Archive for the ‘Acts 16:9-15’ Category

Help Us!

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

Sixth Sunday after Easter, May 9, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Click here for audio of this message
 

We are on a mission—a mission from God! We are to share God’s love, first through the Word and then through our actions!  The words Jesus spoke to his first disciples still apply today; Listen: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” [Jn. 20:21 and Jn. 17:18]  The universal church, every local congregation and every Christian in it, is sent into the world to fulfill a definite, defined task. Jesus, the church’s Lord, has issued marching orders. Individually and corporately, all God’s people are now in the kingdom building business… we are to seek and save the lost!  We are to pass on the love of God!

 This mission from God has three directives.  First and foremost, we have been called into the work of giving a worldwide witness, making disciples, and planting churches. [Matt. 24:14; 28:19-20; Mark 13:10; Luke 24:47-48]  We have been told that Jesus Christ is to be proclaimed everywhere as God in human flesh, Lord, and Savior  We are to make it clear that this is God’s only invitation to eternal life, and it can only be received by turning to Jesus in repentance and faith. [Matt. 22:1-10; Luke 14:16-24]  This message is to be delivered to the entire world. This morning, in our first reading (Acts 16:9-15), the ministry of church-planter Paul the evangelist models this primary commitment.  

The second directive that all Christians, and therefore every Christian on earth, are called to practice is sacrificial love; acts of mercy and compassion.  We are to model a form of neighbor-love that responds willingly to all forms of human need as they present themselves. [Luke 10:25-27; Acts 16:15; Rom. 12:20-21] 

The third directive is to ask God the Father in the name of Jesus to give us both the means and the will to do these very things.  Well that’s a lot to receive this morning, so let’s get right into it!

 In our first reading we are immediately asked to consider a vision, St. Paul’s vision.  Now even though it comes to him at night, we are told that it is not a dream, but a vision from God!  What does God show him?  A man in Macedonia standing in front of him urging and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” [Acts 16:9]  Now one thing we need to be clear on right away; this vision was not a surprise for Paul and his three companions.  You see, they had been praying and planning on a vision from God for quite some time, but this is the first time that God actually made it clear to them where they needed to go!

 Does this sound familiar to anyone this morning?  Have you ever had the Lord make something absolutely clear to you after praying and searching His Word for direction?  Certainly we as a congregation have experienced this!  Now, we didn’t need to ask where we must go, because God has already established us at 7210 Lisbon St., right in the middle of the communities of Jamacha and Encanto!  So, that’s a no brainer, but then again so was the vision that Paul had.  They were asking “Where should we go and what should we do?”  And the answer was, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”  Help you do what?  “Help us obtain God’s love and mercy.  Help us receive salvation and then joy and peace!”

 What’s interesting about this part of our reading is that in the Greek presentation of the first verse we would really read it like this: “A man of Macedonia was continually standing there, and he kept on urging him and saying,  “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” [Acts 16:9]  Do you see the difference?  In a vision, Paul was told that first it was urgent that he and his friends go to Macedonia, and second their work there had to be continuous.

 Friends, that is God’s call to us as well with the vision that He has given us.  We are to continually bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to our neighbors with a long term strategy.  We aren’t to say, “Well, we’ll give it a try, and if it doesn’t seem to be working will just give up.”  No, remember, God has made it clear to us that our call to bring the gospel is urgent and continuous.

 Now let’s go back to our reading to see how Paul responded to the vision.  Starting in the 13th verse we read, “And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.  And after she was baptized”. [vs. 13-15a]

 The first thing we see in Paul is obedience.  He heard God’s call and he responded.  Once in Macedonia, he did three things—he searched for a place where spiritually minded people gathered, he looked for a person of peace that God had already been working within, and finally he shared the gospel.  Now, let’s look at our circumstances here at Trinity and see how we compare.  First, we as well have responded obediently to God’s vision.  We are very close to opening our Ministry School where media, music, and the arts will be taught, and we have also now added a Wednesday evening gospel service where gospel music that is meaningful to the community is offered along with prayer and a gospel message.  People will come to Trinity because first it is already know as a spiritual gathering place and second because we are willing to “sit down and talk with them” about things that are meaningful to them!

 Another thing we see in our reading is God’s work because of Paul’s obedience.  We are told that one of the women that were present to hear Paul speak was a woman named Lydia.  She was a non-Jew who was already familiar with and worshiping Jehovah God.  Now remember when I pointed out the difference in the Greek language compared to the English in regards to the vision of the Macedonian?  Well we have something similar happening again.  In vs. 14, we simply read, “One who heard us was a woman named Lydia”, but in the Greek language it reads more like this, “One who kept on hearing us was a woman named Lydia”.  What’s the difference?  Well from this we learn that Paul did not just spend one Sabbath day with them and “presto-chango” she’s a Christian.  No he invested time in developing a relationship.  She probably heard many messages from Paul over a period of several weeks, but eventually in God’s time and power Lydia came to know Jesus Christ as HER Lord and Savior.  Through the Word of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ she wanted God’s salvation to come to not to just her alone but to her entire family.  And how did it come…. Through the washing of the water and the Word… through Holy Baptism!  Imagine that, her and all of her children were born again.  Why?  Because God was faithful and Paul was obedient!

