Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sermon April 20-21, 2013

Title: Christ cares for the flock through His appointed means!
Text: Acts 20:28

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

Years ago, a large statue of Christ was erected high in the Andes on the border between Argentina and Chile. Called "Christ of the Andes," the statue symbolizes a pledge between the two countries that as long as the statue stands, there will be peace between Chile and Argentina. Shortly after the statue was erected, the Chileans began to protest that they had been slighted -- the statue had its back turned to Chile. Just when tempers were at their highest in Chile, a Chilean newspaperman saved the day. In an editorial that not only satisfied the people but made them laugh, it simply said, "The people of Argentina need more watching over than the Chileans.”

Bits & Pieces, June 25, 1992.

Now, while this story has a good but somewhat funny ending we can all be comforted that:
Christ cares for the flock through His appointed means!

Paul in our lesson today makes a very important point. He says:

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, (Acts 20:28a)

Now, who might you think Paul is talking to when he says overseers? Well, let’s take a look at another text. This one comes from, (1Tim.3:1-7):

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Tim.3:1-7)

So, Paul here is calling those who have been made overseers of God’s church, his pastors, to pay careful attention to themselves first and then to the flock that they oversee.

Boy, from the perspective of one now charged with the duty of an overseer here at Peace it can cause you to pause and reflect. What is my responsibility? How do I exercise, as Paul says, “careful attention” and to what should I be attentive too?

Last Monday I came in early and spent five to six hours working on my sermon’s first draft. As I was looking up something on-line in the late afternoon I saw a note on Yahoo news about the bombing at the Boston Marathon. As information came in it became evident shortly thereafter that this was once again a senseless act set about to hurt and harm the innocent bystander who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The next day, as Tuesday afternoon approached and as I got ready to leave to make some shut in calls, the man that comes to check the church for ants and pest control was coming in to make his monthly visit. As I was going out and he was coming in, I told him that I’d wait around for him to finish his work before heading out. He says to me, “So Pastor, what do you make of all the things that our going on in Boston?”

I thought about his question and said, “Just another example of the power of sin in our lives.”

In verse 29 Paul speaks that, wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

What can be possible, as was happening to the church in Ephesus, is that this act of terror that came down upon Boston, might have been done by someone … who at one time … had heard the Gospel … who had possibly been baptized  … and who might even have been confirmed.

Hard as it may seem to us but sin unchecked by God’s word and His gifts can fester and wolves inside and outside the church, can lead those unattended and unprotected away from Christ. It is my job as the shepherd here at Peace, who has been called to the faithful to my calling to protect the flock of Christ here as Christ’s under shepherd, to preach, to teach and to administer the sacraments according to God’s command, protecting the flock of Christ under my care.

Just as the lambs of the shepherd that have been gathered together in the sheepfold by the Good Shepherd who is Christ Jesus, who calls Himself the door or access to the sheepfold. So, too we, who gather together in fellowship here, are fed by the Good Shepherd and have access to Him through the preaching of His word but also as we receive the blessed gift of His precious body and blood in and with the bread and wine which is given and shed just for you.
Christ cares for the flock through His appointed means!

To understand the depth of sin is to understand that, left unchecked, each one of us is capable of the type of act done in Boston or Newtown or Colorado through the simple sin and disobedience that we all commit daily by thought word of deed.

In our bible study on Jonah Wednesday afternoon we were discussing the call to repentance by Jonah to the Ninevites. “40 days and Nineveh will be overthrown!” We found that the Hebrew word that is translated as overthrown can mean either, to be destroyed or to be radically changed.

As we discussed the effectiveness of Jonah and what he proclaimed we also made note of the fact that it was “God’s Word” that Jonah proclaimed and it did not return void. The Ninevites fasted, put on sackcloth and even the King sat in ashes as a sign of true repentance. The word of God proclaimed by Jonah caused true repentance in the lives of the Ninevites as they responded to the word of God and radically changed, who they were and the sin that reigned in their lives, to a Godly repentance and sorrow for their sin. Apart from God’s word proclaimed there would be no change or repentance and sin would continue to hold them captive to the power of evil, death and the work of the devil.

What might we conclude would happen to each one of us if we were left to our own sinfulness, the world and the devil? Might we fall away from what God had given us in our Baptisms? Might our faith be weakened if we fail to receive God’s forgiveness and His true body and blood in the Lord’s Supper? Might we, who are not connected to God’s word and his church, act upon those sinful thoughts of ours, rather than being brought to true Godly repentance by the word of God?

Christ cares for you who are His flock through His appointed means!

Again Paul reminds us:

32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Worldly repentance grieves for those who lost their lives or were hurt and wounded in the heinous acts in Boston on Monday. Worldly repentance seeks comfort for you and me from the sinfulness of others, acted out in this way or in any of the terrible acts committed upon society which cause terror, grief and beg the question, “Where is God?”

Paul W. Smith, in commenting on the radio about the Boston tragedy, gun control legislation and other related subjects, on Thursday Morning as I was driving to church asked this question, “Are we ready now to ban pressure cookers because they too can be used as a destructive weapon?” He continued, “It seems to me that is goes much deeper than that and we need to ask the bigger question, which affects all aspects of our lives, and that regards God’s removal from all aspects from society.”

But there is still Good News among the sadness of Boston. Christ was there as Christians brought help and service to their neighbor, whether through their calling as police officers, doctors, emergency personal or just regular people who jumped to the aid of those hurt and hurting. Christ will be there as many of the clergy of from the many Christian churches in Boston minister to the needs of those suffering physical and mental pain, because of this sin filled senseless act. Christ understands our suffering because He suffered what appeared to the world to be nothing more than the death of a good man that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But, we can also be comforted that in spite of the sins of sinful people and our own sinfulness, Gods word will bring us all to a Godly repentance, so that the sweet balm of the Gospel can comfort us with the Good news that in spite of our sin and the capability to do these sinful things, God has washed away our sin by the blood of the Lamb, the same blood that we will partake of shortly, and covered us with His blessed righteousness so that we can have comfort that in Christ we are secure and as a result bring forth fruit as engrafted branches of the true vine Jesus Christ towards our neighbor and those that need to hear this blessed Good News.

We are called to be His children and as such we listen to His word and we follow His teaching and are brought into fellowship with him and with one another.  Even though we miss the mark we know that He didn't  God by his loving work has made you His child and by understanding His teaching you know about all that He did for you. May the blessed gift of fellowship in Christ be a guide to Holy living in the one who came to free you from the power of sin, death and the devil.

The people of Chili and Argentina who expressed a desire to live in peace in the statue of “Christ in the Andes” is the same peace that the people of Waterford and the world at large need to have as well. The blessed gift of Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit in you, will keep you in the one true faith in spite of this sinful world and the devil’s work seen this week in Boston, now and forever; as God comforts you with His precious Gospel message of forgiveness in Christ by the Holy Spirit’s work in you.

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


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