Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost 26

"Stand Firm"

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

November 13, 2016

Friday, we went to see the Luther exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Although I had seen a video preview, I was surprised at how large the exhibit was. It seemed a little surreal looking at items, artifacts and documents that were 500 or more years old. How is it that there was an exhibit like this? It was all because one man stood firm on his convictions.

Luther was an interesting person. Modern scientists have guessed his IQ to be over 200. He could read and write German, Latin, Greek and Hebrew fluently. His father had wanted him to become a lawyer. Hans Luther was extremely disappointed when his brilliant son decided to enter the monastery. He even told Martin that it was a waste of talent. 500 years later, we would not a agree with that understanding.

As I looked at the exhibit items and read about them, it made me wonder how it was that they were still with us. What if Luther had decided to follow his father's wishes and become a lawyer? What if he had decided in the name of political expediency to recant as both the religious and political leaders had commanded him? We wouldn't be here today. We are here because Luther chose to stand firm.

2 Thess. 2:13-17. But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.

The Lord calls us to stand firm for the faith. The devil, the world and even our sinful natures resist the call to discipleship. Paul wrote to the people of Macedonia not to give in to the pressures to conform to the demands of the world. The world isn't much different today than it was during the time Paul and Luther were standing firm and encouraging others to do the same. Yes, technology changes but human nature does not.

Think of great people of history. Think not only of Paul and Luther. What about George Washington or Rosa Parks or Martin Luther king Jr. What if they had not stood firm in the face of persecution and great odds? Life would be much different. What happens when people don't stand firm? The devil wins.

As we begin the celebration year of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we are reminded that it's still all about Jesus. He is our example when it comes to standing firm. What if Jesus had caved in to the demands of the religious authorities to stop and desist from teaching what they thought was heresy? What if He had cowered before the military might of Rome? What if He had not stood firm in the face of opposition? What if He had decided that the cross was way too painful? The world would be a much different place and we would not have the hope of the Gospel.

We have been called to be the people of God giving witness to Jesus Christ to the world. Because the world does not share our values, standing firm is not easy for us. In a world that is going crazy because it has lost any foundation and anchor, we are called to stand firm in the faith. People without hope may see you example of faith and perseverance and seek out the hope you have. This is your opportunity to point them to the hope of Jesus Christ.

Look around. We just had a national election. With all the people rioting in the streets because their candidate lost, you'd think the world was coming to an end. These kids have no understanding of history. Presidents come and go. Some are better than others. In the end, we believe that God is still in control. But, if your only belief system is in a particular brand of politics, you will have no lasting hope.

Here's the deal. One guy living in the White House does NOT determine your self-worth. One guy in the White House does not give you a reason for living. A guy or a woman in the White House did not give you the talents, skills and abilities that you were born with. These are God's gift to you.

Each day you live your life without much thought about who is in the White House. Those of you who have lived through several presidents know that whoever was in the White House didn't make you who you are. Each day the Lord helps you to show kindness and love to those around you neither because of or in spite of who is living in the White House.

Who are you? You are a baptized child of God. You make a difference because you are a Christian living your life and vocation in the world. You make an impact on the world when you stand firm in the faith. You stand firm when you live a life of kindness and compassion for others. You stand firm when you speak up for the weak, the downtrodden and defenseless. You stand firm when to defend the right to life of the unborn. You stand firm when you hold yourself and those around you accountable for their actions. You stand firm when the government demands that you compromise the faith.

The church through the ages has been called to stand firm. Standing firm isn't always easy. It isn't always the popular thing to do. People may despise and scorn you for standing firm. Their opinions don't matter if what you are doing is good and right in the eyes of God. Only the Lord can give us the strength to stand firm. The holy martyrs surely must have been frightened but God gave them the strength to stand firm and give witness to a greater power than the might of the Roman Caesar.

Not matter where you fall on the political spectrum, as a Christian you are called to stand firm for the faith. The Nazis and communists tried to destroy the church. They persecuted and killed millions of Christians. Yet, they could not and did not prevail. Governments rise and fall but the word of the Lord remains forever.

Today, tomorrow and the next day, we will live as the children of God. The love, goodness and kindness of the Lord will continue to flow into our lives and through us to others. The Lord will be with us in our disappointments and in our joys. He will give us the grace to stand firm for the faith. Amen.


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