Monday, May 19, 2014

Sermon for 5/18/14 Acts 6

Be careful! Don’t worry!
How do we balance these elements in our lives?
How do we balance them in the Church?
Acts 6 -
 church growing as God’s Word works sovereignly
 grace and mercy being shown all around
 some being overlooked, neglected - sad state of affairs
Who is going to make sure the poor are fed?
Who will care for those who can’t care for themselves?
 pastors and teachers?
All these people, who are God’s gifts to the body of Christ (Ephesians 4) are appointed for specific tasks.
 yes, do the same jobs as others, still part of the body of Christ
 no, do not spend the mass of time on certain tasks which can be done by others
Acts 6 - need to concentrate on Word of God and on prayer - this is what the apostles are specially called to

Who then? The poor and hungry are important!
 Various other servants within the Church

1) known by their godly character - people who are spiritual, who are immersed in the Word, who are able to care for the saints
2) identified by the church congregation as a whole
3) selected by the elders/apostles - the leadership
4) enabled for specific tasks
5) sometimes tasks branch over into teaching the Word, which may well be why all those selected are men, in consonance with Jesus’ call of only men to the apostolic task

What do they do?
 visit the saints in need
 care for those needs
 bring God’s cheer and comfort
 provide the relief needed by the saints

What isn’t it?
 social time
 gossip or other evil speech
 opportunity to bring man’s opinion

What is it?
 a visitation of God’s grace
 plan to read Scripture and pray
 chance to multiply the ability of called leaders by bringing important needs back to the leaders
 opportunity to guard the needs and the dignity of our brothers and sisters in Christ

Challenge - when the leadership of the church asks for help visiting the saints, those who are immersed in Scripture and ready to bring God’s grace to others will accept the call and minister Christ crucified to those in need. Pray and study to that end. Seek opportunities to bring distinctively Christian witness and ministry to our community.

It may change your life. Like Stephen, who laid down his life as a testimony of faith. There are countless others who laid down their lives in a similar way. More importantly, there are countless others who have laid down their lives for others, lived on to serve others for many years, and have been God’s instruments of change and growth in Christ for those they serve.

May the Lord bless us to be his instruments.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Sermon for 5/12/14 Authentic Devotion - Acts 2

What is our devotion, affection, care? Where are our priorities?
 sometimes bad things
 often good things
What is the commitment, the devotion we see in the earliest Christians, those who were accused of turning the world upside down by their teaching?

1)  apostles’ doctrine - the Bible laid out, preached and taught systematically, both in church gatherings and in home and family
2)  fellowship - assembling with other believers
   Our fellowship is in Christ, not in our other interests.
   Church is all about the forgiveness we have in Christ. That is how we find life.
3)  breaking of bread - communion
    earliest Church - every first day of the week
    some parts of Medieval Christianity - every day available
    colonial America - shortage of pastors made communion rare
    If Jesus is giving out his forgiveness and grace to us by presenting himself to each of us individually, why would we not want to receive what he gives?
4)  prayers - taken over from the Jewish synagogue practices - morning, noon, end of day, praying a Psalm, reading a bit in the Bible and praying by agreeing with God about his priorities for our life and world

What was the result of the early Christians keeping their priorities in order? The Lord added to their number daily those who were believing. Do we want God to bring revival to our community? Devote ourselves to the Lord’s word and His work. He will work in our community by Word and Sacrament, by our faithful witness, and by drawing people to himself by the Holy Spirit. As we are devoted to Christ, he changes us and uses us to change the world.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

You thought I disappeared!

You probably all thought I disappeared! I have not been able to post much recently. The posts I had written and scheduled ran out, and I have not always managed to catch my sermons on a recording to post. It's been a wild and woolly time. An explanation is in order, though it is more personal than what I normally put on my blog.

The upheaval began when my father, who lived some 350 miles away, was diagnosed with a terminal condition. We found that my mother was having more severe difficulties related to aging than we had thought as well. Between my wife, my brother, his wife, and myself, we have spent a good deal of time shuttling around the country. My brother and I were both able to be present when my father died about three weeks ago. We found that our mother was not caring for herself well. She requested to become a resident in an assisted living apartment. Meanwhile, my daughter, who has often been my right-hand man, has been ill much of the time for a number of months. The long and short of all these factors is that my family will be leaving the small city where we have lived and I have ministered for three years in order to move closer to where my mother is now living. We are busy wrapping up details from the school where we teach, in the church where I minister, and in the community, as well as putting things in boxes.

I plan to leave this blog on a sabbatical until probably the second week of June. There are quite a few things I have drafted but don't think I will be able to post. First things first.

So what's the long voyage looking like? We are looking forward to being able to care for our neighbors, especially our closest neighbors, those in our family. I hope to have opportunities to engage in ministry planting in the city to which we are moving. There are always neighbors to love and serve in the name of Jesus.

See you in June!