Gratitude – service – Holy Communion: the focus of our sermons in March

According to the liturgical calendar, Christians are currently observing Lent, a period of fasting and penitence that ends shortly before Easter. Soon we will be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, reason enough to reflect on all that God means to us and does for us.

The sermon on Sunday, 8 March 2020 will be based on the fascinating story from Luke about the ten lepers that had come to the Lord. The disease had disfigured them. He told them to be clean and they were cured of their leprosy. But what happened then? Only one of them came back to thank the Lord. The others went their way and were seen no more: “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” Today we would say that it was ungrateful and arrogant of the nine to just leave. The ten men healed by Jesus had every reason to show gratitude to their benefactor, considering He had helped them out of their isolation and back into a normal life. And yet they forgot the most natural thing: to say thank you. Was this a consequence of their being so preoccupied with themselves?

There is more to this Bible verse than just a fascinating story. In fact, it is an appeal to us readers or listeners to look into our own hearts! How do we thank the Lord? The answer rings clear: our gratitude is also expressed in the fact that we trust God and follow Jesus Christ. He is the Saviour of the world and not the healer of our sicknesses.

Testifying of the gospel

The sermon on the third Sunday will explore the power of God’s word. The word of God causes us to witness the gospel and proclaim it in word and deed. God has chosen us to be His witnesses. Even under difficult circumstances God makes sure that His word has the desired effect: it is an active force! In fact, the proclamation of the gospel is never in vain, even though many things have changed in the church and in the world around us.

Dare to serve one another

On the fourth Sunday of March the sermon already points to the Passion of Jesus Christ: Good Friday, the day commemorating the Lord’s death, and Easter, the feast commemorating His resurrection, are coming up. We human beings do not always understand everything immediately. Sometimes we need a little longer to grasp something, other times we are not able to relate to things at all. Simon Peter, the disciple of the Lord, also had such moments in which he just could not understand the will of God: “Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, are You washing my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.’ Peter said to Him, ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’”

“What is there to understand about this,” we might ask today. Well, Jesus washing His disciples’ feet was far more than a traditional rite performed before sitting down to eat. Here Jesus gave His disciples an example of sincere, inner service. Particularly in His last hours, Jesus would have had reason enough to allow others to encourage and strengthen Him. Yet instead of having others serve Him, He served them! His disciples learned from this that what matters was not rank or hierarchy or praise or recognition, but mutual service, respect and esteem for others! The followers of Jesus are prepared to perform their service in humbleness and selflessness, without the need for recognition. Such service is a credible witness for the Lord.

Exclude no one

The washing of the feet was followed by the celebration of the Last Supper—not only in the course of the Passion narrative, but also in our congregations today. In the last Sunday service of the month, the focus of the sermon is on a sacrament that Christians have always valued very highly at all times: Holy Communion. Jesus Himself instituted it before His suffering and death. It is His sacrament. And all those who partake of it worthily have fellowship of life with Christ. What has been granted to us by God in Holy Baptism and Holy Sealing is strengthened and preserved by Holy Communion.

Holy Communion unites! If each of us is connected with Christ, then we are also connected to one another, for in Holy Communion we all eat the same bread and drink the same wine. Despite all our differences, let us approach others in the knowledge that Christ’s love applies to all, that He loves all the same.

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Peter Johanning
Divine service