It is essential that we understand God’s plan and purpose for the church. Our understanding of the church determines the shape of our Christian lives and the vision and passion of the ministries we offer to God. The church is more than a human institution. The church began with God.
The New Testament word for church is “ ekklesia,” which means “ the calledout, or separated ones.” The church lives in this world, but is called out to live for the purposes of God. In doing so, we are sent back into our world with the message of hope and salvation, as living witnesses.
In the Old Testament, God called his people into a covenant community, to hear from him, to follow him, and to teach his ways to each successive generation. He called them to experience his life, leadership, provisions and blessings.
First, this covenant community is based on history. God often reminded Israel of where he had brought them from, out of Egypt and slavery, liberating them ( Deuteronomy 5: 6). The mighty acts of God formed a story- line that was to be a part of their history and heritage, passing this story on from parents to children.
During the last supper, Jesus described the cup as the “ new covenant” in his blood, which was poured out for you ( Luke 22: 20). The new covenant is based on God’s gracious acts of the atoning death and resurrection of Christ. We too, have a great history and heritage and look back to the sacrifice of Christ as being central to our covenant community in the church today.
Secondly, this covenant community lives with obligations. The Ten Commandments and the Old Testament law were God’s expectations for his people. Today, we are
The church as a covenant community
saved by grace through faith in Christ, not by works or keeping the law. After we are saved, God has expectations of us to live in harmony with His word and in keeping with his teachings.
Thirdly, this covenant community has built- in blessings and consequences, for obeying or failing to obey the terms of the covenant God has set forth. Obedience or disobedience always brings either blessings or tragic consequences. God means what he says.
While we are no longer under law but under grace, we remain God’s covenant people. His new covenant, through Christ, calls us to a life of deep devotion and total commitment. We are the covenant community of Christ, sharing his love and life with a world who so desperately needs it.
the Rev. Wayne Rutherford LifePointe Church of the Naza-
The Right Way to Die
2 Timothy 4: 6- 13 What’s your death going to be like? Have you ever thought of that? What is the right way to die? God’s word for today gives us some guidance, as we see Paul facing his death. He said, “ The time has come for my departure.”
The word he uses there is such a beautiful one to consider as the Christian prepares to be taken on that journey to Jesus’ side. The word for departure is a word that means “ untying” — a word used to describe a ship’s releasing from the moorings holding it in port. It’s now free to sail. It’s also the word used for breaking up an encampment, untying the tent stakes. The temporary stay here is done. Paul is heading home. That’s the right way to die, remembering what death really is — a release.
And as he is ready for this release, notice how he views the life he’s lived. He said he’s “ fought the good fight” — never giving up. He’s “ finished the race,” and all of it while he has “ kept the faith.” That has so much to say to all of those decisions we make at the end, but you’ll have to check the full version of this sermon online to see some discussion on that.
Long story short, it means making all of our decisions with the truth of God’s word in mind, and then, Paul said, a crown of righteousness awaits — a crown of victory, a crown of perfection. But, if you’re like me, you know we would never deserve to wear such a crown. Just one decision that doesn’t put God first and we’ve lost.
But then again, Paul’s sin list was pretty intense too, and he said that he gets a crown. Why? Because it isn’t a crown we win. It isn’t a crown we earn. It’s a crown our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has stored up for us that he wants to give us, because he earned it.
You see, Jesus was poured out like a drink offering, a completely pure and perfect drink offering. He let his sacrificial blood flow all over that altar called Golgotha. He wore the crown of our thorns to give us the crown of his victory.
And he could do that because he ran our race, the course of perfection that we were supposed to run, he finished it. At that great sacrifice of atonement, he declared it finished. Then he bowed his head and gave up his Spirit. But death couldn’t keep him. Because our sins were paid for, that crown of thorns became a crown of triumph and he rose to give us each that crown of righteousness that we will wear the moment we are untied from the moorings of this life and set sail for an eternity of heaven. That is the right way to die, having finished the race we run because Jesus won. Amen.
the Rev. Jonathan E. Scharf Abiding Grace Lutheran Church