Tag Archives: Lord’s Supper

Jesus the Bread of life, His flesh saves and sustains us.

John 6:5 we have all these people and Jesus has told us we have to find food to feed them. 5,000 men, plus women, children! Where do we come up with all that?

Everyone gets fed, we pick up what’s left, hey food’s too precious, we can’t leave anything behind. Interestingly there are twelve baskets left, one for each of us disciples. That night we’re rowing across the Sea of Galilee and there’s food under our seats, giving us enough energy to keep going. He provides, even when we have no idea what we’re going to be dealing with. Who can do that? Yes, Jesus and He is God the Son.

Jesus is the Bread of Life. He told the Jews who were hounding Him that He was the Living Bread that came down from heaven, the manna that kept their ancestors alive in the desert. But now the Bread of Life is His flesh. The flesh that He sacrificed on the Cross, His true flesh for our spiritual and physical sustenance. His disciples knew exactly what He was saying, and He didn’t try to convince them otherwise. Most of them picked up and left, probably a little freaked out.

“Do you take offense at this?” Why would they be offended by what’s supposed to be a figure of speech? Sure a metaphor might bother you, but what would really bother you is hearing someone say that you have to eat His flesh in order to have eternal life.

It will be a little longer, but Jesus solemnizes, makes a new covenant, based on the eating of His flesh and drinking His Blood. No metaphor intended, hey read the Greek. He is the Bread of Life, He gave His Body, shed His Blood on the Cross for the atonement of our sins. He continues to give His Body and His Blood for our sustenance to eternity, to nourish our eternal life. For those who have been born again and are the eternal sons and daughters of God, we need divine sustenance for our born again body. That can only be through the miraculous sustenance provided by His Body and Blood we receive from His undershepherds, your pastors to sustain us to eternal life.

Jesus the Bread of Life, does that offend you John 6: 51-69 First St Johns August 16, 2015

[For audio version of this sermon, click on above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who rejoice in eating the true Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ said …  AMEN!

It’s interesting to note, that this is an issue, the Body and Blood of Jesus, that was there right from the beginning. You might find it interesting that the majority of Christians world-wide, believe that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, really is about the true Body and Blood of Jesus. It’s American Christianity that has really undermined that believe, albeit abetted by people like Zwingli who was Swiss and James Arminius who was Dutch. None of the churches that come from them have really taken root in Europe, but they have in the United States and other parts of the world. There are variations, the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican/ Episcopalian and Lutheran churches do hear Jesus’ real words in the Scripture. “…Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Saint Paul is very clear, not only is true life only in Jesus’ Body and Blood, but for those who don’t accept Jesus’ words he writes: “ESV 1 Corinthians 11:27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” Now if you take that to the logical extension, if we are taking His Body into our Body, then we sustain, in us, the Body of Christ that we are a part of, in His church. If we, being His church, His Body, the church is the Body of Christ, and we take His Body in order to be forgiven, to have true life in His Body, doesn’t that mean that only those who understand being a part of the true Body of Christ would take His Body to their benefit? If someone is not a part of the Body of Christ, taking His Body is not going to do them any good and St Paul is quite clear: “ESV 1 Corinthians 11:29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. ESV 1 Corinthians 11:30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” Not only is this not doing them any good, but according to St Paul will actually do harm. Why, as a Christian pastor, would I allow someone to harm themselves in something that for those who are in Jesus does give forgiveness and does save to eternal life, but for those who don’t believe this, they may be harmed? This quote from the Lutheran Study Bible: “…the Sacrament unites the participants both to Christ’s Eucharistic Body and Blood as well as to their fellow participants. Union with Christ results in union with one another… This unity is emphasized in particular because of the actions of some in Corinth who were destroying the faith of those ‘for whom Christ died.”[1] We want people to be a part of the Body of Christ, His church. I certainly want people to accept and believe the true Gospel, that Jesus sacrificed His Body in order for us to be saved. When we eat His Body we have forgiveness and spiritual strengthening in Him, His flesh and His sacrifice as payment for our sins and to give us the assurance of eternal life in Him, in His Body. That is what His Body and Blood are all about. But for those who think that it is only a remembrance, a ceremony to go through, they are not going to receive His Body to their benefit. St Paul is very clear and I have no reason to think otherwise!

