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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Aug 27, 2017  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen

The text for our message today is from St. Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5 verses 12-20. There we read these words:

We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN

"Grace, mercy, and peace." I often open the sermon with that blessing from God. With those words God affirms the reconciliation He brought each of you through Jes

Let me ask you. Can you feel it in your heart? Those words are spoken directly to you. Those words are spoken specifically for you. Grace, mercy, peace for you. It is God Himself Who speaks those words to you, even though He does it through an ambassador. Right now that ambassador is me.

Still, they are not my words, but God’s words. They are backed by the full power and authority of God, The same God Whose words created all that is, The same God .....Whose hands formed you, .....Who in love knit you in your mother’s womb, .....Whose mercy led Him to sacrifice His own Son for you.

Those words are comforting because they are God’s words. I speak them as His ambassador, God making his appeal through me, but you are also an ambassador of Christ; God makes His appeal also through you!

You see, the text today tells us that you are a new creation in Christ, That you have been reconciled to God through Christ, And that you have been entrusted with this message of reconciliation, this ministry of reconciliation, which is the Gospel.

We are told that each of you is an ambassador for Christ, One through whom God makes His appeal to others. As we unpack this passage for today, I pray that your hearts will once again sing for joy at the enormity of the blessing of reconciliation, that your minds will embrace your role in the stewardship of that blessing, and that your hands will be zealous for the privilege of being an ambassador of Christ.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

Let’s start at the beginning. Paul says that you have been reconciled to God, through Christ. The whole purpose of Christ’s incarnation, The whole focus of Christ’s life here on earth, The reason for Christ’s death and resurrection Is that you be reconciled to God.

Regardless of what those in the world might tell you, you are a child of God. You have been baptized into Christ. You know that Jesus died for your sins, The faith that God works in you places its trust in Jesus for salvation.

Indeed, you are a child of God, Beloved by God, Redeemed by Christ, And as the text says "a new creation." But that new creation lives in what is still a fallen world. Not only is there sin all around you that we must see and deal with, but you yourselves continue to sin.

Like a stony field that a farmer clears of stones every year, only to have the freezing and thawing of winter produce a new crop of those unwanted stones every spring. Your fallen flesh continues to produce crop after crop of sin from stone-filled hearts, and that sin would estrange you from God, separate you from the grace, mercy, and peace of God.

EXCEPT! Except that God has reconciled you to Himself through Christ. For the sake of Jesus Christ, God does not and will not reject you. Instead, He takes those hearts full of stones, and turns them into clay, clay that is molded into hearts that sing for joy that they have been rescued from death and destruction, living clay that can be molded to serve to be stewards of what God gives.

And then Paul tells you that God gives to you the "ministry of reconciliation," That God entrusts to you the "message of reconciliation." Now the words "give" and "entrust" immediately imply stewardship. What is given to you was not yours to begin with. When something is entrusted to you, you are to care for it as if it was your own, or maybe better stated, you are to care for it in the same way that the one entrusting it to you would care for it.

How then, are you to be faithful stewards of this message, this ministry, of reconciliation?

Well, let’s back up a week. We are now in the second week of our stewardship emphasis. The overall theme this year is "Disciples Living as Grace-filled Stewards." ....."Disciples" because you are God’s children who are being formed to be imitators of Christ. ....."Grace filled" because God’s boundless grace has led Him to reconcile you to himself. ....."Stewards" because everything that you have is a gift from God entrusted to you to pass on…to entrust to…the next steward as you await Christ’s return.

Each week, we will be talking about a different aspect of how you live that out. Last week we looked at how disciples are taught and equipped, how you grow as disciples as we abide in God’s Word. And there is the key: If you are to be stewards of this message, you must know the message! If you are to be stewards of the ministry, you must know the ministry, you must practice it!

And how do we do that? What tremendous blessings Sunday School, adult Bible study opportunities, midweek, and VBS ministries are to our church. Through them we teach our children about God reconciling us to Himself through Christ. Through them we train pastors and teachers who train future pastors and teachers, preserving this message of reconciliation until Christ’s return.

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

But it is not only pastors and teachers or even parents who are charged to be stewards of God’s message of reconciliation. All Christians are stewards of the message of reconciliation. And as stewards, all Christians should be able to pass that message on.

But how can you pass on what you do not know? That is the point of last week’s emphasis. You must learn and grow as disciples if you are to be Godly stewards.

An important part of stewardship is to know as much as you can about God’s message of reconciliation, and you learn it by being in God’s Word. Make daily devotions a part of your life, even if you start at only 5 or 10 minutes. Join one of our many Bible Study opportunities.

Let your heart be immersed in the joy that God’s message of reconciliation, the Gospel, brings. And let your mind embrace your role as steward of that most precious gift that your hands may be zealous to serve as an ambassador for Christ and your stewardship of this gift be completed.

No matter where you are in your discipleship journey, you have the message of reconciliation in your heart and in your mind: that God made Jesus Christ, Who knew no sin, to be sin for you, so that, in Him, you might become the righteousness of God.

In other words, God cursed Jesus, so that He could bless you. God abandoned Jesus on the cross, so that you would never be forsaken. And for Jesus’ sake, God showers you with grace and works faith in your heart.

Dr. Dale Meyer, president of the seminary in St. Louis, reminds his students that, "Grace for one is grace for all." You are God’s ambassadors of that grace… Give it away! Shower it on everyone you meet because God makes his appeal through you.

Just as Paul does in our Epistle lesson, implore others on behalf of Christ to hear the Gospel, and through it, to be reconciled to God. It is the message of reconciliation, the message of the Gospel, that moves hearts, that changes lives. Remember Romans 1:16: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes."

As Christ’s ambassador, you can share that power, that Gospel, with anyone who will listen. And it is just as if God Himself were saying it to them. Do this by what you say! Do this by how you act! Do this by how you love!

You are both a possessor and a steward of God’s most precious gift, the message, the ministry of reconciliation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So lift high the cross! Proclaim the love of Christ! Till all the world adores His most sacred name.

Christ Is Risen

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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