[Image: Old Otterbein Church, 2013, JA Van Devender]
Location: Downtown, Baltimore, MD
Malachi 3:6–7 (NKJV)
6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them.
Sermon Passage for today: Matthew 3:13-17
The old church has been standing in the same spot, smack dab in the center of Baltimore, a few hundred yards from the inner harbor, since the late 1700's. All about it is hurry... tinsel buildings with tinsel people, ant-like, bustling in and out. It stands as a testimony to timelessness... to enduring witness. It's architecture is not the latest fad... it really wasn't the "latest" thing to do when it was built. It's classic features have their origins in the centuries before Christ was born. It's very incongruity is what draws one's attention. It is not that it seems "out of place" really... rather just the opposite. It stands as a mute testimony to the unworthiness of the structures which comprise its neighbors. "I am here... and I will be here through the centuries!", it silently shouts. "You will pass from fashion, crumble and diminish... I will stand."
There is sense of serenity in that place. The rest of the city just doesn't intrude though the busy street in front of it has grumbling cars passing only yards away. Somehow this building seems unbothered by those things that are not worth its concern.
Thus the Lord boomed through the prophet Malachi. "I do not change...!!!" Serenely immoved even by His people's sin, He refuses to become something other than He is. It is a philosophical sophism to ask if God can change... whether His will can alter His immutability. There is a blasphemous air about such thoughts. The fact of the matter is: He does not change... and that fact comprises both our hope and the basis of terror.
It is the basis of hope for those who belong to His covenant people... for it is in His enduring changelessness that their continued existence is provided. "I do not change therefore you are not consumed!" He says. "I have made a promise... I have decreed my will.... I have spoken out of My own Sovereignty and established a relation between you and Me... therefore you are not consumed by My holiness... Your silly obsession with the temporal and the flimsy things of this life do not move My anger beyond a certain limit. I chasten those whom I love... I do not ignore your sin... I do not pass lightly over your stubborn selfishness.... but I do not consume you. I give you room for repentance... and urge you to return to Me."
Serenely He stands over the progress of History... secure in Himself... restating what has already been said over the centuries. Impervious to the fads that men pursue... contemptous of our attempts to remake Him into more "acceptable" modes.... sternly resistant to every "modernizing improvement" that fatuous and puny minds seek to impose on Him.
"I am here.... I do not change.... how will you respond to this truth?"
The Lord Jesus Christ was baptized into a ministry of "being." His life, irrefutably established as historical fact by any reasonable standard, is His proclamation. He came... He lived.... He manifested the fact of the Triune God in His Person. That great witness remains... serenely unperturbed by the passing centuries. He was either who He said He was, the True Son of God, or He was insane. He was manifestly not insane... therefore... He was who He said He was. This was His goal.. His mission... to manifest the fullness of God in bodily form.
That witness stands... secure... serene... amidst the bustling foolishness of the centuries. It stands even in the face of blasphemous celebrations of His birth. It stands as unmitigated purity contrasting with the sordidness of our own living testimony. It stands... and will stand... as our hope and the basis of terror, depending on how we receive that testimony.
"I do not change...."