The Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 17, 2020

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word.  Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.

 

M:         He is risen!

C:         He is risen indeed!

All:      Alleluia!

 

M:       The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.

C:        And also with you.

 

Confession of Sins

 

M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

 

Prayer and Praise

 

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

 

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

 PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

The minister says the Prayer of the Day.

 Father of lights, every good and perfect gift comes from you.  Inspire us to think those things that are true and long for those things that are good, that we may always make our petitions according to your gracious will; we ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:        Amen.

The Word

FIRST LESSON – Acts 17:1-12 (Sermon Text)

On Paul’s second mission journey he traveled to Greece.  He continuously taught others about Jesus and many believed in the Savior.

 When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.  As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.  “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said.  Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.  But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city.  They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.  But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting:  “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house.  They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”  When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil.  Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.  As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea.  On arriving there, they went into the Jewish synagogue.  Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.  Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.  (NIV1984)

 PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 33

  Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;

it is fitting for the upright to praise Him

For the Word of the LORD is right and true;

He is faithful in all He does.

By the Word of the LORD were the heavens made,

their starry host by the breath of His mouth.

For He spoke, and it came to be;

He commanded, and it stood firm.

The LORD foils the plans of the nations;

He thwarts the purposes of the peoples.

But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,

the purposes of His heart through all generations.

The LORD loves righteousness and justice;

the earth is full of His unfailing love.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

            and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning,

            is now, and will be forever.  Amen

 

SECOND LESSON – 1 Peter 2:4-10eba

Peter compares Christians in the Church to living stones in a wall.  Each has a special position and supports and encourages every other one.  As living stones we have the wonderful opportunity to tell the praises of Jesus Christ to our world.

 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For in Scripture it says:  “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”  Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.  But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”  They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.  But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.   (NIV1984)

 VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  Alleluia.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia.  If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  Alleluia.  (John 14:23)

CAlleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is

       the Christ, the Son of God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

 GOSPEL LESSON – John 14:1-12

Let every believer take comfort in these words of Jesus.  He is the only Way to heaven and eternal joy and glory with God.

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.  From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”  Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”  Jesus answered:  “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you are not just my own.  Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.  I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  (NIV1984)

 C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

 SERMON  Keep on Sharing!

 Dear fellow worshipers of our living Lord and Savior,

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

Imagine that you are a scientist who works in the Research and Development Department of a large pharmaceutical company.  You have devoted your life to finding ways to help people who are ill— perhaps even finding a vaccine that will help prevent people from getting a certain disease.  What do you think your focus might be right about now?  If you are not working on a therapeutic to help people recover from COVID-19, you would likely be working on a vaccine to guard people against contracting this coronavirus.  The last I heard there are eight vaccines that various labs are working on all at the same time— with the hope that one of them will prove effective soon!  But even if one medication does not work, even if one vaccine fails you keep on working until you are successful!  Why would you do this?  Because this is who you are!  This is what you do!  You are focused on the opportunity to help literally millions if not billions of people!

We all either know someone who is working on the “front lines” of this pandemic— a nurse, a doctor, someone who works in a skilled nursing facility— or at the very least we see their tired and worn faces on television.  These are people who go to work every single day knowing that some of the people who come into the hospital with coronavirus may not survive.  These are people who go to work every single day knowing that they could contract this disease from one of their patients.  And yet, they faithfully come into work day after day after day.  Why?  Because this is who they are!  This is what they do!  Their focus is on helping as many people as they can.

As I was studying our sermon text for today I couldn’t help but think of the focus and the dedication, the commitment and the faithfulness of all the people who are helping us to overcome this coronavirus pandemic.  Our text is simple.  Our text is clear.  Our text is to the point.  And the fact that our text emphasizes things such as dedication and commitment, focus and faithfulness leaves no doubt as to why this portion of God’s Word serves as one of the Scripture lessons as we get close to the end of the Easter season.  The cross and the empty grave of our Savior serve as a constant reminder to us of who we are!  The cross and the empty grave of our Savior serve as a constant reminder to us of what we are called to do!  The cross and the empty grave of our Savior serve as a constant reminder to us that our focus in life is to help as many people as we possibly can!

