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For Time and Eternity

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150 Years...

Next year we celebrate 150 years of Christian ministry - years of growth, years of stagnation and even loss. Years of active involvement in the community, and years of passive observance of the community. Ministries have been planted, sprung forth, and died in that time. Church buildings have been built, sold to others, and abandoned to the elements or even torn down. We might not be the biggest, the wealthiest, or the loudest, but we have been here, through thick and thin, as this city of seekers from various places and spaces developed and grew. God started with George Toll’s desire to erect a community that included the presence of God’s pure Gospel, and added people with each generation, building a house that was not made with hands to worship in buildings that eventually became this hallowed space. We aren’t celebrating what St. John’s has accomplished by staying open. We are celebrating what the Lord has done in watching over His Word to perform it, generation after generation, and praying that by His grace and mercy, He will continue to do so until He comes again with glory to judge the living and the dead.
Lord God, bless Your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Make it a Word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May Your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as You have promised, Your Word may achieve the purpose for which You send it, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Ezekiel 33:7–9 ESV
“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.
Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations 672 The Perfect Church

The Perfect Church

I think that I shall never see

A Church that’s all it ought to be:

A Church whose members never stray

Beyond the Strait and Narrow Way:

A Church that has no empty pews,

Whose Pastor never has the blues,

A Church whose Deacons always deak,

And none is proud, and all are meek:

Where gossips never peddle lies,

Or make complaints or criticize;

Where all are always sweet and kind,

And all to other’s faults are blind.

Such perfect Churches there may be,

But none of them are known to me.

But still, we’ll work, and pray and plan,

To make our own the best we can.

