To read this sermon from The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr. click on “Continue reading” below.
Today’s gospel reading from John sees Jesus praying for his disciples as he nears the end of his earthly life. This passage serves as a great reminder of the care and concern one of our earliest leaders in the Moravian Church shared for his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. One of the most remarkable movements of the Holy Spirit in all of church history took place in 18th-century Germany. The Moravians had founded a religious settlement called Herrnhut, translated as the “Lord’s watch” on the property of a wealthy Lutheran nobleman named Nicolas Ludwig Von Zinzendorf.
This was a very diverse group assembled in Herrnhut and they soon began criticizing each other and arguing over their different religious beliefs. Zinzendorf could have forced the quarreling groups to move out, but he believed the Lord had a work for him to do with these people. Patiently, he worked for unity of the Christians at Herrnhut. He devoted himself to prayer and reconciliation during the summer of 1727.
During that summer Herrnhut became a living congregation of Christ. The community worked together in peace and love. There was eager anticipation that more and greater things were to come. All of the great things happening that summer culminated on August 13th often described as the Moravian Pentecost. The power of the Holy Spirit was so prevalent that after a communion service the people did not want to disperse so they remained for hours celebrating their time of reconciliation and planning on ways to spread the Gospel to others. Two weeks after this service, twenty-four men and twenty-four women of the community covenanted together to spend one hour each day, day and night, in prayer to God for His blessing on the congregation and its witness. This tradition still continues in our Moravian church with provinces and congregations being given a designated month and time to be in prayer for our Unity.
We Moravians became known as “God’s Happy People.” We launched a missionary society in a time when Protestant missions were unknown. The first missionaries, two young men, declared their willingness to become slaves if necessary to reach the slaves in the West Indies with the Gospel. Within fifteen years, the Moravians at Herrnhut had established missions in the Virgin Islands, Greenland, Turkey, the Gold Coast of Africa, South Africa, and North America. They endured unspeakable hardships. Many died in difficult circumstances. But as fast as they died, others came forth to take their places. The Moravian mission and prayer movements influenced the eighteenth-century revivals in America and England. The power of the Holy Spirit energized this congregation during one summer.
I believe our Moravian Church could use a boost from the Holy Spirit, to energize our membership, to energize our contributions and to energize our commitment to serve God.
Holy Communion for us today, like our brothers and sisters so long ago on August 13th, is a time for us to come to God and ask for forgiveness from God. Holy Communion is a time for us to put aside any differences we may have and unite together to serve God’s Kingdom.
May the Holy Spirit’s power come upon us this day and shape and influence our lives for years to come.
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
August 13, 2017