We understand what the issue is today. Let’s face it, at the point that Jesus is telling this to His disciples and this is not just limited to the twelve, no one really understands except for those who the Holy Spirit has given faith in Jesus’ words. Look back at verse 22, it refers to the crowd. This is most, if not all of the people, 5,000 men and at least that many or more of women and children that Jesus just fed with bread and fish. Where it says: “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ and when Jesus confronts them about their “grumbling” and challenges them, saying: “Do you take offense at this?” The answer is, “Ah, ya, we do take offense” and as verse 66 says: “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.” They knew perfectly well what He said, and they were frankly, freaked out about it. I honestly cannot say I blame them for their reaction. Jesus is definitely springing this on them. He really is just blurting this right out of nowhere. However, when Jesus says “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man”, He wasn’t fudging His words, He wasn’t mumbling. When Jesus says “truly”, that’s the way it is. When He says “truly, truly” not only is that the way it is, but ya, it may be a little tough to take, but that is the way it is and you need to accept that the only way you can deal with it is to know that the Holy Spirit will give you the faith to deal with it.

When these disciples picked up and walked away, Jesus didn’t chase after them. “Woe, wait a minute there, hey this is just a lesson, a simile, a symbol, you’re not really drinking my blood and eating my flesh, I’m not trying to gross you out here, just making a point.” Jesus meant what He said, this is my actual Body and this is my actual Blood and the huge crowd that was following Him around exactly understood what He was saying and they just could not accept what He said and realize that God the Son, Jesus, was telling them that ya, there is a whole new paradigm in effect and if you have faith in me, if you are willing to accept what I say, and you play out the rest of the game, you will understand why this has to be the way I’ve told you. Jesus confronted the twelve and point blank challenged them: “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter is the stand-up guy this time and makes it abundantly clear that he accepts what Jesus is saying and while Peter might be a little freaked out about it also, the Holy Spirit acted on Peter at that very moment and gave him the faith that he needed in order to accept this seemingly bizarre statement and hang in with Jesus on it: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” The reading goes on, Jesus then blurts out, “one of you is the devil”, which seems to mean, that ya, you guys get it, but there’s one here that’s just going through the motions. There are many people today who are just going through the motions and do it, but don’t believe it. I have to believe that Jesus gave the big old, fisherman, Peter, a big smile and an arm around the shoulder to hear Peter’s answer. Way to go Peter, someone does get it.

I close with this quote from Cyril of Alexandria: “How he will give them his flesh to eat he does not yet tell them, for he knew they were in darkness and would never in that state be able to understand what is ineffable … But the power of learning suitably follows on those who believe … It was therefore right that faith should first be rooted in them before understanding … And it is for this reason (I suppose) that the Lord refrained from telling them how he would give them his flesh to eat, calling them to believe before they seek. For those who believed, however, he broke bread and gave it to them, saying: ‘Take, eat; this is my body.” … Do you see how he does not explain the mystery to those who had senselessly rejected the faith without investigation? But, to those who believe, he declares it most clearly.”[2]

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom.

[1] Lutheran Study Bible  p 1960

[2] Cyril of Alexandria quoted in “Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture” Joel Elowsky editor pp 239-240Communion prepartion Jose Montalvo, Pastor Jim Driskell, Bob Seen

The Ocean is deep but doesn’t come close to the depth of the love of Jesus Genesis 9: 8-17 First St Johns July 26, 2015

[For the audio of this sermon please click on SoundCloud icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know the promises of God said … AMEN

