the Word of the Lord increased and multiplied. Sometimes in triumph, sometimes in shame. Sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly. Sometimes in one place while another died. Sometimes through great men, sometimes despite them. From Tapani Simojoki
When I first read the title to Martin Franzmann's great introduction to the New Testament, I was surprise by it. When I realized that it was a quote from Acts 12:24, it became even more intriguing to me. The Word of the Lord grew -- and grows still. The irony of the title was that this was a survey of the development of the New Testatment -- the Word that grew into the 27 books we call the New Testament Canon. But at the very same time, it was a description of the work of God, growing His Church through the means of grace.
BTW... Franzmann's book remains one of the most readable and reliable introductions to the NewTestament and I urge you to read it if you have not already.
What Franzmann keyed on in his title is something we often miss today. I hear a lot of doom and gloom out there in the pews and not a little in the pulpits as well. Some might suggest that I contribute to a lot of that bad news through this blog. While I do highlight somethings that are not as they should be, I must admit that I am not a pessimist. The Word of the Lord grew, has grown, is now growing, and will continue to grow. This has not and has never been up to mankind or our will and desire. It is the will and purpose of God that His Church grows, that faith comes by hearing the Word of the Lord, and that this Word accomplishes its purpose.
Sometimes this is aided by great and mighty individuals, people of faith whose faith is active in love. Sometimes this happens despite the people of God -- as easily distracted or divided as they might be. In either case we need to be careful here. Our God is not impotent but omnipotent. He works through us but we are merely the means to the means of grace. In this I take great comfort. In spite of and even through my weakness and mistakes as Pastor and shepherd of the flock the Church has placed under my care, God is at work.
When we triumph the Lord reminds us that it is not we who are responsible but His grace and Spirit. When we have nothing to offer the Lord but the tattered rags of our righteousness and a litany of failures and excuses, the Lord reminds us that He is still at work through His grace and Spirit and the work is His even as the glory is His.
We forget this at our peril. We are easily distracted or overcome (by success as well as failure). In triumph or defeat, eyes are fixed upon Jesus, hearts are focused upon Jesus. Every now and then I need to stop and remember this. So do you. God has worked through some fairly distasteful characters and disappointments and still His good and gracious will has prevailed. So... hang in there. If the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod disappeared tomorrow, the Church would still be present -- the Word and the Sacraments would still be the agents and instruments of His grace to grow His Church. I do not anticipate that this venerable church body will disappear and I rather think that we more positive to support the work of the kingdom than negative. So I remain vigilant and yet hopeful, positive that what God began, He will bring to completion on the day of the Lord....