Saturday, September 28, 2013

175 Anniversary Sermon

Throughout this year of celebration we have recognized those from among us who were confirmed in the faith here at Friedheim. We have been honored by former pastors who faithfully served us. Sons of the congregation who have entered into full time kingdom work have returned and visited us.

Many are here today because they were simply born here.  Families can trace their roots six, seven, and sometimes eight generations. There is something to be said about being content. In staying. You have given us a heritage. And stability.

The District office has closed its bookstore. We now have to purchase Communion supplies from other vendors. About a month ago, I found a Christian Bookstore in Ft. Wayne and had to fill out an application for them to bill us when we ordered communion supplies and Sunday school material. The conversation went as follows…

Vendor: What is the name of your church?
Me: Zion Friedheim Lutheran Church
How do you spell Freed… what was that?
Me: F.R.I.E.D.H.E.I.M…it’s German…it means “house of peace”
Vendor: Oh, that’s precious!
Me: Thank you!
Vendor: And the address…
Me:…“N” as in North…5.50…”W” as in West…Decatur, IN. 46733
Vendor: Oh, you must be out in the country
Me: It’s not the end of the world…but you can see it from your front porch!
Vendor: I like that!
Me: Thank you!
Vendor: And your Federal ID number
Me: I gave it to her
Vendor: And when was your church stated?
Me: February 25, 1838
Vendor: You mean 1938…right?
Me: No…1838
Vendor: Oh my…that’s…a problem…the computer won’t let me…I can only go back as far as 1900
Me: February 25, 1938…not to worry…so we’re 100 years off…who’s counting?
Vendor: I’ve never had a church that old…many of our churches we partner with…are out of business within six months…
Me: We’ve passed the test of time!  

People of God…we’ve passed the test of time! But It’s important to remember- there are truths which are timeless. There is a form to our worship and a formality, which has been handed down from previous generations. There are timeless truths, which come from God’s Holy Word. They are beyond time.

Today, we acknowledge a group from among ourselves who are in a class all their own. These are the ones from among our midst who actually made the conscious decision to come here. They are members of our Friedheim family by choice.  This makes them unique.

A 175th Anniversary celebration happens only once. It is a moment in time – a time for each of us to dedicate ourselves to the tasks the Savior has placed before us. May the Savior richly bless the fellowship at Friedheim. 

The Mission of Zion Friedheim Lutheran Church is to be “A 21st Century Parish with a 1st Century Faith.”  Dr. Luke describes the 1st Century believers in Acts 2:42 when he says, “And they continued steadfast in the Apostles’ doctrine, and in fellowship, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayer.”  

Of all the passages in the New Testament Scriptures this passage alone is able to articulate what you as a parish find as your focus. What will be said of the mission and ministry of Zion Friedheim Lutheran Church?
I am convinced that when a congregation like Zion works together in a cooperative ministry of Word, Sacrament, Prayer and Fellowship, things soon begin to happen. That is what Dr. Luke tells us of the New Testament church in the 1st Century and that is what is needed now in our 21st Century.

The Vision of our Friedheim family is for us to be one with respect to four specific objectives of mission and ministry.

Ø  First, there is the use of God’s Sacred Word

Being one in unity and faith.  That is to read and study daily God’s Holy Word and then apply their lives to His Word. When you begin to do that people will know that you truly are Christians.

Basing our lives on God’s Holy Word as He speaks clearly to us through that Word we are then able to go out into the world to be witnesses of His mercy and grace. Remember the statement give by St. Paul, “I determine to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

From the Gospel lesson for this day we must always remember the greatest miracles will have no effect on men’s hearts if they will not believe God’s word. This relates to the main point of the story, which emphasizes the importance of heeding the Word of the Lord and not depending upon some sort of miracle in the end. What if a miracle doesn’t come? Do we throw up our hands and walk away from the Lord? Do we refuse to believe God’s message because He didn’t prove Himself with a miracle?  No, we remain faithful in every circumstance. Regardless of the outcome. We remain faithful to Christ. Period! We remain faithful to Christ in time and in eternity!

Ø  The 1st Century church was also a people in fellowship

Being one in the Lord Jesus Christ. They were all one in the Lord. That’s not just the ladies society, or the men’s group, or the youth group, and the like, but whole families gathering together in Christ.

They experienced true joy in Christ.  Joy happens and becomes contagious when you are one in the Lord. I ask you, has this church ever mentioned themselves lately as being one in the Lord Jesus Christ? This is who you truly are as brothers and sisters in Christ. A wise pastor put it best when he said, “last names cease when you enter the church door.” Enjoy each other; encourage each other in the name of the Lord. 

Fellowship happens when you live at peace with each other. This is seen how you love and care for each other.  That is to say, you really enjoy each other’s company and friendship. Embrace this anniversary year but even more, I say to you, make it continue!  Live in that company as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ!

Ø  The Church was one in the Breaking of Bread            

That’s not just dinners as some might think. But it is rather what I like to refer as, Sacramental living. Experiencing daily the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation as Christ comes to us in and through the Sacraments.

Coming as one in fellowship here at the Lord’s Table to be one in fellowship and unity of faith. Eating His Body and drinking His Blood as witnesses of our Savior. I call it, “proclamation living.”  Christians become unified as they gather at the foot of the cross Sunday after Sunday; confessing, proclaiming and living this faith.

Ø  The Church was one with respect to Prayer

You need to uphold one another in fervent prayer. Churches need to pray.  The needs here at Friedheim are many. We need to pray daily.  Without daily prayer, your pastor and any other pastor that might come to you in the future could never minister as they ought.

In prayer you as brothers and sisters in Christ uphold one another. Here we take our needs, burdens, joys and sorrows to the throne room of grace. And we’re thankful- as the Savior answers each petition.

St. Paul put it this way, We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. 2 Corinthians 4:8-12

When you are low, weak, vulnerable you think to yourself, all men are liars!  Satan is placing you under attack. But behind all this, God is still in control! God is constantly working for us. Even in the midst of loneliness, and isolation. Though it is foreign to His nature, He allows us to go through these tough times to destroy our self-confidence and complacency and reduce us to nothing so that in our despair and humiliation we reach out to the only one who can save us which, of course, is Jesus!  Look solely to Christ and the cross! There alone is hope. There alone is assurance. There alone is confidence. There alone is forgiveness. There alone is life. Now and forever! Hard times will not last forever. In Christ you are loved…and you are free!

You know, I once read that the average church-goer prays only one to two minutes daily! Imagine, one or two minutes in conversation with God! 

The result of church growth in God would be and it has been in most cases minimal at best. Zion congregation - BE A HOUSE OF PRAYER! 

Become a church- were we just don’t talk to God- but a church were we praise and rejoice in His name.
Become a church- where we just don’t come to a worship service- but a church where in service we worship God. 

I say to you, enjoy the Savior, and enjoy what He has given to you; that is each other- and live in that faith and hope that we all have in Christ Jesus.

Martin Luther, I believe, put it best, when he describes for us what it means to confess our belief in Christ and to be a part of a family called the church…

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.

In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.

On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.

This is most certainly true! And that my friends, is why you celebrate this day.  May God bless our Friedheim family now and always. In Jesus’ Name. Amen

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