This is one of those passages that the world likes to say is some kind of fable, mythology. The church hasn’t done a very good job with these Genesis passages either, letting them be some sort of similes or parables. Too many like to back off and say it didn’t really happen, but makes for good Sunday school material. The adults really don’t believe this stuff. The church has, essentially rejected, what God has given it to teach as truth. There was a Noah, that there was a world-wide flood, that there were people on the earth who needed to be destroyed because they had become so profoundly evil and irredeemable and that God then made a subsequent promise/covenant with Noah. Where He promised that He would never destroy the world again, through a flood. He will destroy the world again, as we see in the Book of Revelation, what was probably the last book of biblical revelation, but when He destroys the world again, it will be for the final time. In it’s place we will have the resurrection, where we and the world will be made into a place that God intended it to be and for us to be what we were intended to be. There will be no sin, no death, no fighting, there won’t be people creating artificial, phoney debates, we will all be one Body, God’s agents in creating a perfect world, where there will be few limitations, where as I’ve said many times, we will have life and life more abundant, Jesus’ words.

But today, the world, Satan, love to hijack what God gives us and apply it to the things of the world. God is, obviously, the most creative, the most uplifting, positive element in creation. He created everything, we are all pretty much in agreement that even in the evil, fallen, world, there is still amazing beauty, staggering evidence of God’s genius, His incredible creativity. As we go into space, we will see more evidence then we already know. Even now we are receiving pictures from the “dwarf-planet” Pluto, which is now bigger than was thought, that is showing some amazing aspects of that planet. But we love to live in denial about Noah’s story, because after all, we’re in charge, we call the shots. This bizarre idea that it’s all subject to democratic vote and the world’s not going to end because we say so, we have the technology, we moved beyond God’s will, if His will was ever a factor to begin with.

Noah’s ark and a world wide flood is an event that many feel is limited to this one fable from a people in the middle east and really has had no effect beyond that tiny group of people. That is also a fallacy that the world likes to live in ignorance of. Virtually every people in the world have a story about a devastating, all destructive flood and a man or family that were guided by God to save a remnant of people and animals. The geological evidence that has been discovered in very recent time, points to such a flood. The historical and geological evidence, again, destroys the worldly/Satanic lie that this is only a fable, it really did happen.

The upside to the flood is Yahweh’s words to Noah: “I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood,…” this is God’s first covenant, His first contract, promise with His creation. His subsequent promises will be to Abraham, to David, then finally Jesus, God the Son, who in His word says what I will be repeating in a few minutes: “In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor 11:25) This is the covenant Jesus makes with us, His people, those who have been given new life, have been saved from the death of sin in the world. His promise “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:26) that He will return, that He will save those who are in Him, His Body, His church, and they will be restored to true life in the resurrection. After Noah, He tells Abram, that he will be the father of many nations, an old man who had no children at all. He tells King David that the Messiah, the Savior of man-kind will not only be born and deliver His people, but that Messiah, that anointed one of God will be David’s direct descendant.

But the world, in its cutesy way to continually undermine God, takes a symbol that God said is an “everlasting covenant”, of life, of a world of hope and promise and the world has turned it into a symbol of its own lusts and its hatred of God and His will, that is the symbol of the rainbow.

As I’ve said before, we shouldn’t be surprised when the world does things like this, it is the world, it is unsaved and doomed. The world has no promise, no hope. As the Prince of the world, Satan knows his destiny, he knows he is doomed to eternal destruction along with those who also refuse, defy and hate God. Satan has no compunction to take those who are also doomed and use them as pawns to further his fight against God in the world, to guide them to use God’s symbols in an evil way, to deny God’s teachings, such as Noah, and to turn them into symbols that lead us to believe it is all about us, that we are God, that we can do whatever we please, regardless of the consequences to us and those around us.

The non-believer wags his finger at God and says “how could God destroy the earth, He must be evil!” They will stipulate to a destruction story if that gives them a reason to spew their hatred against God. But they will not accept that God is serious, He has a people whom He does want to save and establish a world that will be perfect. He is showing all of us, He is not going to tolerate a sinful and base world filled with evil people. If people continue to be so willfully evil, as we see all-around us at this time in history, He will destroy it again and leave those who are condemned to face the penalty of their sins which is eternal condemnation.

