Advent 2 Midweek: Sermon Series, the Four Pillars of the Christian Community
Audio
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Delivered By
Pr. Lovett
Delivered On
December 7, 2011
Central Passage
Acts 2:37-47
Subject
Pillar 2: Christian Fellowship
Description
+ On Christian Fellowship +
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
 
If you ask people what makes a family, you’ll probably get a few varying responses.  Family is people who love you.  Family is your backup when things go wrong.  Family is being together.  All these are true.  This is what families do.  They are more than biologically related beings thrown together.  They are a unit.  They share their bread and their home with one another.  Even if dad keeps the financial book and if mom’s cookbooks are off-limits to others; even if big brothers post “No Girls Allowed” signs on their bedroom doors and are constantly telling younger siblings they can’t have their toys.  Even if there are boundaries, still a family has all things in common.
Dad’s finances are for the whole family, not just him. Mom’s cookbooks feed everyone, not just her.  Even the sanctity of big brother’s room is set aside for story time.  And toys, well eventually everyone gets to play with all the toys.  Families have all things in common.  This is what fellowship is; having all things in common.
 
The family of God is no different.  Those who devoted themselves to the apostles’ doctrine – the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake and the coming of the kingdom of God – also had fellowship. They had all things in common.  We see fringe evidence of this fellowship at potluck dinners and our Advent and Lent Soup Suppers.  We don’t all provide for these meals, we don’t all cook or buy the needed food items.  But we all eat and have our fill.  Many Christians call this “fellowshipping with each other”.  Some churches call their basements and large meeting rooms “fellowship halls” so that people know what goes on in there: fellowship.
 
Tithes and offerings are also fellowship.  In fact, potlucks and soup suppers are a fruit of tithes and offerings.  Those who bought the food give their food as offerings for the whole group.   In the ancient church, before grocery stores and family refrigerators, Christian families would bring food to the church – usually the pastor’s house – Sunday morning.  This food would be prayed over – blessed – and all would eat. The leftovers would be distributed among the poor and taken to the homes of Christians that couldn’t be there.  And a portion of the bread and wine were set aside for the special fellowship meal of the Christians, the Lord’s Supper.  That’s why we put the offerings of bread and wine over on the credence shelf here and take them to the altar when it’s time to celebrate the Eucharistic feast.  It symbolizes the offerings of bread and wine being brought to the altar for the common good and benefit of all.
 
But now, apart from the occasional potluck or soup supper, we mostly give money.  We put our tithes and offerings in the brass plates on Sunday morning.  This is Christian fellowship; having all things in common.  From this money your pastor is paid – which is the first work of charity a congregation does on Sunday morning.  From this money the poor are cared for; bread and wine are purchased; Bibles; hymnbooks; Sunday School material; and other such things all comes from this money.  It’s holy money, firstfruits.  It comes from holy people to serve the holy God.  So we do holy things with it.  Things like build elevators so people can come into the house of God; feed the hungry; house the homeless; and pay our pastors.
 
When you put money in the plate or in the offering boxes of the Church, you are having all things in common with your brothers and sisters. You are in fellowship with them. Your money becomes their money; your time becomes their time; your food becomes their food; and so on.  Here we see what St. Paul means when he says that when one suffers all suffer and when one is blessed, all are blessed.
Those who are devoted to the apostolic doctrine also share in the fellowship.  That’s why tithes and offerings are not optional.  The Christian doesn’t get to decide not to tithe because he can’t afford it.  He can’t afford to not tithe.  It’s part of the fellowship.  Giving off the top isn’t a biblical principle or simply a budget strategy, it’s a confession of faith.  What I have belongs not to me but to the Lord and His Church for the benefit of all.  I have all things in common with my brothers and sisters, with my Lord.
 
All these things – from potlucks to tithes and offerings – are confessions of faith that what is mine is yours and vice versa, because we both belong to the Lord.  All things are His. We are His.  And because we belong to the Lord, to Jesus, from whom we receive our fellowship with one another, the highest form of fellowship is participation in the Divine Service.  Not just the Lord’s Supper, which is chief and of the highest order, but the whole thing.
 
It’s not called the “Common Service” because there’s an uncommon one, but because we share it with all Christians, even if they don’t know it or accept it.  It’s not our service.  It’s not a “Lutheran” service. It’s the Lord’s Service. And you share in it with your brothers and sisters, the Body of Christ.  So St. Paul says that when you eat the sacred meal of Christ, you are to discern the body.  That is, recognize with whom you eat and drink.  They are not nobody’s who just happen to be there that day. They are the Lord’s. They are your brothers and sisters.  You are part of the same Body.  And just like when we miss Thanksgiving or Christmas at mom and dad’s, so when we miss the Divine Service, we miss it.  We miss out on the fellowship of the saints, the communion of saints, which is what the Church is.
Your brothers and sisters that aren’t there on Sunday, where are they?  Why’d they miss?  Wouldn’t you call your relatives if they missed a family reunion?  Won’t you call and check on your brothers and sisters in Christ when they’re absent?  Are we too afraid of them? That we’ll offend them?  Don’t be judgmental, but be concerned for them, for their faith and their well-being.  After all, blood is thicker than water, and the blood of Christ is thickest of all, making a new family for God that is stronger and more alive than any merely human family.
Christian fellowship is more than getting together at potlucks and soup suppers – as important and even necessary as those are, for where else are you going to find out how people are doing.  Christian fellowship is about gathering at our Father’s house for His Service that He may feed us, teach us, and lead us in the way of righteousness, that we might be called the sons of God.
 
In Nomine Iesu
+ Amen +