My goal today is to use this portion of God’s holy Word to remind you and to remind myself that when it comes to the glorious message of Easter we must:  Keep on Sharing!  Keep on sharing the message of Easter by sharing the Truth of God’s Word.  Keep on sharing the message of Easter no matter what reaction you might encounter.

Our text catches up with the apostle Paul about halfway through his second missionary journey.  Look at verses one to three, “When they (i.e. Paul and Silas) had passed through Amphipolis and Appolonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue.  As his custom was Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead.  ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,’ he said.”

Even though Paul had been Called by Christ Himself to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15) that did not mean that Paul was to simply ignore sharing the Truth of Scripture with the descendants of Abraham.  We see that truth play out here in Thessalonica when Paul went into the synagogue “as was his custom.”

Now, my friends, what exactly did Paul share with the people in Thessalonica?  Paul was an extremely learned man.  Did he try to impress the people with fine sounding logical philosophical arguments?  No, he did not.  Paul had been brought to faith in Jesus in a very powerful way— you may recall Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.  (See Acts 9)  Did Paul try to amaze people with his conversion experience?  No, he did not.  By this time Paul had gained a very powerful reputation.  Did he try to impose upon the people his own personal opinions?  No, he did not.  Look at the end of verse two and all of verse three.  A very literal translation here would go like this, “He (Paul) discussed with them from the Writings (Scriptures), opening (the Scriptures) and placing before them that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and that this is the Christ, namely Jesus, whom I am proclaiming to you.”

Where was the focus of Paul’s message?  Paul’s focus was on sharing the Truth of Scripture— the truth that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the long-awaited Promised Messiah, the truth that Jesus the Christ had to suffer and die on the cross (Pointing to the cross) in order to pay for our sins, the truth that Jesus the Christ did physically rise from the dead to guarantee that we are justified, that is, “Declared:  Not guilty!” by the living God Himself!

Now look at verse 4-9, my friends.  What was the reaction that Paul encountered when he faithfully shared God’s Truth with the people of Thessalonica?  There were two reactions.  On the one hand verse four tells us, “Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.”  By the grace and power of God alone the Holy Spirit used the Truth of Scripture to bring people to faith in Jesus, the Christ.  Sadly, at the same time verse 5-9 reveal to us that there are always going to be people who reject the Truth— perhaps even to the point of persecuting the proclaimers of God’s Truth.

Did the actions of the unbelieving mob stop Paul and Silas from sharing the Truth?  Did the riot in the city of Thessalonica cause Paul and Silas to simply be quiet?  Not at all!  The second half of our text reveals to us that when Paul and Silas left Thessalonica and came to the city of Berea they kept on sharing the Truth!  Look at verse 10, “On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.”  While our text does not specifically tell us what Paul and Silas shared with the Bereans from what we know about these two men they undoubtedly shared with the Bereans exactly what they shared with the Thessalonians— the Truth of God’s holy Word!

The reaction of the Bereans to the message of Paul and Silas has caused the Bereans to be emulated in the Christian church right down to this very day.  We’re told, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”  The Greek word that is translated here as “of more noble character” is most certainly not emphasizing the ethnic origin or the social standing of the Bereans.  As the passage itself clearly brings out this word emphasizes the attitude of the heart that the Bereans had towards God’s Word!  The Bereans eagerly heard the message that Paul was sharing with them— the message of both the cross and the empty grave of Jesus, the Christ.  Then with the same degree of eagerness they “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

That’s the attitude that every faithful sharer of God’s Truth both welcomes and expects.  I don’t want you to simply accept what I share with you whether it is here in church or in Bible class.  You need to examine the Scriptures for yourselves so that you know God’s Truth.  Then you need to make sure that what I am sharing with you is in keeping with God’s Word of Truth.  As you have heard me say before:  my opinion is my opinion, your opinion is your opinion, but this (the Bible) is not opinion.  This is God’s Truth!

