“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” They would not tire of listening to the Word that came out of the mouths of the apostles, the witness of Jesus Christ, about his becoming man, of his deeds and words, and “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptuures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). From these words Paul handed down to us, the oldest form of the apostolic proclamation, we received the beginnings of the later confession, “died, buried, and on the third day rose again from the dead.” That was the teaching of the apostles. That was what they repeated day after day. “And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:39-42).
It was the same message, told and retold with elevated monotony from the apostles as eyewitnesses, and then after their death from those to whom the continuation of the apostolic proclamation was entrusted because the Church of all times has lived on the teaching of the apostles. Is it really so? Must not the Church fit her message to be relevant to the present? How often has she heard the hard reproach made by German citizens of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in the naïve belief in progress, that she does not speak contemporarily, but just keeps repeating the same message as Peter in Acts? How many theologians, yes whole churches, have finally come to an end? They are not devoted to the apostles’ teaching. They have preached something else. For forty years they have preaching Goethe and Schiller. They have preached the corresponding worldview, a worldview most could stumble upon with luck when they were thirty years old. And the church did not become more full, but ever emptier. And rightfully so. Because what the newest and only right worldview is, the least of the German city dwellers since 1848 could read in the newspaper each morning with their coffee. For this I do not need to go to church. But where the Church lives on the apostle’s teaching, there also lives the congregation.
It is a riddle to the world that the Church lives, even through she always preaches the same thing. In reality, she lives precisely because she always preaches the same thing, namely the teaching of the apostles. Yes, because this teaching is the eternal Word of God for all men, for all people, for all times. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, “who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and became man, who died for our sins, who rose from the dead for our justification, who sits at the right had of the Father, whose kingdom will have no end.” It is the witness of the enfleshed Word of God. In this witness, in the simple preaching of the Church, Christ, the eternal Word himself, is present. Therefore, the Church lives because of this.
Hermann Sasse “Witness: Erlanged Sermons and Essays for the Church 1933-1944″
trans. Bror Erickson
Sermon for First Sunday after Trinity: June 27, 1943; Acts 2:42-47