God the Father is a loving, merciful, compassionate God. He has shared His promises with us, His Word, the Bible is filled with hope, promise. His Son Jesus Christ came that we would have life and life more abundant, not only in this world, but where it truly matters, to all eternity. We who are in Christ know that we have the promise that through Him we have forgiveness, we need forgiveness, because God is truly Holy, righteous and just. He does not tolerate sin and in His creation in the New Jerusalem, He will not tolerate sin. His new creation will only be populated by those who are saved in Jesus. We who are righteous, only in Jesus, because of the price that He paid, His perfect life, a ransom for many, that gives us the promise of eternal life.

What other things does the world promise us, what other symbols, what other failures of the world do we tolerate because, well we just all want to get along? We are not here to compromise with the world, because the world is wrong, sinful, seriously messed up. We do not buy into the world’s story, because we have the true story. The world likes to tell us that the story of Noah and Jesus are fables, that the stories of Darwin, Marx and the Kardashians are real and that’s what we should trust in. Take a step away from the nonsense of the world, can we all get along? In reality, not really. We reach out into the world with the love and mercy of Jesus, the world loves to think that it’s so tolerant, but when Jesus, the cross and His church comes up you can see the hate and poison in the eyes of the world. Despite that we do have to continue to love, serve in compassion, have mercy, but also have righteousness, assure that our witness is always for Jesus and not the things of the world. This is not going to make us popular, but John tells us, “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” (1 John 3:13) The world hated and still hates our Lord Jesus, it’s going to hate those who are faithful in Him. But it doesn’t matter what the world thinks, it does matter what Jesus thinks. The world can take the symbols of Christianity and try to corrupt them and try to make it in the name of tolerance, but that is a lie straight from Hell and another attempt by Satan to corrupt the church and Jesus’ people. So write in your journal about what the rainbow really means, as well as God’s other covenants, and how you can use them to show others the love of Christ that is in you.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom.

Church is important Douglas Morton of Institute of Lutheran Theology

This is a big issue to me, I hear so much nonsense, to the effect “I’m too smart for church”. Yet when someone needs it, they expect the church, the people, the worship etc, to be AJ perfect, even though they haven’t done anything to contribute to it. It is important to be a part of the Christian community and that culminates every Sunday morning in worship. For too many people in our society today, it’s the only time when (at least Lutheran worship), it’s about God and not about them.

There  is so much to be done, and there is nothing more important than witnessing to the love, strength, comfort, power of Jesus Christ and the eternal life of the resurrection that He promises. But to be in communion with Christ, you have to be in communion with His Body which is the church. We are His for eternity beginning with being part of His Body in worship and service. The following is from Douglas Morton, take some time to consider what it is to be part of the Body of Christ in worship, service and the prelude to life and life eternal and abundant in Jesus.

Institute of Lutheran Theology, Douglas Morton
Yesterday at 11:06am ·
“You don’t have to go to church to be a Christian?”
True. Nor do you have to breathe to be human. However, we know what happens when we don’t breathe.
The Gospel is the message of sins freely forgiven in Christ. This Gospel gives us life. It’s also what we are to find and breathe in when we “go to church.” Below are four ways this Gospel comes (or should come) to us with its fresh air in the church service.
First, in “church” we come in contact with the word of God. If this doesn’t happen in your congregation, then find another. I’m not saying the church service is the only place we come in contact with God’s word. What I am saying is that the church service is the important place for this to happen. Here we listen to the Scriptures. God’s word often permeates the hymns. The pastor proclaims this word to us in the sermon. We hear both law and Gospel; the law to show us our sins and the Gospel to show us our Savior, who freely takes away our sins. We can get the law in many places. God has even written it on our hearts. However, the Gospel is foreign to us. It must come to us from the outside, in a word from God. Thus, “church” is a great place to hear this Gospel.
Second, in “church” we come in contact with two visible ways (often called “the visible word”) God proclaims his forgiveness for us. In Baptism, we meet the God who puts his name on us – “the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” – and marks us as his own. In the Lord’s Supper, we meet the whole Christ in his body and blood broken and shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
Third, in “church” we hear God’s audible word of pardon for our sins. This voice comes not in an “immediate voice from heaven,” but in the voice of another, our pastor. Certainly we can hear this absolution elsewhere, from other people. However, many church services begin with a confession of sins. Here we admit before God that we have sinned and need his forgiveness. Then comes absolution, where God speaks his word of pardon to us through the voice of our pastor.

