St. Michael and All Angels, 2013 (September 29)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
TITLE: “On Guard For You”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Matthew chapter Eighteen.
New Consecration Sunday is a day when we as a congregation commit to our ongoing work, evaluate our giving of time, talents and treasure, and ask what we are able to do in the year to come. Holy Cross has done New Consecration Sunday for about 7 years now, and it has become a sort of tradition at Holy Cross, leading into our budget planning for the upcoming year.
What I would like to talk with you about this morning is how we as a congregation live and work together. Congregations change over time. People come and go. Budgets change. Faces that were once regulars are no longer here, and faces that no one knows become more and more famliar. It is easy in the midst of such change to become discouraged, to wonder about the future and to even despair over what may come.
So in order to get a glimpse at our future in Christ, what I want to talk to you about this morning is children. Children at our pre-school and kindergarten. Children in our Sunday School. Your own children and grandchildren.
Children, it seems, have a special place in God’s heart. In our Gospel for today from St. Matthew chapter eighteen, we hear that unless we repent and become like little children, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 18:3). Jesus then goes on to say:
“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:4)
What is it about children that are so special to God? Children are helpless. Children are naive. They will believe almost anything. They don’t contribute much. They are the exact opposite, in Jesus’ day, of someone who would contribute to the good of the group. They are work. And yet, they are the ones that are the most valued in the kingdom of God.
In our minds, this is pretty poor stewardship. I mean, really. The church is never going to grow if we focus our attention on people who can’t contribute, who can’t do the jobs we need done, and who are more needy than they are helpful.
That is the world talking. That is measurement committees and human resource departments. That is the disciples asking who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. They have a place, but that is not how things work in the kingdom of God. Remember the last words from Jesus in our text:
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man came to save the Lost.” (Mt. 18:10–11)
What this means is that the little ones’ angels always stand before God, they are always interceding, always bringing their needs and fears before the throne of grace. They are the ones whom God is most concerned with. In the kingdom of God, the Last shall be First and the first shall be last. In the kingdom of God, if you want to find the treasures of the church, you look to the poor, the needy, the downtrodden, the lost and the lonely. As congregation is not measured by its success. A congregation is measured by its mercy in receiving God’s Word and delivering that mercy to those in need in their midst.
Now what does this mean for us here, at Holy Cross Lutheran Church? It means this. Today is New Consecration Sunday. That means this is a day when the congregation ask you what you are able to give in terms of time and talents and treasures. How do we spend our time and energies as God’s people? How do we put our skills to work in God’s vineyard. And where do we spend our money? So think of it like this. What we are doing as a congregation is asking, “who are those in need in our midst?” Who are those who are in need of God’s mercy and care, and how can God use us to bring that about?
We are, of course, not alone in this work. The angels of God are looking out for the little ones in our midst. I rather like that picture. It is the picture of the guardian angel who keeps us safe. But these guardians who watch over us do not use the weapons of this world. They do not use sword and shields, guns and missles. No, they use the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. An angel is, above all, a messenger. They bring the message of God’s love to the lost ones. That means children. That means our shut-ins. That means our preschool and kindergarten. That means the broken and bent among us. That means you. For you are lost without Him and His love.
We at Holy Cross are turning our eyes to the future of our congregation. Yes, this means budgets and buildings and all that. But more importantly, it means faith. It means opening our eyes to the needs of those around us, and it means opening our ears to hear His promises.
Today God calls you to see with your ears, to listen to His Word and promises. He calls you to trust in Him for life and salvation, and for all of your needs of body and soul. Rejoice and be glad, for here, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, you are surrounded by the whole church in heaven and on earth. You are not alone, but you are guarded and kept by Jesus Christ Himself, who forgives your sins, shows you mercy in your time of need, and who delivers Himself to you today and every day.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and mind sin true faith, to life everylasting. Amen.