But Pastor, I Don't Need To Go To Church To Have Faith!



Text: Isaiah 55:10-13

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

We all know how significant rain is in the life of farming.  Every summer after seeding, it is the same.  Farmers look to the skies for dark blue clouds.  Indeed, after the seeds are planted, there is an anticipation for the smell of rain.

However, when rain does not come, that anticipation can turn to worry and even fear.  I hear it every year, “Pastor, pray for 2-3 inches, we are starting to need it really bad.”  And then when the rain comes I hear, “Well Pastor, we are fine for the time being.” 

Now, whether you are a farmer or not, I think it is safe to say that by simply living in North Dakota, we all understand just how important rain is to our economy, our small towns, the crops, and our very livelihood. Without rain, there would be no growing of corn, beans, and wheat.  With rain, the crops grow, harvest happens, and people are fed. 

Considering all of this, we can say with certainty that no rain returns void.  That is to say; every little bit of rain helps and is essential, for when the rain falls, the yield increases.  Every drop of rain, no matter how small, causes the needed growth.  The rain produces a good crop. 

Now, why do I mention all of this?  Well, God uses this idea of rain and its affects in our Old Testament reading from Isaiah the fifty-fifth chapter.  Only, instead of rain, God speaks of the power of His Word.  Indeed, the Lord says wherever His Word rings forth in sermons and church services and hymns, wherever His Word is taught in its truth and purity in Confirmation Classes and Bible Studies and Kids’ Clubs, wherever people are unafraid of proclaiming what the Word says, well… God will work faith in those who hear.  This is not a ‘possibility,’ it is not a ‘maybe,’ and it is not an ‘if’ – God’s Word will do what God wishes.  God’s Word shall not return to Him empty, but the proclaimed Word shall accomplish that which God purposes, and the Word will succeed in the thing for which God sent it. 

And what is that very purpose of God sending His Word?  It is bringing the Salvation of Jesus to every one of you. 

It is like this: Jesus lived, died, and rose again so that you would be forgiven of all your sins.  He did all of this so that you would have life and be His people.  And to get the benefits of His life, death, and resurrection to you, the Lord Jesus comes to you in the Word.  Yes, the work of Mount Calvary is brought to your ears, so that you might hear and believe.  The Word of God comes to you in this church service from the liturgy, hymns, and sermons to work faith in you.  The Word does what God wishes.  The Word accomplishes the Lord’s will to save sinners like you and me too. 

But do we trust that Jesus and the power of his Word can really do all of this saving work?  Tragically, we do not.  Instead, we have our own ideas about how God is going to work.  So we say things like this, “The pastor needs to preach more exciting sermons with more jokes and stories,” as if the exciting and funny part of the sermon is more important than the part where God’s Word is proclaimed.  Or we say, “We need to sing more exciting hymns and do so with more energy,” as if the style and beat of the song were more important than God’s Word in the songs.  Or we say, “The Pastor shouldn’t read his sermon in the pulpit but should shoot from the hip and let the spirit lead him,” as if a sermon is more powerful if it is improvised.

Dear friends, the problem with all of this is that we think that we can or have to add something to God’s Word to make it work.  Frankly, stated, whenever we try to add our human ideas and schemes to God’s Word, we are making things worse, not better.  Adding to God’s Word is like a farmer saying, “That rain was nice, but not enough.  I think I’ll go spray down the field with some gasoline to help things grow.”  Gasoline does not help crops grow, and our human ideas and tricks do not help the Word of God do its work, but more often than not, hinder it.    

There is another side to this as well.  Unfortunately, I have talked with many people who think they can get by without God’s Word at all.  It has been said to me before, “Pastor, I don’t need to go to church, I’m a Christian without wasting my Sunday mornings.  I don’t need to go to Bible Study.  I don’t need to participate in the life of my fellow Christians, I know what I believe,” as if knowledge were the only thing that mattered in the faith. 

Dear friends, the problem with this kind of thinking is that there is no such thing as faith apart from God’s Word.  In fact, saying that one does not need the Word of God would be like a farmer saying, “I know how the crops grow, I don’t need any rain to make it happen.”  Or even saying, “It rained last year that should be fine for this year’s crop.”  No, my friends, this is foolish!  It is na├»ve.  It is dangerous.  It is crazy to think this way.  This is not the voice of the Christian, but it is the voice of the old Adam who looks for every excuse in the book not to hear God’s Word.  You see, just like a farm needs the rain to come often, so we too need to hear God’s Word regularly. 

Dear friends, we need the Word of God often, because without the Word and the Sacraments, our faith will not be strengthened, and we risk falling away into unbelief and damnation.  Yes, we need the Word of God, and we need it more than we think.  And God be praised that He gives His Word to us often. 

Think about this a moment! 

Our Divine Services are dripping with the Word – even if your pastor preaches a bad sermon – the Word is in the liturgy and hymns.  And all of the hymns and liturgy tell you that Jesus has died for you and accomplished salvation for you.  And when that Word proclaims your forgiveness, it brings you that forgiveness and your faith is sustained and strengthened for the days to come.  Indeed, you have precisely what the Word says, and you have it in all of the church services given to you at your church – Zion Lutheran.  This means that church services are not an inconvenience or a nuisance or a drag, but a divine gift.   
 
Dear Baptized Saints, the Word will accomplish what God promises in you – faith, faith that clings to Jesus’ promises.  Faith that believes Christ has died for you.  You have faith because God’s Word has worked in you, and will continue to work in you.

Dear Baptized Saints, as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall God’s word be that goes out from His mouth; it shall not return to Him empty, but it shall accomplish that which He purposes – your salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Amen.

This sermon is borrowed in parts and indebted to Rev. Adam Moline’s sermon on Isaiah 55:10-13.  


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