Wednesday, November 16, 2011

“Being With Jesus—Living on the Edge!” (Philippians 4:12-14) LWML SUNDAY

S-1274 16SAP/3C 10/02/11 Hymns (O) #813; S#770; (C) # 850

Text: Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 3:4-14; Matthew 21:33-46

Theme: “Being With Jesus—Living on the Edge!” (Philippians 4:12-14) LWML SUNDAY

Question: “Are you living on the edge?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 16th Sunday after Pentecost and the observation of LWML Sunday is the Epistle lesson: “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:12-14).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

Today, as we observe and give thanks for the ministry of the LWML, I remind you of who you are—God’s precious and beloved ones. PAUSE. There are many people who are living on the edge in our world today. Economically, we have families who are living on the edge, one step away from foreclosure and financial ruin. Personally, we have people who are living on the edge in their relationships with family. Even in the midst of a crowd they feel alone and lonely. Even our kids are experiencing this. Have you noticed that the numbers of kids who sign up to play traditional sports is on its way down? But at the same time the number of children who try to ride their skateboard down the handrail at the local park is on its way up! It appears that many people are living on the edge. Some are doing it out of necessity. Others are living on the edge out of a craving for excitement. Instead of seeking points and victories, they seek the thrill of the experience. Living on the Edge has become a way of life any more.

And there are few in Scripture that were truly living on the edge—like Paul the Apostle. We first meet him as the young Pharisee. He studied on the cutting edge of Jewish theology with the great Rabbi Gamaliel. He was on the cutting edge of the sword of persecuting the early Church. But then, after a confrontation with the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, there was a complete turnaround. This man from Tarsus still lived on the edge; but not like before—to oppose the Gospel of Christ, but for the Spread of the Gospel.

And live on the edge Paul did! As he took the Gospel into what is now modern day Turkey and Greece he was opposed on every side. He was arrested. He was beaten. He was stoned. He was left for dead. There were those who plotted to defame him, desecrate him, destroy him and put him to death. He survived snake bites and ship wrecks. And all of this because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Paul could have easily avoided all of this hassle and headache. All he needed to do was take the easy way out. He could have stayed in his comfortable life of leadership within the Jewish Community in Jerusalem. In the text for today he recounts his status: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. He could have piled up accolades and accomplishments. But to do that wasn’t what God had in mind. He was to be the mouth piece of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! For St. Paul, the call to live a faithful life was a call to live on the edge and being with Jesus!

Why? What would make a man of potential position and prestige give it all up to endure what St. Paul endured? He himself gives us the answers as he tells the Philippians: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

More than anything, Paul wanted to be with Jesus. In the earlier chapter of this book, he wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil. 1:21-23). Paul wanted to live for and serve Jesus with every fiber of his being. And that is exactly what he did! Remember where Paul is when he pens these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit! He is sitting in a Roman prison awaiting execution by beheading. He knows that the appeals are running out; and soon the sword would come crashing down to end his time in this world. Yet, even as Paul lives on the edge of life and death, he writes such grand words of hope and faith! He can only live this life on the edge when he knows that Jesus is in control! PAUSE.

That is the very same call that falls to every Christian. You and I have had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ. Ours was not on a road to Damascus. Our encounter happened in the waters of Holy Baptism. It was there that we were confronted by Jesus in our sin and washed clean. From there we were given a path to follow and a mission to accomplish. That mission: To be with Jesus and live on the edge for Him!

And that is what we do. Now, we may not face the persecution that St. Paul faced. I know that I have not been beaten with rods because I am a follower of Christ. I am not aware of any of you who have been arrested and tried for preaching Christ in the streets. There are many aspects of Paul’s life on the edge that are unique to him. But that does not mean that our lives are not meant to be on the edge! For you see, when we are called to faith in Christ we put on the cutting edge of the conflict between a sinful world that is dying and the hope that is eternal. Jesus would tell us that the world would hate us because we are with Him and live for Him.

This is where our living on the edge takes place. It takes place when the Holy Spirit helps us to make the correct choice of standing with Jesus. Maybe it means choosing to not participate in office gossip. Perhaps it means going out of your way to reach out to someone that the crowd has labeled an outsider. It could mean choosing a career path that uses your God-given gifts and talents for service rather than wealth and reputation building. Perhaps it is tenaciously pursuing the process of reconciliation and forgiveness in a relationship that the rest of the world would have long cast aside. Each of these and a million other examples are there to show us of the conflict that exists between the life of the world and life with Christ. We, as Christians are called to be with Jesus and to live on the edge!

And that is what the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League does. You may not know what the LWML is or how it works. But what I can tell you is that it is a group of committed Lutheran Christian Women that live on the edge for Jesus! When they are studying the Scriptures, serving a meal or gathering in their mites, it may not look like it is living on the edge, but they are! These women live and serve on the edge for the sake of Jesus and His Gospel. They take what they have and use it for the sake of reaching others with the saving Word of God. They use their many, mighty mites to fund missions and ministry here in our area, district and around the world. Right in our own congregation they have done many projects—quilting, sending cookies to Pastor Uttecht, hosting new members and new confirmed member and graduates—and remodeling the kitchen. Outside of our area, they have assisted in the process of translating the Bible into native languages of the world. They help fund missionaries and ministries. They help fund the study of future pastors and teachers. They do all this right here. PAUSE.

And it is time for each one of us to embrace what St. Paul calls us to in these words to the Philippians. Today is a call from God to recommit ourselves to living on the edge for Jesus. Know that our living on the edge for Jesus in not designed to seek thrills like those practice extreme sports. No, you and I are called to live on the edge to simply be faithful. The Lord has called us to this.

Last year a Pastor friend of mine Randy Ausbury was asked to teach in Kenya. While there, he met a young man—Frank. This is the life of Frank of living on the Edge.

Frank had been a soldier in a Civil War in Uganda. In combat, He and his comrades came under heavy fighting. Many of his comrades were killed in action. When it was clear that the battle was lost, he decided to give up the fighting rather than die. He threw his rifle down and lay between the bodies of his fallen brothers. As the enemy patrol got closer, they went from body to body shooting them and spearing them with their bayonets to make sure they were dead.  Somehow, Frank’s body was untouched. When the enemy left the camp, he got up and headed home and asked himself the question, “Why did God spare my life?” After some thinking about his life, he decided to enroll in the seminary and become a herald of God’s good news. He wanted to tell everyone about the Friend of sinners Jesus Christ.

Like Frank, You and I are also soldiers in a civil war. Our battle is not political but spiritual. It is a war between our sinful flesh and our Baptismal New Man. On our own, the battle is lost. However, God has in Christ, spared your life for the sake of the kingdom. Christ fought our battle, not a Civil War, but a fight to the death. He chose to live on the Edge by allowing others to crucify Him on the cross for our sins. He chose to lay His life, like Frank among dead people in a cold grave. But He also rose to give us a future and hope. The question we must ask now is the same as Frank’s. How does this sparing by God play out in our life and service? The answer: We are called to live on the edge for Jesus!

Today, as we observe and celebrate LWML Sunday we give thanks for all women who have lived their lives of being with Jesus and Living on the Edge. The LWML are living on the edge as stewards of the gifts the Lord bestows in mites and service. I, like Frank, have been called to the Office the Holy Ministry. You may be too. However, you also may be called to be a faithful servant right here. The place to find out about the life you are called to live on the edge is here: in the Lord’s house and around His table. Get into one of the many Bible Study opportunities. Seize an opportunity to serve! Not sure what to do? Try something! Offer your services to a caring organization, reach out to help families, help with Sunday School, volunteer with VBS. Indeed, there are so many ways that you can live on the edge for the sake of Christ. NOW is the time. AMEN.

Now the peace of God…


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