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Excerpted from Rick Foss' sermon to the Luther Seminary community on Sept. 3
Welcome to a new year! This is a fresh chapter in our mission to "educate leaders for Christian communities, called and sent by the Holy Spirit to witness to salvation in Jesus Christ and to serve in God's world."
The epistle text for this week, from the 13th chapter of Hebrews, is the summary chapter of an epistle which is probably best characterized as a hopeful sermon to a faithful people who have been through a lot of hardship and uncertainty.
It seems like a fitting text for us today. In today's summary verses, there are reminders about living a faithful life, followed by the promise that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."
I remember the first time a parishioner quoted that last verse to me. I was a young pastor, and there were some things I was trying to encourage the congregation to change. Now, I had tried to be wise, patient and respectful about the suggestions—including plenty of time for discussion and various points of view. But I really did think we needed to change. And I thought the conversations were going well, until one man got in my face, pointed his finger and said, "Pastor, we can't change. You should know that. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever! And that's that!"
At the time, I did not realize how much stress this man was under in his life, both at home and at work, and I vastly underestimated how important it was for him to have something stable and solid in his life to hang on to. To his credit, he went to the right place; he turned to Jesus. He believed that Jesus was solid bedrock, and could be trusted and counted on—a place of refuge in the midst of a world where it seemed like the moorings were coming loose. He had that part right.
But he had it wrong, too.
Jesus is the same, yes. Jesus's promises are good—always. His death and resurrection are for real. His message of salvation won't change. He will always invite us with, "Follow me!" And he will continue to "make all things new."
The deep truth of the gospel is that it is a relationship—a relationship with a Savior who says, essentially: "I know you. I love you. You are mine. We have work to do, and places to go. Come on, follow me. And in the end, nothing can separate you from my love—nothing."
This isn't a static "sameness" that calls for no new curricula or no new programs. This isn't static at all. The sameness of Jesus is a consistency of relationship. The ways in which we hear, receive, proclaim or live out that relationship might vary. But the gospel message of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, meant for you and me, calling us to a faithful life, with the promise of life eternal—that is the same yesterday, today and forever.
This will not necessarily be an easy year for us, but I believe it will be a good year. We are emerging from the hardships we have endured. We are living into our future—and a very good future it is.
So whatever this year might bring, whatever issues and opportunities arise, Jesus is in the house! That's the promise.
God bless us all.
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