here am I fill me, fill me.”

Why? Because the programs people devise have forgotten our most basic doctrines. They are founded on the “affirmative” view of man. They assume that people are anxiously awaiting an invitation to the church; and that once it is issued they will turn from their sinful ways, and confess that “Jesus is Lord.” (1 Cor. 12:3) Then all of our problems will be over.

But Scripture objects! St. Paul informs us that, “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so.” (Romans 8:7). What does this mean? It means that people are at war with God! It means that they are neither willing, nor capable of submitting themselves to him. And it should come as no surprise, because who can love a God that makes demands no one can keep; and then threatens to punish the transgressor in eternal flames?

Now do you see why nobody wants to talk to you about religion? Why nobody wants to worship God. Why people spend their lives remaking him into a more friendly and manageable deity? Why the jolly, green, life-giving and peaceful planet earth is the deity of choice for current culture?

“No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12:3) But where is the Spirit? Is he sleeping like Jesus was in the boat on that stormy day? Doesn’t he care if we drown? Doesn’t he care if our pews are empty, our bank accounts drained, and our churches die?

Now we are asking questions above our pay grade, dear Christians. As our Lord says in John 3:8, “the Spirit breathes wherever he wills.” And St. Paul writes, “For who has known the mind of the Lord; and who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34) Not you, Oh Anxious Christian. Not the hyper-active developers of programs. Indeed, the minute you question God you become his judge; and that is highly inadvisable.

So, what does all this mean?

Can there be formal mission work, and church growth? Yes. But the church cannot manufacture it. As you cannot have fire without the three essential elements of heat, fuel and oxygen; even so there can be no mission work without the three Spirit-given elements. Opportunity. Qualified missionaries. Necessary resources.

But rather than trouble ourselves with things that are beyond our comprehension let God’s people do what Jesus calls them to do. “This Do!” For as often as we, the baptized, eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death, the life giving gospel of Jesus Christ, until he comes again. (1 Corinthians 11:26).

And so long as God provides Christ Lutheran Church with a pastor, a place and the resources to keep the doors open we will continue to “Do This.” If anyone is interested in seeing the church grow let him prove it by his presence – all else is chatter.

Next it is the duty of Christian parents to present their children for holy baptism, and to raise them in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” This is how most of you became believers, God be praised in highest heaven! You are here! You are inducted into God. You live inside of him. As Scripture says: in him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)

Next hear this word of Jesus. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt 5:16) This is the mission work that every Christian can do. And how surprised you will be on the last day at the people in heaven who will greet you, and thank you, for the example you set for them. You will shine like the stars forever. (Daniel 12:3)

Lastly, if no formal outreach opportunity exists here then support the ones that exist there. There are many, and Christ Lutheran Church should discuss them.

But under all circumstances hear the word of the Lord. “Fear not little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Fear not.