THE 5TH SUNDAY IN EASTER AD 2020
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.  And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, "It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.  Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."  And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.  These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.  Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 7:2 And Stephen said:
"Brothers and fathers, hear me. "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.  Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered,  you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it."
 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him.  But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."  But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him.  Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.  And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."  And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
1 Peter 2:2-10
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation—  if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,  you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For it stands in Scripture:
"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone,
a cornerstone chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."
 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,
"The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone,"
"A stone of stumbling,
and a rock of offense."
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way to where I am going."  Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?"  Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us."  Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
 "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.  Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
Troubled hearts. Yea, there might just be a few of those around these days after weeks of hiding from Covid 19 behind the barred doors of our homes. Troubled over many things. Troubled with the fear that we might catch the virus. Troubled over how sick it could make us. Troubled over what kind of death we might die if it should prove fatal to us. Troubled over what has happened to our world and lives in such a short period of time. Troubled over all the masked people everywhere you go. Troubled by the fear that things may never get back to normal.
Troubled hearts. Yea, there might just be a few of those around these days, even when there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon with the lifting of some of the pandemic restrictions. Troubled that this could cause a second even deadlier wave of the virus. Troubled that going back to work could expose you and so your family to it. Troubled that you won’t have what you need to keep you safe on the job. Troubled that you might not even have a job to go back to. Troubled that the new need for personal protective equipment with everything opening up will leave you short at your work.
Troubled hearts. Yea, after weeks of dealing with life with Covid 19 and the constant feed of negative and alarmist stories on the news and social media, there just might be a few of those around these days. Troubled hearts. Yea, I think it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that most of us would at one point or another have had a bit of trouble in our hearts since March this year. We’ve had Covid 19 and the havoc it has played with our economic, social, family and church life, then we had the greatest mass murder in Canadian history with the tragic events in Nova Scotia a couple of weeks ago
Troubled hearts. Yea, there just might be a few of those around these days. I can tell you for certain that there is at least one anyway, beating right up here in this sinner’s chest. Of course this heart and many like it didn’t need Covid 19 to trouble it. No, even before March of 2020 it had plenty of things to be troubled about. Sadly, it is the way things go in this world of sin. The devil will give us no peace. Yes, beloved, Satan is ever stirring up trouble for us, rallying his forces against us, and then leading us to mediate on it all to try and overcome us with worry and care and lead us to despair.
There’s always plenty for our hearts to be troubled about. If it’s not things like heart attack, stroke, cancer or a virus like Covid 19 that could strike us at any moment, there can be all the trouble that can come to the heart over when such things could or have happened to those that we love. There are also all kinds of other troubles for the heart over others - with the troubling choices that they make in their lives. There are the little troubles that come with little children or bigger troubles that can come with bigger children, or even the biggest troubles of all that can come with parents.
Beyond our homes there’s plenty for our hearts to be troubled about with what’s going on in the world - the utter Godlessness of our age which simply cannot and will not end well. The good arts that God has given us like medicine and science have been so perverted from their true purpose, that what was given to heal is now used to mutilate and even kill. The good gifts of government and justice, that were given as means by which God might rule our lives in peace, have turned into means to overthrow God’s good order and pervert His law. A troubled heart, yes, it’s not hard to have one of those in this world, even without Covid 19.
Thankfully our Lord Jesus has a beautiful Word for troubled hearts this morning. A beautiful Word that He spoke to the twelve on the night when He was betrayed, because He knew that they would need it, as He knew that we would need it. “Do not let your hearts be troubled, He says, believe in God, believe also in me.” “I am the only begotten Son of the Father”, He says, “who is one with Him, who reveals His very heart to you. I am the one that He sent into the world to prepare a place for you in His house, to be the way the truth and the life for you back to Him. I came down from heaven and entered the darkest night for you, the night of fear and despair, the night when death draws near. My heart was troubled even unto death for you so that I might deliver you from all of your troubles, so that I might quiet your hearts with my peace.”
“I went into the night for you and I returned out of it having prepared a place for you in my Father’s house through my own bitter sufferings and death. I was cast out on the cross, so that you might be let into heaven. I was lost in the night, so that I might be your way home to the Father. I was damned under the lie, so that I might be your truth. I was swallowed up by death so that I might be your life. I wept for a night so that I might bring you joy on the morning of that glorious third day when I came back, that I might be with you to take you through life to that joyous place that I prepared for you.
I came to you in the waters of your Baptism so that I might be in you and you might be in me, even as I am in the Father and the Father is in me. I have bound your life to mine as surely as my life is bound to the Father’s. I am with you, that where I am you might be also. Lest you doubt this, I come again to you in my body and blood and invite you to My Father’s table. I give you a place at His table here, so that you might know that there is a room prepared for you in His house. I come to you here, so that you might believe that I will bring you there.”
“I return to you today in my Word,” the Lord Jesus says, “so that receiving me I may dispel the troubles of your hearts, as I come to take my place in them with the truth of who I am and what I have done for you. And so when troubles come into your heart hold fast my dear ones to the Word that I have spoken to you. Hear my voice. Let it resound in the farthest corners of your heart. Let it chase away your worries and cares with the truth of who I am and what I have done for you. Let it echo around the chambers of your heart. Over and over again here me saying to you, “ Let not your hearts be troubled believe in God believe also in me””
Truly beloved, no trouble can live long in the heart where Jesus abides, because He casts them out with His truth. And so when they try to sneak in and try to squat in there, or even take up permanent residence, turn to Christ, look to Christ and He will send them on their way.
Our hope does not lie in personal protective equipment or in a vaccine or treatment for Covid 19 our hope lies in Jesus. In our baptism he became our Personal Protective Saviour against something far greater than Covid 19 - He became our PPS against sin, death and hell, just as in His body and blood He is our vaccine and treatment for them.
And so, beloved, just as the Lord Jesus saw His disciples through those horrendous days when He was taken and crucified for them, He will see us through these heart troubling days also. He is faithful and true and no matter what lies ahead for us, He will not fail us, He will see us safely home to the place He has prepared for us in His Father’s house. Amen.