Messages from Pastor Raddatz

May 3, 2020 Fourth Sunday of Easter: Other texts for the day 1 Peter 2:19-25 and John 10:1-10


Dear People of God,

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We’re all in this together.  These words have been repeated during this period where we have tried to limit the spread of COVID-19.  It emphasizes how we all face that same challenge and if we work together, we can endure this difficulty together.

The early Church in Acts 2:42-47 were in it together.  They were not facing the spread of a virus, but they were a small group of believers who were trying to spread the message of Jesus Christ.  He is the savior of the world.  He is the one who took upon himself all our sin and all of God’s punishment for our sin on the cross. He conquered our sin and he conquered the grave.  We are the ones who crucified Jesus because we are all sinners in the need of a savior.  Jesus, God in the flesh, became our substitute on the cross and together with him we are considered saints in God’s eyes, while at the same time sinners.

Now follows a description of the first Christian congregation in the New Testament. Before we begin our study of these verses, meditate for a moment on the conditions in Jerusalem before this day of Pentecost. The Jews who were sympathetic to Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin hated Jesus and His disciples. On the other hand, the disciples likely avoided these Jews and kept to themselves. They had no common ground. But look what happened! -Bul’s notes

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” v. 42.

The word “DEVOTED” means the early church was “LOYAL” to the Apostle’s teaching.  The word devoted also means to continue in, to be courageous with and to depend on. The marks or characteristics of their preaching and gathering was to hear the Word of God, fellowship, the Lord’s Supper and prayer.  These are the four marks of the church.

Some Christians do not see themselves “together” with other people.  I do not know what breeds this independence, maybe, it can be contributed to our American Spirit of doing it on our own?Trying to do it on our own can come from our pride, which is part of our sinfulness.I have tried to do it on my own: my own strength and my own energy and my own compassion.  I have failed miserably, on my own.

On our own we are separated from God.  On our own we do not have fellowship with God the Father and his Son and his Spirit.  1 John 1:6, “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us”. (ESV)

To walk in the light means that the light exposes our sin, but the light of God’s love and forgiveness cleanses us from our sins.  John 3:20 and following remind us, “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. For whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (ESV).

GOD HAS UNITED HIMSELF WITH US IN THE PERSON AND THE WORK OF JESUS CHRIST. How wonderful this is, that we are together with God.  The blood of Christ cleanses us from all our sin.  He came to us to make us his own.  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 1:24, ESV).

Imagine we faced what the Early Church faced in Acts 2!  After Peter’s Sermon on Pentecost, 3,000 people were added to the church.  What would Mount Olive do if we had 3,000 people added to the church in one day?  How would we handle that?  What would we do?  We Lutherans are famous for appointing committees.  Maybe we would make it a “task force” on how to handle this large influx of people.  It’s kind of the thing we American’s do too!  It’s like all the news conferences and briefings we receive, sometimes,daily.

I suggest we do what the Early Church did with the 3,000 people: we continue to be dedicated to the Apostle’s teaching.  The Apostle’s were with Jesus.  We continue to do what they did, that was show people Jesus in the Word.  And what do we do if we cannot take the Lord’s Supper?  We can break bread with people in our home or in their home or go order a takeout meal and bring it to someone. 

We would also continue in PRAYER AND PRAISE. 

What have you prayed about in the last couple of weeks?  Have you prayed that the Lord spare you during this pandemic or have you prayed for others during this pandemic?  Our selfish and narcissistic life of prayer can be turned around if we look at the way our Lord prayed.  “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but continued entrusting, there’s that devoted word again, himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23, ESV).  Turn yourself to God in praise that he saved you and pray for others as well as yourself.

The purpose of redemption is to life a life of service to Christ!  Our life is serving God in righteousness (covered by Jesus’ holiness), in innocence (hate sin, do his will) and in blessedness (gladly in faith-born love). (Luther’s Small Catechism)

We are in this together with God and with one another.  And now may this peace pass every single human understanding and keep your heart and your mind in the one true faith, in Jesus, to life everlasting. Amen.

Your Fellow Servant, in Christ,

John Raddatz, Vacancy Pastor is posting 10 verses of protection every month. I have listed them for you below.

  • John 14:27 (NET) "'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.'"
  • 1 John 5:4-5 (NKJV) "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?"
  • Psalm 61 (NIV) "For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David. Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings..."
  • Psalm 23 (NASB) "A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me..."
  • Psalm 27:1-3 (NASB) "[A Psalm] of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell. Though a host encamp against me, My heart will not fear; Though war arise against me, In [spite of] this I shall be confident."
  • Psalm 48:14 (NET) "For God, our God, is our defender forever! He guides us!"
  • John 16:33 (NLT) "'I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.'"
  • Romans 8:28 (NKJV) "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [His] purpose."
  • Psalm 63:7-8 (NASB) "For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me."
  • James 1:2-4 (NKJV) "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have [its] perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."

Pastor John Raddatz, Vacancy Pastor, Mount Olive Lutheran Church Houston TX

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