John 15:9-17 / Acts 10:34-48 /I John 5:1-8
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.
Dear Friends in Christ,
You may have read a story about a month ago where a 37 year old man was driving along with his 3 year old daughter and slid off the road near a bend and went into the Zumbro River. Another man named Jerry and his mom were driving along that same road when he noticed the car in the water and quickly jumped in to help. When he was interviewed about it, he said that he could barely see the car in the water, and when he looked more closely, he saw a man inside the car, pounding on the window. He also saw a child in the backseat. He did what many would do. He jumped into the water and was able to rescue the man and his little girl. When asked to reflect on his act of heroism, he replied, "I would hope anyone in my situation would have done the same thing. I was just in the right place at the right time."
I suppose many would agree that it was just a stroke of good luck that he was in the right place at the right time. Or could it be that we have an all-knowing God who appointed that particular man to be in that specific place at just the right moment? And could it be that the Holy Spirit guided this particular preacher to use this specific story to teach you a valuable lesson in this exact moment of time? In today’s appointed lessons, the Spirit of God would remind us that Christians in every generation aren’t just meant to wander aimlessly through their days with nothing significant to do and maybe getting lucky once in a while, but rather that we are chosen by Jesus Christ to spend our days engaged with Him on a mission to rescue sinners drowning in their own cesspool of sin. Or to say it another way, chosen to bear fruits that abide. Today’s sermon is the first in a series of three sermons with one word themes, “Chosen”, “Sanctified”, and “Unshakeable”. Two parts to our sermon – 1) The early disciples were chosen… and 2) All Christians are chosen…
The early disciples were chosen to testify as (friends of Jesus) instead of slaves. In our first lesson appointed for this Sixth Sunday of Easter, Peter referred to the first century apostles as men who had been chosen by God as witnesses. They were the ones who had seen the Risen Christ with their own eyes. Listened to Him with their own ears. Touched His wounds with their own hands. They did with Jesus what friends do with each other. They ate and they drank. They laughed and they cried together. They were willing to serve as slaves with a sense of duty and obligation, but Jesus invited them to come up higher. To testify as cherished friends instead of going through the motions slaves.
In Deuteronomy 7, we hear Moses calling out Israel to a higher status. Once they were slaves, but now “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are the face of the earth.” In the New Testament, Peter writes it this way, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession……” Not because His people were or are such a lovely and impressive people did God choose them or us to be His witnesses, but simply because His message was and is so lovely and so impressive. That’s why God has elected us both to be saved and to bear the message of salvation. Both to have our sins forgiven and to bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. Which is the second point we want to make about the early disciples. First they were chosen to testify as friends of Jesus instead of mere slaves.
Second, they were chosen to preach (towards) the forgiveness of sins. At first glance the message of forgiveness seems to be a truth that we all agree on. Preachers who proclaim that God is love and that Christ died for all and that heaven is going to be a wonderful place will get very little arguments out and about in the real world. It’s when they say that there can be no forgiveness of sins without repentance that folks start to get annoyed. And when preachers start to define sin and name the prominent sins of the day that their annoyance turns into hostility.
When preachers say that the fruits of the Spirit are love / joy / peace / patience / kindness / goodness / faithfulness / gentleness / self-control, listeners the world would agree and say that everybody should feel pretty good about themselves and go home happy. But when we start to say what the fruits of repentance are, Minnesota Nice turns into Minnesota Ugly. Our popularity diminishes every time we insist that sex is a gift of God to be enjoyed only in the context of marriage and that by the way, marriage was God’s idea and ought to be defined the way He instituted – that’s when our friendships start to get strained and our Facebook conversations take a turn for the worse. Where there is no repentance, the commandments are in fact burdensome / souls stay troubled / relationships go south / life gets empty.
On the other hand, wherever there is honest confession of sins, there is a washing away of those sins. And wherever there is a washing away of sins, there is the peace that only Jesus Christ can give. And where there is the peace of God, there is peace like a river and before you realize what’s happening, there is fullness of joy as pictured on the front cover of your bulletin today. Joy that starts with a conscience that is clean and then it bubbles up into a desire to share and before you know it, Christians in every station of life are experiencing full-fledged victory. The kind of victory Green Bay Packer fans like to tell us Vikings fans that they know and we don’t. The kind of victory that doesn’t come and go but stays with you and keeps on raising its banner high and even higher for all to see. The kind of victory Christians in all generations are chosen to never stop thinking about. Never stop talking about.
