Seventh Sunday of Easter and Mother’s Day
Acts 1 21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
Dear Friends in Christ,
Over the past five Sundays in this Easter season, we have been pointing out that when we think about healthy and growing churches, our thoughts usually go first of all to growing numbers. Growing numbers of people in the pews, growing numbers of cars in the parking lots, growing numbers of baptisms and confirmations and members joining. As we read through the Book of Acts, we see days where thousands of sinners were getting baptized, and we find all kinds of examples of the Holy Spirit showing up in spectacular fashion. Tongues of fire on the apostles’ heads, sound of a mighty rushing wind, speaking in tongues, miracles of healing and even of resurrections. Again and again, however, we have wanted you to see that what makes Christianity so extraordinary is that the Holy Spirit is transforming hearts one at a time. His usual methods are slow, but sure. They are most often gradual, even invisible. Today, we would focus on Mathias and on moms and again, we would answer two questions, “How does the Holy Spirit change lives?” and “What do lives that have been changed by the Holy Spirit look like?”
July 13, 1980 That was the day I was installed as pastor at Immanuel Lutheran, also called Silo Lutheran, near Lewiston, MN. One of my most vivid memories of that day was how ecstatic the folks in that place were to have us there. Not because of anything that was particularly special about my family, but for the simple reason that they had been without a full time pastor for three and a half years. No fewer than 19 or 20 (they lost count) experienced pastors had received the call to be pastor there, and all 19 or 20 had, for one reason or another, said no thank you. Finally they prayed about it and they voted to ask the Synod to send them a pastor, in those days they couldn’t really specify who they wanted, they just said send us somebody, anybody, a warm body! Which turned out to be me. The Holy Spirit knew all along what was the plan, of course. You see, God’s plan for calling and gathering and enlightening and sanctifying His people has always been His plan, not ours. Today, we would study how it came to be that Matthias filled the office vacated by Judas, the man described by Luke as the one who became the guide to those who arrested Jesus. We ask the same question we’ve been asking in this season of Easter, how does the Holy Spirit change lives? Two answers to that question.
The first answer is that Lives are changed for generations to come by (spending time with Jesus). When it came time to replace Judas, only one qualification is mentioned. The 12th apostle would have to be a man who had spent time walking alongside of Jesus, a man who had spent time watching Jesus in action, a man who had spent time listening to Jesus. Two truths we want to learn today about the importance of spending quality time with our Savior.
The first truth is that God doesn’t choose the qualified, He (qualifies the chosen). By this I mean to say that God doesn’t look out over the crowds and select the best and the brightest to do His bidding, He chooses us before we were ever formed in our mother’s wombs and prepares in advance lists of good works for each of us to do.
This was true for the Office of (Apostle) Jesus made it clear to his disciples that they did not choose him, he chose them and he appointed them to go and bear fruit that would last. The first disciples didn’t walk up to Jesus and ask for an application to fill in for the office of apostle, He walked up to them and said “follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.” We can be sure that God knew before creation that Matthias would be the 12th apostle. And as often as Matthias listened to Jesus teach, as often as he watched Jesus perform one miracle of healing right after another, as often as he searched the Scriptures available to him, that often the Holy Spirit was changing him from the inside out. That often the Holy Spirit was changing him for the better and for the benefit of generations to come. Luke had this to say in Acts 17 about God taking some pretty ordinary kinds of men and molding them and making them into something pretty special, Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
The principle that God doesn’t really choose the qualified, but has a way of qualifying the chosen has always been true for the Office of (Mother), as well. God doesn’t look out over the crowd and determine that certain girls and young ladies have earned the right to give birth, no, before the world was ever created, God chooses many, but not all women to give birth and He appoints them to go and bear fruit that will last for generations to come. Like many of you, I was blessed with a mom who did spend her days searching Holy Scripture. I have this memory seared into my mind of my older siblings going off to school, dad going outside to do his work, and mom in her bathrobe sitting on our couch having her quiet time, sitting still with her Bible and big green prayer book spending time with her Savior.
Like many of you, I was blessed with a mom who did make sure the family would pile into the car and make it to church Sunday after Sunday. (Story of sitting between mom and dad in front, mom putting spit on her fingers and wetting down my rooster tails, then going into my ears with her little perfumed handkerchief and cleaning, much to my dismay and the delight of sisters and brother in the back seat.)
