Pul­pit Notes

The Covington News - - Religion -

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-

rene

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

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