There is no doubt this was a difficult Summer for Christians in America. It felt like one blow after another on our religious freedoms. There were landmark decisions regarding marriage, and many embattled consciences over the abortion industry being exposed for what it is.
So too, we watched from afar in horror as our Christian brothers and sisters were murdered in the Middle East by a militant religion bent on extinction, and now these militants are on our own soil. Cities and churches alike burned to the ground as violence erupted.
Fields flooded, fires engulfed, droughts scorched the earth, markets crashed, and study after study announced the demise of the Christian Church in America as we know it. And there were no shortage of sex scandals, celebrity marital break ups, or other nefarious bad news, as evil becomes the new cool. Dark for light, evil called good, up is down.
For many it would certainly seem that we are in the dark and latter days and now find ourselves in the end of days. Or at the very least we begin to wonder if we will be refugees, outlaws, and even exiles in our own lands. Is it time to lose hope, is it time for desperate measures? Do we fade away into the culture or make a run for it? Is this the end? Luther is famously quoted for his response to the question, “What would you do if you knew the world was going to end tomorrow?” He said he would plant a tree. Meaning he knew that the end was just the beginning.
And that’s the thing, we already know the end of the story. I once had someone tell me they didn’t think they could watch the movie “Passion of the Christ.” Suffering, torture, agonizing death… after a while I did say, “but you know the movie has a happy ending.” A final scene of resurrection: suffering vanquished, Satan conquered, death destroyed. Yes brothers and sisters we know from Scripture the end of the story. Even if we are persecuted, even martyred, that will be us who John saw in the vision revealed, as those whose robes were washed as white as snow in the blood of the Lamb. We know the end of the story, and it gives us hope, because it ends in the Day of the Resurrection and eternal life in Christ.
And so too… radical enemies with sword in hand at the gates to strike us down, Church and State suppressing the Word of God, preaching/teaching/worship that is predominated by the demands of the Law that leaves one gasping for air and an easy way out… folks, we’ve been here before: we’re Lutherans. In some of the darkest days of the Christian Church, was brought forth a confession and worship that was reformed to let the Gospel shine again.
So here’s what we are going to do: not just plant a tree, the good Lord willing, we are going to plant churches and new ministries. In the coming months, by the grace of God, we will be sending domestic missionaries to be pioneers in new frontiers, in a new era of missions for the LCMS.
We are going to roll up our sleeves, we are going to put our hand to the till, and we are going to start the work of plowing tough terrain in new fields… in what we call, Mission field: USA. We are going to be about distinctly Lutheran mission that lets the Gospel shine across the US.
We will work the soil, we will plant the seed, we will water, and we will leave the growth to the Lord of the harvest. Not for survival’s sake, or institutional preservation, but because it is who we are and what we have been called to do.
Desperate times don’t demand desperate measures. They demand repentance and forgiveness and continual reformation of the Church and unity of mission. They demand faithful confession and love of neighbor. They demand bringing Christ into a broken world that is falling headlong into a downward spiral. We’ve been here before, and we know where we are headed. And if God is for us then who can be against us? Desperate times don’t demand desperate measures – Keep calm and together let’s reform on!