Finally, in “church” we gather with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We share with each other God’s love and forgiveness in the Savior. This sharing is called the “mutual conversation and consolation of brethren.” There is something wonderful and refreshing about being around others who share with each other the Gospel of sins forgiven in Christ.
The Gospel word is the only word that gives us breath, and thus spiritual life. We live in a world that often suffocates our faith in Christ. In “church” we gather around the fresh air of the life-giving Gospel. The Holy Spirit uses this Gospel to create and sustain our spiritual breathing, thus sustaining our spiritual life.
By the way, “I’d much rather use the words “Worship Service,” or better yet, “Divine Service,” than “church” or “church service.” The “Church” is God’s people. These people come together in the service. Here God serves each with the Gospel that creates and sustains faith. And in faith, we respond with thanksgiving and a life of service.
The Gospel of sins freely and totally forgiven in Christ is the most important air we will ever breathe. Find a Christian congregation that proclaims this Gospel in all of its wonders. Gather regularly with others to breathe in this life-giving word of forgiveness in Christ. You’ve got nothing to lose and a lot of fresh air to inhale.
Douglas V. Morton, the writer of the above article, is the Director of Certificate Programs and Director of Communications at the Institute of Lutheran Theology, an Independent Lutheran Seminary, in Brookings, South Dakota (http://www.ilt.org). He is also Senior Editor of the school’s magazine, The Word at Work and on the Faculty in the Certificate Programs. He is coauthor of From “Vesper Chimes” to ‘The Way International” and The Integrity and Accuracy of The Way Word. He has also written for the Journal of Pastoral Practice, The Quarterly Journal of Personal Freedom Outreach, and for The Word at Work. You may contact him at dmorton@ilt.org.

God isn’t going to push, He will encourage

Rev Ken Klaus – Lutheran Hour Ministries: “Years ago I called on a man, a member of my church, who was a good man, at least in the eyes of the community. By that I mean the fellow was honest in his dealings with others; he took good care of his family, didn’t drink, gamble, or swear. He was always faithful and conscientious in paying his bills and taking care of his other debts. During our visit I asked, ‘Tell me, you pay all your other debts, but I never see you in church; I never see you at Communion, and the church offering plate never sees a dollar from your account. Why are you faithful in paying your debts to others, but not to the Lord?” He thought for a minute and then, without being flip, he replied, “Well, pastor, I don’t pay so much attention to God, because He doesn’t push as hard as everybody else.”

Listeners, that guy had it right. The Lord is not going to push; He is not going to beg; He is not going to twist your arm. What He is going to do is say, “Look at My Son who gave His life to save your soul. With faith in Him You will be in heaven; without faith, you are headed for hell. Jesus is the best thing which has ever happened to you and for you. Don’t turn your back on Jesus. Be ready for the day when He will say to this world, ‘enough is enough.’ When that day arrives, I want everyone to be glad to see Me.”

Pastor Klaus is one of my favorites, you have to check out  wwwlhm.org to hear the audio versions of these sermons from Pastor Klaus and also Pastor Greg Seltz.

Have to consider his point. No God’s not going to get up in your face, not normally. To those who don’t know Jesus, yes the Holy Spirit is going to keep tugging at you, getting in your head sometime, continuously pointing to God. But, wow, we really give the world carte blanche, “entre” into our head, never thinking an hour ahead of time. Then we have the arrogance to decide, when we really have to, “well God’s just going to have to take me as I am, I’m good enough.” No you’re not, I’m not, no one is, God accepts us under very simple conditions. We follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, we are baptized in the Name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We receive the true Body and Blood of Jesus, what was sacrificed as payment for our sins and we hear His Word preached. No heavy lifting, all for your benefit, yet too often, because God doesn’t push, we think the nonsense around us is more important.

