From the Desk of Pastor Messer
“Lord, Keep Us Steadfast In Your Word”
Our Lord Jesus said: “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).
Abiding in the Word, dear friends in Christ, is what the Reformation was all about. It was the Holy Spirit who guided our beloved Dr. Luther, the Blessed Reformer, in his study of God’s Holy Word, and allowed him to rediscover the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, which had been all but forgotten during the Middle Ages. When Dr. Luther was brought to realize that we are justified not by our own works, but by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, it was as if heaven itself had been opened to him and he could hear the choirs of angels and saints singing praises to the Lord. He had long been haunted by the image of Jesus Christ as a ruthless judge who demanded the impossible, and then punished those who did not achieve it. But now, as he discovered the Holy Gospel in the pages of Holy Scripture, He came to know Jesus Christ not as that ruthless judge, but as his loving Savior—the One who lived the perfect life he couldn’t live, and died on the cross to pay the full price for all of his sins. What joy filled Dr. Luther’s heart!
That same joy should fill our hearts as well, my friends, for we still have the glorious Good News of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, taught and preached in our midst. That is not as common as you might think. We live in a day and age when the Holy Gospel is every bit as hidden away and obscured as it was in Dr. Luther’s day. Tune in to those claiming to be Christian teachers on the television or radio and you will likely hear Jesus being promoted as a mere example to follow, or as a “life-coach” cheering you on to better living and greater blessings. Visit many Protestant congregations (and even, sadly, many “Lutheran” congregations) and you will hear the same sort of teaching coming from the pulpits (or stages). You will be motivated to “Live Your Best Life Now” or “Become a Better You” or to live a “Purpose-Driven Life,” and so forth, the focus being completely on what you need to do and how you need to live as a Christian. Rather than Law and Gospel sermons based on a lectionary, you will be subjected to messages on such topics as money management, good parenting, healthy eating, relationship building, and even on how to have good sex. The Good News about what Jesus has done, and continues to do, for you is rarely heard (if ever!), the idea being that Jesus did His part, but now it’s up to you to do your part.
Oh yes, dear friends, the same joy that filled Dr. Luther’s heart should fill ours, for against the rising trend to forsake the Gospel in favor of the Law-focused, Me-centered agenda which has been adopted by many—an agenda that lures many away from the truth by promoting itself as new and hip and relevant and useful, etc.—we still have the Holy Gospel preached to us in its purity and the Holy Sacraments administered to us according to Christ’s institution.
Let us never take this for granted, but heed our Savior’s exhortation to abide in His Word. To abide in His Word means that we never outgrow, or move beyond, the Holy Gospel. As long as we breathe in this vale of tears, we remain in desperate need of the salvation won for us by the perfect life and death of Jesus. We never stop being sinners this side of heaven, so we never stop needing a Savior. We abide in His Word when we cling to Him in faith as our only hope. We abide in His Word when we return regularly to where He promises to be for us—in the Divine Service, where He delivers to us the forgiveness, life, and salvation we need by means of His Holy Word and Sacraments. In short, we abide in His Word by placing ourselves in His continuous care, for our Lord Himself accomplishes for us, and in us, what He demands. He feeds and nourishes us, strengthens and preserves us, and keeps us in the faith—and all this by the very same Word in which He would have us abide.
Thus, do we Lutherans ever pray, in the words of Dr. Luther’s famous hymn, “Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word.” For the Good News is not only that our Lord Jesus has done everything necessary for our salvation, but that He continues to keep us in the one, true faith through His gracious and merciful Service to us here and now. He promised to be with us always, and so He is—with us in His written, preached, and taught Word, and with us most intimately in His very Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist.
Let us give hearty thanks to God as we approach our annual celebration of Reformation Day for preserving among us the true and saving Gospel. May we learn to cherish it as Dr. Luther did, realizing that the saving Gospel of our Lord Jesus opens up for us sinners the way to eternal life in the Paradise of His Kingdom, which shall have no end. May we be moved and empowered by the Holy Spirit not only to cherish the Holy Gospel, but to defend it, and to support it with our time, talents, and treasures, so that it may continue to be preached, taught, and delivered here at Peace Lutheran Church in Alma, MI until our Lord Jesus Christ returns in great glory on the Last Day! Amen.
A Blessed Reformation Celebration to You All!
Your Servant in Christ,