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Paul’s Farewell

April 21, 2013

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Fourth Sunday of Easter                                   Trinity Lutheran Church

21 April 2013                                                        Murdock, NE

+ Jesu Juva +

Acts 20:17-35

Like a habit that’s so hard to break — the outrage persists.  The scandal strikes back.  And what’s that?  Bible Thumpery!  Or Bible Thumping!  The Bible Thumpery continues here at Trinity.  It has since 1892.  Do you think I’ll change that?  No way!  I will “thump,” that is, preach God’s Word, the Bible, some more today just like last week.  I will dare to “thump” it in your ears and your hearts.

And what exactly will I thump?  One part of the pastoral farewell of the Apostle and Pastor Paul!   Just one part of it.  Why?  I preached way too long last week.  Got to shorten it up a little today!

So, are you ready to be thumped?  Bible thumped?  Through the Lord’s apostle?  Who preaches God’s Word?  You are?  Good!  For a moment there … I thought perhaps … you were calling, texting or tweeting for the local authorities (civic and ecclesiastical) to report a Bible Thumper!

Now I need to warn you.  What Pastor Paul says in his farewell to the congregation and pastors at Ephesus may shock you.  He says things that you probably have never heard before in your life.  Maybe some things that you don’t want to hear.  I hope your ears don’t begin to bleed.  I hope you have ears that hear.  And hearts that are REPENTED and FAITHED.

So, here we go.  Fasten your seat belts folks.  Prepare to be Bible thumped!

As Paul faces the pastors from Ephesus for the last time, he does an instant replay of his pastoral care in that congregation.  His pastoral attention for them was one of committed and loyal service to the Lord Jesus.  After all, it’s the Lord’s church, not Paul’s.  His pastoral care also involved intense humility toward them even as he suffered many trials and tears.  Being a pastor isn’t easy.  Did you know that?  Pastors live under intense scrutiny, insane expectations, and sometimes flat out rejection, as they try to faithfully carry out their vocation.  Sometimes pastors just want to quit.  Do something else.  Now, as Pastor Paul faces certain incarceration and loads of hardships in Jerusalem HE SPELLS OUT WHAT REALLY CONCERNS HIM.  WHAT IS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE.

And what is that?  Are you ready to hear it?  Your seatbelts have become  loose.  Tighten them up a little!  Remarkably, Pastor Paul doesn’t care about himself, his wages, or how he is mistreated.  He is not self-absorbed!  “I consider my life to be nothing to me.”  

What concerns Pastor Paul is that he remains …. FAITHFUL for the rest of his life to the work Jesus has given him.  This involves the preaching of both the law and the gospel.  He puts it this way.  Listen:  “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” Paul follows nothing else than Jesus’ own preaching:  “Repent and believe the good news,” (Mark 1:15).  Paul obeys the risen Lord’s mandate from Luke 24:47 to preach “repentance and forgiveness of sins … in his [Christ’s] name to all nations.”

Do you think that you can do without repentance and faith?  What about having only faith but no repentance?  You have to have both.  You can’t have one without the other.  No repentance, no faith.  No faith, no repentance.

Let’s be honest.  You don’t like the “must turn to God in repentance” part of Paul’s farewell sermon.  You’d rather not have Paul or any clergyman call you to repentance.  Right?  Of course!  That’s the last thing in the world you want him to preach.  You don’t want to repent!  You fight it with all the gusto you have.  Admit it.  The old sinful nature in you hates it when Reverend, through God’s Word, calls you what you are:  a sinner who needs TO REPENT!

This is precisely why loads of people over the years no longer attend the divine service here at Trinity to hear the sermon.  It’s why they won’t darken the south door.  Absolutely refuse to attend.  They stay at home and preach to themselves.  Repentance is irrelevant.  No need for that!