True life is in God the Father, His Son Jesus, guided by the Holy Spirit. It is a life of meaning, “life, life more abundant”, of joy, promise and hope. Do you get that in the world? Ya, no, just more grind, more gimmee, gimmee, and in the end, we all know death, hopelessness, complete loss and eternal condemnation. I have yet to have anyone give me any other possible outcome. True life in Jesus and then we die, we go to be in His presence, but then true, eternal, perfect, abundant challenging life in Jesus in the resurrection. Gotta tell you, seems logical, it is God who leads you into salvation, but you can resist and refuse, and for what?

Faithfulness in those who have vowed to be faithful

Yea, I popped off a few days ago. I guess I am getting a little thin skinned on one subject, The Lord’s Supper. I do not come from, really, resany Christian tradition.  I frankly used to think it was a little weird thinking that I was eating someone’s flesh or blood for a few different reasons. Principally I was thinking in terms of the individual as a “person”.  Sure Jesus was a man, but He is also God. To think in any other way is to just live in denial.  And today it’s hard to overcome the sexual connotations in respect to that. It was always meant in terms of how much closer could I be to any individual then when I take the Lord’s Supper. You can’t be any closer then when when we eat His Body, our Savior becomes physically a part of us and the Holy Spirit intertwines the souls of those who are in Jesus.

Obviously that is a difficult position to get into with those in the world who are spiritually dead, but for almost all the rest of Protestant Christians, who think of the sacraments as just symbolic, some sort of initiation instead of, what they are, a genuine spiritual act that Jesus gave us in order for us to be even more intimately in Him and He in us.

It is difficult to maintain, it is unquestionably true, but hey I’m human and I get beat down standing up for what is true.  I have to deal with reluctance with those in my parish. Those who just don’t feel it’s important enough or just really don’t accept it either. Seems among other pastors I’m seen as sort of a “company man” toeing the official position of the LCMS. Guess I’m probably naive, I’ve been used to being a part of groups that may disagree but when It goes down everyone pulls together. Seems I can’t have that assurance with those who are around me. Apparently I have peers who like to do the sort of “titter, titter, isn’t that silly” stuff that I had to endure with liberal “Christians” for many years. Apparently I can’t assume that people who I thought I could count on, have  my six.  Instead seems there are those who are a little too concerned about those in the world, even those in their congregations who would just as soon have things casual, not get caught up in all these issues. So yea, I popped off, I’m not going to enable silly little discussions about what is important. If you’re on my team let’s pull together. If there should be discussion so be it.  But if it starts to sound more like adolescents then people I should be trusting and relying on then we have a problem. If you have an issue, do the genuine hard work and study to really understand. Don’t just dismiss things because you’re uncomfortable with it. If you’ve taken vows, live up to those vows in good faith.  If you have genuine concerns don’t play around. It’s not cute, it’s not clever. It’s important and deserves your respect.

Living as brothers and sisters in Christ Acts 4: 32-35 First St Johns April 12, 2015

[for the audio version of this sermon, please click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are brothers and sisters in Jesus said … AMEN! Then we said He has risen! He has risen indeed!

As you have probably realized, one of my main themes is the resurrection of Jesus. In his commentary on the Book of Acts, Dr McGee points out: “…in the early church the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the very center and heart of the message, and no sermon was preached without it. The theme of Peter on the Day of Pentecost was the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”[1] Another observation Dr McGee makes, a subject that comes up in terms of Jesus being in heaven: “…He has ascended … But He is still at work! He has moved His headquarters. As long as He was here on this earth, His headquarters were in Capernaum. Now His headquarters are at the right hand of the Father.”[2] That’s more of a discussion for Ascension Day, but can never be overemphasized. Jesus is in glory at the right hand of God continually interceding for His people, for us!

