* 500 years since the beginning of the Reformation—the nailing of those 95 theses onto the door of the Wittenburg Cathedral. 500 years—a long time. And yet time is a funny thing … “1,000 ages in *thy sight, are like an evening gone” (says the hymn “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past”) and “Amazing Grace” expands it to “When we’ve been there [in heaven] 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”
So as we celebrate this milestone in church history—let us remember that it is a blip in the expanse of God’s time. Because we are descendants of *that day, we lift it up. But it is a day like the day that Moses passed leadership to Joshua. It is a day like the day that Elijah was swept up in the chariot of God and left Elisha his prophet’s mantle. It is a day like the day that the Jerusalem Church realized you didn’t have to become Jewish before you became Christian. What is important is not the actual day, but the movement *forward. All of us have a responsibility to Pass the Torch of faith to those who follow. And the vessel that contains that torch is what we call “The Church:” throughout the ages, a pillar and ground of truth.
“Pillar and Ground of Truth”
by Beth Rice Luttrell and Mark Hayes
Pillar and ground of truth, the church of God stands strong; A bulwark in tempestuous times, discerning right and wrong. As keepers of the faith, employing heart and mind, May we, in wisdom, search God’s word, enduring truth to find. Pillar and ground of truth, pillar and ground of truth, the truth shall make us free. For we shall know the truth and the truth shall make us free. Pillar and ground of truth, the church, with open door, Stands stalwart, through the fiercest gale till storms shall rage no more. As those with questing hearts the age-old knowledge seek, The living church of God stand’s fast, God’s holy truth to speak. Pillar and ground of truth…
Free to hear the Spirit’s call, to share God’s love with all, to touch a wounded heart with kindness. Free to stand for the oppressed, our values put to test, So all will know we’re Christians by our love. Free to be the church, grounded in the truth, Unencumbered by convention, daring in our invention to be the hands of Christ in all we do. Pillar and ground of truth…
* Sometimes the Church doesn’t live up to its ideals. Sometimes the pillar and ground of truth forgets that it is not the end all and be all. Just as Martin Luther railed against the debasing of the grace of God, so we are called to be Reformed and Always Reforming, not just of the wider world, but of ourselves. As Paul says to the Thessalonians we are called to act and to speak “not to please mortals, but to please God.”
* It is a constant struggle. And one that we could not hope to win, unless we had a firm foundation. Unless we were building on solid rock, and not sinking sand. Unless we based our hope not on ourselves, but on God. On God’s amazing grace. On God’s insistence on relationship: “I will be your God and you will be my people.” On God’s coming to be with us, in Jesus.
* On that solid rock, we can withstand any storm, any tempest, any earthquake, any flood. For on Christ we rest. On Christ we lean. On Christ we depend.
On Christ we stand.
“On Christ I Stand” by Edward Mote and Benjamin Harlan
My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, A higher plane than I have found, On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand. When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace; In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil. On Christ … When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found! Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne. On Christ … I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
We started with the Church 500 years ago, but we end with the Church today: this place, and these people, “these walls.” The torch has been passed down *through the generations. The flame of God’s love has been protected through dark times. That flame has been passed sometimes in secret, sometimes with great fanfare. The flame now resides in us.
* We are the church that others see. We are the embodiment of God’s love, of God’s free grace, of God’s investment in the human race. These particular walls have stood for a hundred forty years. And what we have to ask ourselves is: What do we want these walls to represent?
* Are we ready to be like Moses and strive to see God face-to-face?
* Are we ready to be like the Apostle Paul and share “not only the gospel of God, but our own selves?”
* Are we ready to be like Martin Luther and engage with our culture and our time?
* These walls have been pillar and ground for many. These walls have proclaimed that on Christ we stand. These walls have been our earthly home and our glimpse of what may be to come. We give God thanks for these walls. And we look forward to being a part of the continuing story of God and God’s people as we take our part in this continual Re-formation.
“These Walls” by Heather Sorenson (Dedicated to all those who have faithfully been the church, “these walls,” to so many people—Becca)
In these walls, we are amazed at what You’ve done, and in these walls, we see the victories You have won, within these walls. And in these walls, we see You faithfully provide; and in these walls, we see You lead us and You guide, within these walls. In these walls Your Spirit falls, and in this place, You show Your face. So let these walls tell the story of Jesus lifted high. Let our praises rise above this roof and reach to heaven’s sky.
Let this Church tell the story of people on their knees, the healing of disease, and peace of unity within these walls.
In these walls, we see the salvation of the lost. And in these walls, transformation from the Cross, within these walls. In these walls, generations build their faith, and in these walls, we see Your holy power great, within these walls. In these walls … These walls hold the prayers of saints. They speak the Truth without restraint. Here we meet You, God! Let these walls tell the story of Jesus lifted high! Let our praises rise above this roof and reach to heaven’s sky. Let this Church show the power of broken lives made whole, of families restored with faith in one accord within these walls. We sing of Your power and hope within these walls. Forgiveness and mercy are here within these walls. In these walls.
May it be so. Alleluia, Amen.