What is true for me is also true for you as well, my friends.  It is not hard to see and to hear that we live in a world that is outwardly becoming more and more “spiritual” while inwardly becoming less and less “religious.”  People will talk about “God.”  People will talk about “good” and “evil.”  People will even talk about “saving the world.”  But oftentimes they want to define these things however they wish!  Paul warned about this when he wrote to Timothy, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

We need to be prepared for the fact that people often get upset when we share with them the Truth of God’s Law.  No one likes to hear that because of their own sin they deserve to spend eternity in hell.  People often get upset when we tell them that no matter what they might think, no matter what society might say and no matter what some churches might teach homosexuality is a sin, abortion is a sin, euthanasia is a sin, premarital sex is a sin.  Do we change God’s Word if people don’t like what it says?  Do we stop sharing the Truth if people become upset with us?  No!  Like Paul we must keep on sharing the Truth no matter what kind of reaction we receive!  For you see, my friends, once we have faithfully shared the message of God’s Law, once the Holy Spirit has brought someone to the point where they can confess, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13) then we have the joyous privilege of also sharing with them the glorious message of the Gospel!  We point them to the cross (Pointing to the cross) to assure them that God’s own Son died to pay for their sins.  We lead them to the empty grave to assure them that the victory has been won!  There is nothing they need to do.  There is nothing they can do.  Jesus the Christ Himself has proclaimed, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).  Jesus the Christ Himself has proclaimed, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19).

While we will continue to pray for all the people who are working tirelessly to develop therapeutics and hopefully discover a vaccine soon, while we will continue to pray for all the people who are afflicted with COVID-19, and while we will continue to pray for all of the people who are working on the “front lines” of this pandemic, let’s also pray that their focus and their faithfulness, their dedication and their commitment will remind us of how important it is for us to display those very same characteristics as we strive to carry out the even more important work that our crucified and risen Savior has given to us:  Keep on Sharing the Truth with others!  Why?  Because as Christians this is who we are!  As Christians this is what we do!  As Christians the focus of our life is to share the message of Easter with as many people as we possibly can!

To God be the glory!

Amen

APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

 OFFERING

During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

 PRAYER OF THE CHURCH 

Dear Savior Jesus Christ, we are thankful for the great love that you have for us, the love that led you to sacrifice yourself on the cross to completely pay for all of our sins.  We are thankful that through the power of your Holy Spirit working in Word and Sacrament that you have created the gift of saving faith in our hearts.  Lord, we know that it is your gracious will that none should perish, but that everyone comes to repentance and trusts in Jesus as their Savior.  Therefore give to each of us a love for souls that will cause us to seek out your lost sheep among the people we already know as well as the people we will one day meet.  Help us to tell them of the sacrifice your love made for their sins.  Make us your strong and able messengers so that we will joyfully share your powerful Gospel message with as many people as we can.  May we never become disheartened in our efforts to share the Gospel with others, nor be ashamed to declare and defend your name.  Help us to recognize and seize every opportunity to lift high the cross of Jesus Christ and to testify that Jesus is the only way to eternal salvation.

Destroy the power of every evil force which works against the Gospel and remove every hindrance to the swift movement of salvation’s message in the world.  Help us see our personal responsibility to support the Gospel work done by our missionaries wherever they labor.  Give us generous hearts to pour out abundantly of our earthly means for their support and remind us to pray diligently for your blessing on their message.

We must confess that our fearful and timid natures have often made us reluctant to speak the wonders of your salvation to others.  How easily we make excuses for remaining silent!  Talents which you have given us have often remained untested and unused in the work of your kingdom.  Earthly treasures that you have given us have all too often remained uninvested in our church’s mission endeavors.  Opportunities that you have given to us to share your Word with others have often been ignored and left by the wayside.  Forgive these sins of neglect and through the Holy Spirit supply whatever courage and zeal, whatever love and abilities we still lack to make us faithful and effectual workers in your kingdom.

LORD’S PRAYER

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:        Amen.

M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

C:        Amen.