Welcome to Christ Lutheran Church and welcome if you’re listening on the radio-- we’re glad you’re with us!
In this new year of 2016, we’ve begun by looking at our CLC mission statement and asking how we can best fulfill our mission for the year ahead. The last part of the statement says that we ---“commit ourselves to joyfully proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ through: Living Worship, Growing Faith, Serving Fellowship, and Sending Saints.”
Today we look at that last phrase---sending saints
. Sending saints…..any saints here today? I know Stephanie’s a saint for having put up with me for 42 years!
We usually think of saints as only the best of the best of Christians---like the writers of our bible readings today---St Peter, St Mark. But that’s not really how the Bible defines “saints”. Basically in the Bible a saint is anyone who calls Jesus their Lord and savior.
Now of course some of those died for their faith. And it seems that somewhere in Christian history, saints came to be understood as only those who were martyrs for the faith, losing the fuller definition. But as with other matters, Martin Luther rediscovered the Biblical idea that the term “saint” is correctly applied to anyone who believes Jesus Christ is their Lord.
But we still struggle with that label of saint. How can ordinary Christians like you and me be saints? Well, Luther helps us there as well. He said that we are saint and sinners simultaneously. Which is not only true but is a great way to keep a proper view of ourselves.
On those days when we get puffed up by our achievements, our abilities, the recognition we receive---on those days it’s healthy for us to remember that we are still sinners, far from perfect, people who only can do anything good because of what the Lord has done for us and given to us.
But on those other days when we are burdened, even crushed by our failures, by the problems we have created for ourselves and others---those are the days that we must remember that we are saints, forgiven by God in Christ and through the Holy Spirit, able to leave the past behind for the hope of better times to come.
We are saints and sinners simultaneously. And Jesus knows that all too well, and yet he still calls us to be sent out to do his work. Jesus loves to send out saints to work at his Father’s business.Mark 3:13-15 “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.”
Jesus called them apostles, a word meaning someone sent out with a particular mission.
Mark 3:16-19 “These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”
Notice that is not a list of perfect people. Judas betrayed Jesus. Thomas doubted him. Peter denied Jesus 3 times. And yet Jesus still called them and sent them out. Jesus was sending saints out to do his Father’s work. And Jesus is still sending saints out to do his Father’s work!
And even though Peter failed Jesus many times, he became one of the foremost leaders of the early Christian church. Our first reading for this morning comes from the second letter that Peter wrote to help Christ’s people learn what their job was and how to do it.
And this second letter seems to come near the end of Peter’s life---
2 Peter 1:13-14 “I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.”
This letter is like Peter’s last will and testament, a chance for him to tell Christ’s people one last time what God wants them to know.
2 Peter 1:1 “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:”
Notice that Peter calls himself an apostle—one sent out by the Lord.2 Peter 1:2 “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
It is in knowing the Lord that grace and peace will fill their lives. And then Peter comes to his first point---
2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
His divine power has given us everything---Peter knows that his people and all people, you and me included, always need to be reminded that everything good comes from the Lord. We so easily slip into thinking it comes from us and our amazingness.
After all-we’ve studied and worked and saved and we’ve got every reason to pat ourselves on the back don’t we? No, not really---because whatever we do is secondary to the one who makes it all possible! Because the brains we’ve used to study and learn skills, come from the Lord. The bodies we use to work to earn a living, come from the Lord. The insight we use to save and grow our material blessings, comes from the Lord. And all our non-material blessings come from him as well.
2 Peter 1:4 “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
Through his gifts, the Lord has showed us how life works best. And when we reject the ways of the world, and follow his divine ways, we are part of the kingdom he is building.2 Peter 1:5-7 “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.”
It might sound like we have to produce these traits ourselves, but remember that Peter has already told us that everything comes from God. So these things like goodness, self-control and kindness are not ours, but they are something the Lord provides that we need to activate and put to use in our lives.2 Peter 1:8 “ For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. “
In other words, there is good reason to cultivate these traits in your life.2 Peter 1:10-11 “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
So how do we develop these traits that all saints, all apostles need? How do we “add to our faith” as Peter puts it?
Max Lucado says about our faith---“Supplement it, flesh it out. Being a Christian doesn’t mean believing and then just sitting around. Now that you have faith in God’s part, make every effort—that’s your part. That’s disciplines. That’s regular “holy habits”. That’s pacing yourself for the cross country run to your future.”
Says Henri Nouwen, “A spiritual life without discipline is impossible.”
A regular pattern, a discipline, of worship, reading the Bible, praying, and serving others adds to our faith that whole list of traits that Peters describes.
Saints don’t just get sent out with no preparation. The Lord provides all the supplies we need and he helps us and we help each other learn to activate and use them.
And Peter wants his people to know that this didn’t come from him but directly from the Lord.
2 Peter 1:16 “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
He says---I’m just an uneducated fisherman. You should know this doesn’t come from me!2 Peter 1:19 “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”
Christ is the Word made flesh—the word of the prophets made more certain
as Peter writes. Jesus is a light shining in a dark place until God’s kingdom is complete and God’s light will rise in the hearts of all his people.
This time of year you can probably relate to the image of light shining in a dark place. But if you think it’s dark here, you should live in Rjukan (Rukan ) Norway.
Rjukan is located in a deep valley in northern Norway and for about six months of the year, because of the direction of the valley and the height of the mountains, it gets no direct sun at all. For a long time there have been ideas about what to do and finally in 2013, a project was finished.
Giant mirrors were placed on top of the nearby mountain to reflect sunlight down into the town square.
Now townspeople can gather in the town square, in that reflected sunlight until that season of the year when the sun rises high enough to shine directly on them.
When the Lord sends his saints out into the world isn’t that what he’s calling us to be, reflectors of his light? At the end of our worship when we say “Let’s take the light of Christ into the world”, aren’t we saying that we are all saints taking Christ’s light with us, to reflect it to others?
The possibilities are endless. We can reflect Christ’s light on our spouse can’t we? We can reflect Christ’s light on our children, our neighbors, our co-workers.
We can reflect Christ’s light by being a friend to the young people around us. Talk with David about helping with our youth in LOGOS. Talk with Kari about reflecting Christ’s light on our children in FISH Sunday School.
You can reflect Christ’s light in far-away places like Ecuador or Columbia Falls. You can reflect his light here on Monday nights with Shepherd’s Hand Clinic.
Pastor John is just back from reflecting Christ’s light by serving on the board of the Institute of Lutheran Theology as they work to train the next generation of pastors.
The possibilities are endless. But wherever you find yourself, Christ wants to send you out as a saint to reflect his light into his world.
And we don’t provide the light. Remember what Peter said---2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
Everything comes from the Lord. We reflect what Christ shines on us.
In a spiritual sense, so many people, including us at times, live like they are in the village of Rjukan—mountains of dilemmas and worries keep the light of Christ from getting through. But God wants to send us out to act as his reflectors of Christ’s light.
Sunlight is essential for emotional and physical health. Standing in the light of Christ is essential for spiritual health. Thankfully, every one of us can reflect his light into the world’s dark places and situations.
And so our mission is clear---
“We commit ourselves to joyfully proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ through: Living Worship, Growing Faith, Serving Fellowship, and Sending Saints.”
Let’s reflect the light of Christ into our world.