“Keep THE Faith, Baby!”

In the name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. [Amen.]

Dear fellow keepers of THE faith, grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord [Amen.]

“Cast care aside, lean on your guide;

His boundless mercy will provide.

Trust and enduring faith shall prove

Christ is your life and Christ your love.”

(Lutheran Service Book, © 2006 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO. 664:3)

Epistle Reading...................................................................................... 2 Timothy 3:14-15

As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Prologue: Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. lived from 1908 to 1972. His father and grandfather were Christian pastors and so was He himself who “pastored the first Black mega church, became one of the most powerful lawmakers in Congress and partied like a rap star. But many of the benefits we take for granted today—such as federal minimum wage and education for the physically challenged—we can thank Powell for.”

In addition, Powell actively organized boycotts and picket lines when Martin Luther King, Jr. was only a high school student and “spearheaded protests to desegregate Manhattan businesses—dependent on the Black consumer—creating thousands of jobs. In 1945, he transitioned from civil-rights activist to politician when Harlemites elected him to the U.S. House of Representatives. They sent him back to the Congress 11 times.

“By 1965, Powell was the most powerful Black politician in America.” Although he accomplished many meaningful things, “Unfortunately, his flamboyant lifestyle and scandals at the end of his career have overshadowed his contributions to improving the lives of all Americans.”

He eventually “followed his father into the pulpit of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church. By the time he died, membership had more than doubled to 10,000. But Powell had a wild side. His controversial behavior and his legal problems caught up with him. He was expelled from Congress for alleged misuse of funds, corruption, and his long absences from Washington. Harlem re-elected him anyway. Not to be outdone, the legislators seated him but he was stripped of his 20+ years of seniority—and power.”

Finally, “In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Powell had been illegally expelled. By then, it was too late. The controversies and the legal battles had taken their toll on his career and his health. In 1970, Powell lost his first election. He retired to the Bahamas where he died two years later. They broke him, but he never let them see it. His most famous saying: ‘Keep the faith, baby!’ is also the title of a biography and documentary of his life.” (Post A Day 2011) His slogan “Keep the faith, baby!” was not so much a confession of Christian conviction as it was a desperate cry to not give up and lose his political power and persuasive influence.

In today’s Epistle Reading we heard Saint Paul’s similar encouragement to Pastor Timothy, whom he had mentored and looked upon as a son. The somewhat rookie pastor faced trials, tribulations, challenges, and difficulties, even as pastors in particular and all Christians in general do today. But the seasoned veteran Pastor Paul reminded him (and us as well) to “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” In effect, Pastor Paul told Pastor Timothy (and us) to …

“Keep the Faith, Baby!”

God tells us in His Holy Scriptures that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1 ESV) God’s promise in today’s Gradual gives a foundation for our faith: “He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” (Ps 91:11 ESV) And today’s Gospel Reading contains a piercing question about faith: “[Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. ‘Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’” (St Luke 18:1, 8b ESV)

In our Catechism studies leading to Confirmation of God’s Baptism covenant with us we learned that faith consists of knowledge, assent, and confidence. Knowledge is the information about salvation by grace through faith in Jesus that God gives us in His Holy Word. Assent is Spirit-given agreement with the information that God gives us in His Holy Word. And, confidence is the belief the Holy Spirit gives us that the information in God’s Holy Word is true, trustworthy, reliable, and useful in its revealing of Jesus Christ to us. In other words …

I. God’s Inspired Holy Word Is Absolutely Authoritative and Practically Beneficial. (3:16-17)

16All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

It’s vitally important that we realize, believe, and confess that “the Bible is God’s own Word and truth, without error (inerrancy).” At the same time we also realize that “Errors in copying or translations are not part of the God-breathed (inspired) Scriptures.” (Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation. Copyright © 1986, 1991 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO. Page 49.)

In addition, we also realize, believe, and confess that “Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, is the heart and center of the Scripture and therefore the key to its true meaning.” (Ibid. Page 50.) Jesus Himself declared to the Jews who criticized, persecuted, and sought to kill Him: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me.” (St. John 5:39 ESV)

Sadly, many people today deny the divine nature and authority of the Holy Bible. They wrongly claim that its contents are merely fictitious tales that have good moral meaning and application for how to live our lives in peaceful coexistence with one another. Some wrongly claim that it may have had valuable meaning for the people at the time and place of its origin but not so for the people of today’s time and culture.

