2002 Convention > News > Sermon from Opening Service
Opening Worship Sermon
June 6, 2002
WITH GREAT BOLDNESS!
Rev. Dennis Putzman
Text: Acts 4:29 & 2 Chronicles 6:33
Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.
2 Chronicles 6:33
Then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name.
Fourteen years ago, at the founding convention of Lutheran ChurchCanada the theme was Our Lord for Every Land. Since then LCC has met every three years using the themes: Lengthen Your Cords, Strengthen Your Stakes (1990); The Gospel, Power to Live, Power to Give (1993); Called by His Name, Sent by His Spirit (1996); and Prepare for Action (1999). And now in the new Millenium, as we once again meet; we do so with the theme; With Great Boldness; That all may know His name. May God bless our gathering together and our going out from this place. But....
What is boldness? How bold is bold? Is it the example of Nicodemus, Pharisee and member of the high council, who came to Jesus under the cover of night afraid of the day light? Or is it the example of Joseph of Arimathea who was a secret believer because he feared the Jews? Is boldness a relative reaction that comes and goes as the situation dictates and the Spirit moves? Nicodemus and Joseph seem to be much bolder than before when they come to Pontius Pilate to claim the body of Jesus. Peter and John who had joined the other disciples cloistered in the upper room early on Pentecost lose their fear and boldly not only confess the Christ but publicly accuse the leadership of Israel of murder. Are we too occasionally bold, perhaps a little more bold now that it's convention time than we have been or will be?
In his popular trilogy The Lord of the Rings, author J.R.R. Tolkein tells the great adventure of Frodo Baggins, a hobbit of the Shire in Middle Earth. Frodo becomes the heir to a ring of enormous power. It is determined by wise counsel that the ring must be destroyed to keep it from the dark lord who would wield its power to subject the world to his service. A fellowship of the ring is formed to escort Frodo, the ring bearer, to the cracks of Mt. Doom where the ring of power may be destroyed in the same fire in which it was forged. The company sets out with great boldness to complete their quest. As time goes on, the boldness of each member rises and falls according to the circumstances. It is not long before the fellowship itself is severed. Each of the members of the company must face their own crises with whatever boldness they can muster until at last they are reunited to tell their adventures.
Our story is of infinitely greater value. Not one, to be sure, of a ring of power and the battle with the dark Lord of Mordor; but one none the less, in which we face the principalities and powers of the elemental universe and all the fears tied to them. Ours is a story of sin and grace; of Law and Gospel; of the love of God for us and all people. In this story the dark Lord of hell can destroy not only our bodies but our souls, and the threat is not just of temporal death, but of eternal death. The difference in the fear factor between us and the company of the ring is we are already victors. Our Lord Jesus Christ has secured the victory in his suffering, death, and resurrection.
In The Lord of the Rings, the threads of the story of the fellowship of the ring progress as each of the participants must find his own boldness in the face of threats from all quarters, and constantly sought by the probing eye of the enemy. The disciples faced the threats of enemies who would have them stop preaching, teaching and healing in the name of Jesus. They pray for great boldness to stand fast in the Lord and tell the story.
And therein lies the rub: believers are not the only ones effected by the events of Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. The message to be told with boldness is life and death for the whole world. We are eager to repeat that God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son that who ever believes in him should not die but live forever. It is necessary for that truth to be boldly spoken, not only where we go in Ukraine, Macau, Papua New Guinea, Venezuela, or Nicaragua; but also in Kitchener, Halifax,
Moncton, Gatineau, Thunder Bay, Brandon, Yorkton, High Prairie, and Chilliwack. The boldness of the 12 was to tell of the things they had seen and heard to those who had not seen or heard. Sometimes the story was greeted with ignorance and apathy (I don't know and I don't care). Sometimes it resulted in imprisonment and beatings. Sometimes it ended in death. And in those times, the witnesses went as boldly to their deaths as they went to those who would listen.
Where to do we stand? Where is our boldness? What happens to us when the urge comes to step forth with great boldness and confess Christ, or to tell a friend or neighbour the story of Jesus? Are we more likely to speak the Word with great boldness, or lie down and wait for the urge to pass? What should we do? One of the most vivid pictures from my youth is an aerial photo taken of the bodies of 5 Christian missionaries lying on a rock next to a river in a South American jungle where a native tribe called the Aucas had martyred them. They had come with great boldness to proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, and paid with their lives. The story does not end there, however. I can also remember a photo that appeared years later of the leader of the group who massacred the missionaries standing next to one of those missionaries widows holding a Bible. Even greater boldness was needed to continue to preach the Word as the Holy Spirit created faith in the Auca.
That may have required great boldness; but perhaps even greater boldness is needed among us. Who among us can deny that we live in a time of smorgasbord religion? People pick and choose what they want from the table of religion. If you find something on your plate that you don't like, just don't eat it: leave it there. Christianity has moved ever closer to the take it or leave it understanding of faith. Disagreement on doctrinal issues are not important. What matters is that we fellowship with one another. Isn't this evident as we witness those who claim Christ as Lord denying the virgin birth, or the resurrection, or the vicarious atonement? But these have been in and out of favour for centuries. Now we face other issues: life issues from beginning to end to sexual orientation seem to be none of God's business but matters of choice. We encounter every day those who state that all gods are God; it's just a matter of preference. Those who feel that mission efforts are impositions on the culture and valid religious beliefs of others.
Boldness today has taken a different tack. Boldness today may include a witness to even those who claim to be Christian speaking to them the truth of the Word. Boldness today is continuing a witness to those in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth. Even to those uttermost parts of the earth which are found here where God has brought those for whom Christ has died to us. Our boldness rests on the words of St. Paul, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'" (Rom.1:16 17).
And that is our goal, it is why we exist as Lutheran ChurchCanada, that we may boldly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father "so that all the peoples of the earth may know (His) name and fear (Him)." May God grant that as we gather together with great boldness we may proclaim the Lord with great boldness, and may go forth from this place to consider the threats of the devil, the world, and our own sinful selves as nothing compared to the enabling power of the Holy Spirit that God has lavished on his servants to speak His Word with great boldness so that all may know His name.