2015-09-18 12.02.38 (1280x720)Epiphany 5, 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 4, 2018
Isaiah 40:21-31, 1 Corinthians 9:16-27, Mark 1:29-39

 

Sermons online:
Text:                            pastorjud.org
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

As many of you know, Jeannette and I were blessed to get away for a week in January to go to a wonderful resort in the Dominican Republic.  We stayed at the Majestic Elegance which is a beautiful place with lush landscaping and lots and lots of palm trees.  There is something almost magical about being around palm trees in January.

When I was booking the trip there was an option to upgrade to the Elegance Club for a small fee.  The club is an adult’s only section of the resort with private pools, special snack and drink areas and a private section on the beach with Bali Beds.  You even get a butler.  It sounded like a good idea so we did the upgrade.

When we arrived at check-in the clerk informed us that we would not check in at the front desk, there was a separate area for club members.  We received special coconut shell wristbands to identify us as such.  The head butler gave us a tour of the resort and showed us to our room.  During the week we were able to lie in the shade in the adult section of the beach which was relatively quiet and peaceful.  We had special towels so the beach monitors would know if a non-club member tried to sneak into the club.

There were signs around our section of the resort showing it was for members only.  We saw a couple with two small children wander past one of those signs and a butler informed them that they did not belong in that area; it was just for club members.  Jeannette and I joked that they were protecting us from the riffraff.  This was a new experience for us; normally we are the riffraff.  For that week it was fun to be members of the club.

     The church is indeed a sanctuary from the evils of the world but also the Church is here to reach out to the world with the Good News of Jesus.  The Church is the gathering of believers in Christ and yet the church is not an exclusive club for members only.

At a resort it was nice to be in the club, but I fear that sometimes that being a member of the church can start to feel like being a member of the club.  Like we are in the club, away from all the riffraff on the outside.  We can start to feel like we are in and they are out because we were smart enough to choose the upgrade.

There is a little sense of this in our baptismal service:  “…Grant that she be kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, being separated from the multitude of unbelievers…”

The church is indeed a sanctuary from the evils of the world but also the Church is here to reach out to the world with the Good News of Jesus.  The Church is the gathering of believers in Christ and yet the church is not an exclusive club for members only.

This is the hard task of the Church; to be, at the same time, a refuge and fortress for sinners and also be welcoming and reaching out to a world of sinners.

In our Gospel lesson today we see Jesus in Capernaum healing Peter’s mother-in-law.  He heals her and she goes back to doing her normal tasks.  Jesus helps her and restores her to her vocation.  Word spreads of what Jesus can do and that evening, once the Sabbath has ended, the whole city brings their sick and demon-possessed loved ones to Jesus.  Jesus heals the sick, and silences and casts out the demons.  Jesus had a great following there in Capernaum; He could set up shop right there on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and serve those people; but He doesn’t settle in.

Early the next morning Jesus goes to a desolate place to pray but the people cannot leave Him alone, Simon and the others go searching for Jesus and when they find Him let Him know that the town is waiting for Jesus to continue what He was doing the day before.  “Everyone is looking for you.”

But Jesus is not content to settle down in Capernaum and just minister to the people there.  Jesus did not come for a select few; Jesus came for all.  Jesus came to help the downtrodden all over; Jesus came to bring His Good News to all people.

We see this in our Epistle reading as well.  Paul preaches the Gospel because that is what He has been given to do.  Not just to one group of people, but to many.  Paul says that He is flexible in how He preaches to reach the most people possible so that He might save some by bringing the Good News of Jesus.  1 Corinthians 9:22 (ESV) 22 … I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.[1]

The Good News of forgiveness of sins through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is not something just for a select few; Christianity is not some kind of members only club.  The Good News is for all people.

The challenge is how to reach out to all people; to be all things to all people, without compromising the truth of scripture.  We want to reach out to all and be welcoming to all without changing the truth of God, because all people need the unadulterated truth of the Bible.

How do we protect ourselves and each other from the devil and the world and, at the same time, remain open and welcoming to all who seek the Lord?  How do we nurture and care for those in our midst and also reach out to all people with the Good News and invite them into our midst.

We are blessed at Immanuel to still have our school where we can reach out to so many children and families with the love of Jesus, and bring them to the waters of baptism and into the family of faith.  We get the children for 30 hours a week to care for them and love them and teach them about all that Jesus has done for them.  We are blessed that we are able to reach out to more and more students each year to the point where we need to build more classrooms to hold the new students.  This is a tremendous opportunity for Immanuel to continue to bring the Good News of Jesus to this community.  You make this possible.  You have enabled this outreach to so many children to survive and to thrive.  You have been the supporters with finances and prayers for so long.  Together, we reach out through the school.

Together you help the Gospel go out into the world through the support of Missionaries.  Together we support missionaries in Mexico, Ethiopia and Kenya.  Our children on Sunday morning bring their offerings to support children at Lutheran schools in Liberia, West Africa.  A lot is being done and I challenge you to consider doing more.  We can do more as a congregation and you can each do more individually.  Go online to lcms.org and search for missionary support, learn about a missionary and the country where they serve and prayerfully consider making a one time or ongoing gift to support the proclamation of the Gospel throughout the world.  Prayerfully consider a short term or long term mission trip to help bring the Gospel to those around the world.  Go to lcms.org and search for serve.  This is not for everyone but it may be for you.  Find ways to volunteer here at Immanuel or in the community.  Help out at Pathway to Hope; the pregnancy care center, with donations and volunteer service.

Pray for opportunities to share the Gospel with friends and family and those you encounter in life.  Hear God’s Word, study God’s Word, 1 Peter 3:15 (ESV) 15 …always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;[2]  Invite them to join you on Sunday morning or a Wednesday in Lent to hear the Good News of Jesus here at Immanuel.

You know the Good News and you are compelled to share it; it is what you have been given to do each in your own way.

Not everyone has been given to preach from the pulpit or teach Sunday School or evangelize door to door.  But you have each been given the great Good News of eternal life in Christ and the ability to share it with others in your own way.  With your spouse, children, your grandchildren, coworkers, neighbors.  You have many roles in life and many opportunities.  Pray for more opportunities.  And I know this is hard.  Sharing the Gospel is often a difficult, seemingly fruitless task.  There are no silver bullets that if you can just say the right thing in just the right way people will be compelled to repent and believe in Jesus.  We plant seeds, we water seeds, but God gives the growth.

The Good News of forgiveness of sins in Jesus is not a treasure to be horded, but a treasure to be shared.  And the more you share this treasure the greater the treasure becomes.  The Good News of salvation in Jesus is not meant for a chosen few but is intended for all.

The Church is not an exclusive club for members only.  There is no special wristband or password to get in.  Immanuel Lutheran Church is God’s mission outpost here in Hamilton to bring the Good News to this community and the region and to the world.  The Church exists to love and care for those in Christ and to continue to spread the Good News to those who are not yet in Christ.  The church is not here to keep the riffraff out; we are the riffraff saved by the grace of God in Christ Jesus.  Jesus has paid the price for all to be in His Church.

Amen.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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