Message – Sunday 15th January 2017 Pastor Robert Voigt St. Petri Lutheran Church Nuriootpa
It seems like the simplest thing in the world to do – point to Jesus. Following the gospel reading today, John the Baptist lifted his hand and pointing said: “Look the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” You know, if you strip away all the churchy stuff, and all the things that some think a pastor should do, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do – point to Jesus. I believe he is the only Saviour of the world, who came to earth as a human being, obeyed the law perfectly in my place but then suffered the punishment for MY sins on the cross, died so that I might live, and then rose again to guarantee my salvation. There, I said it all in one sentence!!
So why is it so difficult to point to Jesus? Why do we add so many rules, traditions and practices that add nothing to the good news about Jesus, but only make it harder for people to see Jesus? Why is it that many of the biggest fights in history have involved Christians who disagree with each other?
But I had a bigger question that came to mind as I prepared this message: WHERE am I pointing when I point to Jesus?
And I first thought of street preachers. At least they are passionate about their faith and don’t care what people think of them, as long as they can point to Jesus. But most people, including me, don’t see Jesus when we look where they are pointing. We see them! We see their anger, their frustration, their loudness, and their condemnation, no matter what they say.
For John the Baptist it seemed simple. Jesus was right there – physically. John just had to point to him and people turned and saw Jesus! And look at the results – read our text again in John 1:29-42:-
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! . . . 34 I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”
35 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” . . .
40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.
But it’s not that simple for us. When we point to Jesus, where are we pointing? When we ask people to consider believing in Jesus as their Saviour, where do we direct them? If we think of ourselves as signs, what do you think we are actually telling people to do? Sometimes signs can be confusing – I’ve got lost many times by following signs.
I love Cranach the Elder’s painting of Martin Luther pointing to Jesus. At a time when people were given a confusing message about Jesus, pointing to Jesus on the cross brought the message back to its simplest – and yet most profound – Jesus died for me. I don’t have to earn God’s love – I can’t earn that love. It is totally undeserved and yet absolutely free.
Tim Keller, one of Pastor Adrian’s favourite authors, makes a good point that while all religions tells people where to go to be saved, it is Christianity alone which tells us that we don’t have to go anywhere – God has come to us.
And we have our hope, our comfort, our joy, our peace and our new life not because we found Jesus, but because he found us. We know what God’s undeserved love means. We have experienced grace! We are loved & forgiven, not because of anything we have done, but because of what God has done for us through Jesus. And now it is the Holy Spirit who works through us to point others to Jesus.
So the question I have this morning is: How does St. Petri point to Jesus? In a very real way we are all signposts. Our lives are our message & point to what we think is most important for people to know and believe and do. So what are the messages that St. Petri is giving to our community? Now I’m only listing a few – I wonder if you would think of these first.
The White House. Here we are in partnership with the Nuriootpa High School, giving a second chance to students who had dropped out. Mostly through one of our members, they have experienced the love of St. Petri to those who have struggle to fit in.
The Cottage. This is a ministry of St. Petri to the Barossa and offers Bibles, Christian books, cards and gifts. Many of the volunteers who serve here are from St. Petri, where we provide wholesome, encouraging and hope-filled resources for Christian living.
Lutheran Community Care. This vital ministry of our SA/NT District has blessed us with its presence on our campus, which means that lots of people come onto our site when they need some help. And St. Petri supports this ministry with gifts and volunteers. Most of the unfortunate and the poor people in the Barossa know about LCC.
Hand in Hand – Youth & Family Ministry – Messy Church. This ministry is also in partnership with Lutheran Community Care, and I am often amazed that St. Petri members know so little about it. I am so proud of St. Petri for starting this ministry and extremely proud of Sue and our volunteers for the love and care they provide. And Sharon Green, our Child, Youth and Family Director, works with these people to point them to Jesus through Messy Church. And Messy Church is doing what we always hoped it would do, even though we will always want to reach more people.
So you see, when we point to Jesus, we do that not only with words, but also with deeds. We try to serve as Jesus served – giving himself sacrificially for the sake of the world. And Jesus was talking precisely about who Christians point to him when he spoke these words in Matthew 25:
35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
When a congregation stops focusing on what it wants – what it likes & prefers – and puts its focus on being salt and light in its community, that’s when it points clearly to Jesus. Obviously doing good works does not help people to know Jesus as their Saviour. But a Christian or a congregation that does not serve the way Jesus served will never have the right to speak the gospel clearly to others. In fact, how we treat each other is one of the clearest signs of whether or not we truly follow Jesus. Many of you remember how we failed Jesus and our community when we last had a serious disagreement. Have we learned anything? Have our hearts changed? Have our words changed? Do we treat each other with greater love and respect even when we disagree with each other? How we handle our own disagreements is one of the clearest signs to our community of whether or not we are followers of Jesus, because everyone knows that we follow the One who said:
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
So, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. That way we will never doubt our salvation. We will never doubt God’s love or forgiveness to us. And, looking to Jesus, we will see the pattern of love and service he wants us to show to one another and to our community and world.
I love St. Petri – warts and all. It’s far from perfect, because I’m in it! But I thank God that he is graciously using us to point to Jesus, who is LOVE!.