I am especially happy to see among the number not only new faces but young ones! In one case, the couple moved into our city on a Wednesday and found their way to our congregation on Sunday. Now that is dedication and loyalty. The way things looked last March and April when the shut-down hit everyone hard, I would not have predicted so many folks and so many new folks. God bless you!
We are told so often that Lutheranism is dying (and perhaps the jurisdictional structures are not so healthy) but the places where the baptized still gather around the Word and Table of the Lord are healthy. They are in good shape not because of the programs or because of the pastors or people in those parishes. No, they are in good shaped because Christ lives in their midst. He is still hearing the confession and absolving the sinner. He is still speaking through the voice of His Word. He is still preaching from the pulpit through the mouth of the pastor. And He is still setting His Table in the presence of our enemies and delivering to us His own flesh for food and His own blood for drink. People bidden by the Lord's Word and gathered by the Spirit still confess the creed in steadfastness with the faithful who went before and in bold witness before the world. Voices are still raised in speech and song, saying back to God what He has first spoken to us. Where this is happening, Lutheranism is anything but dying. We forget this.
I believe that structures may evolve and die but the faith confessed once and still from Augsburg throughout the world will not die. Unless we are willing to admit that we are a sect and that our faith is but a sectarian confession, we are not strictly a human institution at all. God is the builder and we are now being built into His temple, the living stones fit together by God's design and at God's direction. Unless the words of the Augustana are hyperbole or a joke, we are still evangelical catholics, in solidarity with the faithful who went before us and living out in our own time the faith once delivered to the saints of old. The whole of the Reformation was to make the Church more catholic, not less. We may be and have been distracted from that goal but the Lord seems to raise up the right people to remind us who we are and what we confess.
So we will celebrate today that amid viral threats and virtual church, there are still people being called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified by the Word of the Lord. Even in our broken and divided world, folks are still coming together at the beck and call of the Spirit to be the Church, the body of Christ. Though all around us there are fake churches preaching fake gospels, there are also faithful folks who have heard the truth and who intend, by the grace of God, to live in the way of that truth. We have weathered many storms and there are many storms to weather, but thanks be to God that the seed is still being sown and faithful plants be set in the good soil of the Gospel to bear the fruit God has appointed.
Welcome to Grace Lutheran Church. We have been waiting for you.