God With Us
Sunday, October 31, 2021
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier
Lesson: 1 Kings 5:1-5; 8:1-13
Good morning! Today is October 31st. Anyone know what that means? Halloween.
But October 31st is also a HUGE day in the history of the church. On this date in 1517, over 500 years ago, Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses… 95 statements on the Wittenberg Castle church door. And that was the spark that lit the roaring fire of the great Protestant Reformation. Possibly the greatest time of upheaval and change in church history.
Today is Reformation Sunday when we remember the courage of the Reformers and celebrate the faithfulness of our God. But lest you get sentimental or nostalgic -remember that the reformation was not an easy time. With the reformation came tremendous upheaval and heartache. Blood was shed and families, communities and countries were torn asunder.
It was not easy. But the church had lost its way. Abuses and corruption had crept in and the shining light of the gospel had become clouded. And so, in an act of both defiance and faithfulness, Luther and other brave reformers spoke out in protest. By the way – the word Protestant comes from the word protest. And protest they did!
Their message? We must keep the main thing, the main thing! Okay, they did not use that exact slogan. But essentially, that was the message. The word Sola, in Latin means “alone.” The main thing of the Reformation message was expressed in five solas.
- We are saved by God’s grace alone.
- Through faith alone.
- In Christ alone.
- According to the Scriptures alone, and
- for the glory of God alone.
The main thing.
Here at Augustana, we focus on keeping main thing the main thing. The good news of Jesus Christ is central to who we are and all we do. And God is our rock – a solid foundation under our feet. But that doesn’t mean we are stagnant or standing still. Oh no. God’s Spirit is on the move. Breathing in new life, new energy, a new future. Forming and reforming the church in every age. Buckle up Augustana. Because change is in the air.
It is an exciting time in the life of our congregation… But honestly, living through the pandemic with this much transition and change, can also be exhausting. Can I get an amen?
In our scripture passage for today, we see that tremendous excitement of God’s people when they THOUGHT they had finally built something permanent.
Something solid. Unmovable. That would not change. After living as slaves in a foreign land; After wandering in circles for decades in the wilderness; And, After centuries of worshipping God in a moveable tent, they finally built something PERMANENT. Out of STONE!
After all the sacrifices and music and extravagance of the temple’s dedication…
Solomon tells God in verse 13. “I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.” Did you catch that? “I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.”
Really Solomon? God never left the Israelites…But the temple? Four hundred years later it was flattened the Babylonians who then sent the Jews into exile. It was rebuilt two more times, only to be destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The Western Wall is all that remains in Jerusalem today.
It seemed permanent. But like sifting sand – it did not last.
Thankfully, God is greater than any building made with human hands. King Solomon even recognized that truth later in 1 Kings 8 when he prays, “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built.”
The sobering reality is this: There are very few things in our world that are truly permanent and never change. And they are not made from stone or steel. And yet, and yet, there is a foundation – a solid rock, upon which our faith and lives can stand forever. And it Is found in Christ alone.
We can build beautiful buildings in which to worship our God. And that is a good thing. Because we need to gather and share our lives, to pray and sing praises and to hear God’s word for us. But the true temple of our living God is not a building, but you and me; living stones “being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2)
God dwells in us. Enthroned on human hearts. And God will never ever leave us. No matter what. Through all the change and transition, through all the forming and reforming, God walks with us and will see us through.
God has faithfully walked with Augustana since her founding in 1907, by Swedish Lutheran immigrants. There have been many changes, and transitions along the way. Including new pastors, new programs and even new buildings. But God has led us every step of the way. Through you, your ministry and faithful stewardship of God’s gifts, the gospel has been preached, God’s promises have been made known, hearts and lives have been changed, and thousands upon thousands of people, both here and around the world, have been blessed.
God has been with us in our past. God dwells with us now, and God promises to walk with us into all our tomorrows. Therefore, let us lean forward and follow the Spirit into the future. For the Spirit is calling us to follow, and to be re-formed through God’s mercy, which is new every morning. Great is God’s faithfulness.