Reformation 500.1 - The State Of The Church Today
October 27, 2018
Verse: Psalm 46:1
Christ Lutheran Church
October 28, 2018
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The State Of The Church Today
“God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved.” Psalm 46:6
On this 501st anniversary of the Reformation let us once again humbly consider the magnificent inheritance to which we have become heir! And let us worship our great God and Savior Jesus Christ and confess his holy name, “For he is good and his mercy endures forever!”
As we celebrate and thank God this day let us remember these important points:
1.) First, that the faith we have inherited is unique! That it is as different from all Protestant denominations as it is from Rome or Eastern Orthodoxy. As Lutherans would never pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary, for example, nor would they practice mega-church religion, sing gooey love songs to Jesus, or preach a political or social gospel.
2.) Let us also remember today that the Lutheran church is a “confessing church.” That means we accept Scripture as divine revelation, as authoritative and true. It means moreover that our religion is ruled and normed by written confessions of faith that explain what Scripture means. Confessions to which pastors in their ordination vows, and members in their confirmation, bind themselves and promise never to believe, teach or confess differently.
The Lutheran faith confesses all the chief doctrines of the church of the ages such as the Trinity, divinity of Christ, Virgin Birth, salvation by grace, inspiration of Scripture and the power of the Sacraments to name a few; while avoiding the wrong teachings of Rome on the one hand, and of Protestantism on the other.
3.) The Lutheran church is a liturgical church; but we should understand what that means. We usually think of liturgy as a noun. A thing. A format to be followed. But consider liturgy the verb.
To liturgize God means to empty ourselves of ourselves, and give ourselves wholly and altogether over to God. The one perfect act of liturgy is Jesus on the cross doing the will of his Father, winning our redemption, while praying “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.”
By baptismal union with him we too liturgize God. We, too, are named as “beloved sons in whom he is well pleased.” To this end the liturgy we pray each Sunday focuses on Christ crucified “for us men and for our salvation.” In it the church seamlessly proclaims the “eternal gospel” of Jesus Christ, while avoiding the errors with which liturgy was so terribly infected before the Reformation.
As Lutherans are obligated to preach Lutheran doctrine they are equally obliged to pray Lutheran liturgy – because it is who we are. And because it is impossible to have the one without the other.
4.) But with an inheritance of this magnitude, of this splendor, we must also be careful. Be ever vigilant! We must be sure never to boast, become proud, self-righteous or self-satisfied, for that would be fatal!
But let us hear the Revelation angel instead, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Rev. 14:7)
Yes, the hour has come, and judgment has been handed down in our favor! In our favor and against sin, death and all the forces spiritual wickedness in high places. This is the victory we celebrate and revel in today and every Sunday at the Lord’s altar! Take eat! Take drink!
5.) But in our day, amazingly enough, the rich heritage we enjoy also puts us at a certain disadvantage.
In our day Big Screen religion has taken the field! “Rock N Roll church” is now the norm – while the confessing church is seen as hopelessly irrelevant.
This means that the chances of losing members are far greater than gaining them. That people looking for what we offer are few. Indeed, in the last three years we have had many visitors, but very few return.
This further means that churches like ours will always struggle; and that people over the age of 60 need to readjust their expectations. The burgeoning church of your youth is gone and is not coming back – while on the other hand Lutheranism is thriving on the African continent.
Our father in the faith, Martin Luther, wrote that “God’s Word and grace is a passing rain shower which does not return where it once was.” (AE 45:352). True! America has rejected the gospel. She has hardened her collective heart and now only a remnant remains.
Make no mistake, all churches in America are in serious decline, but confessing churches such as ours even more. Neither the pews nor the checkbooks will ever be full again. If you don’t understand that you will only frustrate yourself and everyone about you.
6.) But still there is no reason to be afraid; even less for self-pity or dejection because as the Psalmist writes, “God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved.” And so let us carry on in Christ! Let us continue doing what we do! “This do in remembrance of me.”
Because Lutheranism is our religion.
Because we firmly believe that it is a continuation of the one holy catholic and apostolic church of the ages; and will do nothing else.
Because it has seen our forefathers through life and death and is doing the same for us today.
Because it is mature, and not trendy or “lite”.
Because its doctrine is beautiful, true and good.
Because its prayers, hymns, creeds, confessions, liturgies, lectionaries, ceremonies and celebrations have made our souls fat with joy and gladness in Christ our Savior.
Because it richly supplies us with the remission of sins, life, salvation, confidence in God, power, wisdom, courage, joy and unwavering consolation “though the earth give way, and the mountains be moved into the midst of the sea.” (Ps. 46:2)
Because we cannot live without it.
Because we will not live without it.
Because we want to pass it on to our children, children’s children, and to all who long for life everlasting.
Because we believe that we have something unique and precious to offer the rest of Christianity: they can learn from us.
True, we do not know what will become of our religion in the future. But even as we “we will not fear,” nor will we engage in self-pity on the one hand, or devise grandiose plans the save the church on the other. Christ our dear Lord has already saved the church “once and for all” by his cross and resurrection. (Romans 6:10)
He is the “River whose streams make glad the city of God.”
He is, “The holy habitation of the Most High.”
He is the One who “will help her when morning dawns.”
And so we will not fear, but trust all the more in God who is our Mighty Fortress! Amen.