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October 16, 2022

Living as God's Child in the Church

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Placed for a Purpose - Fall 2022 Stewardship Series Category: Biblical Scripture: Luke 18:1–8

The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

October 16, 2022

Luke 18:1-8

 Fall Stewardship Series – Week 2

“Placed for a Purpose: Living as God’s Child in the Church”

We began our 4-week fall stewardship series, “Placed for a Purpose,” last Sunday, lifting up the concept of vocation. We learned that this is not just something for church workers, nor is it merely our job that pays the bills. It is where God has placed us in life – that is our calling. Luther identified three primary estates, or places, in life where we live and serve in Jesus’ Name: the church, the state, and the home. The stewardship of our selves, our time, and our possessions focuses on these three areas so that the Name of the Lord may be glorified in our lives and that we may serve the needs of our neighbor, who is Christ in our midst. Today our focus is on the first of those three estates which Luther identifies: the church. Based on today’s Gospel lesson, the theme for the message is “Living as God’s Child in the Church.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

So what does living in the church as God’s child look like? That’s a very good question! It certainly looks like what we’re doing right now: gathering for worship around Word and Sacrament with our prayers and praises. It begins with our Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, where we are marked with the cross of Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit for life eternal. Baptism ushers us into a new definition of family – the family of believers where God is our Father, and we are brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s where living as God’s child in the church begins. If you’ve ever served on a church board or committee; if you’ve ever served as an officer in the congregation or taught Sunday School; sung in the choir; helped with altar care; provided food for a funeral luncheon; baked for the craft fair; visited the sick, hospitalized or homebound; contributed to the needs of others on Share Sunday or with holiday baskets or the Christmas wishes tree; helped fix what’s broken or not working inside and outside the church building; or any one of a thousand other things – this is what living as God’s child in the church looks like. It is love active in service, all in response to the love which God in Christ has first shown to us. As Scripture so simply puts it: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). All of these things that we do are not a “got to,” motivated by the Law and guilt, but a “get to,” motivated by the Gospel, the good news of Jesus, and the joy and freedom we have in him. It is the love of Jesus that is at the heart of living as God’s child in the church.

Today’s Old Testament lesson (Genesis 32:22-30) as well as the Gospel lesson (Luke 18:1-8) tell us about persistence in faith. In the Old Testament lesson, Jacob wrestled not with a mere man, but with the Lord God himself, striving with him throughout the entire night. Jacob refused to let go until he blessed him. Following that great persistent struggle, Jacob limped away with a blessing, but also with a new identity. His name became Israel, meaning “he strives with God.” That persistence is seen again in the Gospel lesson as Jesus tells a parable about a widow who continually comes before a judge seeking justice against her adversary. Even though the judge grants the widow’s request for less than noble reasons, through this Jesus reminds us of this blessed truth: “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily” (Luke 18:b-8a). Part of living as God’s child in the church means that we also are called to this holy persistence; to persevere in faith. Sometimes it may feel like what we’re doing just isn’t making any difference. We’re not feeling the “joy, joy, joy down in my heart.” Like Jacob, we also may struggle with the Lord in the wee hours of the night; wrestling in prayer and seeking the Lord’s blessing. But maybe there’s a different way to look at this. Instead of struggling in the faith, what if we turn that around into “faith in the struggle?” That gives new perspective. In the midst of our struggles, we all need encouragement and strength from fellow believers to live as God’s child in the church. We cannot look into another person’s heart and know what is there. We don’t always know what burdens and distresses fellow believers may be shouldering in life. In the midst of life’s challenges and circumstances, there may be those among us who feel like they’re going down. We can help one another here. Jacob wasn’t the only one in Scripture whose name was changed. In the book of Acts, a man named Joseph sold a field that he had, and brought the money to the apostles to be used for good in the life of the early church. Later on, he would accompany Paul the apostle on some of his missionary journeys. His original name was Joseph, but he came to be called Barnabas by the apostles, which means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). And that’s what we are called to be as well: Barnabas, a son of encouragement, a daughter of encouragement. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, that word of encouragement and support, that expression of care and concern, that we give to one another becomes an incredible blessing as we live as God’s children in the church. Who do you know that’s in need of some encouragement? How can you reach out to be a Barnabas? Having been placed for a purpose within the church, we understand that living as God’s child in the church is part of our life of stewardship.

Jesus’ closing words in today’s Gospel lesson are a sober reminder that we cannot take faith for granted: Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8). The stewardship of faith itself is our highest calling in this life so that the precious trust we have in all that God in Christ has done for us may be built up and strengthened day by day, week by week, year by year throughout our entire life’s journey. Living as God’s child in the church is an incredibly great privilege and blessing. I commend to your prayer and discernment the email that went out to the congregation late last week concerning support of the faith-building ministry and mission of our congregation that involves each and every one of us. Please give this your attention and respond accordingly as you are led by the Spirit.

That holy persistence and perseverance in faith that we hear of in today’s Old Testament and Gospel lessons is echoed in today’s Epistle lesson (2 Timothy 3:14-4:5). Paul the apostle encourages the young pastor, Timothy, with words that are a reminder to all of us of what it means to live as God’s child in the church: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).

Join us next Sunday as our fall stewardship series, “Placed for a Purpose,” continues with the focus on “Living as God’s Child in the State. Amen.