Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sermon for 09 May 2010, Easter 6C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Acts 16:9-15

Faithful to the Lord

The Sixth Sunday of Easter (Mother’s Day)

09 May 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Today’s first reading from Acts tells of Paul’s Second Missionary Journey. From the Council in Jerusalem he has traveled north to Damascus and Antioch, and then west through what today we would call Turkey. Crossing the Aegean Sea, Paul is now north of Greece, in one of the few lands that has the same name then and now: Macedonia. Why did he go there? A vision from the Lord.

9And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

The Lord called Paul into His service to preach the Gospel. And so he does, faithful to the Lord.

11So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

Paul was faithful to the Lord in his preaching. The preached Gospel gave birth to faith by the work of the Holy Spirit. Lydia believed. “She was baptized, and her household as well.” Salvation coming to an entire household, as with Lydia here, is not an isolated occurrence. A Philippian jailer and his entire household will be baptized later in this same chapter, Acts 16. Look up the word “household” in your Bible’s concordance. You will be surprised by what you find.

Just who makes up a household? Commonly we see more people than just the nuclear family of father, mother, 2 ½ kids, and a cat and dog. There are people from all ages from infants to the elderly, especially extended family, and even orphans and widows among those family members. Therefore, Acts 16 is a powerful text to support the ancient Biblical practice of baptizing infants. Jesus welcomes the little children to Himself. Infants are also part of “all nations” that the church is to teach and baptize. They are also a part of “the entire household.”

[Tract of Ann’s from her HS Imperial Pastor] Why Baptize Infants? The answer to that question must begin with a look at how a holy God has always dealt with sinful and lost human beings (Rom. 3:23-25) [all have sinned]. The initiative for man’s salvation is always taken by a caring God. [The Lord does the work, just as He opened Lydia’s heart.]

For example, God chose Abraham when he was an idol worshiper (Josh. 24:2, 15) and gave him the covenant promise, which included our Savior, (Gen. 12:1-3). God acted to deliver His people from Egyptian slavery when they were helpless to do anything about it themselves (Ex. 2:23-25; 3:7-8). Jesus chose the disciples, some of them from outwardly sinful lives (Luke 5:27-28; Acts 9:1-6). And God continues to show that kind of undeserved love for sinners, like you and me, in His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:8).

Does man have a part in God’s saving work? The basic question one must answer in relation to infant baptism is this: “Is Baptism God’s action toward man (Gospel) or man’s response to God (Law)?” One’s answer to that question will determine one’s understanding and practice of infant baptism. Let’s look at the Biblical picture!

Baptism is God’s action in the life of individuals of all ages—including infants (Acts 16:15, 33; 1 Cor. 1:16). The promises and blessings God gives in Baptism are given for both adults and children (Acts 2:38-39). And God’s command to His followers to “make disciples” of “all nations” is without bounds of race, [gender], or age and certainly includes infants (Matt. 28:18-20).

Infants are in need of the saving action of God in Baptism (1 Peter 3:21) because they are born in sin and thereby are lost and separated from God (Ps. 51:5, John 3:5-6). Death, physically and eternally, is the plight of all thus born as descendants of Adam (Rom. 5:12). God’s action is required! And Baptism is the only Biblical alternative for infants.

Baptism, however, is the beginning of God’s action in a man’s life—not the end! What follows Baptism is just as important as the Baptism itself. God’s saving action is always to be followed by growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). As the clipping from a house plant is placed in a rooter to get roots, so Baptism gives an infant roots in the family of God. However, the plant clipping, once rooted, must be put in soil for growth and nurture to bring forth its fruit. So also the Baptism rooting of an infant must be followed by Christian growth and nurture in the soil of God’s love in Christ (Col. 2:6-7). Which is more important—the rooting or the growing? Obviously, both are important!

God has provided for such nurture of infants primarily through parents, and especially under the leadership of fathers (Eph. 6:4). And beyond the family God has given nurture responsibility to the Christian congregation in which the infant is baptized (1 Cor. 12:13). The God-given concern of the body of Christ for its individual members also applies to these baptized infants (1 Cor. 12:26).

