The Church: Shaped By The Word Or Reacting To The World's Emergencies?

Text: Romans 15:4-13

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

I have lost track of what we are supposed to be worked up over right now.  Don’t you find it hard to keep up with what we should be confused and distressed over in the world right now?  

What am I talking about, though?  

Well, it sure seems like the world always has a crisis.  That is to say, there always seems to be some big event, some big injustice, and some emergency that the world is tied up in knots over.  For example, back in 2016, we heard about the great need for ‘love to conquer hate.’  Then shortly after, the concern shifted to ‘Medicare for all Americans.’ Then somewhere in the middle of it all, assault weapons were out of control, and sexual harassment was out of control as well with the #MeToo Movement.  Then, who can forget Covid-19, with the crisis of ‘masks save lives, stay home stay safe, and the pandemic of the vaccinated.’  And then, there was the Black Lives Matters concern, as well as the crisis of drag queens reading books at the library.  More recently, there has been an uproar over abortions, inflation, supply chain failures, the war in Ukraine, climate change, food shortages, over population, under population, and so forth. To this point, the world seems to bounce from one crisis to the next.  There always seems to be distress, confusion, and uproar.  It seems like hell is always breaking loose, causing people to jump from one world panic to the next.  

Now, please know that I am certainly not downplaying the world’s problems, for there are many.  Contrary to the fairytales that people tell themselves to feel safe, this world has always been in distress and confusion, that is for sure.  So, what’s the point, then?  The point is that you are a Christian, and as a Christian, you are not to be carried along by the waves and wind of every changing crisis in the world! 

Dear friends, consider what the Apostle Paul says about all of this in our reading from the Epistle of Romans.  Paul tells the Christians in Rome, as well as you and me, that the Lord wants His Holy Word to characterize us with a dependable, steady, and constant disposition that leans forward with hope.  In other words, the Lord has given His church the Holy Scriptures, so that you and I may be taught and encouraged by the Word of God and not carried along by the waves and wind of every changing crisis of the world. 

You see, when God’s Holy Word has its way with you and me, we are not only given firm encouragement but we are given harmony amongst each other.  That is to say, when the Word of God shapes and forms you and me, we are given the same attitude of the mind towards one other.  We are united with one foundation, one mind, and one purpose.  And with this oneness, well… we have one voice, like a perfectly harmonized choir that glorifies God. 

However, as you already know, churches are often not in harmony.  Churches often do not have the same attitude of the mind and they often do not speak with one voice.  And the reason why?  Well, more often than not, they are not being shaped and instructed by the Word of God but are being shaped and instructed by something else, namely the emergencies of the world. 

Dear friends, with every crisis of the world, whether it is a legitimate crisis or a manufactured crisis, there will always be people trying to solve it. Some will be trying to solve the crisis with legitimate reasons, whereas others will never let the crisis go to waste – they will use it as an opportunity to do things that they otherwise could not do before.  Regardless of their intentions, though, you and I must realize that the church is located in the world, which means that it is always surrounded by distress, confusion, and uproars of the world.  Furthermore, since the church is located in the world, the church is always surrounded by nifty solutions, agendas, and education to solve the so-called struggles in the world.  Many solutions will work and many will not work.  But that is precisely where the crux of the problem exists for the church.  Way too often, the church takes its eyes off of Christ and His Word, becoming insecure with the world’s problems, and then the church begins to listen to the world’s experts instead of listening to God’s Holy Word.  And when that happens – well, the church is no longer trusting solely in God’s Word. And when it is no longer trusting in God’s Word, it is no longer in harmony. And when it is no longer in harmony, it cannot speak with one voice.  Unity is lost.  The voice of the church is fragmented and ineffective and the people do not live in steadfast assurance but often race around like chickens with their heads cut off.  Church members will look like the world, changing their social media profile pictures from one crisis icon to the next.  They will bounce back and forth on the waves of the world’s problems – in distress, confused, and in an uproar about how the church should act and what the church should do during whatever crisis is currently at hand.

To make things worse, Pastors can forget the Holy Word of God in whatever crisis the world is going through. And instead, Pastors can end up peddling – from the pulpit - the talking points of whatever political action group has grabbed their attention.  In the end, this kind of preaching only fragments the church even more, as the flock needs the Word of God but instead gets cultural talking points. God have mercy on churches that look just like the world’s news channels!

Perhaps this is why faithful churches are often considered irrelevant in our world.  You know what I am talking about.  You have heard it said before, 

“I don’t like going to church because it is irrelevant.  It does not speak to the issues of the day!”  

Perhaps, there might be some truth to the criticism; however, if we were to examine this criticism closely, we might realize that many faithful churches are churches that won’t take the bait of culture.  They are churches that refuse to get on the bandwagon of the crisis of the month.  They are churches that have remained steadfast – they are churches that have not turned their back on God’s Word to chase the world’s drama but have kept their mind set on the Word of God through the hard times and good times alike. Frankly stated, a church that won’t follow the blithely misguided ideas and so-called solutions of the world is not irrelevant but steady.  

And so, Baptized Saints of St. Paul’s, how are we doing at listening to the Word of God? Are we easily caught up in the drama and the ever-changing emergencies of the world?  Do we wish that St. Paul’s would take some tips from a relevant world? Are we a bit fearful of sounding different from the world’s solutions?  Are we tempted to try and impress the world?  Or are we a bit frustrated when the church does not get worked up in a tizzy with the world’s problems, as seriously as our neighbors do?  If we are, let me make this very simple for you and me – let’s just pack up, close the doors, and go home.  Let’s stop wasting our time.  The last thing the Lord needs or wants is another lukewarm useless church that blows like a reed in the wind of the world.  Mark this; the Lord will vomit up a stale and stagnant church. 

The fact of the matter is that we all need to repent and remember that the Lord has not withdrawn His Word from you and me.  The Word has been present in this church for decades and – Lord willing – will continue for decades to come, which means that every time there is a crisis in the world, you and I do not need to put our heads in the sand or freak out. But instead, you and I can stand tall with our heads high, looking not at the crisis with fear but to Christ. That is right; when the world panics, when every new crisis is like a punch to the gut, and when the world powers shake in their own boots, you dear Baptized Christian, know that the Lord has given you His Holy Word of truth and certainty so that you can rest when there is no rest, sing peace when there is no peace, hope amid despair, and encourage when there is pain.  Yes, indeed, when the world is jumbled with all sorts of different problems, different solutions, and different emotions – you have been given God’s Holy Word and the surety of your baptisms in the Holy Ark of the Christian Church to be filled with joy and peace.  Yes, filled with hope, so that you may overflow to those around you.  

Baptized Saints, when all hell breaks loose, stand up!  Do not waiver.  Do not get pulled into despair.  Trust in Christ who loved you and gave Himself up for you.  Hear His Word, receive His sacrament and know that He will neither leave you nor forsake you.  Raise your chins, He is coming back in a little while to make all things new.  

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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