In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.
One hundred years is a long time to do anything. If we look at the last one hundred years in which Mount Olive has preached Christ Crucified, we see a dramatic landscape. Mount Olive has come through two world wars, the Great Depression, several other wars and conflicts, recessions, terrorist attacks, fat years, lean years, a merger, the division in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, changing neighborhoods, the disintegration of the family, a radical change in societal norms and morals, and almost everything imaginable. Not only is one hundred years a long time to do anything, the last one hundred years especially have been an interesting time for the ministry of this congregation. There are congregations—both Lutheran and otherwise—who have not weathered these storms. That Mount Olive still stands, that we still open our doors every Sunday and preach Christ Crucified is a testament not to anyone who has gone before us in this congregation, not to you, and especially not to me, but to the Lord of the Church. In His wisdom He has provided for us. He has kept us here to do His work, to preach His Word to a dying world. Days may be grayer now than they were in the past, but dimness has never stopped the Church.
When Jesus visited Zacchaeus, He proclaimed a radical message: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” After turning your house upside down to find a lost priceless treasure, you don’t stand back, look at all the places you searched, and say “Oh, that was easy.” No. You stand back and you say “That was hard work, but it was worth it.” Jesus operates much the same way. He didn’t come to do the easy thing. He didn’t come to minister to the “good” people. He didn’t come to sit in the country club and complain about those of lower degree. He came to get His hands dirty. He did His work with the tax collectors, prostitutes, thieves, lepers, and all the “undesireables” of His day. Zacchaeus is a prime example. Tax collectors were the vilest of the vile. Jesus didn’t condemn Zacchaeus and go His way. He went and stayed in his house. He broke bread with him, preached the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins to him. And that message worked; the Word accomplished the purpose for which it was sent. It created faith in Zacchaeus, faith which responded in repentance for sin and joy in forgiveness, and from that joy flowed the good work of repaying the neighbor for the sins committed against them. Jesus sought and saved lost Zacchaeus.
Jesus sought and saved you, too. You were lost and condemned. You are the reason He established His Church, the reason He left to the Church the gifts of Word and Sacrament, the Means of Grace. He did all of this that you might be saved. He died for you on Calvary, shed His Blood to pay the price your sin demanded. But that He died for you means nothing until it is applied to you. So He sent His Church to continue His work to seek and to save that which was lost. Maybe you came to faith through the Word preached at Mount Olive, or Gethsemane, or Zion, or any of the countless congregations around the world. Through them He sought you, found you, and gave His saving death to you through faith and through Holy Baptism. Here in the congregation, through His called and ordained servants, through the Word and Sacraments they administer, they give to you all Christ died to win for you.
That is what we celebrate today. We celebrate all that Christ has done in Mount Olive in these one hundred years. Through the Word read and preached by the Pastors who have stood in the pulpits, through the Water and Word poured over thousands of heads at the Baptismal Fonts, through the Body and Blood of Christ distributed at the Altars people have come to faith, been strengthened in it, and have died in it. If Mount Olive relied on herself or man-made schemes, she would have disappeared long ago. But because Mount Olive has, by the grace of God, remained firm on the foundation of Christ the Crucified, she has survived these past one hundred years and looks forward to as many years as it pleases the Lord of the Church to keep us here.
Though these one hundred years have been good years by the grace of God, they have not been without their storms. In the Great Depression we lost our church building. In the 1970s we were tossed about as some in our Synod tried to say that the Word of God was wrong. In the 1980s we took shaky steps forward after a merger that wasn’t always popular. Today we open our doors to a neighborhood that seems indifferent to the Christ we preach. Through all of these storms, Christ has proved Himself faithful. He has lived up to His Name, Emmanuel—God with us. The world around us may crumble, the place where we gather may be different, our former church buildings reduced to empty lots, but the Christ around whom we gather does not change and will not change. The Word of God is changeless, the Sacraments through which He is present among us give us the same Jesus Christ who always comes in love, offering forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. Satan may try to destroy us, but the gates of hell will never prevail against the Christ who is our Life, our Head, our Hope, our Future.
So we go boldly into the future. We do what Jesus has sent us out to do: to make disciples by Baptizing, by teaching. We go out preaching His Word, and through that Word He seeks and saves that which was lost. That is the most refreshing thing to know about our work as a congregation: Jesus does all the work, just like He did all the work of our salvation. We simply preach the Word and administer the Sacraments. We scatter abroad the goodly seed of the Word, not counting the cost, but throwing it everywhere. We unlock the doors every Sunday, knowing that we are doing exactly what Jesus wants us to do, what He has commanded us to do. We may not know what the future holds, but we do know that Jesus is with us today and tomorrow, and through all of our tomorrows. So we pray that the Lord bless us, that He keep us steadfast in the faith, and that He keep our Gospel message of Christ the Crucified the center of all we say and do until He brings us to Himself.
The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Sermons from Mount Olive
Mount Olive follows the historic one-year lectionary (series of readings).