However, this responsibility for nurture and growth is not always faithfully carried out. Infant baptism has often been practiced as an end in itself. “I just want to get by baby baptized!” And churches who practice infant baptism [often may] have perpetuated this false understanding by baptizing infants without a personal and faithful follow-up ministry of Christian growth with them and their families. [Disciples are made by baptizing AND teaching. See Mt. 28.] Renewal of our confidence in God’s power in infant baptism and correction of our follow-up nurture ministries is needed, not the denial of Baptism’s saving power.

Look for yourself! With the tremendous blessing God’s Word attaches to Baptism—forgiveness of sin (Acts 22:16); the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39); faith (Col. 2:12); union with Christ in His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:1-4); Christlike living now (Gal. 3:27); and salvation (Titus 3:5)—is Baptism God’s action toward man (Gospel) or man’s response to God (Law)? Holy Baptism Is God’s Action Toward Man! [Holy Baptism is the Lord’s action toward you!] God is faithful toward us in Holy Baptism. We are faithful to the Lord when we baptize all nations, infant or adult.

We rejoice in all of our recent baptisms and pray for more as we all grow in faith and in knowledge of Christ and His Word!

13And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

LifeLight: “Lydia may have known many rich people in upper social classes, because she sold a luxury item: purple cloth, the color of royalty. The ancient kingdom of Lydia, her homeland, was renowned for skills in the manufacture of purple dye extracted from the root of the madder plant or from murex shellfish…”

“Many…think that Lydia had achieved some prosperity, since her trade required significant capital. If this were so, we certainly would not be surprised also to learn that she readily and openly shared what she had with others.

“Acts seems to indicate that God wants us to remember Lydia not because of her trade, but because of her faith. She was baptized into Christ together with all of her family. She immediately ‘invited us to her home,’ reports Luke. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she persuasively argued, ‘come and stay at my house.’ When Paul wrote to the Romans, he exhorted them to ‘practice hospitality’ like Lydia.

Lydia was faithful to the Lord as a steward of the gifts He gave her. “Countless Christian women today have opened their hearts to others in need. Think, for example of the many faithful women who give generously to preserve earthly treasures for the sake of the Gospel and its proclamation. Christians who selfishly lock up their hearts can learn much from these fellow believers. God has lavished the riches of His grace upon us, forgiving our sins through the blood of Christ Jesus. Through His Spirit, He has also promised to open our hearts by giving us the gift of generosity” (Acts Part 2, p. 12).

We thank God today for our mothers, especially Christian mothers with generous love, like a mother named Eunice and a grandmother named Lois who raised young Timothy in the Christian faith. He was a pastor and the recipient of two letters from St. Paul. We also thank the Lord for all the faithful women who serve as mothers in the faith, even if they have no children of their own. We thank God for their faithfulness to the Lord. The focus this morning remains on Christ, even on Mother’s Day, just as Christ is the focus of Christian worship on Father’s Day, the Fourth of July, a wedding, a funeral, or any worship service in the church. That is but another way we remain faithful to the Lord. We rejoice in the salvation that has come to us by regularly receiving it.

In this morning’s office hymn Jesus sang to you, “What I on earth have done and taught Guide all your life and teaching; So shall the kingdom’s work be wrought And honored in your preaching. But watch lest foes with base alloy The heav’nly treasure should destroy; This final word I leave you” (LSB 556:10).

Faithful to the Lord, in response we all often sing: “Take my life and let it be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee; Take my moments and my days, Let them flow in ceaseless praise… Take my silver and my gold, Not a mite would I withhold; Take my intellect and use Ev’ry pow’r as Thou shalt choose… Take my love, my Lord, I pour At Thy feet its treasure store; Take myself, and I will be Ever, only, all for Thee. (LSB 783: 1, 4, 6). Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sermon for 02 May 2010, Easter 5C

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Acts 11:1–18

What God Has Made Clean

The Fifth Sunday of Easter

02 May 2010

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Are you kosher? Is that even a Lutheran question? This morning it is. Our communion wine is Mogen David brand, a name that means “star of David.” On the bottle it says, “Kosher for Passover,” with a triangle surrounding a K. In Old Testament times, as well as in Jesus’ day, the Jewish people followed the purity laws laid out by the Lord and given to Moses. Wine had to be prepared in a certain way. Animals had to be killed in a certain way. God’s ancient people were to avoid certain places, certain things, even certain people—especially those who were not circumcised.