So it is that the unrepented evils God condemns such as murder of unborn babies as well as hatred and killing of other persons; sexual unfaithfulness by husbands and wives; disrespect by children for their parents and others in authority over them; sexual activity between unmarried and same-sex couples; greedy desire to possess what rightly belongs to someone else and the ultimate theft or robbery of such; neglect or refusal to join together with other Christians of like belief in public Divine Service worship where God gives His merciful and gracious gifts of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life; crude, rude, and obscene language and misuse of God’s holy name; and slander of others by listening to and spreading rumors and lies about them are more and more overlooked, ignored, justified, openly done, and even encouraged. Unrepentant sinful activity of such will result in eternal death; that is, forever separation from God in the fiery torment of hell.

But, there is certain assurance of rescue, redemption, and reconciliation through God’s dear Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. All sins (yes, even those I just listed) were laid on Him for which He suffered the punishment we deserve, even crucifixion death on Calvary’s rugged cross. There He shed His holy blood unto death for the forgiveness of all sins of all people of all time—your sins, … my sins, … and the sins of all who lived before us, are living now, and will live after us.

The blessed benefit of what Jesus gained for us, namely, forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life, He now gives to us in Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, Holy Communion, and His Holy Word. So it is that Pastor Paul declared: “[Christ] died for all. In Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” (1 Cor 5:15, 19 ESV) The apostle John said it this way: “[Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2 ESV)

In light of all that and more, God tells us that His inspired Holy Word is absolutely authoritative and practically beneficial. In fact, God’s absolutely authoritative and practically beneficial Holy Word educates us about Jesus, reprimands us, corrects us, and instructs us in virtuous living according to God’s Holy Law for glory, honor, and gratitude to Him. It does so by the Holy Spirit’s power to prepare and equip us because …

II. We Live and Struggle through the Challenging Times That Pastor Paul Predicted. (4:1-5)

4:1I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

The terrible reality of our contemporary culture and society is that a new morality of self-centered, self-indulgent attitude of entitlement is running wild and loose. Sound teaching that honors, respects, and is based on God’s Holy Word is largely compromised, contradicted, and rejected. Clerics who pretend to be preachers but don’t preach Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior spout what scratches itching ears and satisfies and promotes what suits their hearers’ passions.

Such pretenders use their own sin-stained reason, logic, and intellect to give people what they want that’s new and entertaining instead of what’s the best that they need, namely, the good, right, and salutary understanding and guidance of God’s Holy Word. That understanding and guidance comes in and through the church’s historic liturgy, hymns, and prayers. After all, those things proceed forth from God’s Holy Word, unite us with the historical and contemporary Christian church, and serve to prevent us from turning away from listening to the truth and wandering off into myths. It’s what God gives us to help us succeed in our efforts to …

“Keep the Faith, Baby!”

THE one true faith that focuses on and is rooted in Jesus Christ alone, that receives God’s good gifts of mercy and grace, and through which we are saved unto eternal life with Jesus in heaven is the faith that is informed and nurtured by …

I. God’s Inspired Holy Word [That] Is Absolutely Authoritative and Practically Beneficial. (3:16-17)

Of course, our faith that’s informed by and founded on what God reveals in His Holy Word, is the faith to which today’s Introit prayerfully referred: “Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old, which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage! Have regard for the covenant, Arise, O God, defend your cause.” (Ps 74:2a, 22a ESV) It’s the faith the Holy Spirit gave us in our Baptism and by which …

II. We [Successfully] Live and Struggle in the Challenging Times That Pastor Paul Predicted. (4:1-5)

Today’s Old Testament Reading reveals that struggle, challenge, and outcome in Jacob’s life: “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” (Gen 32:28 ESV)

It’s that “faith that will not shrink Tho’ pressed by many a foe; That will not tremble on the brink Of poverty or woe; A faith that shines more bright and clear When tempests rage without; That, when in danger, knows no fear, In darkness feels no doubt; A faith that keeps the narrow way Till life’s last spark is fled And with a pure and heavenly ray Lights up the dying bed.” (The Lutheran Hymnal. Copyright © 1941 Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO. 396:1, 3, 5.)

And so we bear on our hearts and minds what we prayed in today’s Collect of the Day: “Mercifully grant that Your Holy Spirit may direct and govern our hearts in all things that we may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of Your name.”

God grant it all for the sake of Jesus Christ, His humble Son, our holy Savior. [Amen.]

In the name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. [Amen.]

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