How eager so many of our moms were for us to believe and never doubt that Jesus loved us, that He suffered, died, and was buried for us, that He rose up again on the third day for us that he ascended into heaven and was crowned king of kings on the 40th day for us. Listen to what Luke writes about the Berean Christians on this subject of searching Scripture in eager fashion, Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Back to our text. We see that before Matthias could be chosen as the 12th apostle, Judas Iscariot had to commit suicide. Before we can read the story of the early church praying and then casting lots and the lot falling on Matthias, we have to read of Judas hanging himself, falling headlong, bursting open in his midsection, and all his bowels gushing out. Not a very soft and fluffy and cuddly story for Mother’s Day, but there it is. Again we learn that it may not seem like it, but there’s always a method to (God’s madness).This was true in the (early church) in so very many ways. There had to be the madness of Judas committing suicide before there could be the installation of Matthias as witness to the resurrection. There had to be the madness of Good Friday before there could be the victory of Easter Sunday. There had to be the madness of Saul persecuting the early church before there could Jesus could slap him upside the head and make him a missionary to that church. A couple of weeks ago, I described how there had to be the madness of my brother Curtis dying in a car accident before there could be a desire in my heart to pursue the vocation of pastor.
This is what Jesus prays for, (even today), that through all the madness of every day living, that the Holy Spirit would keep on changing lives for the better and for the benefit of others. Listen to Jesus pray to His Father, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.”This is what Jesus pray for, even today, that you would believe and never doubt believe and never doubt that Jesus loves you, that He suffered, died, and was buried for you, that He rose up again on the third day for you, that he ascended into heaven and was crowned king of kings on the 40th day for you. This is what Jesus prays for, even today, that the witness of the apostles would be your foundation, that Jesus Christ would be your cornerstone, and to use the words of our Shared Vision, the culture around you would be transformed as you faithfully manage your God-given vocations.
Which brings us to our second and final question, “What do lives that have been changed by the Holy Spirit look like?” Christian vocation is at the same time both complex and (simple). The early church’s life together was complicated as news swept through their ranks that one of the 12 had committed suicide, and at the same time it was simple as they prayed for guidance and then listened. Our life together here at Trinity is complicated by the fact that we have a trio of enemies assaulting us in every one of our days – sinful nature, sinful world, devil and all of his demons – and at the same time it is as simple as it can be as our sins are forgiven, as often as we are still and know that God is God, as often as we hold onto that which many of us received at our mother’s knees.
The kingdom of God is like washing your (robes). There was something really simple about doing laundry back in my college days. I did what all the guys would do – jam as many clothes of all colors and fabrics as could be jammed in the washing machine, throw in a bunch of detergent, turn it on and walk away. When I got married, I learned that laundry is much more complicated than that. In fact, Debi has pretty much put a restraining order on me, she forbids me to do laundry! John records Jesus saying in the last chapter of our Bible, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” The forgiveness of sins is easy for us, Christ has already done all the heavy lifting. The forgiveness of sins is easy for us, how hard can it be to take a robe that has been washed clean and put it on? The forgiveness of sins is easy for us, how hard is it to receive a gift that has already been paid for in full?
In his book, “Joining Jesus on His Mission”, Greg Finke suggests that The kingdom of God is like driving a (car) He writes, “My car has several complex systems working together in order to allow me to drive to the store simply. In the same way, God has his complex “systems” (namely his kingdom and his mission) working together in order to allow us, his people to be included in his redemptive mission, and in a way that is simple enough for any of us to participate.” Witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus Christ is easy for us, Christ has already done the heavy lifting, how hard is it to repeat good news we know to be true?
It’s not so much a matter of ability as it is a matter of (persistence) Those were the first words of Professor Norb Mueller from the Ft. Wayne Seminary as about 20 other pastors and I began the Doctor of Ministry program. It turned out that he was right. So also dear friends, in closing, know that as often as you spend time with Jesus Christ, that often you are putting yourself in a position for the Holy Spirit to mold you into the kind of person God wants you to be. And as often as God’s Spirit is working on you from the inside out, that often you will find it possible to manage whatever vocation God is asking you to manage. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.