A pleasant surprise

It certainly brought joy to the congregation in Sarrebourg when their countryman and Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider entered the church sanctuary as an unexpected surprise. Such divine services live on for a long time in the heart. It seems that coronavirus restrictions can even have some positive effects every now and then.

The travel itinerary of the international Church leader was “open”. During the pandemic it has, unfortunately, happened all too often that Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider has had to cancel a trip abroad. Not even the divine services within Europe can be guaranteed, not to speak of his intercontinental pastoral trips.

At such times the sermons of the Church leader take on special significance, like this one here, which he conducted in Sarrebourg, a congregation in the Lorraine region’s département de la Moselle. The honoured guest came as a surprise—and in his very own automobile to boot. His message: “Our relationship with God defines our lives.” The biblical foundation for this statement is recorded in the book of the prophet Micah 4: 5: “For all people walk each in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever!”

Old and new names

In the Bible, names are more than mere labels, especially if they are intended to bring certain inherent content to expression. For example, it was for a particular reason that Saul was renamed Paul, that Sarai was later called Sarah, and that the name Abram was changed to Abraham. Why? Because it is the content that matters! And that was exactly the content of the Chief Apostle’s sermon. For example, he asked the congregation what distinguished the people of Israel from the surrounding nations. His answer: God had chosen this nation to be a blessing for all nations! He kept His promise to lead the people into the Promised Land. In exchange for this He expected only loyalty and obedience, said the Chief Apostle.

Walking in the name of God

These thoughts can also be applied to our time today because all people still “walk each in the name of his god”. Convictions and priorities define decisions and conduct. For example, a good salesman will first try to identify the personality and motivations of his customer in order to then convince him that a particular product is perfectly suited to his needs and wishes. Chief Apostle Schneider: “Christians have a special relationship with God, and this relationship is to define our thoughts and actions.” God has liberated us from original sin and has made us His children. He is leading us into His kingdom and wants to make us a fountain of blessing for others. Our response to this is that we “walk in the name of the Lord our God”. To this end we have promised our loyalty and obedience. “At our baptism we decided to cling to the truth of the gospel, take Jesus Christ as our example in life, and set ourselves the goal of entering into His kingdom.” It is important for us to hold true to these resolutions.

Doing good works upon others

God has elected us in order to be a living testimony of Jesus Christ. “It is our mission to promote the values of the gospel, put the doctrine of Jesus Christ into practice, and to give Him glory.” Here too, the Chief Apostle cited an example: “We have been sent by Jesus to do good works upon others in His name. In particular, He asks us to take an interest in the little children in His name—in other words, to do good to those who cannot repay us.”

The people of Israel was not always able to “walk in the name of the Lord”. At times they rebelled against God when He did not give them what they were expecting. Some even turned to foreign gods who were less demanding than the Lord. Others left Him because they thought they didn’t need Him any more. “And what about us?” the Chief Apostle asked urgently. “We are resolved to hold fast to the name of the Lord, and to remain steadfast in faith. When the Lord returns He will give us a new name.”

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Peter Johanning
Chief Apostle, Divine service