So the question comes again: Are you kosher? In asking that I’m not asking if you follow Old Testament purity laws! I’m asking about you spiritually. Are you clean or unclean? Are you ritually pure?

The first lesson before us is a shocking one: to Peter, to the Jews around him, and to the non-Jews—Gentiles—whom Peter was sent to preach to and baptize.

1Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3“You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

This just wasn’t done. There was a group within the all-ethnically-Jewish early church that saw a place for the Old Testament Law alongside Jesus. They are the “circumcision party” because they expected all Christians to be circumcised according to the command given to Abraham.

Visiting Gentiles? The uncircumcised? This was just not done. Fortunately for us—since many of us are not genetically descended from ancient Israel—God saw things differently. Jesus commissioned the church to make disciples of all nations by means of baptizing and by means of teaching. All nations means all. Even Peter needed to be convinced, so he tells the story:

4But Peter began and explained it to them in order: 5“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. 6Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. 7And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven.

Once was not enough for Peter or the Lord. Three times.

‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ ‘By no means, Lord…’ ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’

‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ ‘By no means, Lord…’ ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’

‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ What could Peter say that third time when he knew the Lord would reply, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common’?

Salvation is open to the Jew and to the Gentile—and fortunately for us—since all are not genetically descended from ancient Israel. We are all sons of Abraham by faith. As sinners, we sometimes allow our prejudices to surface within us. Sometimes they boil over into what we say and do and often in the lack of some good word or work we fail to do. Who do you consider unworthy to step foot in this church? How different is too different a person? Racism is a sin in need of confession and forgiveness. Paul later preached what we know from Genesis and today’s text. In Acts 17:26 Paul said “And (He) [God] made from one man every nation of mankind. Jesus commissioned the church to make disciples of all nations by means of baptizing and by means of teaching. Baptizing and teaching means NOT circumcising for religious reasons. All nations means all. Peter learned the Lord’s lesson well: ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ Have we?

Peter continues: 11And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; 14he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” 18When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Are you kosher? Are you spiritually clean or unclean? Are you ritually pure? Are Gentile Lutherans kosher? Answered in the way of the law, Old Testament purity laws, no. We eat pork. We love bacon cheeseburgers. We see circumcision as a medical rather than theological and religious practice. But there is a better answer, one that is taught by the Lord Himself in our text. ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’

At times, you may have wondered if you were really forgiven. You may even have a hard time forgiving yourself for a past sin. This comfort is for you. You have been washed, you have been cleansed by the washing of the water of Holy Baptism by the Word. You have been justified, and you have been cleansed in the blood of Jesus so that He might present you, the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing that you might be holy and without blemish. This is the good work of the Lord within you. So yes, you are kosher in Christ. You are clean in Jesus. ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ And that includes yourself.

As Peter and those with Him learned, repentance, Holy Baptism, and Faith go together. Today we are gathered around the Lord’s gifts of Word and Sacrament.

We can rightly say that Christ has made you His disciples through Holy Baptism and instruction from the Holy Bible. You have been taught to cherish everything that Christ has given us in both the Old and New Testaments, but let’s be honest. We had neither the time nor the opportunity during your years of confirmation instruction to cover everything in the Bible. Nor did we have time to equip you for every specific situation you may encounter during your life as a Christian.

We have, hopefully, taught you to cherish the Word of God. The church has given you a handbook, actually a prayer book, the Small Catechism. You learned the Six Chief Parts, the six most important parts of the Christian faith. You have been given a toolbox to help you deal with the rest of your life. The Catechism was never intended to replace Scripture. It was intended as a lifelong guide to the Scriptures, a resource book, to help you think through a Biblical way to deal with whatever comes your way. That’s in addition to your pastor, and parents, and Christian friends.

The catechism is not merely a textbook to just sit on your shelf. A Bible, hymnal, and prayerbook will do you no good if they only serve you by collecting dust. In this world you will have trouble. People will deter you from holding on to Jesus. In the Christian life, you will always be learning something new from the Scriptures, something you may have forgotten, or may have never seen there before. Now, we are given to actively, and mindfully participate in all of Christ’s blessings for the Baptized, especially the Lord’s Supper. This is your to your inheritance! The Lord has begun a good work in you, and will bring it to completion in the Day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ You are clean in Christ. Amen.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.