Friends, we exist here in the Barossa as a Christian community with a whole long story because someone somewhere in a past era spoke up with conviction and maintained that courageous confession of gospel faith for a lifetime.
I speak of a young university student, Martin Luther, in the early 1500’s, who posted some things on his mind when it came to how the Christian church was believing and functioning. That was only a little courageous. He just wanted to share a conversation with fellow Uni students on what he was seeing.
But what took the courage was what happened next. His words quickly started a much bigger and far-reaching conversation that eventually put him the difficult position of being rejected by the very Christian community he had such strong and clear convictions about. And he did not give up his convictions.
I often wonder what would make a young man put his reputation, his work, his skills, his future and eventually his life at rick?
It makes me wonder what I willingly put at risk for my convictions and confession of faith. What are my questions of the world? What are my convictions about this church, this faith, this man Jesus? And if I speak them among friends, community, church community, school, university, employees, employers……, especially when it means discomfort, possible disconnection and sometimes some disgrace, what do I count on?
Luther (and many others) counted on God’s promises. With a transforming experience in God’s word, telling him that he could never be good enough for God’s perfection, that he had no automatic ticket to the good life because he was a Christian or a monk or a pastor, that this deep darkness within him could not be healed by technology or education or more yoga or art but only by one man, one God, one Word, one ‘gospel’/good news: God forgives because he loves. And he loves the bad, the underserving, the weak, the shamed, the lost, and the dark. That is what gives courage to confess and carry Jesus.
The rest is history. The rest is OUR history. It is good to research it. It is inspiring! And we all need inspiration.
People gathered around the good news and around Luther and his close associates, like Philipp Melanchthon. A movement of the gospel rose right in the middle of the old fairly troubled and often life-less church community bent on power and status and many rules and even worse – just plain deceptive and destructive teaching and practice – like selling a piece of paper saying you will make it into God’s heaven if you pay some more money, and if you pay even more, you can spring grandad and grandma out of purgatory…. (Indulgences)
And here we stand, only by the grace of God, some 500+ years later in a country far, far away.
What do we stand on? What will give us courage to see through this new era with its obvious troubles present and coming, it seems.
What do you stand for? When push comes to shove, what will you refuse to be shoved around on?
Seems that most of us have a few ‘hot-button’ items, that when pushed require us to be courageous.
- Health – hardly anyone wants to just throw away their health – even those who are doing so by some addiction or other destructive behaviour. We humans generally have a strong will to live and help others live. When our healthy living is threatened, or that or someone very special to us, we have the need to trust this God whom we know and depend on the healing his Son has won.
- Wealth – most people need some money to live OK, and work hard to achieve plans and goals in life to that end. Some plans are wise, some unwise, some self-centred and some other-centred. When the interest rates get high, the supply of goods gets sparce, the comfort of life is disrupted, we get a bit upset or on edge – like we have been these last two years and are still now. Where is trust in the Saviours presence and power that will see us through anything and how does it get confessed and done?
- Name – no one likes being shamed. Most people don’t like being dismissed and embarrassed by others, especially when the snub is based on the colour of my skin, the shape of my body, the name I inherited, the way I look. When those social media posts go live or that put down comes, we feel it and we want someone to understand, to forgive, give me some slack. Problem is that in the world, there is hardly any slack. Especially in this cancel culture. One mistake and you are gone. Where is the good news of Jesus’ acceptance and love that knows no heights or depths and how does it get spoken and lived?
Then there is the ‘Unholy Trinity’ of the inward self-centred self, the pull of those against the words of God or just unaware of it heading away from him and the Evil One who loves to destroy any hint of grace and healing and community we might experience from God.
But courageous confession of the gospel faith in Jesus is possible for everyday flawed human beings. We can take heart from that on Augsburg Confession Sunday.
On June 25th, 1530, in the German city of Augsburg, before Emperor Charles V and all the powerful people of the Roman Church in that region, the new community of people that shared the hope and stand of Luther had their chance to collectively speak their conviction that came from their experience of God and his grace in Jesus. Luther could not be there because he was under an execution order for his stand. But he helped them get their stuff together and speak the good news in a 28-part confession of the evangelical (gospel centred) Christian faith.
Ever since, this Augsburg Confession has been the basic confession of faith to which all Lutheran Synods around the world hold. It has become the basic framework for what came to be known as the Lutheran church.
We would best know what the Augsburg Confession is on about by our learning of Luther’s Small Catechism – an absolute gem and the basis of all our teaching here and across the LCA, and the Lutheran Church world-wide.
The Augsburg Confession is not promoting some brand-new revolutionary cult. It begins with the three great confessions of the biblical Christian faith. It simply calls people of God to live in this tried-and-true common confessions of Biblical Faith fully; courageously.
In a nutshell, this confession of faith is honest on what it is to be human. Humans have an inherited ‘anti- God’s love and care disease’ that we cannot shake on our own. It is a fatal disease.
It is dishonest about God. This wonderful man who is God’s Son has provided the cure. The cure comes by faith in God’s grace poured out in blood and empty tomb and Pentecost Spirit proclaimed in the Word. Ordinary forgiven sinners, now holy people of God with a role to be priests serving the world can live life courageously under any threat – internal or external.
We are alive because he makes us alive. We have a life to live and a gift to give because of him.
And we are a community with Jesus’ authority to forgive, Jesus’ word to share, teach and speak.
And so, by the Spirit’s speaking and doing, we can actually do what Paul charges his apprentice pastor Timothy to do. We can fight – not with power and politics and pretence but with trust and with love;
We ordinary few, now under may threats and embarking on an unknown new era of life stand because Jesus stands tall. We do not fall because even though Jesus’ blood fell to the ground he rose from the ground. His words, his promises, his present and his future still stand. His calling on us to be his ambassadors against the foe in the thick and the thin still stands.
We are not just ‘church-goers’. We are kingdom workers. We are not merely religious’, we are fiercely gracious. We are not timid wallflowers, we are courageous confessors of the love and hope of Jesus in word and deed with every breath until our last earthly breath.
I pray that we ordinary few stand and speak with kindness but clarity.
That is what being a community of the Augsburg Confession is. It is a community of forgiveness and love for everyone. It is what the Lord has got us standing here for.