Rest on Jesus the Cornerstone

October 31, 2021

Pastor John Hering

Ephesians 2:17-22

Ephesians 2:17-22

17 He also came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 So then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household. 20 You have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the Cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Time flies, doesn’t it!?  Do you realize what all has happened in just the past 25 years?  Jeff Bezos founded Amazon and Michael Jackson married Elvis Presley’s daughter.  Netscape computer navigator is launched.  And, in January of 1995 the first Voters meeting of Divine Peace happened with 5 men in attendance. In February they signed a lease for the 1st storefront.  The Lord blessed the ministry so that in 2000, Divine Peace (81 souls) purchased this property for $234,000.  This building was completed in 2013 (163 souls) at a cost of $650,000.  Then the Lord led us to start a mission in Rockwall that soon found the home of our second site when we purchased the Wedding Chapel for $1,000,000.  Today our membership stands at 225 souls.  Some might look at this history and think this has been quite a building project over the past 25 years.

But, we don’t want to overlook the fact that another building project has been going on for the past 25 years, and we pray, will never stop.  God has been building his Holy Christian Church.  When we talk about building the Holy Christian Church was can’t help but mention the chief builder, Jesus Christ.  Today as we celebrate the 504th anniversary of the Reformation of the church, the Apostle Paul proclaims the truth which makes this celebration possible:

Jesus Is The Cornerstone Of The Church

He Founded the Church

You don’t have to be an expert to know that a firm foundation is essential for any building in Texas.  If you don’t have a firm foundation it doesn’t take but a couple of years for the clay soil to shift and as the building shifts the doors and windows begin to stick.  This building has concrete footings that were drilled down 20 feet to give it a solid foundation.  What about God’s Holy Christian Church?  If our church was founded on human qualities and capabilities it would have collapsed a long time ago.  We humans blow it.  We goof up.  We make mistakes. We sin.  Some days we do what God wants, and some days we don’t.  Sometimes it only takes seconds to shift back and forth, for instance, one moment you’re paying attention to the preacher and the next moment you’re worried about checking your Fantasy Football.  You’re all fired up for Jesus at a service like this, but the idea of attending the DFW Reformation service falls flat.  You’re holding God’s Word in your hands now, but tonight you’ll hold your phone in your hands looking at internet sites that make angels in heaven nauseous.  You tell the truth one minute and lie the next. It’s a good thing that God’s Church isn’t grounded on a foundation of sinners like you and me.  St. Paul was inspired to write, 20 You have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the Cornerstone.  Praise be to God, our Church is founded on Jesus Christ!

However, Martin Luther lived during a time when the visible church was crumbling.  You see, Martin Luther couldn’t sleep at night.  In fact, he nearly killed himself trying to beat up the sin out of his body because he was taught, “God is holy and I’m not.  But, I have to be as holy as God if he is going to open heaven’s gate for me.”  While in the monastery Luther’s superiors recognized his abilities, but also that he was driving himself crazy, so they kept him busy by having him study the Bible to be a parish priest and a university professor. Of all things, they asked Luther to study and teach the Bible.  For the first time in his life Luther had access to God’s Word and loved digging into it.  What he discovered was always there.  What he found written on the pages of Holy Scripture amazed him.  What he found in the Bible he began to teach in the classroom and preach from the pulpit.  What he discovered in the Bible we’ve been teaching for 500 years!  It’s like the person in Bible Class who says, “Pastor, the thought of Judgment Day scares me!  I’ve tried to be a good person at home and work.  I try to watch my language and what I look at on my phone.  But sometimes I just can’t sleep at night because I’m going to be at the pearly gates on day and I sure hope he’ll let me in.”  What I’m going to tell you Luther discovered in God’s Word.  You’re not going to make if you’re getting in depends on what you have or haven’t done.  That’s exactly why Jesus came—to live perfectly in our place.  Here’s the Good News!  God declares us not guilty of our sins because of what Jesus has done for us in our place.  He declares us innocent, even though we’re not, because of the holiness of Jesus.  That holiness you need to get into heaven is yours through faith in Jesus!   That’s Good News about Jesus Christ is our foundation.  We are going to heaven because of Jesus Christ, our Cornerstone!  Believe it!

If Martin Luther could join us in worship today he probably would be shocked at what he would see!  I wouldn’t be surprised if his thankful and joyful emotions would be so vivid that he couldn’t even join us in singing, “A Mighty Fortress!”  And then when we told him we were going to do this again at 4:00 today at Calvary, I bet he would be there to praise God for Founding His Church on Jesus Christ the Cornerstone.  Yes, on Jesus Christ our church is founded.  It is Jesus Christ who also brings us together.

He Unites The Church

You have probably seen cornerstones in buildings that mark the day it was constructed.  In ancient times the cornerstone not only held up and supported the building, it also aligned the walls so that they’d fit together just right.  Can you imagine our General Contractor watching as they lifted the beams for this building off the truck and learned that they were the wrong size?!? It would be a disaster because our building would not fit together! 

