05122019 Easter 4 Sunday Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

“We are called to care for the church of God!”

05122019 Easter 4 Sunday Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

May 12, 2019
“We are called to care for the church of God!”
Sermon Audio

Have you ever watched ‘Animal Planet’ when shows about a pride of Lions comes on?  With the live action Lion King movie coming out this summer, it makes me think and want to ask the question, if the church is called to be lions or a pride of lions?  To be a lion is clearly the fierceness that most people associate when watching movies or even hearing biblical stories like Daniel and the lions den. But in the passage we have heard this morning from the Book of Acts, Luke is trying to inspire God’s children, not to be lions, but to be a pride of lions.  Where if you are part of the pride, you care for one another. This is why Luke inspires us by reminding us, “We are called to care for the church of God!”

This calling is meant for all of the saints, who believe Jesus is the Great Shepherd of we His sheep.  Just as the 23rd Psalm helps us understand Jesus Christ is our Great Shepherd and cares for us, it also reminds us, “We are called to care for the church of God!”  Caring for the ‘church of God’ takes on many different forms.  For some it is visitation, others it is pulling weeds or building and still others it is cooking and bringing meals when we are sick.  Luke in the book of Acts is speaking about relationship and caring for one another as believers in what God offers us through His Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This is our mission as the church, “We are called to care for the church of God!”

How we ‘care for the church of God’ can lead us down many paths.  Like the roots of a tree, we can branch out into our community and fulfill our calling to spread the love of God for us and for all of mankind.  Luke writes that even he, “did not shrink from declaring...the whole counsel of God” that points to the message of God’s grace and mercy, but also reminds us of the gift of “the inheritance” of salvation from Jesus Christ.  This was so this gift could “build [them] up” and this is what can be shared today with one another and lived among us.  At times we all don’t do this, and I’m just as guilty as anyone else. Yet, when I confess as I did this morning, God picks us up, dusts each of us off and says to us, “I forgive you”.  Hence why Luke states, “now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace”.  This is the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation declared to us when we confess and receive forgiveness from God.

So since “We are called to care for the church of God” how can we do this today.  How can we live this as our mantra and mission in our world and declare God’s grace and forgiveness that He so freely offers us?  First we can “help the weak” in our midst and those who cannot help themselves.  This is a grace filled opportunity for us to demonstrate the love of God among us as we show our love and compassion fulfilling our mission that “We are called to care for the church of God!”

A second way we can live out our calling to ‘care for the church of God’ is by thinking about others instead of ourselves.  This is hard for all, both male and female, saints and sinners. Among we who gather here today we have a number of individuals who understandably have a challenge of the 21st Century, where they don’t have nor like to navigate cell phones or computers.  When we print the e-News and even the Herald, we need people to carry the printed copies to our shut-ins and for some to read them to them, or even just deliver them to their homes and visit for a few minutes. In doing this we reach out and bridge a chasm for our aging population and care for them in a way that demonstrates our connection, love and relationship with them on a more personal level.  In doing this God’s love flows through us and we cooperatively show our belief that “We are called to care for the church of God!”

And finally, we can demonstrate that “We are called to care for the church of God” by looking to God and blessing those who follow a different path than we or our church does and release them to God’s care.  This is the most difficult of the three to do to fulfill our mantra that “We are called to care for the church of God”.  We may run into former members in Giant Eagle, Wal-Mart or even while attending functions in the community.  Yet, care from God’s perspective is not using guilt or coercion but more appropriately allowing God’s care through us to let them and all guests and visitors know we care for them, and are here, but honoring individuals for their own reasons why they have stopped attending, or only do so at Christmas and Easter or other major feasts.

When we fulfill that “We are called to care for the church of God”  this clearly demonstrates our love for one another, but also for those who may be drawn into fellowship with us here at Emmanuel.  If there is one biblical illustration of this, it would be from the book of Ruth. We all know the story of Ruth and Naomi and how Ruth instead of returning to her family of origin after her husband died, remained with and cared for her mother-in-law, even though she was not obligated nor expected to by custom or request.  The dedication, love and clear demonstration of grace and mercy Ruth showed is not just a reminder, but is a model for us of how “We are called to care for the church of God”.  Ruth was willing to sacrifice her own feelings, will and desires in order to remain faithful to God and the blessing of family.  And in doing so, God blessed Ruth and through her continued the line of promise of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

We who gather here today are descendents and in that line from Ruth, through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice and gift of grace and today we are called to fulfill Luke’s final statement from our Acts passage from Jesus.  “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Let’s give from our hearts to our world, community and our church and join together to clearly articulate and demonstrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ, His love for us and demonstrate our love, calling and care for one another.  And do so as we lay claim to Luke’s imperative that “We are called to care for the church of God!”  AMEN.