Better Together Under the Cross

5th March 2017    Pastor Robert Voigt    

St. Petri Lutheran Church Nuriootpa

1)         I have belonged to 13 parishes – between 2-5 congregations in each of those parishes.  And every one was very different.  In a 9-year period I also visited over 3/4s of all congregations in SA/NT.  And every one was very different.  I have had to make big changes again and again as I tried to work with each place.  Now I don’t mean to offend any of you, but I have come across some people who have mostly belonged to just one congregation, or to just a couple in the Barossa – and in my opinion some of them don’t seem to appreciate what it means to belong to a church community as much as those who have belonged to many different ones.

The fact is, that when you move around, you become the ‘new person’ in the community and you experience what it is like to be on the outside for a while.  And your opinion doesn’t count for a lot until you are accepted.  And every church community has its unique characteristics of likes and dislikes, customs and traditions, and gate-keepers.  You are required to adapt to your new environment or risk not being accepted.

I guess there are not many people who travel around as much as pastors and their families, so Sadie and I see things a little differently.  And maybe that’s why we are so sincerely and truly grateful for the gift of the church – as flawed as it is because it’s membership is made up solely of people.  Yet the church, and especially the local community of believers which we usually call “a congregation”, is God’s wonderful gift to us.  And we take it for granted so much!!

Today the message is simple.  Adam, the first man, disobeyed God by sinning and he brought sin and death on all human beings for all ages.  Jesus, also one man, also affected all human beings for all time by suffering the consequences of our sin and giving us the victory over sin and death.

Hearing this once or twice during our lifetime is not enough.

2)         THE SAME POWER THAT CONQUERED THE GRAVE IS IN ME … I AM A NEW CREATION IN CHRIST –                   Romans 8:9-17

On four of the Sundays in Lent there is a reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans.  You know, instead of giving something up during Lent, you might like to take something up – namely, read Romans.  For in it you will be reminded with great clarity that we are saved by God’s grace alone; that we really do belong to the body of Christ – the church; and that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that makes us new creations.  How often do we need to hear this?

3)         FOR THE SIN OF THIS ONE MAN, ADAM, CAUSED DEATH TO RULE OVER MANY.  BUT EVEN GREATER IS GOD’S WONDERFUL GRACE AND HIS GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, FOR ALL WHO RECEIVE IT WILL LIVEIN TRIUMPH OVER SIN AND DEATH THROUGH THIS ONE MAN, JESUS CHRIST.  –  Romans 5:17 NLT

So our text is simply a reminded of the most basic truths of law and gospel.  The first human sinned and brought death to all people for all time.  Jesus, who became truly human, was obedient, suffered and died in our place, and by his resurrection brought us life, both now and forever.  How often do we need to hear this?

4)         None of our journeys in life are the same.  At this moment there are those of us whose lives have a few bends and twists, but we are enjoying a good road with a nice view.  You need to hear our text because you can become complacent, even arrogant about your faith, and take God’s grace for granted.

But there are others of you who are going through a tougher time, where the way is difficult and you have to watch the road every second.  You need to hear our text, since sin is the cause of all our problems, and you need to hear the gospel so that you are strengthened in your faith for every part of life, and assured that God has not abandoned you in your time of need.

5)         GUILT

And we especially need to hear the clear message of law and gospel when we are confronted with our sinfulness, or specific sins, or when others try to make us feel guilty in order to control us.  I have times when past sins pop up and make me feel guilty, and when present sins overwhelm.  As a pastor I have listened to so many people who have been wracked with guilt and could see no way out.  More than one came to my office over the years and confessed that they had committed adultery and were filled with fear of their spouse finding out and of being condemned by God forever.  Some cursed God for a big tragedy in their lives, even as they were desperate to know if God still loved them.  Others confessed to a whole range of crimes and moral failures.  Where could they go for hope, for forgiveness, for assurance that there can be a new beginning, no matter how painful the process?

Only the church!!  Now the church hasn’t always assured their people of the grace that God offers.  But there is no other place, apart from any group of Christians, that we can find the call to repentance, and the assurance of forgiveness through faith in Jesus, our Saviour.

6)         … ALL ARE JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE THROUGH THE REDEMPTION THAT CAME THROUGH CHRIST JESUS  (Romans 3:24 NIV)

As Paul says in Romans 3:24, all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

7)         PURPOSE OF THE LOCAL CONGREGATION:

** Worship ** Witness **  Nurture **  Fellowship ** Service **

And it is the local congregation of people, not the institution, that has some clarity about its purpose.  There are just five reasons for the local church to exist: Worship, Witness, Nurture (personal growth), Fellowship and Service.

8)         There is Nothing Like the local church when the local church is working right!  – Bill Hybels

The local church is the hope of the world – Bill Hybels

Bill Hybels has said: The local church is the hope of the world, and, There is nothing like the local church when the local church is working right.

9)         If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other – Mother Theresa

Mother Teresa once said: If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

10)      The apostle Peter wrote: Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.   –(1 Peter 1:22 NIV)

11)      I have loved every congregation I have been the pastor of.  They always became our family in the Lord and that was precious to me and my family.

And together we provide for a pastor to lead us in Word and sacraments, so that every Sunday, and any day we need it, we can be assured of God’s undeserved love for each one of us.  Holy Communion in particular becomes more precious to me as I get older.  And I can say with sincerity and truth, “I love St. Petri”, because God works through the precious people who make up St. Petri as church – as part of the body of Jesus.

12)      St Petri – Better Together Under The Cross. 

Do you appreciate what God gave you when he brought you into his church through baptism?  Do you thank God for St. Petri more than you criticize its shortcomings and faults?  Are you grateful that through this congregation you are reminded that you are sinful and that you will return to the dust from where you came?  And do you feel blessed that you are constantly reminded through this body of Jesus that God loves you, constantly forgives you, encourages you, and calls you to live for him alone?

We are better together under the cross.  That is where we can encourage each other to remain faithful until death, so that none of us fails to receives the crown of life that God promises to all his people.

 

1 Comment

  1. Janet Harris

    Brilliant Pastor Rob. Sorry i missed it. Something new i didn’t know for Lent. Taking something up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *