Peace in spite of fear, thanks to the resurrection

According to the liturgical calendar, we are still in the middle of the Easter season. And two further holidays are coming up: Ascension and Pentecost. A preview of what is coming up in our divine services in May.

What makes Easter so special? What are we supposed to commemorate? The resurrection of the Lord, new life, the proclamation of the glad tidings that promise salvation. This creates consolation and hope. This comforting Easter message wants to communicate itself also today, regardless of the living conditions of the individual.

First consolation: unity with Jesus

God exhorts us to produce the fruits of Easter. What more suitable parable could there be than the one of the vine and the branches which are all familiar with. In the fourth gospel it says: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15: 1, 2). Fruits of Easter are, for example, faith, love, and constancy. They must be the determining factors in our life—not only on Easter. The entire church is to produce fruit: unity, adoration, and prayer. He cleanses these fruits through His word, His grace, and the trials He sends. Two times three fruits plus cleansing makes: faith, love, constancy / unity, adoration, prayer / word, grace, trials—this is the calculation for the first Sunday in May.

Second consolation: victory with Christ

Self-examination is indispensable for Christians. Who actually rules in my heart? This question has to be answered. What is clear is that God gives the victory to those who have given Him room in their hearts in the first place. There are many powers who are opposed to the Lord. They carry biblical names such as Satan, Antichrist, evil, the adversary of Christ. It is everybody’s duty to defeat them. And victory with Christ is possible if God rules in our hearts.

Third consolation: peace in Christ

“Peace despite fear” is a challenging and ambitious topic on the third Sunday in May. The sermon aims to openly address the temptations and trials to which we are exposed, without leaving anyone helpless, perplexed, or even hopeless. The service will again be based on a word in John: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33). For the disciples the events of Easter had a menacing side that left them feeling abandoned. Their Lord and Master had left them! It was incomprehensible. Only when the Risen One returned to the group and greeted them with, “Peace be with you,” were they happy once more. All of a sudden they understood: peace, security, and salvation can only be found in Christ. Fear in the world is unfounded if there is true faith in Jesus, who has overcome evil and bridged the gulf separating man from God.

Ascension

In this state—fear in the world, joy over the resurrection, nearness of the Risen Lord—Christians once again remember the Lord’s ascension. Jesus Christ ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of God. There He acts as Mediator for human beings and defends them before God. He does not play sin down, but elevates the sinner! That is help of the highest kind!

Fourth consolation: the coming of the Spirit

On the last Sunday in May we will begin with the transition to the Pentecost season and focus on the anticipation of the Holy Spirit. “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16: 7).

Four Sundays in May, four services that focus on consolation, four Bible texts from John, and the feast of Ascension—this is what New Apostolic congregations can expect this month.



Photo: Tomasz Zajda

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Peter Johanning
1.05.2017
Divine service, Congregational life