For the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys.
Exodus 40:38, ESV
I have often said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was such a visible sign of God’s presence today over the various churches?” It is true that we don’t have such a sign today. However, even with that clear visible presence, the people of Israel were rebellious. We do, however, have a way in which we can tell that the Holy Spirit is present. It was something said in the Augsburg Confession written during the Reformation, and it goes like this, “Where the Gospel is preached in its purity, and the Sacraments are administered rightly, there you will find the Church.” The first sign of the Church is the Word is central to everything in both senses – the Word of God and the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. If neither is proclaimed without twisting, then the Christian faith is not being presented but something else. The Gospel is not centered on worldly things but upon sinners being freed from sin through Christ and Christ alone. One may disagree on the Sacraments side of things, but I would argue that if the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are merely symbols dependent upon you and your faith, what hope do they truly offer? But I digress. The reality of our faith is that we cannot find hope in a feel-good, saccharine message of a God that died so you wouldn’t have to feel bad for eternity. The message of hope is in a God that has pursued His creation that has turned away from Him because He desired to give us a perfect, sinless, restored Creation. A message that exclaims that the sin that causes me to do those things which are not in my Lord’s desire will be removed from me, and I will be set free from all that brings death and destruction. This is the message of hope and promise, and nothing else compares. Let us follow the smoke and the fire and leave all else behind.
Let us pray. I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have kept me this night from all harm and danger, and I ask you to protect me this day also from sin and every evil, that in all I do today, I may please you. For into your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all that is mine. Let your holy angel watch over me, that the wicked foe have no power over me. Amen.