Summary: When changes come, we will not fear but put our faith to work and trust in the Lord. I preached this sermon on Reformation Sunday, a week after the Senior Pastor left to take another assignment.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is different. God has given Pastor Steve a new assignment. We have said our farewells, we have shed our tears. Today we came to worship knowing that it won’t be the same. Yet we came because we love the Lord, because we are part of our Grace family, because we believe that God has a new future for us.
Today we still feel a sense of loss. There is certain void within us. We may even experience thoughts of anxiety about what our church will be like from now on.
I am reminded of the time when our church on the Island of Kauai went down in the Hurricane Iwa back in 1982. We held the next worship service in the fellowship hall, which thank God remained unscathed. It was, however, a somber gathering of people grieving over the structure that stood there over 100 years.
Our pastor, Eddie Spirer, came to the improvised pulpit, looked at our sad eyes and said, “We have not lost a church, only a building.” And from that point on, feelings of hope and optimism started replacing the sadness and despair. The congregation of Lihue Lutheran Church went forward in the new phase of its mission.
Today, we are entering a new phase of our mission at Grace Lutheran Church, knowing that God has a plan for us. To borrow from football terminology, we have not lost our franchise, it’s just that our quarterback got traded. The team is still here and you are a great team, a team ready to take the ball and run with it to the end zone.
The game is not over, folks! We are barely into the third quarter, and we are winning! Let there be no doubt about this – we are way ahead! So why should we be afraid of new beginnings?
Today is Reformation Sunday when we remember the faith and courage of one man who was not afraid of a new beginning. When Martin Luther gained a clear understanding of the Gospel and God’s mission for him, he placed his trust and confidence in God’s almighty power and went forward in spite of opposition, threats, even danger to his own life.
Today we sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” the powerful hymn of the Reformation. Do you know where the words came from? It was Psalm 46 that inspired Martin Luther to write this hymn: God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountain fall into the sea, though its waters roar and foam, and the mountains quake with their surging. The Lord Almighty is with us. God is our Fortress.
Today we begin a new chapter in the mission of Grace Lutheran Church – perhaps with sadness, yet with faith. The Lord Almighty is with us and we are going forward, and in His strength we will score one victory after another. Jesus is the Lord of this church and it is His game plan that we follow.
So, where do we go from here? The first thing to remember is that the game plan is still the same: Preach the Gospel to every creature. Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in then name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. This is my body given for you; this is the blood of the New Covenant shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Do this in remembrance of me. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Love one another as I have loved you. Set your minds on things that are above. Bear each other’s burdens and in this way fulfill the law of Christ. Forgive each other as God in Christ forgave you. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly. Draw closer to God and He will draw closer to you. I am the Resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, though they were dead, yet shall they live. And lo, I am with you always, until the end of times.
The game plan is still the same, and is this a great plan or what? We know what the objective is: reach people with the love of Christ, and let the power of the Gospel transform our lives as we walk closer to Him. It is a great game plan, so let’s put it into action. A football player may see a great plan on paper but what good is it if he doesn’t know what those little arrows mean?
In order to put a game plan into action, we need to get into a huddle and figure out who does what. Let’s take a lesson from football. When you see those guys in a huddle, they are not telling each other jokes. Contrary to the TV commercial, they are not even telling each other they saved a bunch of money on car insurance. No, they are saying: you go to the right, you go around, you block this one you block that one and you run as fast as you can because the ball is coming your way. They need to learn how to work as a team. What good is a great running back if no one is blocking for him? What good is the fastest wide receiver if the quarterback doesn’t have a chance to throw the ball to him? Individual effort is great but it takes the whole team to successfully complete a play. The same thing happens in the church.