Thursday, October 31, 2019
Reformation thoughts. . .
Lest we take this occasion for Lutherans to beat our chests and sneer with pride, our house is an equal state of shambles. We have Lutherans who love the name but know nothing of the faith. We have Lutherans who are captive to culture and social movement but not to the Word of God. We have Lutherans who value institutional loyalty over unchanging truth. We have Lutherans who prefer to see a dying church body over repentance and renewal of the faith yesterday, today, and forever the same. So do not take this as an occasion to look down at our Roman brethren. We are all in a terrible mess and it is a wonder the Church has a future at all. That she does is due not to anything we might do or fail to do but only to the Word of the Lord and the Holy Sacraments through which God is still at work calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying His Holy Church -- even while institutions crumble.
Yet this should not be a time of great despair or retreat. Just the opposite. We do not get to pick and choose the time in which we live. God does. That means that God has supplied us not only the resources but the people to ensure that His Church endures and the gates of hell do not prevail. This is our time. We inherit the successes and failures of those who went before us, to be sure, but we are responsible for what we bequeath to those who come after us. God has brought us to this time and this place. Ordained or lay, from the pulpit or the pew, it does not matter. This is the time and this is the place where God has placed us, given us the new birth of Water and the Word, spoken into our ears the living voice of the Good Shepherd, absolved us of our sins, and fed and nourished us upon the Bread of Heaven and the Cup of Salvation. The challenge for those of yesteryear is the same as for those of this moment -- do we believe this is enough? Far from making too much of the Word of the Lord or the Holy Sacraments, the Church has always been her weakest when she devalued the means of grace and presumed people or programs would bring success when it seemed faithful preaching, teaching, and the administration of the Sacraments was not. But this is a fault of our shortsightedness and not of God's failure. Faith is the difficult way but the only way. We can have no certainty of the eye and what it sees or reason and what seems good to us until God finishes His new creation and transforms what is fading into what is eternal.
So on this Reformation Day I say, do not lose heart. Do not give into despair. Do not throw up your hands in frustration and disgust. Do not abandon the means of grace wherein God's gift and promise are yours (as they were the people of God's before you and will be for those who follow you). There is only one message on Reformation Day and it needs to be heard in Rome and Geneva as well as in Wittenberg, God is faithful. He will do it. Be faithful to Him and He will bring all things to pass as He has ordered. Repent of the sin of pride and arrogance and renew your desire to know only Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Cast off the works that presume to please God and do what God has called you to do where He has called you, fulfilling your baptismal vocation as His own child. Things just may get worse before they get better but that does not matter. What matters is Christ and our lives in Christ.