And yet they turn and high tail it the other way when they see the pastor in public.  “Ah oh, here comes The Reverend.  He’s the harsh repentance man!  He said that, ‘I need to repent!’  As if I’m some kind of a sinner!  As if I’ve done something wrong.  He judged me!  Run Margaret!  My ears are still bleeding from the sermon we heard 15 years ago!  I’ll have nothing to do with such a preacher!  How dare he say that I must repent!”  It’s just like Adam and Eve when they tried to hide from God in the bushes.  God still found them.  You can’t hide!  He’ll send a preacher to find you!  And expose you!  And that’s a good thing!  So that you’ll REPENT!

You can’t be a Christian without repentance!  You can’t be a Christian and permanently delete the word “repent” from your vocabulary or the preacher’s care for you.  Christians must repent.  Daily.  As the Lord’s Word has its way with you.

Here’s the truth!  Sinners – you, me, and the world must repent.  Or as Pastor Paul put it in his farewell:  “turn to God in repentance.”

So what are you waiting for?  Go ahead.  Tell the truth.  Confess your sin.  Your sinful condition for starters.  Then the sin that bothers you.  Then the sin that doesn’t bother you.  Then there’s the sin that you want to stop doing.  There’s the sin that you want to keep on doing.  Admit it.  You’re a sinner. Whole hog, total enchilada, rebellious, disobedient, rotten to the core sinner!  Paul, the Christian, called himself the “chief of sinners – numero uno — primo!”  You and I are no different!

Paul, the Christian sinner knew first hand that he had to be repented by the Lord – repented of his unbelief and repented of his chronic problem with sin in his life.  It doesn’t matter what your nationality, Jew, Greek, or whatever.  Christian sinners repent!  Turn your back on your sin.  Fight it.  Die to it.

The Bible thumping is getting quite heavy, isn’t it?  Well, I’m not quite through with you and neither is Paul.  After “repentance” comes “faith”!  Not only do you need to be repented BUT YOU ALSO NEED TO BE FAITHED!  In other words, the Christian who is repented by the Lord now believes that he is a sinner who desperately needs Savior Jesus and God’s grace.

Therefore Pastor Paul’s farewell goes like this:  “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and HAVE FAITH IN OUR LORD JESUS.”       

Faith.  Faith doesn’t talk about itself.  Faith is never referenced to itself.  Faith only talks about what it is given.  AND THAT’S JESUS!  “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:10)  This Lamb is Jesus is also the Good Shepherd.  Good Shepherd Lamb Jesus who promises:  “I give you, my sheep, eternal life and you will never perish.  No one or nothing can snatch you out of my hand.”  (John 10:27)  This is His promise to you!

His promise is certain and sure because He died the Good Friday death for you.  All your sin is His!  Really!  He insisted on taking your sin in His Body on the cross.  He willingly was damned in your sin!  Your sin and all its damnation do not belong to you anymore!  You are forgiven.  Or as the Epistle proclaimed:  “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made white IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB.” (Rev. 7:14).

Earlier you heard the absolution at the beginning of the service.  You just heard it again when I declared to you:  “You are forgiven.”  Those words are Christ’s words!  When you hear His words you hear Christ Himself.  The absolution or the declaration of forgiveness is the living voice of Christ!  Viva vox Christi!    Just as Jesus Himself promises:  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.”    Faith says:  “Amen.  True.”

You follow Good Shepherd Jesus all the way to the Lord’s Supper.  More of His words.  More of His promise with the bread that is His Body and the wine that is His Blood.  “Given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of your sins.”  Viva vox Christi!  Living voice of Christ! “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.”   Where there is forgiveness of sins there is life and salvation.  Just as Jesus says: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.  I give them eternal life and they shall never perish.”

With such promises of Jesus you are faithed!  Faithed to believe that you’re forgiven and that you have salvation only in Lamb Good Shepherd Jesus who died for you.

This is the life of the Christian.  This is the life of the church.  This is the life of Trinity.  It is God’s will.  His will for your life.  What He wants you to do.  And it’s from the Bible – God’s Holy Word!  Listen one last time: “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and HAVE FAITH IN OUR LORD JESUS.”      

“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – THE TASK OF TESTIFYING TO THE GOSPEL OF GOD’S GRACE.”

Next week:  more incredible Bible Thumping so that you’re repented of your sin and faithed in Jesus.  Until then …

In the Name of Jesus.

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