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