“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
Happy birthday! Indeed, happy birthday, Lutherans! For this is a birthday of our Lutheran church. 485 years ago on this day, the Lutheran church was born.
If you have seen the movie “Luther” or read about the events surrounding the proclamation of the Augsburg Confession, you will remember that several laypeople, princes and mayors, risked their lives to confess what they knew to be God’s truth.
They literary put their lives at stake confessing their faith before the emperor and all who were gathered in Augsburg. The church that was born on this day was called confessional Lutheran church.
Our church is unique. It was born out of confession. This is what united Lutherans. Their public confession of God’s truth. Unity in faith. Not institutional, not geographical, not nationality based, but unity in same confession of God’s truth.
Today I invite you to meditate on four questions. First, what does it mean – to be a confessional church? Second. What do we confess? Third. Why do we confess? Fourth. Where to get a courage to confess?
Let’s begin with – what does it means to be a confessional church? For our church, being confessional means confessing God’s truth as it is revealed to us in His Word. This is the content of our confession. God’s message.
Not something else, but God’s truth as given to us in His Word. His Word is the only source and norm for our faith and life. Of course, we have our Book of Concord, which means Book of Harmony. But again, its content is nothing else, but a correct and truthful exposition of God’s Word. This book simply helps us to formulate God’s truth clearly.
Being confessional for us means that we actually confess. It is about action. About confessing… It’s not about having a book, it is about speaking God’s Word to the world. Confessing it in its purity and wholeness.
It is true, as Lutherans we have this unique understanding about the Word of God. We believe, for the Bible tells us so, that true God is God who speaks. God of conversation and community.
God who does everything by His word. He created and ordered the world by speaking. By His Word become flesh He saved the world. By His Word spoken to us He gives us the Holy Spirit, faith and eternal life.
We as Lutherans have this understanding that God didn’t act and speak only back then. We believe that He speaks and acts also today. Right now. He doesn’t do it directly, He uses agents. He uses His people to speak to the world.
He uses you to speak to your neighbors. It means that when you share God’s message, when you confess God’s truth, the Triune God Himself is speaking through you. And His word never returns empty, it always accomplishes what it is sent to do. For us not to speak is to make our Father is Heaven silent.
Confessional church is a confessing church. A church which continues to speak God’s own message. A church through which God Himself continues to speak. This is how we as Lutherans understand what it means to be a confessional church.
Our second question. What do we confess? From the very beginning our Lutheran church has been very diligent when it comes to what we confess to be God’s truth.
First Lutherans didn’t compromise when it came to God’s Word. If God has revealed it, we don’t say: “Fine, it can be this way or that way.” We don’t say: “This part of God’s message is important to confess, but this is one is not.”
Fathers of Lutheran church has this image of God’s message. They perceived the whole God’s teaching as a body. One body of teaching. One body and many members. Of course, we know that there are in our bodies more important members and there are less important members.
It would be impossible to live without brain, or without heart. You could live with one lung, or one leg, or one eye. But when it comes to a body, we don’t say that a lung, a leg, or an eye are not important, for we can live without them.
There are no unimportant parts. The same is true about God’s message. That’s why we try to understand all what God has revealed to us and care about every bit of it. As about one body of teaching.
You also know that our church has this wonderful understanding about two ways that God speaks to us. First, He speaks to us His law. His will, His design for our lives. We know that it is very good. But, it is still difficult to hear it today. Why?
For when we hear God’s law, it accuses us. It kills us. It shows how far we have gone astray. It reveals the we, indeed, deserve God’s wrath. People don’t want to hear it. No! And we are tempted and sometimes intimidated not to confess it.
But the problem is that people can’t hear the main part of God’s message if they haven’t heard God’s law. They don’t want it. Only when the law shows our sins, our rebellion against God, when we realize that we can’t stand God’s judgment, only then we are ready to hear the Gospel. The good news.
When you are frighten of God’s judgment, there are no sweeter news than the message that Jesus Christ has taken all your sins upon Himself. He says to you: “I forgive you all your sins! I died your death, now I want you to have my life. Just receive it!”
We are called to confess both, God’s judgment and God’s grace. We can’t keep silent. Not to confess the truth would be like hiding from others that they are sick and are going to die, while there is healing available. Right here.