The other thing that we overlook in the Acts church is the fellowship of the church. Lots of people like to say they’re an “Acts” church, but really I haven’t seen it and I’m not sure it can really be replicated. “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” This is something that you just don’t see in the church anymore. I believe one big reason is that we are all so immersed in the world, that we project that life into our church life. Too many people see the church not as a place to worship, to truly lift up and glorify God at which the Holy Spirit comes to us and gives us the faith, strength and integrity we need to go into the world for God. Instead it’s where we lift up to God our wants in the sense of “ok God, I’m here, You owe me, come on and back me up, help me with my agenda.” We may never be able to replicate the Acts church, until, I imagine the resurrection, but we should always strive for that as a goal. Our mission statement here at First St Johns gives us that focus: “Spiritual Warriors, Faithful Servants, Disciples of Jesus”. Are we focused on what is in Jesus or our agenda? Certainly the church of Jesus Christ has an agenda, Martin Luther put us back on that agenda: ““Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” It is always and forever about God’s Word and not about our agenda. In a world where we see Scripture being tortuously warped out of shape, the Lutheran Church, at least should be, all about His Word.

Yes, we all have lives, but, as Christians it’s not about how we make God’s Word apply to our life as it is how is God working through us, according to His Word, to shape not just our life, but the world around us. We are way too quick to discount that we are all in the Body of Christ, all indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We take Jesus’ Body and Blood as very real sustenance, if you don’t understand and accept that, then you abuse His Body and Blood. The Body and Blood that were abused to give us true forgiveness of sin. How can we then reabuse that same sacred body? We become part of His Body when we are given the Lord’s Supper, but too often when we hit that door on the way out, it’s no longer about Him, it’s all about getting back to life. Our life is in Him! How can we justify trying to impose our agenda on Him who gave Himself for us when He has promised us “life and life more abundant” in Him? We are complete, when we are together in the Body of Christ, His church, His people. That is very much how the Acts Church was, totally about the Body of Christ.

We have to remember the extremely difficult life that people came in to when they became a Christian. In our reading from Palm Sunday we read: “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue, for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” (John 12: 42-43) What we have in Acts is the result of what happened when people were put out of the synagogue. Anyone could be thrown out. Today, people change churches on a whim. In that time, it could be the difference between making a living or being in poverty, possibly even being left to starve. No Jew would do business with someone who wasn’t a part of the temple, they would not hire them as an employee. When these people became Christians they often had little or nothing in terms of money or material possessions. They usually needed the basics, food and clothing. The Acts Church found itself in the position of having to support its members. We sure don’t have that today. I’ve had this discussion with a few people lately. We do things to help our non-Christian neighbor, but that is not what we are about. We cannot be a general social service agency, the Holy Spirit leads us to do good works and we do good works. But our priority is always about our brothers and sisters in Jesus. First St Johns is a great old church, it has been sustained marvelously by its members. Many who came here at the beginning had nothing and many members of this church gave in order to support those who were in need. We need to recapture that focus here. We don’t have a lot in terms of resources, time, treasure and talent, we have become dependent on what has been left by members and feel that should be enough to further our mission. It is just not enough. We have become way too self-focused, what I get out of the church and that was not what the Acts Church was about. Many Christian brothers and sisters would have starved except; “for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet and it was distributed to each as any had need.”

Your church, First Saint Johns, does much, but there is so much to do. When we rely on what was left to us and decide that should be enough to get what we need, we certainly have forgotten what the church is all about. In a way this is a sermon about stewardship, about how we need to portion our time, treasure and talent to the church. But it is also about how we need to be Jesus’ church the way it was originally formed. The Book of Acts is often called the Acts of the Apostles or the Acts of the Holy Spirit. It is because it was a church that followed the Acts that the Holy Spirit guided the church in. Are we living that today?

Let’s take a look at how we share with our brothers and sisters in Jesus, which is part of our Christian life as the original church Acted in the Book of Acts. The apostles gave “their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and great grace was upon them all.” Me, you, we can all do better, it’s not to say that we’re going to sell everything we have. But as a church we can share, we can share space in our marvelous building and not begrudge its use, we can share our time to serve brothers and sisters and then others, we can share what we have, including but not limited to money. But as always we dedicate more of our time to growing in our faith and sharing that with those who do not know Jesus and helping them in ways that will show them the love of Christ and His church.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] J Vernon McGee “Thru the Bible Commentary Series Acts” p ix

[2] Ibid p viii