“Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed.” (Psalm 74,2 KJV) Jesus Christ says: “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it – my Church.” (Matthew 16:18)
The Church is Christ’s + Thank God for that + It is his. He called it into being through his mighty, creative and efficacious word. He has purchased it of old. It is his inheritance. He has redeemed it. That is why he calls the shots in it. Without him the Church is not Church. His word, mandates, institutions, orders and callings make, characterise and establish the Church. Take those out, alter and forget them – and you are left not with the Church, but with some scaffolding or useless debris.
It is the promise of Jesus Christ, that his Church will prevail, that nobody and nothing will overcome him nor his divine institution, but that he will be with his faithful people always and that his holy word and testaments will not disappear from their midst. Where 2 or 3 are gathered in his name, there he is with them with his grace and mercy. Many things opposed the Church from its very beginning and yet despite its difficult startup, which probably would have never passed any viability tests or sustainability checks it has persisted throughout the Ages and gone from strength to strength and to the very outposts of humanity be that in Alaska or the Australian outback, the Mongolian highlands or Sudanese savannah or Amazonian backwaters. By his means of grace the triune God sustains true faith and the joyful confession of his saving gospel + And nobody and nothing will sever the members from their head – their Lord and saviour Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we get the feeling that all hell is loose and all and everything is going wrong. Something not quite like the big final onslaught depicted by Peter Jackson’s five armies, but you get the idea. In situations like this – when the Emperor declares the prophet of truth an outlaw, when even so called international synods reject the gospel truth and prominent church leaders propagate and uphold blatant contradictions of our Lord’s testaments and institutions – then it is good to remember this promise of the Lord that his church will remain for ever and that the portals of hell will not overcome it – nor its true confession, nor its faithful pastors and members. Rather it will remain forever +
Most of the time the danger or perceived calamity is not as dramatic. Mostly sly challenges to the truth in the church and profound changes come about quietly and rather harmoniously even. It’s only some lonely voices of warners like that of Bonhoeffer, Nygren, Sasse, Hopf and the like, who were not caught unawares like the rest of those sleeping peacefully in the sleeping coaches of the Lutheran Church progressing (!) into the new structures of unionistic compromise and syncretism.
We should remember that we cannot save and keep the Church for what it is. We can’t do it, just as our fathers could not do it nor will our children be able to do it either. Rather it is the Lord, who does this his most precious and holy work where and when he will amongst those, who hear the gospel + He is alive and well and he is doing his work without fail and most perfectly and effectively. We just pray that he does his work amongst us too + that his word will find faith and hopeful obedience amongst us too + Where the summer rains of his grace, mercy and peace fall, there you have flourishing communities of those gathered around his divine gifts – word and sacrament. There you hear his praises sung, worshipped and proclaimed loud and clear. There all hope is resting on his promises and all ears are attentive to hear from him the consoling absolution and declarations of peace and goodwill amongst all men.
He can raise for himself those, that he wants to do his work. He can equip and empower them with his means on high, that they will be courageous confessors of his unwavering truth even in struggles and difficult situations and times. That is why we as members of his Church are confident, composed and even quite joyful for we know his Church to be in good hands and on his good course. He will lead and guide it even through dark valleys of calamity and death – his rod and staff comfort us +
We pray: Holy and most merciful Father, blessed God, who hast called me, thine unworthy servant to feed thy flock, on the eve of the day, when thou shalt permit me to proclaim thy Word, I bow before thee in reverence and humility and offer this my prayer: Pour down thy Holy Spirit upon thy whole church and subject my congregation and those of my brethren to the power of thy mighty Word.
Grant unto me, and to all who are called to minister in thy church, grace and wisdom, that our preaching, being drawn from thy fountain, may refresh the souls that thirst for thy Word. Govern and guide us by thy Holy Spirit, that being furnished with thy power, we may serve thee with all boldness and faithfulness, and through our ministry true faith may be stirred and strengthened and the love of Christ grow and increase amongst us.
Be present, O Lord, according to thy gracious Word, with those who shall assemble themselves in thy name. Grant them teachable minds, receptive to thy Word and quick to understand it, and enable them to embrace it in singleness of heart. Open blind eyes, arouse the slothful, establish the waverers, and let the witness of life gain power over all that is dead in our midst; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Dobberstein 56)
Come, O precious Ransom, come,
Only hope for sinful mortals!
Come, O Savior of the world;
Open are to you all portals.
Come, your beauty let us view;
Anxiously we wait for you.
Enter now my waiting heart,
Glorious King and Lord most holy.
Dwell in me and never leave,
Thought I am but poor and lowly.
What vast riches will be mine
When you are my guest divine!
My hosannas and my palms
Graciously receive, I pray you;
Evermore, as best I can,
Homage I will gladly pay you,
And in faith I will embrace
Life eternal by your grace.
Hail! Hosanna! David’s Son!
Jesus, hear our supplication!
Let your kingdom, scepter, crown
Bring us blessing and salvation
That forever we may sing:
Hail! Hosanna to our king!
Hymn # 34 from Lutheran Worship by: Johann G. Olearius
Tune: Meinen Jesum Lass Ich Nicht