Alleluia! He is Risen! And Therefore
We are a community that perseveres
In Jesus Name!
The grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ shall build here His family, His community, as we serve in love. AMEN!
The Purpose of God Revealed
As we travel these weeks of Easter with those who lived in and witnessed the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we see the will of God revealed to His people, and we see the will of God revealed in His people.
The message is repeated over and over, as a friend says, “we preach the same thing every week, we just use different words.” Or in the case of our reading from the Acts of the Apostles this morning, we see those words describing a picture of God’s people, those He gathered.
The church pictured there is incredible, not because it has the best people, or is the biggest. It is a church that shows the effect of their Resurrection, not just in their words, but in their deeds.
A church with the same purpose as Jesus revealed His purpose to be. A church where the will of the Father is lived out in view of mankind. They become a picture of what Jesus prophesied about in the gospel, when He said,
“My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
A life portrayed in Acts 2, a life portrayed here in our lives, if we take time enough to look.
A life lived, because Jesus is Risen! (He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!) and therefore (We have Risen with Him! Alleluia!
So let’s look at what this abundant, rich and satisfying life looks like, compared to life lived outside of Christ, life lived without the resurrection.
Mere hours before the Crucifixion, we see a tiny picture of the world in one room. There are people there, arguing about who is most important to the group after Christ. Another one thinks his holiness is sufficient that he doesn’t need the Lord Jesus to cleanse him, or minister to him. He will later deny Christ, just like the rest. Another is ready to betray one he loves, a betrayal so severe that it will wreaks havoc not only with the relationship, but it will end his life, ashamed and desperate for the guilt that overwhelms him. By the end of the evening, all relationships will be broken and shattered as promises fail, as they abandon Jesus.
Sin seemed to reign over them, even in the midst of the very first Communion service. Even in the presence of God, as Jesus was there, washing their feet, teaching, breaking the bread, giving them the cup.
It was life, well life that was neither rich, nor satisfying, if we think about it.
It was a life that needed something…
Just like our lives, when they are lived outside of Christ need something. For the broken relationships we see at the last supper, and in the garden are what we encounter in our lives. Sometimes the arguments, the superior attitudes, the betrayals and denials, the shame and the grief are all we see in our lives.
Less than two months later, the same group gathers, the men from the upper room now leading a group of thousands, but a group that is so radically different, than you know something has happened.
For it is true, Praise God, He has Risen! (He has Risen indeed) and therefore…. ( We have Risen with Him! Alleluia!)
How else can you describe a group that acts like these people do, when 50 days before they were acting like jerks?
Look at the change described in verses 44, look at how they loved each other…
44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people.
That seems like a pretty incredible group – worshipping together daily, sharing in the Lord’s Supper, not just in church together, but in each other’s homes. They even helped each other financially, the word there for need was “in debt”. They shared in meals, they shared in each other’s lives, they shared in everything….
This wasn’t because of being commanded to, it was a matter of desire, of volition, it’s what happens to people when they become part of God’s family.
They could, because when Jesus Christ rose from the dead, they were raised from the dead with Him.
Just as we have risen with Him, alleluia? O come on – that means to praise God, not just too sort of compliment him. We have risen with Christ! Alleluia!
Living in Christ, our lives focused on Him, walking with Him, is where this transformation happens. It is the reason we do the things in verse 42, for in each of these we encounter Christ, we learn of His love. Which is why they were devoted to it, together, Let’s look…
That’s what the apostles’ teaching, or as older translations put it, “the apostles’ doctrine” is all about. The fact that Christ was born of Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, died, rose, ascended and will judge the quick and the dead. Those words sound familiar, because that is our Creed – it is what we believe. It is what the apostles handed down to us. And so they were devoted to this together, because Jesus had given them the words of life.
They devoted themselves as well to fellowship, to being a community together, not just to being a bunch of individuals who each looked after #1. How well this shows the work of the Holy Spirit in them! How it testifies to the love of Jesus working in their lives. It is who they are in Christ, It is who we are!
They shared in meals, especially the Lord’s Supper! The purest, most basic form of fellowship, sharing in the blessings of God as we take and eat, and take and drink the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus. For in this meal, in the simplicity, we come to know the blessings of God, we begin to understand that He died on the cross for each one of us. We begin to know the depth of His love! The intimate relationship that God has called us into, which is seen in communion, is one that we are called into together. The church devoted itself to this practice, as have we.
The picture of God reconciling us to Himself that in the sacraments is so clear! These sacred times of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and private Confession and Absolution/ Cleansing. We remember our baptism daily, Luther reminds us, and we commune frequently, for there are many among us who need this blessing.. indeed we all need it. Finally, who of us doesn’t need to hear the words, “your sins are forgiven, by the authority of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit!”
How precious is this grace of God given us, in the Apostles teaching in scripture and the sacraments! Because they communicate to us that He is Risen! And therefore….
The last thing they engaged in, as Christ engages them, is prayer. The laying of all burdens down before God, of knowing and trusting in God so that we keep nothing back. That is why Phillip Melanchthon, one of Luther’s most gifted friends and students includes prayer among the sacraments in the Apology of the Augsburg confession, saying,
16 Ultimately, if we should list as sacraments all the things that have God’s command and a promise added to them, then why not prayer, which can most truly be called a sacrament? It has both the command of God and many promises. If it were placed among the sacraments and thus given, so to speak, a more exalted position, this would move men to pray.
Praying together, knowing those burdens are taken, that we can release them to Him and that He will provide us peace, the life that is complete and rich and satisfying. A life in which that peace of God is ours, our hearts and minds secured in that peace by Jesus Christ. AMEN?