The Church in Ephesus was having some problems fitting together as God’s Church.  Some of them had grown up in the Israelite religion and others had no religion at all growing up.  Now, they were all Christians, but they were having a hard time fitting together.  Paul wrote, 17 He also came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.  Think of our church like a cake with all sorts of ingredients.  Some might even be tempted to call us a fruitcake filled with all sorts of nuts!  That paints a picture of what Paul was talking about.  19 So then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household. When the people in Ephesus were filled with the Good News of Jesus’ forgiveness it didn’t matter what their past was.  It didn’t matter if they observed ceremonial laws like not eating pork or not.  It didn’t matter if they lived with great knowledge of the Old Testament Bible Stories or not.  What mattered is they learned and believed that peace was created between God and sinners by Jesus.  They were united to Christ no matter what shape, age, or color they were.  They were all members of God’s spiritual house and united into one spiritual family. “21 In him the whole building is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

When the government and church leaders of Luther’s day tried to stop Luther and his teaching, he must have wondered how the Good News of Jesus would ever endure.  Yet, slowly the Gospel of Jesus grabbed the hearts of people who took their stand on the Bible.  Jesus, the Cornerstone of the Church united his Church to stand strong by the power of the Gospel living in their hearts and lives.  Princes and poor people alike linked arms to stand united on the Promises of God.

I mentioned the history of Divine Peace earlier.  Do you think we had any meetings where people disagreed?  Of course!  Should we stay in the storefront or purchase the land (that just happened to have a building on it).  Should we stay in this neighborhood, or relocated to Sachse, Wylie or beyond?  How in the world can a congregation with all sorts of different people with different ideas work together?  The answer is that Christians here are part of one united spiritual building. Some of you are bricks and some of you are mortar. Some of you are bulbs and some are doors and windows. Some of you are pipes and some of you are tiles.  Some of you are sparking like wires and if I preach too much longer, some of you might call me the air vents!   But, we are all joined together to form one spiritual building united by Christ Jesus.  22 In him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”  This would be reason enough to take time to praise and worship our Savior today on this Reformation anniversary, but there’s more.  We are Founded on Christ, United by Christ, and Christ works through us to Build The Church.

He Builds the Church

The history of visible churches generally goes like this.  A few families start a church.  They work hard to share Jesus with people and the church grows with more families and activities.  There are some churches that stick around for generations as parents teach children and grandchildren the Good News of Jesus.  But, sometimes a church might come to an end of their life.  Where my grandpa served as pastor at St Andrew in Chicago they had a membership of over 700 in 1981.  Today they have just over 200 members.  Or there are about 200 WELS churches in the USA that are down to just a couple of families and on the verge of closing.  Or we recently learned that Peace in Garland (LC-MS) closed its doors, and many of you once worshiped there when it was a thriving, flourishing church.  Building buildings doesn’t tell the whole story.  In fact, buildings don’t tell the main story.  The main story has to do with God building and expanding his kingdom.  That’s exactly what happened in Ephesus.  Paul wrote to them: 22 In him you too are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” The Church in Ephesus became the center for Gospel ministry in the area with pastors like St Paul, St John and Timothy.  Young Pastor Timothy trained the next generation about the Gospel of Jesus. Even during the years of the fiercest persecution by the Roman Empire, these Christians continued to take their stand on Jesus Christ as the Lord built up his Church exactly as he determined.

Martin Luther sounded just like the apostles when he wrote: “How can we remain silent about what we have seen, about what we have heard, about what we have been commanded to proclaim, not in chambers but from housetops?  For Christ says: Go…and preach the good news to every creature (Mark 16:15). This causes the Word to be like a live coal in our mouth; it cannot be kept there but forces us to open our mouth and speak” (Plass, Vol3, p.1195).  There is a battle going on between Satan and the truth of God’s Word.  We are tempted to listen to the lies that the Bible is only fables or stories, that it is okay to slaughter unborn children under the guise of personal choice, to use drugs, and label Christians as being intolerant for saying there is such a thing as right and wrong according to God’s Word.  But, Christ has promised that his Church will endure to the end.  Therefore, may the Lord give us the same boldness as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, as Jesus’ disciples, and as Martin Luther did.  By the grace of God let us stand firmly on God’s Word as Jesus Builds His Church.  It is good to have a beautiful building where we can gather to worship, but it is also a place to which you can invite your friends to hear the Good News about Jesus.  But, finally this is only a building that is only going to be here for a short time. What will last is when the Lord uses this building and your friendliness to gain an audience to hear the Gospel.  Be his witnesses as Jesus Builds His Church through the Gospel.

Time flies, doesn’t it?  Today marks the 504th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.  I would guess that there aren’t too many Americans celebrating this event today.  But, we celebrate this day for one main reason: Jesus Christ is the Cornerstone of the Church!  He founded his Church.  He Unites his Church.  And He Builds His Church.  Today, let us celebrate Christ Jesus.  Today, by the grace alone, by Scripture alone, through faith alone—let us take our stand on Jesus Christ—the Cornerstone.  Amen!

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