In my first post a few days ago, I published the speech that my roommate gave to the congregation at one of his last Sunday’s at our Lutheran Student Center. One week later, I had my own opportunity to address the congregation after the Offetory in the Divine Service.
This is what I said:
It has been almost three years since I first began coming to the Lutheran Student Center. Much has happened in the past three years and much has changed about me in that time too—but rather than tell you the whole story, I will summarize in one sentence:
Throughout my time here at Immanuel Lutheran Student Center, I went from disliking the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to being confirmed in it with hopes of someday becoming one of her pastors.
What caused the change? Was it the friendly people who welcomed me every time I kept coming back after the first day? No—the people were most certainly friendly and welcoming, but that’s not what kept me coming back. Was it the beautiful hymns and music that I got to sing and hear when I came that kept me coming back? No—while Lutherans do have one of the richest repertoires of hymnody of churches, that wasn’t what kept me coming back either.
While many factors contributed to both my change of heart about the Missouri Synod and my desire to become a member, there is clearly one that stands out far above the rest: the clearly proclaimed Gospel message of Jesus Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.
As with many people, starting college was a tough time for me emotionally and spiritually. There were many changes that were taking place in my life. However, as my comfort and confidence levels were on shaky ground, there was one thing in my life that I knew would always be there: sin. The first night I came here to Immanuel for worship and Bible study, I came in convicted of my sinful imperfection and total depravity before God—those were not things anyone needed to tell me I had, because I was already well aware of my possession of them. In fact, I was aware of my sin to the point of despair. Past mistakes and shortcomings coupled with sinful habits made for me a very heavy cross to bear—a cross that I actually could not bear and did not know what to do with. If you can remember what you learned in confirmation, you might recognize that I, as a young freshman, was broken by the Law: I was convicted and convinced of my sinfulness and need for help.
That help came to me when I came to the Lutheran Student Center—it was the purely proclaimed Gospel that lifted the heavy burden that I was carrying.
That Gospel I heard was that of the forgiveness of sins that was sure and certain in the words of Absolution after Confession when Pastor said: “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The message of Christ’s sacrificial life, death, and resurrection for the sins of the world—for my sins—was spoken in the sermons. Here in the Lutheran Church, I found what I was looking for and am still looking for: the certainty of God’s forgiveness of my sins. And that forgiveness, my friends, is not something that I could find anywhere else.
St. Paul tells us in Romans 5:
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
And this message is also proclaimed in Galatians 2:20—one of Bible verses that Pastor Burdick had us memorize the first semester I attended Bible Study at Immanuel:
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who love me and gave himself for me.”
No social club, party, videogame, or television show you can find has news that is this good. Nowhere but in the Church can you hear the great depths of God’s love for us—a love so deep that He sent His one and only son to this world to live the perfect life that we could not live, and die the horrible death that we deserve so that we may be found blameless and forgiven of all our sins against God. Nowhere but in Church is this good news found. Nowhere but in the Church can you be made righteous by the Blood of Christ poured over you through the water and Word of Holy Baptism. Nowhere but in the Church are such great gifts found.
So come today and receive this good news—the forgiveness of sins—here in the Holy Supper. Believe this good news for your sake, and tell it to others.
As you can see, I kept coming back to Immanuel. And I kept going to Immanuel for no reason more than this—it is in this place that I hear about what Jesus has done for me. And what he did for me is summed up nicely in the words of this stanza from one of my favorite hymns.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.