But once God’s diagnoses is made clear, we richly provide God’s healing. God’s love in Christ. His forgiveness. Abundant, never ceasing, never failing. Infinitely greater that all our sins. This is what we are called to confess. The whole council of God. Both God’s just judgment and His undeserved and abundant grace.
Our third question is – why do we confess? What is the purpose of our confessing? Some would say that you, Lutherans, you just want to show that you are superior, that you are smarter than others. With all your Law and Gospel distinctions and other stuff.
Sadly, but sometimes it can be true. We may try to prove that we are right, so that only we could be right, so that only we could show that others are wrong. But this is not why we should confess God’s truth.
Dr. Martin Luther was driven to the Word of God, searching for God’s truth days and nights motivated by – his love for the neighbor. This is what should motivate our confession. Always. Our love for our neighbor.
Our desire to save them from lies, from errors, from foolishness, from harm, from insecurity before God, or from false security relying on idols. Our desire to bring them God’s love and to lead them to Christ.
To bring them from the power of darkness into the light, into the Kingdom of God’s Son, to save them from eternal death, and to give them eternal life. This should be our motivation.
Jesus said: “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required.” (Luke 12:48) And our church has received so much. It is true, that the Holy Spirit did mighty things through His servant Dr. Martin Luther and others Reformers.
These struggles of 16th century helped them to formulate the Gospel message clearer than it was ever done before. It is true and it would be irresponsible to deny it. It is not something we did. Not something we could boast about.
It was God’s own work which He did through His chosen people. The Father wanted His children to be able to hear His message as clear as possible and He made it to happen.
This is what Lutheran church inherited from the struggles of the 16th century. Pure, clear confession of what God’s message to us is. We should be grateful for it and humble, for this is the Father’s gift to all His children.
This is why we need to confess God’s truth, out of love for the world, out of love for our neighbors who might still be far from Christ. For when you confess God’s truth in love to your neighbor, it is God Himself speaking to them. Calling them.
Our last question. Where to get courage to confess? We are a confessing church. It is our identity. As we discussed, we believe that when we confess God’s truth, that is God Himself speaking through us.
When He speaks He creates is you a new heart, a new spirit, He creates you anew for the new life in His presence. What can be more wonderful, more loving for our neighbor, that confessing boldly God’s truth to them, so that God can do His work through us.
But, is it that easy? Today we live in the world were people believe that there are many truth, everybody can choose His own. We live in the world where you are regularly told not to impose your religion on others. Keep it private!
We live in the world, where everybody is taught to think that their opinions are as correct as everyone’s else. We live in the world where the first commandment is ‘don’t judge!’ How can you confess God’s truth in its fullness? It’s hard.
Jesus’ words which we read today are helpful. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.”
Here is Australia we don’t have real threats for our lives if we confess God’s truth. We may have some troubles. We may be rejected by some. We may be ridiculed by others. We may be perceived as unloving. Ironically. We may not be welcome.
May be it could cost us some opportunities and convenient relationships. Not much more. Jesus warned His disciples that they will be rejected because of the Gospel. If none of these happens to you, you actually should be concerned. Something is not okay. It may indicate that you are not actually confessing God’s truth.
For we fear people. Even if our life is not at stake. I fear people. What will they think about me? How will may confession be perceived? Will I be perceive as foolish, as arrogant, or narrow and divisive because I confess God’s truth?
I fear these things. We want to live in peace and quiet. Why would we do something that can actually disrupt our peace and quiet? Because we are called to confess God’s truth. Each of us.
We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, and it means to share with them God’s truth. Both God’s law and His Gospel. Sometimes it could be so convenient not to bring up our Christian faith.
For it may offend other people. Even our loved ones. It’s much easier to keep silent. But by keeping silent we actually keep God silent.
Jesus confessed that He is the Son of God, sent to die for your sins. He was crucified because of His confession. But He was raised again because of His confession. You are sent with the same confession.
Be glad if you are found worthy to suffer at least a little bit because of this confession, for you know that you will also be raise because of this confession. This is most certainly true.
When you are afraid, don’t forget, that even the hair of your head are all numbered. Your God is always with you. Always! So, happy birthday, Confessing church, keep doing what you are called to do! For the day of your Lord is coming! The day when Jesus Christ Himself will acknowledge your name before the Father.