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Luther Service Book Divine Service 1

Hymns:  468, 488,633,, 644

Easter 5 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
May 10, 2020
Acts 6:1–9; 7:2a, 51–60, 1 Peter 2:2–10, John 14:1–14

 

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

A couple of weeks ago we got to hear Saint Peter’s Pentecost sermon in which he accused the Jews of Judea and Jerusalem of killing Jesus; the Messiah, the Son of God.  The people are cut to the heart and repent and ask, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter answers, Acts 2:38-41 (ESV) 38 …“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. [1]

What a great day!  Three thousand souls!  Wow!  What a victory.

And now today, in Acts chapter 6, we hear about Stephen, one of the new deacons chosen to help the disciples serve the poor. Stephen is doing great signs and wonders and because of it he is arrested and brought before the council to answer for his teaching about Jesus.  Stephen has an opportunity to speak to the High Priest and the council. Stephen takes this opportunity to teach the history of God’s people from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; Joseph and the time in Egypt; Moses leading the people out of Egypt to the Promised Land, to King David and his son Solomon who built the temple.  Stephen accuses the council members of being the children of those who killed the prophets who announced the coming of Jesus.

The people hearing Peter are cut to the heart and repent.  The people hearing Stephen do not repent; just the opposite.  They dig in their heels.  They believe they have done nothing wrong and they become so enraged that they grind their teeth.  Stephen continues, Acts 7:55-56 (ESV) 55 …full of the Holy Spirit, [Stephen] gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”[2] Stephen is having a vision of Jesus and the council’s rage intensifies.  Acts 7:57 (ESV) 57 …they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him.[3]

Three thousand hear about Jesus and are baptized with Peter, with Stephen they cover their ears and scream and drag him outside the city, surround him, and throw rocks at him until he is dead.  Before he died Stephen forgives those throwing the rocks.  Acts 7:59-60 (ESV) 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. [4]

What a contrast from the day of Pentecost. Instead of the mass baptism of thousands, we are left with a silent, bloody, lifeless body lying in the dirt. Speaking about Jesus can have different effects on people.  Life in Christ is not all victory after victory, but it is The Way.  There is no alternative to Jesus.  Jesus is The Way.  Jesus is the truth.  Jesus is the life.  There is no other way to the Father.

Our Gospel lesson today is often a funeral text.  At the death of a loved one Jesus’ words brings great comfort.  John 14:1-3 (ESV) 1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.[5]

It brings great comfort to know that there is more to come.  The best is yet to come.  There is an old story published by Ann Landers.  “A woman was diagnosed with a terminal illness and given three months to live. She asked her pastor to come to her home to discuss her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at her funeral, and what scriptures to read, and which outfit she wanted to be buried in.

Then she said, “One more thing. I want to be buried with a fork in my hand.”

The pastor was surprised. The woman explained, “In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, `Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite time, because I knew something better was coming, like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie — something wonderful. So, I want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and wonder, ‘What’s with the fork?’ Then, I want you to tell them, `Keep your fork, because the best is yet to come.”‘[6]

The best is yet to come, but the comfort Jesus gives is not only for the future.  This is comfort and strength along The Way.  And what is The Way?  Jesus is The Way.  He tells us in the Gospel of John.  He is The Way, the truth, the life; He is the living water, He is the Bread of Life; He is the light of the world, He is the Good Shepherd, He is the door, He is the resurrection and the life, He is the vine.  What is The Way?  Jesus is The Way.  He is The Way to the Father in this idolatrous world.  Jesus is The Way, but it is not an easy way.  The danger of Pentecost is that we might think that is always how life is on The Way; people hearing the Good News and repenting and following Jesus. Life on The Way can be like that at times, people hear about Jesus and are cut to the heart, repent and follow Jesus. But life on The Way can also be hard.  Stephen and Acts 7 bring us another reality of life on The Way.  Life on The Way can bring persecution and even martyrdom.

Before they stop their ears Stephen rebukes the High Priest and the council Acts 7:51 (ESV) 51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.[7]

Not much has changed.  Today you are on The Way but it is in a world full of stiff-necked people who are uncircumcised in heart and ears, who always resist the Holy Spirit.  There are so many who when confronted with the Word of God cover their ears and scream and try to silence God’s Word.

And living amongst these people and being a natural born sinner yourself, it is quite easy to fall into the idolatry of ignoring God’s Word.  God’s Word speaks against your favorite sin and you just ignore Him.  What is it for you?  What sin in your life do you hold onto and try to rationalize and excuse?  When do you cover your ears and say “La-la-la-la” to try to drown out God’s Way because you want to do it your way?  Far too often you want so badly to do it your way that you are tempted to stop reading God’s Word, stop hearing God’s Word, stop repenting of your sins.  You want to do it your way.  But that is not the right way.  You know The Way.  Jesus is The Way.

When you realize you have stopped up your ears to ignore God, be like the crowds on Pentecost; repent and be baptized.  Repent and live as a baptized child of God in the Kingdom of Heaven. Remain on The Way to your Heavenly Father.  Jesus is The Way.  His life, death and resurrection are credited to you.  You belong to Him.  You have been purchased and won by the innocent blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, sacrificed for the sin of the world.  Jesus is The Way.  There is no other way.

You are on The Way because Jesus put you on The Way.  Quiet yourself and uncover your ears and hear the Word of God. Turn from sin.  Stay on The Way.  The Way is not easy but it is the only way.  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Life is hard, but you know The Way.  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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

[6] https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2000-08-12-0008120241-story.html

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

 

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