Summary: An introduction to a new ministry vision. In this message, the context for the Church is set and the four pillars of the new ministry vision are introduced: Discipleship; Assimilation; Biblical Peacemaking; Leadership Development.
Yesterday, the events of the Normandy invasion – D-Day – were remembered. On that day, the largest amphibious invasion of all time was launched by the allied forces in order to retake Europe. On D-Day, about 160,000 troops landed on the beaches of Normandy. The planning and logistics were absolutely staggering. The Allies planned this battle down to the last detail and took into account things like the tides and whether the moon would be full in order to provide the light needed to spot certain markers on Normandy beach. Without this meticulous planning and complete focus – the effort would have failed because the enemy had the advantage. They had the high ground and they were bunkered down and could pick off the Allied soldiers when they came ashore. But the D-Day invasion was successful.
One day Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Mat 16.13b) Jesus’ followers replied: “Some say that you are John the Baptist, some Elijah, some Jeremiah and some say that you are one of the prophets.” (Mat 16.14) “But what about you? Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked his followers. (Mat 16.15) Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Mat 16.16)
Jesus praised Peter for his answer. He told Peter that his ability to make that confession was the result of God’s work. But then Jesus said something amazing to Peter. Listen carefully to Jesus’ words: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Mat 16.18)
In this one single verse, Jesus sets the context for the Church and its work. First, we get a sense for the scale of the enterprise. The Church is huge – its work is huge. The task that Christ has given to the Church is to tear down the gates of hell. This is all out spiritual war. This conflict is world-wide. The job of tearing down the gates of hell is bigger than one local entity in one single place and point in time can accomplish. We – at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church - are part of something huge that God has been doing for centuries. We are part of a continuum. We are part of something that God is doing all over the world. Because of that huge context, we know that ORLC has a task to accomplish in support of that war on the battle front that has been entrusted to us.
Secondly, Jesus says that He is the Cornerstone upon which the Church rests. The Church is built upon the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This looks like a place that has at its center the Cross of Christ. It is a place where Jesus’ name is lifted up and exalted. It is a place where life – in the name of Jesus – is passed on from generation to generation. It is a place where people come to connect to the living waters of Baptism and to be nourished at God’s Table.
The third thing that we see in Jesus’ words is that the Church has an enemy - hell itself. Hell stands against the confession of the Church. Whenever we find the teachings of the Church challenged – whether in our own lives or as an organized challenge to Jesus, we know that the force behind it is hell itself.
Finally, we see in Jesus’ words that He has sent the Church on a mission. Jesus tells us that gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. It is hell that is is on the defensive. Hell’s gates are under attack by Christ and his Church. In these words, Jesus tells us what that war against hell looks like. When Jesus tells us: “The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church,” – He is telling us that the there is a battle. The Church is on the march. The Church is attacking the gates of hell. The Church is not to take a defensive posture or to sit around just waiting for the end of days. Our task is to take the battle to the enemy. Our assurance from Jesus is that the gates of hell will not prevail over the Church. Christ and his Church will overcome hell.
What do all of these things mean to us at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church? How is the attack against the gates of hell supposed to look? Listen to Jesus’ words:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Mat 28.18-20)