 Paul could have passed by that little group of woman as being insignificant.   But he didn’t.  He saw their needs and through the leading of the Holy Spirit he was moved to have compassion on them.  Lydia was baptized… born again unto eternal life.  She could have simply thanked Paul and dismissed him and his friends while she got back to her normal daily business routine, but she didn’t.  Instead, moved by the same Holy Spirit, she had compassion on Paul and his missionary friends, and asked them to not just live with her and her family, but to make her family’s home their missionary headquarters.  It only took a spark from the Holy Spirit’s presence to get a fire of Christian love and service going within the heart of the born-again Lydia!

 Friends, consider this for a moment—hasn’t God already asked us here at Trinity to open up our worship home to new neighbors who are seeking a relationship of love peace with God?  Haven’t already been convinced that He is asking us to bring in new people who need to know about Jesus in a personal way?  When you stop and think about it, God is asking us to be simultaneously both like Paul and Lydia.  We are like Paul in that we are asked to be on a mission from God, a mission to seek and save the lost.  And we do that by both proclaiming and teaching the gospel.  Some of the people we meet will have no idea about our faith or our Savior Jesus Christ.  Some, like Lydia will be familiar with God, even worshiping Him, but they do not know about His grace, mercy, peace, and joy He brings once you know Him unto salvation.  But, we are also like Lydia.  We who have been born again in the waters of Holy Baptism have been recreated.  We have been changed, and because of that change God has given us a heart that responds both to His Word and His living presence within us.  He asks us to respond with our time, talents, and even our treasure.  But that can be a scary thing; you see it requires faith!  Lydia must have been a little hesitant about opening her home up to strangers, even strangers that brought her eternal life through the gospel.  Like Lydia, we have God’s Word; we know His will and yet we begin to be uncertain.  So where do we go with our fears and worries?  We go to the Lord!  And what do we do?  We pray!

 In our gospel reading (Jn. 16:22-33) Jesus is speaking once again in that upper room just before His death and resurrection.  He knows His disciples are worried and afraid, so He speaks to calm their fears and prepare them for the joy and confidence that will come after His resurrection and ascension, on the day of Pentecost.  After that day, the Holy Spirit will come and live within every Christian as a result of their baptism.  And His presence within them will lead them to ask for all things that are centered in the name of Jesus.  Listen once again to His Words of assurance: “Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you.  Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (vs. 23,24)   “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (vs. 26, 27)

 Dear friends, Jesus tells His disciples, He tells us to ask “in (His) name.” And he seals this directive with a promise, “you shall receive” what you ask in my name. Why such a promise?  Well friends, so that our “joy may be fulfilled.”  By remembering that the Father loves us because we love His Son Jesus Christ our joy becomes fulfilled.  And as we experience this joy we begin to experience obedience as Jesus sends us out and leads us onto the mission field that is our community.  As we go out on our Heavenly Father’s mission… to seek and save the lost, we remember Jesus Words, so we ask the Father, in Jesus name to open the doors and hearts of our neighbors to our gospel message, so that they too may know Jesus Christ unto salvation! 

 Well, let me close with this short story:  There once was a man who refused to sell his home to a bank.  His house and property sat adjacent to a tract of land that the bank wanted to build on.  The bank wanted to buy his home and knock it down.  But the man refused!  The bank offered to pay top dollar, but again… no deal!  Ninety years old, the man had live in his house for most of his life.  He didn’t have to sell so he decided he wouldn’t!  But the bank wanted to build, so they decided they would!  The result of this failure to compromise is a new bank building shaped like a horseshoe around the man’s house.  An automatic teller machine dispenses cash fifteen feet from where he sleeps.  The cars drive through and idle in front of his kitchen window.  These two parties may be next to one another, but we certainly wouldn’t call them neighbors. 

 Do you want to find true joy in your life?  Stay close to Jesus and ask for the things He has promised to give you!  Walk where He leads you and let Him sacrificially love your neighbor through you.  And as you walk with Jesus, He will allow you to see a transformation in the people He loves through you.  After the people you witness to become disciples through faith, you will see them being transformed through daily contact with their Lord.  Through God’s Word and the power of the Holy Spirit, they will develop such a strong and abiding love for the Father that nothing can ever move them.  So don’t grow weary from doing well friends.  Keep trusting and following your Lord, even when you have doubts.  Remember, even though you’re on a mission from God, “in this world you will have tribulations (and trials).  But take heart (Jesus) has overcome the world! [Jn. 16:33b]