In this morning’s sermon I mentioned Paul’s declaration that, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” In many ways that declaration could serve as the motto for all those who come to this Table. This meal in which we take up and receive the emblems of Christ’s crucifixion is for those who no longer live for themselves, but rather for Christ. In this meal we are confronted each and every week with the astounding truth that Jesus, the only begotten Son, loved us and gave Himself over to death for us. Furthermore, in this meal we are confronted with what it means to have Christ live in us to pursue life by faith in Him and in the power of His Spirit. It means continually receiving and rest upon Him for our salvation. It means continually feeding upon Him, deriving strength from His body and blood so as to die to sin and live unto righteousness. Remember: This is a feast of victory!
As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, we are going to begin this “Season after Pentecost” by taking a closer look at what it means to live “after Pentecost,” in light of the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. On Pentecost Sunday I sought to reintroduce the person and to some extent the work of the Holy Spirit. We saw that the Holy Spirit is a divine person, the third person of the Holy Trinity, who proceeds from the Father and the Son to apply the work of Christ to us. I suggested a number of the ways in which the Spirit does this, but when think about the work of the Spirit in the life of the Christian, there are two topics that immediately come to mind: the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. The Spirit enables us to bring forth fruit and the Spirit empowers us for service. Put another way we could say that life after Pentecost involves producing the Spirit’s fruit and employing the Spirit’s gifts. So over the next couple months I want us to take a closer look at these two topics, beginning this morning with the fruit of the Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23, but before looking at each of these over the next several weeks I want us to take a step back to consider the context in which Paul gives us this list. These verses are part of a broader section of Galatians (5:16-24) in which Paul is contrasting life in the Spirit with the desires and deeds of the flesh. And it is this contrast (Spirit vs. flesh) that I want us to explore together this morning. First, in vv. 16-18 we will consider the command to live in or by the Spirit. Second, in vv. 19-23 we will consider the criterion or standard that Paul gives us to determine whether or not we are indeed in living in Spirit (this is where the fruit of the Spirit comes in). Then, third, in v. 24 we will consider how the command to live in the Spirit is based upon the cross of Christ. Continue reading ’2nd Sunday after Pentecost ’11 – An Introduction to the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-24)’
Tomorrow our nation celebrates Memorial Day, a time to remember those gave their lives in military service for our nation. And as Christians we are quite familiar with this kind of memorial celebration and remembrance because it’s what we do here every week. This meal is likewise a memorial in which we remember, and more importantly call upon God to remember, how Jesus Christ gave His life in service to God and His holy nation, the Church. It was the death of Jesus Christ in battle that secured our life, liberty from the guilt and power of sin, and an eternal inheritance where true happiness is found. Of course we don’t view these things as “rights,” but rather as gifts of God’s grace. We don’t deserve life, liberty, and happiness, but death, bondage, and misery. It was by undergoing the latter, which we deserved that Jesus gave us the former, which we did not deserve. Therefore let us celebrate the death of Jesus for us and the blessing that flow to us through this memorial feast!
For the past few weeks we have been considering Luke’s summary descriptions of the first church in the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts 2:42-47 we saw that the common worship and life of these Christians resulted in an effective and attractive presence in the world. Then last week in Acts 4:32-35 we took a closer look at the sacrificial unity that was at the heart of their common life. Now this week in Acts 5:12-16 we have the opportunity to take a closer look at one of the ways that they maintained an effective and attractive presence in the world. That’s really what we see in this morning’s lesson. We see the world sitting up and taking notice of the ministry of the apostles (effective) and many of them being drawn to the Lord as a result (attractive). Now the context of this effectiveness and attraction is the miraculous healing ministry of the apostles, which might seem to make it a little difficult to apply this passage to our context. You’re not going to find me sharing the stage at the Bi-Lo Center with Benny Hinn in an attempt to apply this passage. And yet, I believe there are some important lessons for us to learn from this passage. Indeed, I believe that the church in our day can and must maintain this kind of effective and attractive presence in the world.
So what will this look like? Well, in order to see how this passage should shape our practice, first I want us to consider the healing ministry of the apostles as Luke introduces it in v. 12 and unpacks it in subsequent verses. In particular I want us to think through how this ministry relates to our own. Second, I want us to consider the effect that this ministry had upon those inside and outside the Church in v. 13. Then, third, I want us to consider how this ministry attracted those outside the Church in vv. 14-16. Continue reading ’6th Sunday of Easter ’11 – Acts 5:12-16′
In this morning’s sermon we considered the sacrificial unity that characterized the earliest church. I argues that this sacrificial unity was based upon the resurrection of Jesus and the grace of God. But in light of the table spread before us we might also say that the sacrificial unity of the church is founded upon the sacrifice of Christ and the unity that is ours as we participate in His sacrifice through this bread and wine. In 1 Corinthians Paul grounds the unity or oneness of the church in the Holy Spirit’s activity in baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He writes, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free – and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” In other words that which unites us is greater than that which divides us. The waters of baptism and the bread and wine of this table form us as a body that is united in heart and soul. By sharing in Christ through these means we are empowered by God’s abundant grace to share our lives and our possessions with one another. “My life for yours” is the proper response to this morning’s sermon. By God’s grace see to it that these words ring true throughout your lives together.
Over the past few weeks we have been considering how various passages in the Acts of the Apostles unfold the implications of the resurrection of Jesus. We’ve seen that the resurrection is God’s declaration that Jesus is the world’s true Lord and Israel’s messiah. And we’ve seen the implications of this declaration for mankind, that we all must seek salvation in this Jesus by repentance and baptism in His name. Then last week we began what will be a three part consideration of the Church that is brought into being as a result of the resurrection of Jesus. From Acts 2:42-47 we saw how the common worship of the Church was expressed in their common life and resulted in an effective and attractive presence in the world. Now in this week’s lesson (4:32-35) we have occasion to take a closer look at one of the central aspects of the Church’s common life that we considered briefly last week: the way that the first Christians sacrificially provided for one another’s needs.
Last week I argued that those who share in Christ through the teaching of the apostles, the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, and the prayers of the Church, will be those who share their possessions, their gifts, their time, their money with one another. Well, in Acts 4:32-35 Luke describes why and how the Church managed to share their lives in this way. First, Luke provides us a summary introduction of the sacrificial unity of the Church in v. 32. Second, he states the basis for this sacrificial unity in v. 33. Third, he describes how this sacrificial unity was practiced in everyday life in vv. 34-35. In all of this I want us to be thinking about how we at Holy Trinity can better reflect “the communion of the saints” in this area of our common life. Continue reading ’5th Sunday of Easter ’11 – Acts 4:32-35′
You’re all probably familiar with the saying, “The family that prays together stays together.” Well, more recently experts have suggested another key to staying together as a family: The family that eats together stays together. I believe this truth to be central to Peter’s description of the church in Acts 2. He is describing the family of God eating together and staying together. So long as we share this meal together; so long as we pass this bread and wine to one another with words of blessing, we will stay together by the power of the Holy Spirit. But as we’ve seen this morning this togetherness isn’t to be confined to this weekly meal. If this is only time that we are sharing a meal together; if this is the only time that we are passing food and drink to one another with words of blessing, then I fear our chances of staying together are greatly diminished. The Spirit forms us as a community on Sunday in order to live in community from Monday to Saturday. This meal is a pattern of the meals that we are to share together as we have opportunity throughout the week. So don’t let this be the last meal that share with one another this week!