Some people truly don’t understand why the church exists. They look at the various buildings that bear witness to the existence of the Kingdom of God in a nation that rejected the authority of kings. They observe the activities of people who are little different than they, living as “in the world but not of the world.” They consider the sacrificial giving of those who gather around the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, who in their poverty make the community rich.
Some believe that preaching the Gospel is a way of demeaning non-Christians as evil people, inferior to the “good church-folk.” Some believe that declaring God’s Law in all of its harshness is done out of a desire to make others feel guilty for the shear pleasure of watching them squirm. The truth is that those who have heard God’s gracious message of love and forgiveness that comes through the shed blood of Jesus Christ our Lord only want to share the same life-giving message with others, to the praise of God’s glorious grace.
Luke 13:1–5 ESV
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
God calls us, through the Gospel preached by the Church of Jesus Christ, to repentance, and he uses people just like you rather than angels, so that you can know that the message of salvation is for you. God proclaims His Holy Law to saints so that they can remember that the difference between them and sinners is not measured in dollars and cents, wardrobe styles, or even time spent in Church. Instead, it is whether their sins were washed away in the waters of Holy Baptism, whether Jesus’ offer of a new life was accepted or rejected. As Christians, we know that the wages of sin is death, and as humans we know that we would desire to put off payday for as long as possible. Jesus knows that sometimes His people struggle to tell others that “Jesus saves.”
Luke 13:6–9 ESV
And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ ”
One of the measures of whether something is alive or not is whether it can reproduce. Movement isn’t life - water moves, sand moves, crystals move. Noise isn’t life. The rapid expansion of air along the path of lightning produces an explosive sound - thunder - but lightning isn’t alive. The ability to reproduce is the ability to project oneself forward while maintaining continuity. It is for that reason that the Israelites viewed barrenness as a curse. The biblical example of a “dead church” is found in
Revelation 3:1–3 ESV
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “ ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
Faith comes by hearing, and hearing from the Word of Christ. For others to hear, some must speak. Paul proves this in when he shows the relationship between the preaching of the Gospel and the righteousness of faith. A church with no Gospel to preach, no matter what level its activity, is a church that has a name that it is alive, but it is dead. It cannot reproduce. Social activity does not replace sowing the seed.
Luke 8:4–15 ESV
And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
To the Church in Sardis
3 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
The Church on the day of Pentecost numbered about 120 () when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them. By the end of the day, through the preaching of the Gospel, about 3000 souls were added (), and more additions came as the church continued the work of teaching, fellowship and prayers.
“ ‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
There are some people who are ripe for the taking - Low hanging fruit. You don’t have to invest much in their coming to faith in Christ. That is a wonderful thing, but it isn’t the usual thing. More often than not, it will take time, energy, and work. You will have to develop a relationship with most of the people that you share Christ with.
e to invest much in their coming to faith in Christ. That is a wonderful thing, but it isn’t the usual thing. More often than not, it will take time, energy, and work. You will have to develop a relationship with most of the people that you share Christ with.
Jesus spent three years with the 12, knowing that, as He said, “one of you is a devil.” He also spent three years dealing with HIS own people, the Jews. While large crowds attended His preaching, there were few who were with Him at His death. The Church on the day of Pentecost numbered about 120 () when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them. By the end of the day, through the preaching of the Gospel, about 3000 souls were added (), but more additions came as the church continued the work of teaching, fellowship and prayers.
Luke 8:5–11 ESV
“A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
Jesus spent three years with the 12, knowing that, as He said, “one of you is a devil.” He also spent three years dealing with HIS own people, the Jews. While large crowds attended His preaching, there were few who were with Him at His death. The Church on the day of Pentecost numbered about 120 () when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them. By the end of the day, through the preaching of the Gospel, about 3000 souls were added (), but more additions came as the church continued the work of teaching, fellowship and prayers.
The Church on the day of Pentecost numbered about 120 () when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them. By the end of the day, through the preaching of the Gospel, about 3000 souls were added (), and more additions came as the church continued the work of teaching, fellowship and prayers.
Acts 2:46–47 ESV
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
The Gospel delivered us from “the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Peter continued, saying:
2 Peter 1:5–8 ESV
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The gardener told his master, “Let’s give it another year. I’ll dig around it and fertilize, and maybe it will produce next year...” Let’s put in some good work, let’s put in some effort. The ground might be good, and the rains plentiful, but sometimes you need a little extra TLC. This tree might need a little something extra.
The gardener told his master, “Let’s give it another year. I’ll dig around it and fertilize, and maybe it will produce next year...” Let’s put in some good work, let’s put in some effort. The ground might be good, and the rains plentiful, but sometimes you need a little extra TLC. This tree might need a little something extra.
Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), .
I won’t sin against God and before you by saying that it will be easy. Satan isn’t just going to give up his hold on Gary like that. There is fruit that will come as we faithfully take what we have been given and apply it. The gardener was confident that a living fig tree would respond to his actions, and one that didn’t was clearly not alive, leaves notwithstanding. I am confident of Gary’s Lutherans, as Paul was of the Philippians:
This isn’t our war, and it isn’t our mission. and that’s a good thing. It’s Christ’s mission, a mission that He has under control. All power is in His hands
Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), .
Philippians 1:6–7 ESV
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.
I know that, as a Missionary Pastor in this city, that I am not alone. When I speak to someone, I see you all with me, I hear Roosevelt Kelley’s prayers for me, and the prayers and support of my support network across the country. I hear Mike’s words of encouragement, telling me to be patient. I see Jackie downstairs smiling as she prepares another fellowship meal. I see Noah excitedly coming to greet me. I see Jim, walking here every Sunday. I see each of you, praying, worshiping, receiving the grace of God in Word and Sacrament, living out the promise of His love through the power of the Holy Spirit that you received in your baptism. Supporting you, and supporting me, I see Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, interceding for us as our Great High Priest, pouring out the Holy Spirit upon us, empowering us to be His witnesses. Together, with our brothers and sisters throughout the city, throughout the circuit, throughout the District and across the Synod, we preach Christ crucified, and proclaim Love crucified arose The risen One in splendor Jehovah's sole Defender Has won the victory Love crucified arose And the grave became a place of hope For the heart that sin and sorrow broke Is beating once again.
Michael Card
Love Crucified Arose lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc
So let the peace of God that passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.
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