S-1047 4/13/08 FSIE/3A Hymns: (O)#394; (S)#199; L.S. 457; 648; 442; 314; (C)45
Texts: Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10
Theme: Devoted Sheep” Acts 2:42, 47
Armour, SD SOLIE DEO GLORIA.
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleuia. The text for our meditation is from the book of Acts. “They devoted themselves to the Apostle’s Teaching, and Fellowship, to the Breaking of Bread, and the Prayers…And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42, 47).
Question: What are you devoted to/for?
Saints in Christ, last week I was privileged to travel to Detroit, MI for “The Friendship of Jesus Muslims Conference”. This conference was sponsored by our LCMS Mission board, to reach out to Muslims in the name of the ONLY Savior, Jesus Christ.
While there, I met a man by the name Abed Al Karim Baidoui, (he goes by the name Karim today) a Moroccan citizen who came to Oklahoma in 1985 to study at the University. He is the son of a Muslim father and Jewish mother. While in the States he met a young lady Suzy (a Lutheran) and wanted to marry her. When Suzy took Karim to meet her parents, her mom Edna Kloeber a (German Lutheran) had a question. “How are you going to resolve the question of religion if you marry my daughter? That was a very important question that demanded Karim to evaluate and study it more thoroughly.
At the conference Karim said, “That question made me search for the truth. What is the difference between Muslims and Christians?” He went on to say, “I Have a Friend in Jesus. Suzy was the bait and Edna was the hook.” Edna invited Karim to church and attended with him Catechism instructions and introduced him to the friend of all people, Jesus Christ.
One week after Karim was baptized Edna said, “Now you may marry my daughter.” Karim is no longer a slave of Allah, no longer bound by the chains of legalism, no longer burdened to earn God’s favor through his good works; but now He is a child of God through Jesus Christ. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:27-29).
Edna was a devoted sheep. She had committed herself to prayer, to the Apostle’s teaching, to fellowship and to the breaking of bread. She knew what the Scriptures taught. She knew what the Apostles gave, and what the fellowship of believers accomplished in the life of those who followed the Way.
By the grace of God alone Edna was used as one of God’s devoted sheep to share the hope with Karim. Today, Karim is an LCMS Pastor and one of those devoted sheep, who ministers in Texas and goes around reaching out to others especially Muslims in the name of the Friend, Jesus Christ.
In our readings today, Dr. Luke informs us of the birth of the Christian Church and what they did together as believers: “They devoted themselves to the teachings of the Apostles’, and to the fellowship, and to the Breaking of Bread, and the prayers.”
But what would make these followers of Jesus DEVOTED? Why in the midst of persecution of the Jewish religion they got together? What would cause them to be kept in the faith to persevere in this one true teaching?
In order for us to know the answers, we need to know who these men and women were. First, you have the disciples who had spent three years with a Devoted Shepherd who laid down His life for them all. They had seen this Devoted Shepherd care for the weak, and wicked, the evil and enemy, the hateful and hopeless. The Devoted Shepherd in His teaching while walking the dusty roads of Palestine showed them the true meaning of “devoted”. The Devoted Shepherd in His life and death was DEVOTED to seeking and saving the lost.
Second, these men and women had seen His death, but also had seen the Resurrected Shepherd Jesus Christ. They had been comforted by His presence as He gave them His peace and gave them the command to go in His name and by His authority to seek and save the lost.
Third, because these disciples had seen and witnessed the life, death and resurrection of the Devoted Shepherd, they could not help but be devoted to the same cause of seeking and saving the lost. That devotion, was evident in these 4 pillars in the Church—Apostles’ teaching, Fellowship, Breaking of Bread and Prayers.
We who hold in our hands the Treasure of the Church—The Word of the Devoted Shepherd, Jesus Christ; can do no less. That Word will help us continue to be Devoted in the same manner as those who have gone before us. We remain devoted to the same cause and mission of the Devoted Shepherd. And the best way we can walk the walk and talk the talk is when we follow the formula that the early Christians left for us—to follow the Apostles’ teaching, Fellowship, Breaking of Bread and Prayers.
This is why we come week in and week out to this house of faith. For here in this place we listen to the Apostles’ teaching. Here we have fellowship with one another and learn the needs of others. Here we kneel at the Altar of the Devoted Shepherd and feed at His table by breaking bread and drinking His blood. Here we lift our voices to the throne of Grace in prayers—mine, yours and ours.
Here in this place we meet the Devoted Shepherd, the Good Shepherd Jesus Christ who reminds us and shows us how He was Devoted to searching for us, saving us, and securing our future. And the more time we spend in this setting the more we will be Devoted saints as those who have gone before us. The more time we spend living our lives immersed in the Apostles’ teaching, Fellowship, Breaking of Bread and Prayers; the more we get active in the lives of others because we care for them and don’t want to see them end up in hell.
Remember Edna the lady who asked the question of Karim? The Holy Spirit calls us to be like her. We are the Edna’s of the world seeking the lost to save them from eternal destruction of hell and sharing with them the love of Jesus. This we do because the LOVE of the Devoted Shepherd, Jesus Chris has proven Himself to us and want what is best for us. And because we care, we want to be a friend to someone else, not assuming that they know about Jesus, but getting involved in their lives and sharing with them that same love so that they may be faithfully devoted to the work and witness and will of the Devoted Shepherd Jesus Christ.
How important is it for us to be awash in the Apostles’ teaching? How important is the fellowship of fellow saints? How important is it for us to be fed by the broken bread and sip of wine that grants us the very body and blood of our Devoted Savior Jesus Christ? How important it is for us to be in His house, praying back to Him the very words of the Liturgy that comes from Holy Scripture itself? When Christians fail to allow their faith to be maintained by the Holy Spirit through God’s word and the Sacraments, faith begins to wear down. Love fades, and satan starts to have his way with us. But we have a Devoted Shepherd. He blazes the trail before us. From Cradle to Cross, Tomb and beyond, He is leading. He leads us to the fellowship of the Redeemed called the Church. He shows us the way that Devoted Sheep walk. They walk in the footsteps of their Shepherd now and always.
Devoted followers of Jesus Christ, the final verse of the text says it well: “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Did you catch that? Who is it that is adding and saving? It is the Devoted Shepherd. This is His church. These are His people. He calls them by the Good News of His Word. These are the people that He bought with His very own blood. Because He is DEVOTED to them, they, by grace through faith are devoted to Him. For today and forever. AMEN
Now the peace of God…