Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sermon July 28- 29, 2012

Title: The Abundance of God works within you forever!

Text: Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Dear friends,

When we talk about abundance I’m reminded of a story from my youth. I was raised like many of you in a very typical middle class household. We considered ourselves comfortable but never well off but I don’t remember lacking anything. My dad never bought new cars, but he worked on cars as a hobby and sometimes helped friends out who needed their car tuned up or serviced. He always bought cars that were, like new and only a few years old.

At one point my mom, who didn’t need to drive when we lived in Pennsylvania, decided to get her driver’s license and my dad bought a second car for her to use. It was after school and my two younger brothers decided to surprise dad when he came home from work by washing mom’s new car. We’ll they didn’t quite get done with the hood when my mom saw what they were doing and came out to take a closer look. She was stunned! My brother’s wanted to do a really good job and please mom and dad so they got best cleaner they could think of to use … Brillo pads!

Needless to say, dad was not too happy and it took all the strength and power of the Holy Spirit working in him to keep him from blowing a gasket and killing my brothers. My dad … though he didn’t swear using conventional run-of-the-mill words that get tossed about today by every person this side of heaven, could yell “CHEESE and CRACKERS” in such a way as to make a sailor blush - and my brothers run to their room. The abundance of God’s grace and the love of God worked within my dad at that trying though funny time and:

The abundance of God works within you forever!

The truth is Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church here is quite frankly a letter from a father to a child. Fathers have great responsibility and Paul wanted to pass on some important information and wisdom to his children.

Earlier in Chapter three, Paul had laid out his credentials to them –

2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me (Paul) by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

… Assuming that you have heard … perceive my insight … revealed by the Spirit. Paul has established who he is to them in Christ. He is their father in the faith and though there are and have been some who begin to doubt, as will happen at times, their place and standing in Christ Paul confirms that:

6 This mystery is that the Gentiles (… these fellow non-Jewish believer in the Ephesian church) are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

They are God’s children through the Gospel and brought to faith by the Spirit. But, Paul is not with them at this time and is writing to them from the cell of a prison in Rome where he is confined. His thoughts are not far from his children though and he begins in our lesson today by bending his knees in prayer for them. Prayer - the power God gives his children … His church, to reach into the heavens and speak to the Father through His Son, our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

Martin Luther expresses Paul’s thoughts in this way:

“I must lie here a prisoner and cannot be with you nor help you in any other way, only that I can bend my knees, that is, with all humility and seriousness pray to God that He might give you, and work in you, what neither I nor any other person can do, even if I had my liberty and were with you always.” Paul Kretzmann Vol. 4 Pg. 274 

There were doubts, there were grumblings there were false prophets attacking God’s church and Paul, sitting in prison prays for his children in Ephesus directing them away from the false teaching and false gods of the Devil, the world and the flesh and he points them to the Gospel promise that:

The abundance of God works within you forever!

Unfortunately, many today and some in our own church don’t see the distinction of what we believe teach and confess. There is a failure to understand how false teaching can enter the church and wreak havoc on the flock and as Pastor Merrell spoke about last week; regarding the work of faithful shepherds who preach and teach the word of God - rightly dividing the word of truth and faithfully administering the sacraments. There is false teaching in this world as had been the case in Ephesus when Paul was writing his epistle.

A recent article from last weekend speaks of a trend that is happening for many young people and probably for some at our church as well. It’s been termed, “Church Hopping.” Now this trend isn’t speaking of someone who moves into a new area and goes to St. Stephens one weekend and maybe Peace the next and then St. Trinity on the fallowing weekend trying to find a new church home. This trend might have a person attend Peace and even be a member but on subsequent weekends attend other churches regularly on a rotation or felt needs basis.

One gentleman who attends three different metro churches says:

“When I’m looking for a "contemplative" and "Quakerish" type of worship experience, I might attend Missio Dei, a church linked to the Mennonite faith or I might also attend Woodland Hills, a non-denominational church because I enjoys the "charismatic" services but also on some Sundays I attend Solomon's Porch, an emergent Christian church in Minneapolis that is "laid back," where instead of pews, congregants sit on sofas around coffee tables.”

He continues: "I've never been able to find one church that answers all my needs, spiritual broadness and experience. By being broad like this … it's a richness … It's like, would you rather be narrow and have two friends or have a lot of friends in your life? And that's kind of where I'm at. I can't be narrow anymore."

Jesus say in Matthew 7:

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matt. 7:13-15)

The truth of God cannot be manipulated by felt needs. Many try and when the church fails to meet the need of the individual whether it be better coffee, softer pews that take on the form of a sofa or music that entertains, the Divine Service becomes me centered instead of Christ centered. The Spirit can’t point to Christ through truth and error. The word either points to where we fall short in our quest to reach God and fulfill the Law on our terms or it points to Christ who has fulfilled the Law perfectly for you and me.

The preaching of Law and Gospel is what we who serve Peace here are to do faithfully. At times it is hard to look at a fellow sinner and point out the sin of gossip or cohabitation, drugs and alcohol or whatever sin you wish to put on the list. We all fall short but it is the work of those faithful shepherds who under-shepherd God’s flock, at times to point out sin to an erring brother or sister in the Lord so that they turn from his sin, repent … and be restored receiving absolution, the forgiveness of sins, in the name of Jesus.

Too often, the answer to this type of Christian discipline is, “See you later Pastor! I’ll go to another church that will meet my needs and not judge my sin or I just won’t go at all!”

But to remain faithful shepherds we must, as Paul did with the Ephesians, care for them as our own little children, in prayer and in teaching bringing the brunt of the Law when necessary and the sweetness of the Gospel in repentance. After Paul finished his letter to the Ephesian church he had Timothy his companion and son in the Lord deliver it for him and most probably read it to the Ephesians which makes the words of St. Timothy in his second epistle all the more compelling:

2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

Dear friends: The abundance of God is found here at Peace, in word and sacrament and God’s Spirit will continue to work within you forever!

God’s word rightly preached is truth. The truth that Jesus Christ the son of God came into the world to save sinners, like you and me, can be that blessed comfort for a weary soul.

As I began with Paul’s words from our epistle I now close with those same words:
20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.
The abundance of God works within you forever!

As my brothers found out years ago with my dad’s car. Even good intentions can at time cause pain to others and also as my dad found out … at times God needs to speak through our actions. Even though my brother’s intentions were good they produced the wrong result. My dad knew that and by the Spirit reacted in love. God reacted in love too by sending His son Jesus to take the punishment for our sin and the sin of the whole world. When God looks at you He doesn’t see your sin … He sees Jesus and His righteousness that covers you and by the power of Holy Spirit continues to point you to Him.

God comfort you with the good news that:

The fullness of God’s abundant love works within you forever!

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!


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