Our second main point today is that all Christians are chosen to bear fruit that will (multiply) all the way into eternity. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”
The kingdom of God is like a little boy who goes to a Christian School in a small town and learns that Jesus loves Him no matter what. Somewhat against his will, he memorizes the Small Catechism. On the day of Confirmation he wears a white robe and waves not only a palm branch but goodbye for a time to the sanctuary. 15 years later he brings his fiancé into his pastor’s office and agrees somewhat against his will to four sessions of pre marriage counseling. He gets married and three years later they bring their baby somewhat against that baby’s will to get baptized. Six years later, they send that child to that same school where he learns that Jesus loves him no matter what, and then the teacher takes out that same list of memory work. And so the cycle goes – Christian congregations and schools and Sunday Schools and Confirmation Classes and baptism classes and pre marriage counseling classes and informal conversations galore – the chosen people of God going out as friends of Jesus bearing fruit that abides, and even better than that – it multiplies and it spreads into places as near as Alma City and as far away as Zlehtown Liberia – and even better than that, the cycle gets repeated in generation after generation, and even after death parts us.
In closing today, I invite you to think about what it means to serve with joy in the (Mother Church). The first thought you have when you hear the phrase “mother church” might be the Roman Catholic Church, which is in fact the original Christian Church from which many Protestants, including Lutherans broke away. For me, the mother church is Peace Lutheran in Barney, ND, a tiny little place where my Aunt Margene held me as I was baptized, that place where I memorized the Small Catechism including 701 Bible verses therein included and yes, pretty much against my will, that place where Law and Gospel were first preached into my heart in regular and faithful fashion.
For many of our children and grandchildren, this is the Mother Church. In this sanctuary, Jesus Christ keeps on coming, not by water only, but by the water and the blood. This is where the Spirit keeps on testifying and the water connected with the Word keeps on flowing. This is where the victory keeps on getting celebrated and the forgiveness keeps on refreshing and faith keeps on getting strengthened. You are in the right place and in the right time, not by accident or some twist of faith, but by design. In this place, whether you are a mother or not, married or single, sailing along smooth or struggling in rough waters – it doesn’t make a difference- you are equally loved, equally set apart, equally valuable, equally chosen for a variety of assignments that are equally pleasing to God and all the company of heaven.
Every time a single sinner repents / every time a little sincerely apologizes / every time a man with a drinking problem says I need help / every time a woman with an attitude problem says “I messed up” / every time a sweet little old lady says I can do better than that / every time a crabby old German Lutheran says I need to lighten up a bit / every time a busy mom says I need to slow down / every time a lazy teenager says I need to speed up /every time a messed up person says is there somebody around here that would walk alongside of me, that often Jesus and His angels rejoice. That often heaven’s choir sings. That often Mother Church has an opportunity to be in the right place at the right time. That often Christians have a chance to bear fruit that abides and to ask the Father for whatever they want, and He will give it to them.
The kingdom of God is like a young mother who knows where her place is in almost every part of her day. It’s at the side of her child helping her to pick out the right clothes for the day, telling the little boy for the umpteenth time that it will be Cheerios and not ice cream for breakfast, insisting that homework will get done before it’s play time, and scolding the naughty one for being rude to grandma. She knows without a doubt that she has been chosen by God to follow up in faithful fashion on her own choices in life. She finds a fair amount of joy in seeing her children survive most days and thrive once in a while. She finds even greater joy when her kids say thank you, when her husband is attentive, and when hard work pays off.
But her greatest joy of all is a happiness that the world has no idea how to find it nor what she is even talking about. It is the joy she finds at the end of the day as she cringes with horror at what had happened. The laundry had piled up and the kids were driving her crazy and her husband was even more inattentive than usual. The dog was tracking mud faster than she could clean it up and the messy diaper made her want to throw up and then it happened. Her fuse blew and she let loose with a lingo that would give her grandma a stroke and make a social worker come knocking. And then she remembered what she had learned from her mother’s and grandmother’s knees. She remembered what love was and is and ever shall be. That Christ died for her. That He rose up again for her. And that until that day when He came back for her, He had chosen her to bear fruit that would multiply all the way into eternity. Then she knew what Luther meant when he urged mothers in particular to find delight, love, and joy without end in the midst of “bitterness, drudgery, and anguish”
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther