Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Theme: “The Blessing of Unity (Psalm 133:1)

S-1381-16SAP/C 9/13/2013 Hymns: (O) #; (S) #783; (C) #

Texts: Psalm 133

Theme: “The Blessing of Unity (Psalm 133:1)

This sermon will be preached at the International Center (IC) Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in St. Louis on Friday September 13, for the Council Of Presidents and Presidium. I will be dressed in my Arabic outfit.

1. Have two plates: one will have onions, radishes, horseradish, garlic and bitter herbs. And the second will have Cheese cake, Chocolate delicacy, Ted Drew’s, pecan pie.

2. I will read it in the Hebrew and emphasize the difference between Naeem = pleasant, vetov = good, cf. Marra = bitterness. In the sense that bitterness makes our noses run and eyes teary. But the sweetness puts a smile on our face and causes our eyes to glow.

Beloved in Christ, what joy and privilege to be among you today. I am honored to be among ROYALTY! You are sons and daughters of the King of the Universe and the Creator of the world; yes you are princess and princesses and heirs to the highest throne in the land. PAUSE.

Did you know that God has a good sense of humor? He really does! The more I study the Scriptures the more it causes me to laugh and know that God puts joy in our hearts. I will explain and demonstrate this humor. Who am I? What am I? I’m a Palestinian by nationality. I’m an Arab by race and Christian by grace. And yet, God chooses me, a Palestinian to serve in a Church with such deep German roots. To be sure God has a good sense of humor. In a Church with such deep German roots He chooses a Palestinian to be one of the Vice-Presidents. Go figure.

The Psalmist, David, proclaims in Psalm 133:1 “Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Unity in terms of concord is essential in day to day operations. With all Christians we have “unity” rooted in faith in Christ but not concord. Paul in Ephesians 4 exhorts the Christians at Ephesus to express their unity in Christ with a life of concord, making allowances for one another, but growing in Christ’s love. Where the fullness of Christ’s gospel dwells in us, the more we dwell in unity, concord, one accord....unity, that is, its expression in concord, unity takes humility and maturity....it means striving by the mercy of God to relate everything we do to the person and work of Jesus and His gospel and doing this in love. Paul in Ephesians four “begs, pleads, and urges” the Christians by the mercy of Christ to live out the implications of their baptism, daily drowning the Old Adam and daily allowing the passion of Christ to refresh others like the Mountain Dew (not soda pop) of Mt. Herman.

Brothers in Christ, you who are baptized in His name, know this truth, unity is important among us. Unity is what binds us together to accomplish the work of the Church, on the local, state, national and international level. By being united, we are able to accomplish much in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a world that desperately needs to hear of His suffering, death and glorious resurrection and be His followers.

Indeed, it is the great pleasure of walking together—hand in hand and doing the ministry together that helps us spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and bring Him among us. This is living the Great Commission to the ends of the earth. This is why this Synod exists; this is why we have Districts, circuits and churches around the states and the world. The prophet Amos asks a most compelling question. “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). If we walk together, then much will be done. If on the other hand, we don’t walk together, we are walking opposite each other. And the work of the church will not be carried out. When that happens, death and demise is just around the corner. I share with you two stories that highlight unity and disunity.

Most of you have heard of Custer’s last stand. George Armstrong Custer, on June 25, 1876, divided 12 companies of the 7th U.S. Cavalry into three battalions. Captain Frederick Benteen would command one group, Major Marcus Reno would command another, and Custer would take the third. You know history well enough to know not one survived. They were all clobbered because they were not united but divided. PAUSE.

However, having served the beloved South Dakota District all of my ministry and all of these years in a very small community, I share another story that brings joy into my heart and demonstrates what happens when we are united, and the blessings it brings.

In the 750 persons community that I live in, an incident happened that shows what unity does to a person, family and community. A farmer had a motorcycle accident that caused both of his legs to be amputated at the knees. This farmer was in the hospital for a long time and couldn’t do any work for over a year +. When the church found out about it, they devised a plan to help. The word went out and all of the farmers brought their combines, tractors, and trucks and began to harvest. It was a beautiful sight to see the combines stretching across the fields one right next to each other. All of the trucks were lined up waiting to be to be loaded. They hauled the crops to the grain bins, dried them and stored them. And the ladies fed everybody. This event brought everyone closer and got the job done. And oh, the laughter, camaraderie and the joy was contagious…even the exhaustion at the end of the day knowing someone’s life had been changed. That is unity and its blessings. PAUSE.

Beloved in the Lord and fellow foot washers. When you came into this room there were two different plates before you. Of the two which would you choose? {wait for responses}

I would venture to guess that almost all of you would choose the one with the sweetness in it. Because you would rather eat something sweet rather than something bitter. If this illustration demonstrates the truth, then that great shepherd boy, David said it correctly and teaches us the blessings of being united: .יָחַד-גַּם אַחִים שֶׁבֶת--נָּעִים-וּמַה ,טּוֹב-מַה הִנֵּה  “How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity.” It is therefore time for us as leaders of this BELOVED Synod to extend the olive branch of service, love and caring for others, so that we don’t give the devil an opportunity to disrupt and disturb the work of the Gospel.

By the grace of God extend your hand of love to your brother. Don’t look at your brother as your enemy. He is not and she is not. She is redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. He has been saved through the cross the empty tomb just like you and me. Realize the only enemy we have is satan who wants to distract us from doing the work God called us to do.

I don’t care if you don’t do things like me, or you don’t agree with me on every point. For the love of God you are different. Just because I don’t do what you do, or you don’t do what I do, that doesn’t mean it is wrong. It just means we are different. God has gifted His church with different people with different gifts. By the power of the Holy Spirit use the gifts the Lord has given YOU for your brother’s benefit and for the glory of God.

However, what I do care about is the spread of the Gospel for lost sinners. I care about walking together in unity and that you would stand by me, take my hand and walk with me on the journey of life. When I am walking with you hand in hand, my journey is joyful and my burden is light. I am not so consumed with defending myself, or have to be afraid of what I will say or do. Instead, I would be joyfully supporting, uplifting and praying for you that the Lord of the Church would use you where you are planted. United together in life, in mission and in ministry, we can accomplish much for the sake of the Lord and His Church. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we need to stand in the gap and support each other. We need to encourage each other on the journey of following Christ. By the Spirit’s power, you and I who have been baptized for the moment breathe strength into one another and bear each other up. That is unity. That is the blessing of being united as brothers and sisters in Christ. PAUSE.

Saints in Christ, please remember that our unity is not based on our account of being German or Palestinian, Norwegian or Irish, not because we are Scriptural vs. confessional, not because we are doctrinal vs. evangelical, not because we are in a church office or the mission field, not because we are pastors or lay leaders, not because we are presidents of Districts, Synod or vice-president, or because we serve the church as foot washers. No, our unity is because we have been baptized in the name of Christ, because we have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light, because of His precious and sweet Gospel, but above all, because of His crimson blood shed on Calvary’s cross. Our unity is based on the cross and the empty tomb of Jesus our Savior. Our unity is based on His love for us—sinners.

{Here, I will ask the vice-presidents to please stand up and receive from me a cross. Then they will go around the room and hand out the crosses to the SAINTS in the room}

Today, beloved brothers and foot washers, you are receiving a cross. That cross and the empty tomb is what unites us together in mission, in ministry and our life together. On the cross is a dove—for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the only reason we are united. Through its grace and teaching we learn of what it means to be united and live out our lives in the prayer of Jesus in John 17 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their Word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that you have sent Me” (21-22).

That is the unity that unites us together—salvation in Jesus our Savior. May God grant it for His sake now and always. Amen.

Now the peace…


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