Something to Live

Perusing the church ads in the Austin American Statesman  I noticed a Pentecostal church  advertising, “We’ll give you something to live by.”  People resonate to that.  It’s sort of like “Christian Boy Scouts.”  People cut to the quick by the Law do in fact crave to know “What shall I do to be saved?”  Well, this church can tell you, and tell you they will.  You will have a measuring stick and a rule book for every possible scenario in your life.  You will know what Jesus would do in every situation imaginable.  Then it will only be a matter of you doing it.  Now how hard could that be?

This Pentecostal church promised to “give you something to live by.”  There’s another type of church out there that will “give you something to live for.”  They will make it possible for you to live for a mission trip to Mexico, for feeding the homeless, for cleaning up the environment, for mom, God, and apple pie.  In a society addled by the meaninglessness of evolution, people crave something to live for.  Once they have that, they will eagerly tell you how different their life is now.  Before their lives were aimless, pointless,  They didn’t have much to live for.  Now they’re working for justice, for peace, for a clean environment, for equal rights and they are a getting a rush from it.

A Lutheran Church, a genuine one anyway, doesn’t promise you something to live by or for.  We promise you something to live.  And something to live is what you most certainly need for you are full of death.  The wages of sin is death.  Sin pays its wages on time.  The soul that sins dies. Scripture doesn’t say might die or will sometime in the future die, but dies present tense.  This is where the world of hunting might help some.  Every hunter has seen an animal mortally wounded run until the fact that it is dead catches up to it.

This is you and me.  We are dead men walking, the living dead, the dead who don’t know it.  Like Bruce Willis we don’t realize the fact that we’re seen by the little boy who sees dead people means we’re dead.  But like the man who drinks from the wrong cup in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, death can manifest itself in us instantly and we can go from youth, to wrinkles, to lifeless, to dust during one glance in the mirror.  The Dorian Gray picture we keep of ourselves is destroyed, and all our wretchedness, all our sinfulness, all our death catches up to us all at once.

When that happens, when we suddenly are aware how dead we are in our sin and sinfulness, then we are sitting ducks for churches promising us to give us something to live by or for.  To forestall seeing Dorian Gray in our mirror, we will grab on something to live by foolishly thinking that because I have rules to live I have life to live.  To get back that feeling of being alive we will grab on to something to live for foolishly thinking that because I have a lot to live for I have a lot of time to live.

What we need is not something to live by or for but something to live.  That’s what you’ll find at a genuine Lutheran Church.  The Boy Scouts can give you a code to live by.  Any number of social agencies can give you something to live for.  But these can’t give you any life.  A genuine Lutheran Church can.  We have a life-giving water rich in grace called Baptism.  We have the living Word of God sharper than any two- edged sword able to divide not only bone from marrow but you from your sins.  We have the Body and Blood of Jesus.  This is the Jesus who promised in John 5 that His Father gave Him the power to have life in Himself.  His Body is life-giving.  His Blood is life-giving.  Ergo, “Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life” (John 6:54).

Come see us when death catches up to you and you realize that having something to live by and for doesn’t give you anymore time to live…only life does that.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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