The Rev. Thomas Nibbe
Sunday, January 10, 2021 @ 11:00 a.m.
We pray for our nation. We pray for the five families that lost loved ones in the United States Capitol. We pray for those who grieve for loss of loved ones due to Coronavirus. We pray for the pastors of our churches. We pray for the ministry of the Christian Church under the Lord Jesus.
“…In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters…” (Genesis 1:1-2)
“…the voice of the Lord is over the waters, the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters…” (Psalm 29:3/a Psalm of David)
“…weeping may endure for a night…but rejoicing cometh in the morning…” (Psalm 30:5b)
“…Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance…He told the people to believe in the Onewho was coming after him, that is, in Jesus. On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of theLord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke intongues and prophesied…” (Acts 19:4-7)
“…and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit…” (1 Corinthians 12:3b)
“…success is how high you bounce after you have hit the bottom…” (George Smith Patton, 1910)
“…And so John came, baptizing in the wilderness region and preaching a baptism of repentence forthe forgiveness of sin…’I baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit’…” (Mark 1:4,8)
“…a ship in the harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are for…” (John A. Shedd, 1859)
Please pray with me this morning in light of the events of this past week…
As American citizens, as well as your servants in Christ, we find ourselves in a state of shock after the events of this past week. We may have opposing political preferences and personal views that vary, but we’re all united in feeling astonished and overwhelmed. We confess our confusion as we focus and reflect. We set aside other authoritative directives and allegiances to call upon you to provide direct divine guidance and encouragement for us. We depend upon you. Let your blanket of peace come over our shoulders. As you are the God of perfect justice and mercy we’d ask that your will might be done on earth. You have promised that whatever we ask in Jesus’ name, it will be granted. Grant us wisdom, insight and peace in the midst of the tumult. That — dwelling in informed faith — is our bottom-line. Your provision for us in the position we all stand is forbearance and compassion. We rejoice in the midst of what we are feeling…because our rock-bottom trust is in you, and you only. We await resolution within your perfect timing. We patiently trust in the answers you will provide giving us assurance. In Jesus’ name,
Marcel Proust (1185-1922) once said, “Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it’s grief that develops the powers of the mind.” I like this statement. It’s really true. When we’re happy, I believe, it is good for our physical bodies. But “happy” is not the only thing we need. We need “times that try our souls” and cause us to stop and think. The Bible teaches us to learn how to bear difficulties and to overcome. We need to pay attention to it’s teaching and prepare our hearts and bodies for what is to come, armed with Scripture.
We develop as outstanding human beings in all the areas of life when we encounter challenges that come our way. Indeed when we arm ourselves with God’s Word and His assurance, everything will work out. This is an especially good time to remember that. In addition, we can always depend on the Bible to guide us in a specific way and keep us straight. We need to establish, if we haven’t already, a personal relationship with Jesus. If you haven’t done so before, it would be a good idea to do it now…just go ahead and repeat after me…
“Dear Jesus. I turn from my own way, and in repentance, I freely choose to follow you. Forgive me allmy sins. I accept you as my personal Lord and Savior. I know that you died for my sins on the crossand if I accept, as I do, that you rose from the dead, I will inherit eternal life. Help me to be an useful member of your eternal family as I walk with you day by day. Guide me as I seek to be more like you with each passing day. Thank you, Jesus, for coming to earth to redeem a person like me. Amen.”
Some years back one of our more profound Christian thinkers, and I can’t remember now who it was, saidthat too many of our churches proclaim what he called, “A Theology of Glory”. What he meant by that, was this. God doesn’t give us the reward that may come first to our minds and hearts when we place our confidence in Him. We aren’t guaranteed the new Mercedes Benz, or the brand-new three-bedroom-twobathroom home with the pool in back, when we receive Christ Jesus in our lives. However, I’ve just now made a count of fifty mega-church preachers, all making from twenty-million dollars a year to one individual who has accumulated one-hundred-and-seventy-six million dollars in his career. To some extent or the other these men and women preach…just that…if you commit your life — AND your pocket-book — to the Lord, you will be blessed with earthly prosperity. A comment followed the list of some of these preachers stating that these were among the “most successful clergy” in the nation. Hmm!? Successful? I cannot identify with the statement or its association with the accumuled wealth or with the preachers themselves.
