Tuesday, October 29, 2013

We shall not be moved!

Preached for Reformation Sunday, also observed as Confirmation Sunday, on Sunday, October 27, 2013.

    How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb?  It does not take any, we don't change anything.  It’s an old joke but it hits home with folks who believe in an attitude of change or die.  The Church, however, dies if she changes.  As the Psalmist says in Psalm 46 – the seas can rage, nations roar, and mountains fall into the sea but we shall not be moved.  This is no stubborn pledge of those in love with the past.  This is the Word the Lord speaks to those He plants on the rock of Christ. We shall not be moved from where He has planted us on Christ our solid rock.
    We shall not be moved from the rock that is Christ but in Christ we are always moving on that path toward heaven and our eternal salvation.  We shall not be moved by the forces of sin, satan, the old rebellious self, and the world shall but in Christ God is moving us – from sin to righteousness, from guilt to forgiveness, from death to life.  If the Church or we as Christians move from Christ the rock, we are lost.  Only the Word of the Lord, the truth forever, can save us.  Doctrine is eternal truth and does not fit popular opinion; morality and virtue do not adjust to the temperature of the moment.  These are the constants to guide the faithful to God’s goal.
    The Word of the Lord endures forever.  This is not about pages not wearing out or bindings that won't give way.  The Word endures forever  because this Word is Christ.  Christ endures forever and therefore the Word of Christ endures forever.  We do not stand on opinion, majority vote, guess, or even Luther but upon changeless Word of the Lord – the Law speaking with the full force of its convicting power and the Gospel answering our need with the merits and mediation of Christ on the cross.
    We do not believe as an act of our voluntary will but as people called by the Spirit.   We are not the Church by our choice to form it but because God has called us, gathered us, and set us apart by the means of grace.  We do not endure because we are stubborn but because the Spirit is at work in us, holding us fast to Christ, the solid rock.  Our future lies not with the works of our hands but the promise of God prepared for those whom He has called, gathered and set apart as His own in baptism.  Today in the rite of confirmation, we do not honor their achievement but instead recognize the work of the Spirit in them, from their baptism to this moment of public confession before the world and we pray with them that the promises they make, they will keep by God’s grace.  And their promise is this:  We shall not be moved.  God has planted us on Christ, given us new life in Christ, and in this hope and faith we shall endure.
    Because we are steadfast in Christ, however, we are always moving – not as a people making our own way but led by the Spirit working through the means of grace.  In baptism God's work was begun in us and He is bringing that work to its fruit and completion even now, in this moment.  Because we shall not be moved from Christ, the Spirit is moving us from doubt to conviction, from fear to trust, from hearts ruled by sin to hearts that hear and follow Christ.  Only because we are unmoved from Christ can Christ moves us to the goal and outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls.
    We shall not be moved, but God is moving us.  We are brought from childish lives to mature lives of faith.  Once I thought, spoke, acted like a child but now I am mature, says Paul.  We recognize this movement toward maturity in the youth confirmed today.  Looking back on our lives we see the hand of God at work in us through the means of grace.  In Holy Communion we are fed and nourished, nurtured and sustained, to remain steadfast in Christ and to be brought to maturity in Christ.  We are not yet who we shall be, but we are not who we were, either.  Hebrews also calls us to move from milk to solid food, from being infants to mature faith, discerning good from evil.  We cannot be vulnerable infants swept away by every wind and wave of change, doubt, and falsehood.  We need to grow upon Christ the rock and in Christ as the people of God by baptism and faith.
    We shall not be moved but God is moving us.  He guides us through the changes and chances of this mortal life, through the minefield of trials and temptations ever before us, through the competing voices that call to our ears and hearts.  The voice of the Gospel is at work by the Spirit moving us to repentance each day, reminding us who we are by baptism, and pointing us to the promise Christ has made for our future.
    The world likes to think of things as progress.  The Reformation was no progressive moment but the restoration of the Gospel to God's Church.  We had been moved from the Word of the Lord and God worked through Luther and the Reformation to restore His Church to that foundation that never changes.  What we believe does not change or evolve or move.  Doctrine does not progress.  But God is ever at work restoring us when we wander, guiding us home from our exiles, and building us back upon the only rock that endures: Christ.  Lutherans love paradoxes.  Law and Gospel.  Saint and Sinner.  Those who shall not be moved from Christ moving in Christ toward maturity of faith now and our eternal salvation to come.
    The Church does not move.  God moves us into the Church, and through the means of grace moves us from being infants in Christ to maturity in Christ.  We give thanks for Luther not because he brought progress to a lethargic church.  No, we give thanks for Luther and those voices in every age who recall the wandering to Christ the rock, who restore the Church when she has moved from Christ, back to Christ, and who hold us individual Christians accountable.
    Confirmands today and Christians are always making God promises.  Some we keep but most fail.  There is one promise which endures.  The promise of God sealed in the flesh and blood of Christ, who died that we might live and lives that we might not die.  From this we shall not be moved.  We remain rooted and planted in Christ, built upon the unchanging foundation of His Word and grace, kept by the yesterday, today, and forever truth and doctrine.  Because we shall not be moved from this truth, we are ever and always moving toward the goal of our lives, the salvation of our souls.  Because we shall not be moved from Christ and His Word, we are moving from childishness to maturity, from fear to confidence, from rebellion to repentance, from sin to righteousness, from guilt to forgiveness, and from death to life.  All this is the Spirit's work and promise to those who stand unmoving upon Christ and the foundation of His Word. 
    How many Lutherans does it take to change a light bulb?  If we are planted on Christ, the light does not dim or wear out.  It shines as the beacon of hope that has moved us to the unchanging foundation of grace and hope.  Through us it shines to those around us.  For us it shines to lead us through trouble, temptation, and trial, toward the everlasting goal of our salvation, the place prepared for us in heaven, which we own now by faith.  There is no arrogance or stubbornness in saying “we shall not be moved from Christ our rock” – this is the Spirit speaking through us with the voice of faith.  May it be true of us always.  Amen.

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