Summary: Preaching at a church that presently doesn't have a pastor, this sermon was written to help them realize that God is with them, and the primary message is that Christ came to save sinners.
Our Saviour's Lutheran Church
September 12, 2010
† In Jesus Name †
May the grace of God, His love and mercy that has and is poured out on His people here, become so real this morning, that you have no option but to rejoice and in awe at what He does...in and through sinners such as us!
A Vision with Hope
A long time ago a older missionary wrote a younger pastor a letter. The older missionary had sent the young pastor back to a city where groups of God's people were gathered, to oversee God's ministry that took place among those people. As with all churches, there would be challenges. There would be some division among them, there was lurking on the horizon the threat of false teachers, there would be some things that needed to be put in order, and others to be trained.
With a limited amount of space to write, and on expensive parchment, Paul would write to make every word count - every word needed to encourage this young man. To give him hope, to help him realize that God would work through him, and through the people he would disciple and train up to ministry
And so we have this letter, a portion of which was read a few moments ago to us. The beginning of the letter, and something critically important for us to realize this day. Paul would use two words together, which made the difference in the ministry God would call him to, a ministry that would have some times which were challenged, and were the outcome required strength greater than Paul's. And so, looking back at his ministry, Paul would say these words, grace overflowed.
As it does here, this day. As it has in the past, as it can in the future.
As you realize it is happening, the name of this place will come even more precious to you. This is Our Savior's Lutheran Church.
Paul's dry land...
He isn't the hero... he's the anti-hero
Something needed to change
Scripture had to be Quickened
As we get into the meet of this sermon, I want to take a moment and thank you for being so hospitable to Deacon Mark. Working with him on the sermons adds a dimension to my own preaching, and this week, he made an excellent point which he is sharing with my people at Concordia.
We often look at Paul with stained glass eyes. That is, we see the great missionary, we assume that he was a great preacher, and we hold him up as a great theologian. It is not the view he had of himself, by any means. As you read his letters, and the Book of Acts written by his friend Luke, you find a different man. One that was not great in appearance – he had been beaten too many times, stoned and shipwrecked. He wasn't always a man of great patience, as he dealt with legalists and judaizers, and even the apostle Peter. He wasn't always so merciful, as he dealt with young John Mark. This all after God had confronted him regarding his sin.
Hear again his words to describe himself. “13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent.” 1 Timothy 1:13 (ESV)
I have to wonder if at night, when all was quiet, Paul would hear Stephen's prayers, as the rocks were thrown down on him. If he would remember the fear in the eyes of wives and children, as he chained their husbands up, and dragged their pastors away to be tortured and even killed. I wonder if he remember all the times he cursed those who followed Jesus, and mocked them. And wondered – can they ever forgive me. Can God?
There are days like that for all of us. We look at our distant past, like maybe all the way back to last Thursday, and we remember our sin. Or we remember the sins of our youth, and we shudder – how can we claim to gather in His name, when we did those sinful things.
Paul must have had days like that as well, the thoughts show up in scripture. In Romans 7, after telling the church how God cleansed them in their baptism, he will spend a chapter describing his own torment that he was paralyzed when it came to doing good. But that which was sin, he had no trouble doing.
That can describe the church as well. I do not know a congregation that would complain if there were 30-50 baptisms a year that occurred there. Or if their building was so packed, they had to add two more services. Yet most churches, mine own included, have the same people there, week after week, and rarely a guest will open the door. We know we need to incite people, we know we need to not be afraid and share with them the treasure we are given. Yet... another Sunday roles around...and for some reason, we never got around to it. We were busy with this meeting, and that crisis, and you know – I would love to talk to that person... oops they left.