Thursday, August 27, 2020
Behind enemy lines. . .
Every pastor is on the front lines of this battle. Every parish, no matter what their mailing address, faces the enemy who is wounded by dangerous, intent upon reclaiming his domain. That does not mean we are weak or without weapons. But our strength is not the might of man and our weapons are not the weapons of an earthly battlefield. Our strength is the Lord and our weapons are His Word and Spirit. We are not the generals in war rooms trying out strategies or imagining how battles will go. We are all of us foot soldiers doing the Lord's bidding where we are. We are singles struggling to remain faithful to the Lord against so many and so great temptations. We are the married whose fidelity is daily tested by the desires within and the opportunities without. We are parents who not only raise our children well but teach them to know the Lord's name and favor as the ground of their very existence. We are the church members who wrestle against skipping the Divine Service, with keeping focused in prayer, and learning to know God's Word.
Sometimes things are obvious. Governments who shut us down while allowing essential functions to continue. Outrageous attempts to silence our voice from the public square. Pressure from alternative genders and orientations to accept them against God's Word. But most things are not so obvious. Doctrine's worst enemies sneak in the back door instead of confronting truth head one. Piety borrowed from secular sentiment. Music that seems indistinguishable from the rhythm and beat of popular music. Reality which becomes virtual and technology that substitutes for the Word preached into the ear and the knee bowed down before the Altar of the Lord. You know what I mean.
The point here is not that God needs us or that His Kingdom depends only on us or that His divine enterprise will fail. No, we have no such power to cripple God's Church. But we will be lost to the Kingdom and with us, those whose lives we are responsible for, if we become complacent to the battle or lazy before the call to faithfulness. We are in as much danger for thinking there is no battle as we from thinking the battle is up to us to win. God's promise is clear. The gates of hell will not prevail. But it may be lost to us if we choose feelings over truth and sentiment over the means of grace and the voice of culture over God's Word. COVID 19 is not the worst that could befall the Church but it could be an opportune wake up call for a Church unsure how essential she is and for a Christianity that has grown fat, lazy, and bored with who she is and what God has given her to do.
The prescription for the Church is faithfulness, taking seriously the Gospel and trusting in the means of grace. There is nothing less that God deserves, that God expects, and that we owe ourselves as God's children. That is about all there is to say. Unfortunately, there are those who find the military imagery offensive. They would believe that love is defined best by tolerance, acceptance, and affirmation -- that the best and only course left open to the Church is to offer a pale echo of whatever the world thinks, says, and does. But the love that won us over is strong and powerful. The Savior who marched through hell before ascending to His place at the right hand of the Father has power to forgive the sins of the worst sinner, to fulfill all His promises, and to deliver His people to the place He has prepared. May the Lord grant us such confidence in His saving will and purpose that we may not fear but rejoice, even in the day of trial. For the Lord who began this good work in us will bring it to completion on the day of His coming.