Pr. Jaynan Clark
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:8)
Should the word be “Goodbye” or “Farewell” or even “Godspeed”? They seem like last words. How can we proclaim such when so much is left undone?
“Last words?” Sounds like a burial! As those who follow a Crucified and Risen One we don’t get the last word … ever, on anything, with anyone, anywhere.
Those who are prone to be debaters and also orators often will go to lengths to get that last lick in … as will children battling their “overbearing” parents and parents trying to get the upper-hand by proclaiming the last word of what is “enough!” … but who determines the end? Do the sighs not count? The retort under one’s breath? The mumbled phrase at that last “it is finished” moment? Try as we may in all circumstances we don’t ever get the last word. Our premature closures only point to our feeble attempt to make a point, control an outcome, end a possibility … all mean we’ve stopped listening and are only talking.
The last word on all matters in life and death, faith and unbelief, left and right kingdoms, inside and outside the church, mind, body and soul belong to the One. God’s Word alone in human form eternally scarred, risen and walking among us; He always gets the last word because He is the Word. He is first, last and forever in that position. We provoke His reign; usurp His authority and rain on His parade when we fail to recognize our own place … just ahead of that last entry cleaning up that left behind by all those before us … one scoop at a time. It isn’t pretty but it is true. For those who think that discipleship is for the honored, the masters of ceremony up front, or those adorned atop fine steeds there is another think coming … the scoopers are the closest to the finish. They are very important for the coming day and the journey ahead. They know their place and the one who placed them there to serve.
Over the years it has become clear to me that religion can be organized but faith cannot. I no longer consider Christianity to be a “religion” but rather a faith movement which cannot be limited and defined by those who prioritize form over function. Something happens during institutionalization that reverses the order, interrupts the flow, decommissions the laborers and ignores Jesus' endless parables, sayings and encounters that forever remind us of and put us in our place. We are not first; we are not last. He is Alpha and Omega. Our place is that of a servant, a slave, an ambassador in chains, a small child with fish and bread, a dog under a table awaiting crumbs, a bloody stalker reaching for His hem, a wayward son, a hopelessly lost sheep … these are the righteous ones for they do not know it, they cannot claim it, they did not achieve it … their Master of Ceremonies handed them the shovel and they obeyed.
WordAlone was on cleanup-crew duty for many years. It had always been a movement; not an organization (thank God for that!). Because the call to “come and die” is never silenced by even Satan himself, there will always be those who know their place because they have “ears to hear” and no other purpose or desire in life but to serve and not be served; stand on the Word on bended knee; make disciples not church members while engaging in the battle with the powers and principalities that threaten the delivery of God’s Word alone.
A ragtag army of deployed disciples, we have been sustained in our witness, blessed and cursed in our reception and firm in our identity that being a child of God is not a “guarantee” but a “promise.” We were called into existence as a reminder to “church” and “church people” that we are to worship the Lord of the church not church itself; we are to serve others — not ourselves; we are to reside on the road between Damascus and Emmaus, between the foot of the cross and the door of the empty tomb. To wander from there is to risk taking up residence in the Temple with the chief priests, the scribes and the elders whose will and way with Jesus was deadly.
First “organizing” in 1997, "WordAloners" found each other over questions of authority of the Word that lurked around every vote that raised unity above Truth. Every move that threatened to put mere forgiven sinners, disciples, over the Word and above the table of our Lord concerned us. Gathered beneath the table, thankful for the crumbs that fall from above, we could not be detoured or defined by theological positions or social statements that assume power and presence over the table of our Lord and its contents or suspend the need for repentance for any person, any sin. Sexuality and all questions thereof pale in the light of such a stand made many years ago for the simple truth that the ordained have taken no step up from, above or beyond, the baptized. We all equally share the same lowly, gracious status of being both dead and alive in Him alone … sinners and saints in actuality, not theological musings.
Any claims to be the Body of Christ or “church” while acting contrary to the Word has, over time, been questioned. For many of us there was a growing realization that to be “Christ’s church” is not an entitled status conferred upon us by affiliation or alignment nor is it a guarantee by name. Rather, it is only a daily identity bestowed on deployed disciples depending on the promise.
Because of our identity and according to our name “WordAlone,” we had graciously been disciplined and brought into step with the Crucified and Risen One, according to His calling, His teaching and His presence; therefore, we have been able to do so much with so very little. Loaves and fishes were enough. Money never determined our mission and limited resources were never an excuse to not move forward with a needed ministry.
Prayerfully, it seemed over the last ten years that our calling was one that presented itself each time we proffered “somebody” should do it. Those who do not regard themselves highly according to pedigree or office know that “nobody-sinners,” dependent on their Lord, can be called up and out in the most miraculous ways. And we had been.
So, after almost 15 years, there remains such a group of disciples committed to Jesus, the Word, calling into question anyone and everything that worked and witnessed in opposition to His sole/soul sovereignty. Whether those powers and principalities were misleading His flock in the role of religious church leaders or as social activists, there was a movement called WordAlone that stood on the Word and asked questions based upon it alone. Through the years this band of disciples also was used to gift the 21st century world with a first century church — LCMC. May it continue to faithfully carry the DNA of the Word alone in its flesh and be “home” for us all. May our good Lord continue to bless the ministry of Reclaim and bring forth new, faithful worship resources. We pray that He also continues to teach and prepare evangelists, pastors and professors through the faithful ministry of ILT—The Institute for Lutheran Theology, and provide educational materials through SOLA Publishing, keeping everyone connected by way of Connections magazine. These ministries carry the DNA of WordAlone and by the grace of God will continue their focus on the Word alone. They need your prayers; they need your participation; they need your dollars.
Some would call this story of WordAlone a legacy … they would be those concerned about history, but let our focus not be on the past but on the future. We need every “WordAloner” out there to find their place in the family of ministries, generously supporting them but not stopping there. There is still work to be done. Your Lord Jesus still commands you to “make disciples.” He still expects Lutherans to get over themselves and hit the road and take the Word to the streets where there are “ears that have not heard,” to pews where religion has replaced faith, to the unchurched and inactives who remain unfound by the Word.
Many yearn restlessly without even knowing their own need to hear about the real Jesus from real disciples in their real world that is groaning in travail. They don’t need church membership they need Holy adoption, forgiveness and new life.
This not the last word. We can never have the last word … because we are not the Word. So let’s be thankful for these past years and all that was prepared among us and for us but not stop there. Let us all on bended knee and in constant prayer consider the calling to “go therefore” asking for divine guidance to move forward as an unorganized and ordinary deployment of disciples willing to hit the road with our Lord, be engaged in the task of making disciples and just taking Him at His Word, at last.
We will battle not earthly foes but powers and principalities that want nothing less than the end of such a ragtag group of followers who have only One leader, one defense … His Word alone … and one purpose: To deliver the real Jesus over to real sinners in this real world so He can have His way with them and with us.
Finally, I share the following words that Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote from prison: “The great masquerade of evil muddles every concept of ethics. Evil appears in the form of light, as good works—even as an historical necessity … or as justice, and utterly confuses one who comes from the traditional world of ethical ideas. For the Christian who lives by the Bible, however, these forms of evil simply confirm its abysmal wickedness. Who is able to withstand this evil? Only he to whom the last measure is not his own reason, his principles, his freedom or even his conscience … but rather his readiness to sacrifice all of these: only he who is called to deeds of obedience and responsibility in faith and single-minded communion with God; only he who will let his life become nothing, as answer to God’s request or call.” (Letters and Papers from Prison, Touchstone, 1997 p. 4).
May Jesus your Lord and your Savior give you ears to hear His call to your nothing and His something. Amen.