Wednesday, October 5, 2011

October Newsletter Article

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,
Pastor Messer


Dennis Peskey said...

I recall a prayer which said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." When we've found the pearl of great price, we can truly sell all that we have to retain this treasure which will not rust nor be consumed.
PS. Amen to this worthy sermon.

RAR said...

"Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word."
October 19, 2011
This is my prayer ... for He alone is able to keep me in His Word and faith unto the end.
I am looking for help and assistance with something with which I have wrestled most of my adult life.
I have discussed this with fellow pastors throughout the years and thus far have not been able to come to any peace regarding our stewardship of the Sacrament of Baptism, ... the Sacrament entrusted to us by Christ Jesus Himself ... for us to administer in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit
My struggle is not with what we believe, teach and confess ... or, perhaps it is ...
if one includes practice and tradition as a public expression of what one believes, teaches and confesses.
I am not at peace because I am unable to understand why we "tarry" (my viewpoint) in the baptizing of newborn children of Christian parents.
In light of Jesus' command and promise it seems to me that it is crystal clear as to when Jesus would want to take these little ones into His arms and bless them through the water and His Word.
In addition, knowing from Holy Scripture the state of all humans at birth, including, therefore, the state of my child; I know of no greater need that my child has from the moment of birth than the life and salvation which only Jesus can give ... Life and salvation which Jesus promises to give in Holy Baptism.
Here in Baptism is the Real Presence of Jesus working though the Holy Spirit to do that which no human can do either for himself or for another ...
"I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified and kept me in the true faith ... even as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it united with Christ Jesus in the one true faith ..."
Almost always among parents and grandparents, family and friends there is great and eager anticipation of the sight and sounds of the newborn child. There is the anticipated thrill of holding the child in one's arms, of kissing the wondrous face of this amazing creation, of speaking to the child tender and gentle words of love.
If this is how sinful and weak Christian parents and family anticipate and then relate to the newborn ... how much more the heart of the One who died and rose for this little one whom He created and whom He now seeks to recreate in His image through Baptism. How much more do the arms of Christ yearn to hold this little one and the lips of Christ seek to speak Words that are Spirit and Life into the ears and heart of this little one.

RAR said...

Should we not be straining at the bit to bring to this little one the greatest blessing of all ... the blessing of faith in Christ … saving faith that receives all other blessings that flow from the Father's hand ... the blessing of faith that God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit give through Holy Baptism?
I seek peace. I seek to be corrected and enlightened from God's Holy Word regarding stewardship of Holy Baptism in the Christian Church, regarding our practice and administration of Holy Baptism in our own LCMS and our congregations.

I am torn
... on the one hand
... it seems so very simple and clear as to the joy and excitement, the awe and humility, the worship and praise that springs from within our hearts as Christian parents who are able to bring salvation to our newborns within moments of their birth ... they need not remain in darkness and death, unbelief and the dominion of Satan for another moment as with anxious and joyful anticipation of their birth, with water and His Word in hand, we stand ready as Christ's servants to do His bidding in relation to this child for whom He died and rose again ...

but on the other hand
... I hear little of this matter and concern anywhere in the Church. Rather, it seems to be good and proper to wait a few days or weeks to baptize our newborn children.
Our preaching and practice seems to proclaim that it is God pleasing to baptize within a reasonable amount of time following the child's birth. I wonder who decided that ... and who decides what is reasonable ... and does God agree with our position and practice? Is His command not clear regarding His will in the matter of baptizing ... and does not He also make it very clear that “Now is the acceptable time” and “Today is the day of salvation.”
I fear that we do not stand in awe of God's presence and actions in Holy Baptism.
As you can see, I am a bit of a mess. I seek the counsel and wisdom from those so much more learned and wise in the matters of faith and God's Holy Word. Thus I turn to you.
Roger Rekstad