“Acts of Witness, Mercy, Life Together” (Acts 4:32-35)

Second Sunday of Easter
April 15, 2012

“Acts of Witness, Mercy, Life Together” (Acts 4:32-35)

As many of you may know, for the last couple of years our Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has been organizing its work under the banner of “Witness, Mercy, Life Together.” You can see the symbol that is being used for this emphasis on your bulletin insert, encircled by those three terms. But this is more than a slogan in a marketing campaign. No, “Witness, Mercy, Life Together” really describes what the church does, whether on the national and international levels, as our synod operates, or on the local level, as, for instance, here at our own congregation.

“Witness, Mercy, Life Together”: I guess first we should define what we mean by these terms and how they’re being used. “Witness” means the testimony that is given, specifically, telling the good news about Jesus–bearing witness to Christ and the salvation that is found in him. “Mercy” is the term used to cover works of Christian love and service that benefit persons in need in a very practical way. And “Life Together” refers to the church’s common life as brothers and sisters in Christ, our unity as God’s family in the life that we share.

Now turn again to your bulletin insert, to the other side, and you’ll see a symbol for each one of these three terms, along with a corresponding Greek term from the New Testament. For “Witness” you see the Greek word “Martyria,” because “Witness” or “Testimony” is how that word is always translated. Next you see the word “Diakonia,” which is generally translated not as “Mercy” but as “Service.” However, “Diakonia” still is a good word to associate with the church’s works of mercy, since “diaconal” ministry is practical service done for the neighbor in need. Finally, you see the word “Koinonia,” “Fellowship,” the “Common Life,” the “Life Together” that the church shares. “Witness, Mercy, Life Together”: “Martyria, Diakonia, Koinonia.” Whichever way you say it, these words describe what we do and how we live as Christ’s church.

But then this is nothing new. In the Book of Acts, we see a church that can be characterized by those very same words. You know, we refer to that particular book of the New Testament as “The Book of Acts” or “The Acts of the Apostles.” But what kind of “Acts” were they? As we look at our text today, I think we will see that these “Acts” are “Acts of Witness, Mercy, Life Together.”

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Published in: on April 15, 2012 at 6:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Witness, Mercy, Life Together: Our Life as Church” (Acts)

Seventh Sunday of Easter
June 5, 2011

“Witness, Mercy, Life Together: Our Life as Church” (Acts)

“Witness, Mercy, Life Together”: This is the threefold emphasis now being used for our national church body, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. “Witness, Mercy, Life Together” has also served well as the basis for our sermon series here at St. Matthew’s this Easter season. We have seen these themes emerge in our readings from the Book of Acts, for “Witness, Mercy, Life Together” can be said to characterize the life of the early church. But not only so, these aspects of the early church’s life are true for us as well. And so our series wrap-up today: “Witness, Mercy, Life Together: Our Life as Church.”

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Published in: on June 4, 2011 at 10:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Witness, Mercy, Life Together: The Case of Stephen” (Acts 6:1-9; 7:2a, 51-60)

Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 22, 2011

“Witness, Mercy, Life Together: The Case of Stephen” (Acts 6:1-9; 7:2a, 51-60)

“Witness, Mercy, Life Together”: This is an emphasis right now for our Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, since the work of our national church body can be gathered under these three headings. In connection with this, our synod is using the New Testament Greek words associated with these aspects of the church’s life: Martyria, “Witness,” the bold testimony that Christians give to their Savior, often in the face of hostility and persecution. Diakonia, literally “Service,” but especially, service in the form of works of “Mercy.” And third, Koinonia, “Fellowship,” or to put it another way, the church’s “Life Together.” Martyria, Diakonia, Koinonia: “Witness, Mercy, Life Together.”

Now on these Sundays of the Easter season, we’re reading the lessons from the Book of Acts, and we’re seeing running through them these three themes, Witness, Mercy, and Life Together. Many of these readings show the church bearing witness to Christ’s death and resurrection–Martyria. In some of the readings, we see the church’s service of mercy to those in need–Diakonia. And some of the readings give us a picture of the church’s life together–Koinonia. Now the interesting thing about today’s reading, from Acts 6 and 7, is that in this one lesson, all three themes come together. They come together specifically in and around a man by the name of Stephen. And so today’s message, “Witness, Mercy, Life Together: The Case of Stephen.”

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Published in: on May 22, 2011 at 1:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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“Koinonia: The Church’s Life Together” (Acts 2:42-47)

Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 15, 2011

“Koinonia: The Church’s Life Together” (Acts 2:42-47)

During this Easter season, we’re tracking the readings from the Book of Acts, under the theme, “Witness, Mercy, Life Together.” Witness: The church bearing verbal witness to Christ the Savior. Mercy: The church showing the compassion of Christ in serving people in need. Life Together: The church being the fellowship, the family, that Christ has formed for himself. We see each of these aspects of the church’s life well on display here in the Book of Acts.

The last couple of weeks, the readings have focused on “Witness,” the church boldly proclaiming the word of God in the world. Last week, for example, we heard Peter proclaim both Law and Gospel in his sermon on Pentecost Day, calling sinners to repentance and to faith and forgiveness in Christ. Today, then, we see the results of that witness. The proclamation of the gospel, which brought many people to believe and be baptized–the gospel witness leads to a church being formed. The church: a community of faith with Christ at the center. The believers live their lives in community, formed and held together by the gospel and the sacraments. This common life, this fellowship–the Greek word for it is “koinonia.” And so our theme this morning, “Koinonia: The Church’s Life Together.”

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Published in: on May 14, 2011 at 11:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Witnesses Worthy of the Name” (Acts 5:29-42)

Second Sunday of Easter
May 1, 2011

“Witnesses Worthy of the Name” (Acts 5:29-42)

Today we begin a series of sermons based on readings from the Book of Acts. Recently many of you went through a several-month-long Bible study on the Book of Acts, and hopefully that will still be somewhat fresh in your mind. In any case, I think it will be timely and helpful for us to reflect on these glimpses of life in the early church, for in many ways the time of the early church, the conditions they faced, parallels the situation of the church in our day. They lived in a world that was either hostile toward, or ignorant of, the Christian faith. And so do we. Most importantly, the church in the first century and the church in the twenty-first also have this in common: We have the same mighty Lord, the same Savior, the same power and blessing from on high, to give us life and to guide our mission.

We will gather these sermons under the theme, “Witness, Mercy, Life Together.” If those words sound familiar, that is because they are an emphasis for the church that is being raised by our synod’s president. But “Witness, Mercy, Life Together”–those words are not merely a catchy slogan or a slick program. No, rather, witness, mercy, and life together are living realities for the church in any century, in any place. These are perennially relevant aspects of the church’s life and work, because the church is connected to Christ, and thus these truths will never change. Witness, Mercy, Life Together–we will see these themes emerge throughout this whole series on the Book of Acts.

In today’s text, the aspect of “Witness” comes out the strongest: the apostles bearing witness to the name of Christ, even in the face of strong opposition and hostility. And so our theme this morning: “Witnesses Worthy of the Name.”

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Published in: on May 1, 2011 at 12:07 am  Leave a Comment  
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