It is a testimony to the grace of God that he chooses to use sinful men to be his ambassadors, his undershepherds. I’ve often thought that there must be a better way to care and tend the sheep of God then to send a sinful lamb to lead them. Of course, then God reminds me that his ways are not my ways and his thoughts are not my thoughts and that he is in charge of the church and not me. The best way then – it’s to have pastors. It’s God’s will that a man come to Our Redeemer Lutheran Church to stand in the stead of Jesus and at his command give the good news of heaven to the lambs of his church.
God’s good grace is seen and given to you nestled in the things of creation. That is what your Lord is after all. God has become a man. He has veins and a brain, a fingerprint, and ten toe nails… Your God is a man. He uses water and bread and wine. He bids that a man be sent to you with his message, with the explicit instructions to forgive their sins and to wash them in the blood of the Lamb. A pastor must feed the sheep, care and tend for the flock, scrub behind their ears and make sure they are brought to the quiet waters of the sacraments.
I love it. A flock of lambs, the beloved of God, his bride and holy stones…your head is Jesus Christ. St. Paul would have you be imitators of Christ. Give up your life for your neighbors and die loving those who hate you. Its impossible. You cannot by your own reason or even with every bit of your strength love anyone but yourself. It takes the interjection of the God-man, Jesus Christ. You need the Holy Spirit to whip you into shape. Without Jesus you would be like the world, looking out for yourselves, storing up treasures of earthly stuff, and in the end loosing everything when you thought you had it. The rich man feasted everyday, but in the end he had to look up from hades to see the beloved Lazarus. It’s easy to curse and to hurt and to hinder. It’s easy to ignore and to refuse to love. Repent of your earthly pride and loose the bitterness of the world.
You’ve heard it said, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Its human nature to dislike those that hurt you and to hold in your heart a grudge. It’s easy to gossip and ruin a reputation and to trash those that are easy to walk all over. But Christ Jesus says that his body and blood shed for you shatters the human nature. In the cross of Christ every evil plan and purpose of your heart is broken and hindered. “But I say, love your enemy and pray for those that persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
WHAT??! Love your enemy? Pray for those that hurt you and do all kinds of bad things to you? Jesus can’t really be serious, can he? How can we insist that people LOVE one another? How can we insist that people stop speaking all kinds of evil and start loving and lifting up each other?
Jesus picked you. He pours out his life-blood for you. He dies in love for you. In that death is life and salvation. He dies and makes you a holy stone, a loving, lovely mini-Christ. Together, you are a holy priesthood and a bride – without spot or blemish. Our Redeemer Lutheran Church is all about this love. You are a flock of mini-Christs, loving each other and loving the world. You are called to be a light on a hill, to love those that persecute you, and to reach out to those that sit in this congregation with you. We pray in the divine service, “We give thanks to Thee, Almighty God, that Thou hast refreshed us through this salutary gift (the sacrament); and we beseech Thee that of Thy mercy Thou wouldst strengthen us through the same in faith toward Thee and in fervent love toward one another; through Jesus Christ, our Lord…” (emphasis mine)
We must insist that love abound at Our Redeemer. We love each other, every member, and we reach forth into the neighborhood and beyond with the love of Christ. It’s time to end the gossip of our poisoned tongues and to hold each other accountable to the love, of which we know we have been made a part. Love means forgiveness. Love means reaching out to the lost and the missing. We love because Christ first loved us. AND he keeps loving us. He loves us and sends his Spirit to call you back to the altar to give you rest and restoration in the shadow of his wings. Come and be refreshed. Be encouraged in the Word of God. Eat and drink his body and blood. You are a priest and a prince in the kingdom of God. His good favor abounds, his grace is free and it is for you.