In contrast to this…
I considered what I know to be genuine Christianity, that is, “A Theology of the Cross”. This means simply that when we submit our life to the Lord Jesus Christ, we can depend upon the complete, unconditional forgiveness of all (yes, all) sins…that is…all ways we human beings fall short of Christ’s standard of attitude and behavior. In addition, we can depend upon the assurance of everlasting life. I like very much what John Donne (1572-1631) powerfully wrote, “…one short sleep past, we wake eternally, and death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die…” I also like the humorous question, “Did you know that no perfect people are going to heaven?” And then, the comment, in answer, “Yah, because there ain’t no perfect people!” When we unite our lives with Christ, we commit ourselves to the truth. Whatever happens, we can handle it. Wait! Correction! We can handle having been covered with Christ. We can bear and believe all things through Christ who gives us strength. I mean that especially within what we have witnessed this past week:
“…I can do everything through Him who gives me strength…” (Philippians 4:13)
When we commit our lives to Christ, we’re ready to accept all the normal, and as well, extraordinary life situations that can be put before us. We can handle them well. We don’t need to ride the “roller-coaster” of emotions others do in difficult times. Our confidence isn’t in ourselves, but in the One who dwells within us. We can exemplify Jesus in our daily walk even considering Portland, Kenosha, Minneapolis or Washington. Just because we are people of faith, it doesn’t mean that we are exempt from the outrageous circumstances of life. We need to remember that healthy Christianity involves that sacred dialogue which takes place between the very real world we live in and the powerful faith that sustains us…that saves us…bringing us spiritual and emotional completeness. We get better and better at living. That is the basic tenant in the theological thinking of Martin Luther. At the same time, may we all be spared from taking such extreme positions that we act out in a way that is disgraceful and dangerous to ourselves and others.
I have one thing to say about that — Lord, have mercy upon us!
Let us not distain the role of compassionate and common-sense faith in the Lord Jesus. We remember the extremely Christlike…the extremely compassionate stewardship of German citizen, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, under Adolph Hitler during the Nazi years in Germany, especially during the Second World War. The power of Christ’s message in Bonhoeffer’s vulnerability stands out these days “like light in the midst of darkness” as we consider Bonhoeffer’s time. The Catholic church and the Lutheran church in Germany during the 1930s completely submitted to Nazi policies regarding religion. It was only the “personal faith” Bonhoeffer possessed in the Lord Jesus Christ that provided the consistency of righteousness. With all the stories that have come out of World War II, the testimony of Bonhoeffer rises above them all. Upon being executed, the prison guard in grief apologized for the injustice of Bonhoeffer’s impending demise… Bonhoeffer’s reply to the German soldier and guard was,
“…don’t grieve, my friend, you send me to my God…”
It is our faith in Christ Jesus and His saving power for our fallen world…the one we’ve experienced thispast week…that will provide the confidence we need to know…heart, soul, and mind…that we are exactly where God wants us to be and exactly where we know we need to be. All else takes a back-seat! Through it all, we remain optimistic though realistic, patient and yet confident, faithful in the One who will never forsake us — only confirm the solid faith we have placed in God Almighty, rather than men.
All the institutions of humankind, the most trustworthy of human beings, the most reliable of human institutions cannot compareto the faithfulness and protection of the Lord. We will walk confidently inHim, and with Him. We will not believe religious mythologies. We will not succumb to the alluring ideologies of the age. The God of the Bible has made our way in Christ Jesus plain and simple. Weare to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our might and let themighty and comforting blessings from that sincere devotion flow into a cold, shallow, and hostile world transforming all that is. Lord God, put your hedge of protection around us in these days. Amen.