Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sermon April 2-3, 2016

Title: Through Christ belief is given and doubt is erased
Text: Acts 5:12-20

14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,

When Henry Norris Russell, the Princeton astronomer, had concluded a lecture on the Milky Way, a woman came to him and asked, "If our world is so little, and the universe is so great, can we believe God really pays any attention to us?" Dr. Russell replied, "That depends, madam, entirely on how big a God you believe in."

Today in the World, Feb 89, p. 12.

Over the last few months we’ve welcomed the Christ child, born in a manger and celebrated the Epiphany of our Lord as he is revealed and made know to the world through the visit of the wise men. We watched Jesus grow in wisdom and stature and begin his ministry. He taught, cast our demons, healed the sick and raised the dead. He was celebrated as a great teacher but ultimately was rejected by the religious elite and the people. He was tried, convicted, crucified, dead and buried. It is finished.

Then … Easter came and Jesus rose from the dead. Death has been changed forever – swallowed up in victory as we proclaim. It is now the blessed hope of all who die in Christ that we too will rise and live with him free of sin, death and the power of the devil forever.
Through Christ belief is given and doubt is erased

The reality of this life, broken by sin though continues and it continued for the Apostles as well. Signs and wonders were regularly done among the people at the hands of the Apostles, and they were held in esteem by the people.

They even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.

From the surrounding towns and villages they brought their sick and those with unclean spirits, and they were all healed!

Much had changed but much remained the same.

Those afflicted … remained so. Those called by Jesus to follow him … followed in his footsteps in the care of souls. Those opposed to Christ – the high priest and the party of the Sadducees –rose up being filled with jealousy and 18 they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.

Much had changed but much remained the same.


William M. Batten, in Fortune Magazine wrote:

When I hear my friends say they hope their children don't have to experience the hardships they went through--I don't agree. Those hardships made us what we are. You can be disadvantaged in many ways, and one way may be not having had to struggle.

William M. Batten, Fortune.

Struggle is certainly part of the Christian walk. Many of you struggle with the trials of life. I do too. Sickness and death, job loss, guidance and care for our children and our parents. Friends and loved ones with cancer, you name it and it seems to go on and on. 

Through Christ belief is given and doubt is erased


Today those opposed to Christ seem greater than ever. Foreign and domestic opposition to Jesus is rampant. College campuses indoctrinate free thinking and alternate lifestyles and they have for years, as long as your free thinking is not in support of traditional family values and accepted religious and public norms. Politically correct views trump that which was traditional accepted – no pun intended.

The recent bombings in Brussels, the killing of women and children in Pakistan, the terrorist attacks late last year in France and San Bernardino, and now the kidnapping of Indian Catholic priest Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, this past month in Yemen, highlight the hate for those outside of their narrow view of Islam but it is especially highlighted for those who name the name of Christ.

On March 4th of this year ISIS or ISIL (depending on which politically correct version you wish to use), killed four nuns serving along with Father Tom at an elderly care facility in Aden, Yemen. One nun managed to escape the terror standing behind a door as they searched for her. She said, “I wasn’t hiding, but they never looked behind the door.” Not killed along with the nuns was Father Tom. He was taken captive and it is being reported that he was crucified on Good Friday by the terrorist group … though some still hold out hope that he is alive through prayers.

The vision of St. John in the book of Revelation comforts we who morn for those martyred for their faith in chapter 6.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Rev. 6:9-11 ESV)

Persecution remains part of our Christian walk; though we like the fifth nun hope to be hidden behind the door of God’s protection.

It is easy to see that the corruption of this world continues. And though the wages of sin has been overcome by Christ we all wait in anticipation for the glorious appearing of our great God and savior Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13

Even the Apostles, after Christ rose from the dead … and now doing his blessed work … in his name … were arrested and thrown in prison for their witness. Persecution, doubt, loss and fear continue to hound the church and those sent to serve. It will continue until Christ returns.

Through Christ belief is given and doubt is erased

The joy of Easter though is celebrated, as it was last weekend, but the reality of persecution continues for Christ’s church. In our day some who once followed Jesus rebel in sinful disobedience to the word of God. Others, have an apathetic distain for God’s word and all that Christ has done on their behalf. Truthfully, we all fall short in our love of God and service to neighbor.

I, a poor miserable sinner, rings true again each week. The truth is that Jesus died for you and for me in a very public way, so we cannot live for him by ourselves in private. And no, it’s not a work, but it is a fruit of who we are in Christ.

Fear gripped the disciples too. They, for fear of the Jews, were locked in a room and Jesus came and stood before them saying, “Peace be with you.”

This peace from Christ is real. God has made what we could never make possible a reality. Now he brings this reality to you and me through his means.

Jesus showed them his hands and his side, the reality of his death was there, the holes in his hands and feet, the mark in his side from the spear, all those remaining marks of his finished work for you and me were there, and he says and again … bringing the words of comfort …

“Peace be with you.” But now gives the means of this gift for the world’s peace and salvation. “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Christ Jesus here sends these disciples, these 10 men locked in this room - Judas having fled and taken his life in despair while Thomas was not yet there among them.

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

It is a true absolution and peace, true forgiveness, not because the men who stand in the place and by the command of Christ, stand of their own accord, but because they stand as servants of the word. They do what Christ does and commands because, it is his words of peace, it is his words of forgiveness and it is his words of comfort spoken by those called to stand as under shepherds of the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ himself. 

Peace is truly a gift, but it also truly had a cost. Jesus is both the gift and the price that was paid to procure your peace and your salvation. 

In Baptism, we too who are brought to the font receive that same gift of peace by Jesus. With Christ’s body and blood in, with and under the bread and wine we truly are fed, forgiven and strengthened.
At times the word of God’s Law points us all to our sinful nature, so that we might be brought to repentance. But God’s forgiveness is certain for those who repent, so that we might live redeemed, in the midst of a world broken by the fall.

In the lives of the Apostles the prison they were placed in was real.

9 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”

It is God who forgives and it is God who speaks forgiveness to a broken world. The gospel always brings peace and erases doubt. Be comforted and strengthened as you stand in a world increasingly opposed to Christ for this world is dying but the gospel makes alive. 

Just as Christ lives “in him we live and move and have our being … For we are indeed his offspring, (Acts 17:28) and his children … adopted into Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, who changes hearts and brings peace.

Through Christ belief is given and doubt is erased

14 And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women,

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


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