by Pr. Jeff Dock, Trinity and Good Shepherd Lutheran
In preparation for my own sermons lately, I’ve been reading sermons by the Church Fathers (influential pastors and bishops between 100-500 A.D.) and the early Protestant Reformers (church leaders in the 16th and 17th century). What I’ve found most interesting is how similar these sermons are to each other (despite being separated by over a thousand years) and how helpful they’ve been in preparing my own sermons.
Despite a centuries-wide gap, these sermons deal with the same sins that we struggle with today. They’re based upon the same Bible passages we still read in worship. And they’re all about Christ, who is still the foundation of the Church today.
I find this really comforting. I know we live in a progress-driven society that is constantly telling us we need to be modern, be innovative, adapt yourself to a changing world and economy, embrace new technologies, etc.
Yet in the midst of that, you have the Christian Church. Pastors proclaiming the same Gospel the Apostles preached. Christians who keep gathering together almost 2000 years later to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection just like those first witnesses at the empty tomb. Children are still being baptized, Holy Communion continues to be celebrated, 3,000+ year old psalms keep getting prayed.
We’re part of something bigger than ourselves. Bigger than those couple dozen people who sit around you on Sunday mornings. We’re part of the Christian Church. Joined with Christ, and united not just with the Christians we meet face-to-face but with all of those who have come before us in the faith. We believe as they did. Face the same struggles they did. Find comfort in the same words of Jesus they did.
I just looked back at all the music my churches sang together this Easter season. They range from seventh century hymns to Latin chants from the Middle Ages to African melodies from the past couple decades (and plenty of stuff in between). And they all confess the same basic truth: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
I think too often churches feel like the need to reinvent the wheel. Embrace the latest fads. We see the changing world around us and feel we need to change as well. Things which worked in the church for almost 2,000 years just aren’t cutting it anymore.
It’s just the same old stuff. Those old commandments and doctrines simply don’t fit in our modern culture. I don’t think that’s the case. If it were, those thousand year old sermons I’ve been reading would be totally irrelevant as opposed to valuable and helpful.
The Church doesn’t need to reinvent itself or becomes something new (though perhaps our modern church needs to go find what it has lost or tossed aside). The tools are there to be used. We’ve got the Word of God which has never yet failed. We’ve got the forgiveness of sins which is the key to heaven and eternal life. We’ve got Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday and today and forever. Same old stuff? Maybe. But at least you know it works!