Sermon Sunday April 8, 2018

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Acts 4: 32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness therein.” As we look at our text, we see this is what the early Christians understood rather well. “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.”

Jesus made this rather plain when He gave us the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. There you will recall in hell the rich man had nothing but intense thirst while Lazarus was being comforted by the holy angels. Jesus talked about storing up treasures for ourselves either in heaven or temporarily on earth.

But! This is the first Sunday after Easter and as you can see our stoles and the paraments are white. This is not really a stewardship text nor theme but it has another purpose. How in the world could people feel this way and act out their feelings if it wasn’t something they firmly believed in? The reason something so completely and forcefully transformed their lives was an event witnessed by over 500 believers and enthusiastically shared with countless others until these people- now since Pentecost- numbered in the thousands!

Think about it. At Jesus arrest, the disciples ran away. Now they are quite public and quite outspoken. This is what we read from the episode before our text. “Then they (The Jewish leaders) called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied,…. “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

What transformed them to go from being cowards and denying Jesus to so boldly confessing Him??? It wasn’t this lie- “Some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.”

This text so much reminds me of my uncle who often said, “Some people will tell a lie when the truth would serve them better!” Now was the time for them to confess the Christ instead of continuing with their hatred. But they didn’t!

So, what changed them? What transformed them? What made them turn 180 degrees? “There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.”

“The angel of the Lord …rolled back the stone and sat on it.” I can see the face of that angel. A sense of victory and yet tenderness as he spoke to the women. Jesus’ enemies did everything they could to stop Him. Humiliate Him, kill Him, bury Him and even post a guard but what good did it do? Nothing stood in God’s way.

He is the God who created this world out of nothing. He is the God who delivered His people out of Egypt through the Red Sea and with all those miracles. Jesus started out by turning water into wine, feeding thousands from almost nothing, making the blind to see, the deaf to hear the lame to walk and even raising the dead. So, move back and get out of His way for, “The angel of the Lord …rolled back the stone and sat on it.” And he did not do it to let Jesus out but to let us in to see the empty linen cloths and the two angels. So that now we to can say to those who would silence us, “As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

And it now comes down to us, we who have just celebrated Easter! We are not only to say, “He is risen!” but to live and act as though we are serving a living, all powerful God.

Our text might suggest a communistic way of life for Christians and certainly some cults have practiced that, including Jim Jones. But if this were what our Lord wanted then this would have also taken place in the other areas where the Church was planted, such as Rome, or Corinth or Philippi, but we see no evidence of such a structure.

What our text tells us is that these were completely changed people. The Resurrection had completely transformed them. This is how they saw the need for the Church to both grow and go into the utter most parts of the world.

You and I, living here in this day and age are not required to give up everything we own and turn it over to our church and depend on the Church to supply our every need. But like the Christians of old, we are to be- as quoted by St Paul- to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. In that transformation we will be enabled to walk the extra mile, turn the other cheek and bless those who curse us. In that renewed mind will love the habitation of God’s house and we will see and feel and experience His glory as we gather together and partake of the Lord’s Supper and enjoy the fellowship of His people.

Broad is the road that leads to destruction and many there be that travel upon it. Its end is ruin and death but because their minds are not renewed, they can’t see it. Their thinking is that it can’t be wrong because everyone else is doing it, believing it, following it. I am reminded of the newsreels of the 30’s when Hitler paraded down the streets of Germany and how ecstatic and enthusiastic the people all were. It was said that at Stalin’s funeral, 1500 people were crushed to death trying to get closer to his casket because the people loved him so.

If we were to take a poll and ask every American if they thought Jesus is the only way to heaven, we would realize what President Obama said was true- namely, this is not a Christian Nation. If we asked the same question to everyone who calls himself a Christian we would be amazed and sadly disappointed in how many believe there are other roads to heaven.

It is easy to gloss over the 10 Commandments, to highlight some and ignore others. I don’t steal, I don’t murder, I do not swear, I don’t covet. But when we look more intensely at these Commandments, we see that by not helping our neighbor to keep what is his we are in a sense stealing from him. We learn from the Parable of the Good Samaritan that murder is the same as not helping our neighbor in his every physical need.

Well, I am a good Christian I go to church and do this that or the other. (Small Catechism) We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word but gladly hear and learn from it. I can’t but help think that if every Christian truly believed that, then our churches would be filled every time the doors were opened for public worship. I can’t but help think Bible studies would be much more attended.

We talk about C&Eers (people who only attend on Christmas and Easter.) but what the Lord wants is E’ers! That is Easter Christians, people who have been transformed by the renewal of their minds and want to live as though they pray and mean, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done…” And sadly, that isn’t always the case, not for me and not for you. That doesn’t give us a pass, but rather after experiencing Easter, after hearing Jesus say, “Because I live, you will live also.” we will be more E’ers and keep our eyes on eternity.

St Paul put it this way: We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Easter happens in Spring. Trees are greening and flowers are blooming and plant life and animal life takes on a new meaning. So, then we also are excited about our Lord in this renewed season. With the Holy Spirit leading us, and yes, and yes at times falling, he nevertheless picks us up and dusts us off and puts us back on that straight and narrow. He is risen! He is risen indeed! Amen!

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