Trinity Lutheran Church
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Fourth Sunday of Easter
15 May 2011
Congregations are known for various things. Ham suppers! Chili suppers! Hog roasts! Raffles! Some congregations are infamous for their infighting. Some are well known for the pastor – for better or for worse! Some for their beautiful sanctuaries, friendliness, or for the middle aged wanna be rock and roll praise bands. Others are known for their hip youth ministry or social justice agendas.
Today, from Acts 2, directly after Pentecost and the baptism of 3,000 people, we get a glimpse of what the early Christian congregation in Jerusalem was up to. What was a priority number one! What was sine qua non! What couldn’t be given up! What was done Sunday after Sunday! What they couldn’t live without! What was needed the most!
And what they were up to may just shock you! Stun you! After all, by today’s standards First Church at Jerusalem is so out of the box! So seriously out of the norm! So dinosaurish! That right there should tell us that this little band of believers in Jesus was being, dare I say it … FAITHFUL! After all, check out for what this little congregation was so renowned!
“They devoted themselves” to four things. “Devoted.” What they held on to with all their being! Try to take away and you were in for a knock down drag out! “Devoted.” What they would continue in. In what they would persevere!
Check it out! “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.” First Church at Jerusalem was recognized by their devotion – their dedication – their clinging — to the teaching of the apostles, the fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and the prayers.
The “apostles’ teaching.” You know. That Jesus is the door of the sheep. I.E. that Jesus alone is your salvation. That Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. That Jesus was “reviled” and “suffered” for you! That Jesus “bore all your sin in His body on the tree.” That the wounds of Jesus grant you “healing,” (1 Peter 2:25).
That Jesus really rose from the dead! They saw Him! And that because of His resurrection all your sin is forgiven. That you who believe in Him will be raised up bodily on the last day for eternal life with Him! That Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit in the preached gospel and Baptism to call you to faith in Him! To bestow the forgiveness of sins to you that He won on the cross.
The “apostles’ teaching” is found in the New Testament. Christ gave the apostles the Holy Spirit and as He promised the Holy Spirit led them into all the truth about Jesus. The apostles spoke on Christ’s behalf – in Christ’s stead and by His command. “Christ’s ambassadors,” Paul declares in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “God making His appeal” through them! So what they wrote applies to the church of all times. A congregation that no longer follows or refuses the apostles’ teaching in the New Testament is not a true Church of Christ! And so at Jerusalem “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.”
And to “the fellowship!” Fellowship. “All who believed [in Jesus] were together and had all things in common.” Their fellowship as the body of Christ (the church) led these early Christians to live for each other and not for themselves. Their unity proved they were one in Christ in everyday life and in the divine service. They lived together as one big family.
Good thing. After all, to be a Christian in Jerusalem meant great hardship. Confessing Christ as Lord and Savior usually brought down the wrath of your family against you! The usual kind of social protection that you once had was no lost – because you were a Christian. If you got sick, lost your job, or became impoverished, no one now would help you – you follower of Jesus!
And so a number of wealthier Christians in Jerusalem sold all that they had and helped their brothers and sisters in Christ. “Selling the possessions and goods, they gave to anyone [in the fellowship of the congregation] as he had need.” They lived for each other. They took care of each other. Such was the fellowship in Christ Jesus! Offering their bodies as living sacrifices for the benefit of their fellow Christians!
They also devoted themselves to the “breaking of the bread.” That’s the Lord’s Supper! It is the true body and true blood of the Lord Jesus Christ with the bread and wine for us Christians to eat and drink with our mouths! With the bread Jesus gives the body that was born of the Virgin Mary, the body that suffered, died, rose from the dead and ascended to the Father’s right hand. He doesn’t have any other body! With the cup of wine Jesus gives His blood that pumped through His heart, flowed through His arteries and stained the wood of the cross. He doesn’t have any other blood! And His promise is that His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper is for the forgiveness of all your sins. That is the good news of the Gospel! All your sin forgiven! For Jesus’ sake!
Now you know why the church and the Christian cannot live without the Sacrament of the Altar! Seriously! It is the center of the church’s and Christian’s life! Neglecting it is a warning sign that one’s faith or the church’s life are growing weak and perhaps even dead. And so they devoted themselves “to the breaking of the bread.”
And also to “the prayers.” The church is a praying church. The church prays. Prayers are offered for the church, for the needs of her members, for the governing authorities, for the world, for the sick and dying, thanksgivings for all that God has done for sinners in Christ Jesus, etc. Included in that would be the Lord’s Prayer. That’s a no brainer. After all, such praying is the life of faith in the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The life of DE-pendence not independence. The life of being a beggar for all the Lord’s gifts. That His name be hallowed among us. That His kingdom of forgiveness would reign among us. That His good and gracious will would be done among us. That we would receive our daily bread with thanksgiving. Ect.
For what are we known here at Trinity? Are we known for our devotion to apostolic teaching from the New Testament, fellowship, attending the Lord’s Supper, and praying together as the church? Where we are indifferent, bored, unconcerned, and neglectful, let us repent! Seriously. While there is still time let us repent before it is too late and we are no longer recognizable as a Christian church. I beg all of you to turn from your sin of neglect and indifference and turn back to the Lord who has answered for all our sin. Who promises that His blood cleanses us from all sin. Who shepherds His sheep through the door to eternal life.
In the name of Jesus.