Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Lydia, Paul, the man at the Pool - they all had their hearts opened and were ministered to by Jesus.

Concordia Lutheran Church

Easter 6, May 7, 2010

Let Us Rejoice in the God who opens hearts

Acts 16:9-17, John 5:1-9

† In Jesus Name †

May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, open our hearts and pour through – bringing the healing and restoration that can only be accomplished through His love and mercy, leaving us to dwell in His peace!

Intro – Review

Let us Rejoice – Hava Negilah

Have thine own way

But how does that happen?

He opens our hearts

We are entering the sixth week of Easter, the sixth week of celebration, the sixth week of me saying Hava Negilah! For our visitors, this phrase comes from our Old Testament reading from the Book of Isaiah. In that reading – people were to rejoice when the Messiah’s work was accomplished – literally, the phrase means to dance with joy! This incredible prophesy did just encourage us, the people of God to dance, but it described God dancing in celebration, as the Messiah had saved His people!

The Messiah has come, He has accomplished His mission. In the words we use to describe our confidence in God, Jesus “was born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, died and on the third day, rose again from the dead!”

Hallelujah! He is Risen! Hava Negilah – Let us Rejoice!

A moment ago, we prayed as we sang, that in light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, that we would trust God enough that we would accept His will, that we want Him to shape and mold us, for He is the potter, and we are the clay. A powerful prayer, indeed, and one that could lead us to all sort of interesting places in our lives.

Let us be honest, how many of us would really pray that, if we knew it would mean a sudden and drastic change in our lives? It can be challenging to trust God here in Cerritos. What if allowing God to be in charge resulted meant trusting in Him and getting on the first direct flight to Philippi? What if the person crying out for help wasn’t our type of people, but the kind that scared us in view of the future of humanity?

How can we trust, how can we find the strength, and the fortitude to actually mean it when we pray, “Father – Thy will be done?”? How do we live a life that would fulfill the desire we have, to live life according to the will of God? The answer is found in the Acts passage today, as we look at Lydia and Paul, and in the gospel, as the man is healed. Our answer is found in the words said of Lydia, “the Lord opened her heart to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well…”

Let us rejoice, for God opens our hearts!

Hava Negilah! He opens our Hearts – Lydia

Prior to the coming of the Apostle Paul and his companions to Philippi, Lydia and her friends could be well described by Luther’s words in the Large Catechism, “Neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe in him and take him as our Lord, unless these were first offered to us and bestowed on our, hearts through the preaching of the Gospel by the Holy Spirit.… “

In another place, Luther discusses that the world grasps that there is a God, and they try in vain to worship Him based in their own projections. But it is because they don’t understand who the Messiah is, and what He has done, they can’t grasp God’s attitude toward them. It is simple – unless you realize that God came down to us, to reveal Himself to us, any searching for Him will be in vain – it will be worthless!

But we can rejoice – for this lady and her household, even the entire province of Macedonia was not forgotten by God. God brought to her, alongside the river, someone whose words would tell of God’s attitude towards her, of His love, His mercy, His desire to make her His. That gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit would break through and open her heart to the message of His love, it would call her into a relationship with Him. The prophet Ezekiel – looking forward hundreds of years to the coming of the messiah, prophesied,

24 I will gather you from the foreign nations and bring you home. 25 I will sprinkle you with clean water, and you will be clean and acceptable to me. I will wash away everything that makes you unclean, and I will remove your disgusting idols. 26 I will take away your stubborn heart and give you a new heart and a desire to be faithful. You will have only pure thoughts, 27 because I will put my Spirit in you and make you eager to obey my laws and teachings. 28 You will once again live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel 36:24-28 (CEV)

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