Sermon published by Pastor Joel Pukallus
Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 2: 1-10 (Guiding Principle 1 - Christ Centred)
We are embarking on a series of sermons to be preached over the next 5 weeks, on the guiding principles that have been decided on by St Marks Lutheran Church Dalby, in conjunction with the ministry and mission department of our church. These are based on some of the practices of the early church, which can be found in the book of Acts. They are practices, and things to which we will dedicate ourselves, that are thoroughly and unashamedly biblical. This early church period was a time of great joy, and growth, and flourishing of the church. Dedicating themselves to these things helped keep the early Christians from getting off-track, it kept them united.
For those of you who are members here, the aim over the next few weeks is to help you understand how these principles are being used in decision making and planning here at St. Marks. For those watching from other places, it may give you an insight into the things that we try to keep at the forefront of our minds when we live out our Christian Faith together in a congregation, a body of saints, a body of sinners. You may find that your church is already doing these things, and we celebrate with you if that is the case. You may also see the benefits of clearly and intentionally articulating them and keeping them before you.
The great thing about these youtube services is that it frees me up to preach a series like this, knowing that if for some reason you miss one, you can go back and have a look at it, as they will still be there on our youtube Channel, and you can, as I like to say, collect the whole set.
I have these 5 guiding principles, which were given to me as a token of my office the day I was installed as Pastor here, above my computer on my wall, there to refer to often, as a constant reminder.
In fact, the night before I wrote this sermon I was in a TEAM meeting, and after much conversation, John, our convenor, or chairperson of the meeting asked the question we need to keep asking, which was: So, how does this fit in with our guiding principles? And we turned, and looked (as they are framed there in the meeting room also) and asked: Does what we are doing fit in with the principles of being Christ centred, Spirit Guided, Encouraging discipleship, Inclusive, and witnessing to the gospel?
The first of our guiding principles is “Christ Centred”. Now this should be a no-brainer for a Lutheran church. After all one of the catch-cries, the four “Solas” to come out of the reformation was “Christ alone”.
This is how it reads: Our decisions and actions reflect that Jesus is at the centre of all we do, and who we are. And then the explanation says: God came to the world in human form to bring new teaching, and pay the price for the sins of the world by his death. He gave us the gift of eternal life through his death and resurrection. When we act on behalf of St. Marks, we will remember that it is Christ’s Church, not ours. We will act in a way that is striving to be the hands and feet of Jesus, and encourages all to confess that Jesus is Lord and Saviour for all the world.
Not very difficult at face value, is it? We point to Jesus. That is our job as Christians. We point other people to Jesus, we point each other to Jesus, in case we ever forget. But it carries with it another aspect when it comes to life together, which is in these words: When we act on behalf of St. Marks, we will remember that it is Christ’s Church, not ours.
And here is a truth that is hard for some. If Jesus Christ is Lord, then I am not. Or to put it another way, there used to be a Poster that hung in my sister’s room I believe it was, that said “Blessed are they that acknowledge that there is only one God, and have stopped applying for his position”.
If Jesus Christ is Lord (and he is), if it is his church (and it is), then that will affect the way I deal with my brothers and sisters in the faith. I have no more right to control (that word right there, control, is the source of every conflict in every church ever) I have no more right to control what happens in the church than anyone else. This might not seem important, but I have heard it in churches so often: “I taught Sunday School for 27 years, or I give more money in offering than anyone else, or I have been at this church longer than anyone else” and the bit they don’t say at the end is “So I have earned the right to say what goes, and you should all listen to me”.
It is not my church. It is Christ’s church. And while that might sound like a hard thing, or like I am really laying it into some people, that is not the intention. Knowing that it is Christ’s church, not mine, and knowing that the future of the church is in his hands, not mine, wow. Talk about a pressure relief valve. We can all do our best and serve joyfully together and teach Sunday school, and give our offerings joyfully, knowing that the church will not stand or fall if I don’t get to be in charge at meetings. It reminds me of a hymn (you can play along at home): the church’s one foundation is …. Did you just sing it? Jesus Christ her Lord. Not me.
He frees us from all that battle for control. In fact, a church that is Christ centred will be in the business of freedom. Pointing people to Jesus who alone can free them from guilt, and despair, and hopelessness, and hate, and bigotry and violence and addiction and whatever else you can name. Jesus who alone can free them from needing to be in control.
Having Christ centredness as a guiding principle forces us to come back time and time again and ask ourselves: “Why are we making this decision, moving in this direction, starting this program? Is it for our sake, to look good, to make people notice us? Or is it to help to point people to our Lord Jesus, and the free gift of salvation that he has won for them. It’s a great start, don’t you think?
We sure do. It is just the first principle that keeps us on track. Next week we are going to look at one that perhaps is not as easy for the Lutheran church. We are comfortable with Jesus. Maybe traditionally less so, with being “spirit guided”. But I hope we will see why it is so important.
Christ is Lord.