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Church - Why Miss It? By Pastor Thomas Engel


If we were going to see a movie, and if there was a movie out with gangsters in it, especially if it took place in the Roaring Twenties, my vote would be to see that movie.

For some reason, I like the style of that time period and the drama that goes along with gangsters-I’ve been meaning to get a Fedora hat just like Humphrey Bogart.

I guess I like gangsters because I’m from Chicago. Not that I’m proud of our history of crime, but from a distance of 100 hundred years later, it does seem intriguing.

I tease that I get most of my leadership principles from the movie, The Godfather. For a pastor, a mobster type leadership isn’t a good model to follow, but, to say, the movie does give some ideas on leadership to think about.

For instance, Michael Corleone says, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer.” I think that the point is to know what the people who are opposing you are up to-are they wanting to cause you harm?

In one way, I doubt that we have people who are out to get us, so this saying would not apply to us.

Or does it?

Do we have our enemies? And if we do, what do we know about them, and in turn, what do we do about them?

I’m sure it’s true that we do not get along with people in our lives from time to time. We have our disagreements with others, but it’s also true I’m sure that people are not out to get us like in a gangster movie.

A side story here-at the first auction that I went to here at St Philip, it had a Hollywood theme, so I thought I would go as Humphrey Bogart. Many people came up to me and said, “Wow, you look straight from the movie, The Blues Brothers.”

We are far from gangsters and a life of crime, but, we, as the church have to see that we do have an enemy, and this enemy is out to get us.

Billy Graham said, “Don’t think of Satan as a harmless cartoon character with a red suit and a pitchfork. He is very clever and powerful, and his unchanging purpose is to defeat God’s plans at every turn—including His plans for your life.”

So, what do we do about Satan who is out to get us at every turn?

What we do is that we go through a time of instruction in the catechism, learn the doctrines of the church, we get confirmed in the faith, we keep remembering what we learned way back in our time in the catechism, and we keep renewing the vows that we took back on our Confirmation Day.

This day is important to these four young people as they will take their vows, and it’s important to each of us here as we renew our vows.

Do you remember your first vow?

It starts with the enemy-your relationship with the devil, or I should say, it starts with not having a relationship with the devil.

I will begin the rite of confirmation by asking these four young people in a few moments this question, “Do you renounce the devil, all of his works, and all of his ways?”

Their answer will be that they do renounce the devil, all of his works, and all of his ways.

The answer to renounce the devil is the only answer, for if we say, “No, I’m on the side with the devil,” it is to say that we are evil like the devil, which we are not.

Or are we, at least in some way?

The talk about evil can get a little complicated.

So, let’s turn to the expert, Martin Luther, who invented confirmation by writing the catechism, he says, “For even though we are baptized, believe in Christ, and have forgiveness of sins through faith in his blood, nevertheless we still have our flesh around our necks, flesh that is full of evil lusts and sins that fight against the Spirit.”

Scripture says, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Sadly, we have proof that the devil exists in the world, for we see evil burst out at times. And, we have to admit that our own sinful fleshes get us to act rather badly from time to time.

We need to understand some things about Satan and our own sinful fleshes.

Satan does roam the world, and we do live in sinful fleshes. But, we also have to understand that Satan does not rule the world, and our sinful fleshes are not to dominate us.

God only lets evil to exist, so we know the good that He has for us. When bad times do come our way, they are tests that God uses to purify our faiths.

We have to know that Satan can be crafty as he was with the first humans when he got them to disobey God, and that our sinful fleshes often can get the better of us.

If we let Satan and our sinful fleshes get the better of us, we have become our own worst enemies.

We don’t want enemies, do we?

Don’t we want friends?

St. Paul talks about a sin that he does not want to do, but he finds himself doing it anyway-it seems like some bad habit that he fights, but it still gets him-I think we all can relate, for we all have something that we fight.

As St. Paul is thinking about this sin, he then bursts into thinking about Jesus, and how Jesus comes to save him from his body of death.

I get the meaning of the line that I quoted from The Godfather. We do want to know what our enemies are up to.

We know that Satan and our sinful fleshes are up to no good, but we don’t want to keep them too close to us.

What we do want to do is to keep Jesus close to us, so we know that he is always between us and all evil.

And what a friend that Jesus is that he was willing to give up his life to save us from our enemies, sin, Satan, and eternal death.

After answering the questions about the devil, our four young people will then confess their faith in Jesus by the words of the creed, like we do here every Sunday.

God does not leave us hanging in sin. The creed clearly shows how Jesus saves us from our sins by his death and resurrection.

If we were to stay in sin, we would be damned forever, and God will not let that happen to anyone of us.

But, we want to be sure that we are not damned. We want certainty in our lives for now and forever. As we look at the world, we do see that evil is out there, and we know how strong our sinful fleshes can be.

Knowing that the world and our lives can be hard, God gives us something very special that is right around the corner from us.

If we look out around the neighborhoods of Chicago, we see church steeples everywhere.

God has kept His promise that we will always have His church where we find His Word and Sacraments.

So it begs the question-church, why miss it?

We don’t want to miss baptism, where God makes us his beloved children.

We don’t want to miss Sunday School, where we learn all the stories about God’s love for us.

We don’t want to miss confirmation, where we learn the doctrines of the church.

We don’t want to miss weddings, where two people start a new family.

We don’t want to miss funerals, where we celebrate the life of believers who have now realized the goal of their faith.

We don’t want to miss the festivals, like Christmas and Easter, where we celebrate the life of our Lord and Savior.

We don’t want to miss Sundays, where we confess our sins and receive forgiveness of every sin.

We don’t want to miss any worship service, where we praise our God and pray to Him for all things.

We don’t want to miss hearing God’s Word for our lives that promises salvation, guidance, and direction for our days.

We don’t want to miss eating bread and drinking wine that is the true body and blood of Christ that gives us strength.

We don’t want to miss where we have fellowship in love and care that the Spirit gives in Christ.

At church, you always have a friend.

God surely gives us all that we need in His church-why miss it?

In this past week’s chapel, we talked about what wisdom is and what it means to be smart.

To seem smart, we can google anything and get information, but when it comes to decisions, we need wisdom to put facts together to make good choices.

Scripture says this about wisdom:

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his

works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

In answering that question that begins this passage, “Who has wisdom?” we look around the world, it seems that the enemy is winning. It does not seem that so many people are wise with so much chaos in the world.

But, the answer is here at church. In church, we find wisdom that brings good things. All we have to do is ask for wisdom, and then, the benefits of wisdom will be ours.

God is pleased when His people act wisely.

And don’t we want to be wise? I mean who wants to be foolish.

At church, we are made wise for salvation, and we are made wise to make good choices.

In wisdom, the dark and complicated things become simple and clear.

Of any place that we can go, the place to go is to church where all good things happen-so why miss it?

If I could, I would ask the world-why miss church? I can’t ask the whole world, but I can ask this question to the young people here as they make choices for their lives, I can ask all of you, and I can keep asking myself, for we always need to know what we receive and do in church is necessary for our lives.

If we want a good life in Christ, church is not something to take for granted, even for every Sunday churchgoers, for we know like in this past year that a pandemic can shut it down.

But, also as we found, somehow and someway God will always make church happen.

The answer to the question, “Why miss church?” is that we simply can’t miss church.

So, for so many reasons from our salvation to knowing about who we are in Christ and about how we go about our lives in Christ, especially in a world that is trying to take us away from Christ, we can’t miss church-we just simply can’t miss it.


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