Monday, May 31, 2010

The Slow Days of Summer?

I don't know why I think that Summer for a pastor brings with it a slowage. . . because really (at least here) it doesn't. Now, I know up in Nebraska the farmers all told my dad, "It's summer, we're busy. Put the bible studies on hold and go golfing" - but that isn't the case here. Some things go away - preschool, confirmation, Latin with the Davidson girls -- all told, probably around 5 hours or so of stuff off of normal.

Now, 5 hours isn't anything to shake a stick at, but it's not suddenly going to part time either. And plus, well, actually, summers can become really even more busy for me. When Vicar Hobson returns, he and I will end up doing probably 4-8 hours of study and discussion a week. I may be should be teaching a Greek class this summer - that's going to be another 3-6 hours a week. And I still have my 2 bible studies during the week and the weekly devotional in town. . . still lots of stuff.

But it does seem different - and I think here is why.

1. Ordinary time. The Character of the Church Year Changes. We are moving away from festivals and extra celebrations to a time of reflecting upon Christ's Word. There is a move from action towards contemplation, and that just seems slower. . .
2. Rescheduling - over the course of the School Year, things pop up. Got to do this here and that's just how it is. As Summer comes, we get to reschedule and reorganize our time - and that can make things more efficient - so things get done quicker.
3. It's fun - I can't wait for Jay to get back, I can't wait for this Greek Class to start. I get to discuss theology. I get to study Greek in detail again. I find these things to be mentally invigorating - teaching those who really, really want to learn is energizing to me.
4. The Sun is up. I get to Church to work early. I "slept in" today until 6:15, and didn't start Church stuff until around 7. I'm a morning person. But now, I see the sun. The sun is up when I head to Church. I can have a full 10, 12 hour day. . . and there's still sun. There's still day-light left. Gone are the days of Advent where the only sun I see is while walking to the car to drive to another appointment - let there be light!
5. The other things are done. The graduations of May - done. The festivities of Easter in April. Done. Lent. Done. The Thanksgiving-Epiphany stretch (which I think is the busiest and most stressful time) is as far away in the calendar as it gets. And the prep for the school year stuff isn't pressing - there is time a plenty for it (and yes, we prep a lot for those extra 5-6 hours the school year brings, even if you have no Christian Day School)

So no, it's not that my summer slows down. It may even be busier -- but it's just. . . refreshing, I suppose. Relaxed, a bit? Still, a wondrous time. I think I might actually take some time off the rest of this memorial day to spend with me bride - right after a bit of Greek reading. Be well all!

P.S. Suggestions! Jay Hobson will be returning from Vicarage in July. We've talked about doing some Augustine, Luther (maybe the Galatians Commentary). Anyone have any suggestions as to something that Jay and I should attempt to tackle in 8 weeks or so this summer?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Trinity Sunday, 2010

Trinity Sunday – May 30th, 2010 – John 3:1-15

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
By in large, people don’t like to be different. People don’t want to stand out from the crowd, don’t want to stick out. Even the people who want to be “rebels” and stand out, simply stand out the same way every other “rebel” does. Maybe in the 50s if you wanted to be a rebel you would wear jeans and a black jacket – just like James Dean. Or when I was in college, you’d dye your hair a wild color – right after you went to store where they sold tons of hair dye to all those other people who wanted to be rebels just like you. Even our rebels like to stick together. By in large, we don’t like to be different.

But here is the truth. As a Christian, you are different from the rest of the world. This is what our Lord teaches us today – “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Last week was Pentecost – we saw again and were focused upon the wonder and mystery that we have received the Holy Spirit from God through the gift of Baptism – we are born of the Spirit. We are Christians – and as such, we are different from the world, we will be different, or to borrow from a song, we now have a little Gospel light, and we are called to let it shine in the midst of a world full of people who have no light. That makes you different from the rest of the world. The world dwells in darkness and loves it, but you are a child of the light, born of the Spirit. Christ our Lord shows us what this means in our Gospel lesson today.

To begin, we hear, “Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with Him.’” So, here you have Nicodemus, a powerful and respected man. A ruler of the Jews, sometime high up there, one of the hoity-toity, a muckity-muck. And he is bold and he comes to Jesus and says, “Oh yes, we know You are a Holy teacher sent by God.” But did you note when Nicodemus says this? By night. When no one is around to see. Jesus teaches and preaches all the time, in front of crowds. Does Nicodemus come then, when people can see? No, he doesn’t want to stand out. Nicodemus creeps up to Jesus, skulking around like a thief, and when no one can see, then he puts on a bold face. Oh yes, we know. . . we know. He’s there by himself, in the dark, hiding his actions from the public, yet still he’s trying to hide himself in a crowd. We. Do you see how ashamed and fearful Nicodemus is here? What would happen if people found out he was conversing with this Jesus? Would he be mocked? Would people laugh at him? And Nicodemus wants to know more, knows that he should learn – he does say that Jesus is a teacher, and you go to a teacher only if you need to learn – but Nicodemus is flat out scared and ashamed.

Now, consider your own life. Are there times when you are scared, when you are ashamed to be a Christian, ashamed to be a Lutheran? When you are keenly aware of the fact that your faith doesn’t let you fit in with everyone else? Are there times when you wish you could just fit in better – maybe with the folks at work or school who are coarse and unkind? Or even when you wish that this Church just wasn’t. . . so different from the other Churches around – that it would be nice if we looked more and sounded like them? Not would it be more truthful, not would it better teach the Word of God in its truth and purity, but wouldn’t it just be. . . more comfortable? The thing is, when we have these types of thoughts – where are looking? When we worry about fitting in, are we looking at Christ, are our eyes focused squarely upon our Crucified Lord, are we determined to know nothing but Christ and Him Crucified, or do our eyes wander to our neighbor? This pressure to impress others, to fit in, to do what “they” do, whoever they are, has been around since the fall, and it is harmful and destructive. It is blinding, for it takes our eyes of off Christ.

Which is why Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Unless one is born again, he’ll not see. His eyes will be off elsewhere and he’ll miss, he’ll ignore these things of God, he’ll ignore the things of Christ Jesus. And Nicodemus, he misses the mark here too. “Now can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Misses the point. Is this some bizarre ritual I must do in order to join the club? No, it isn’t. You’re thinking is off right now Nicodemus – our Lord says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” You are thinking in fleshly terms, Nicodemus. This birth has nothing to do with your earthly mother – it has to do with the Spirit taking water and joining you to Christ Jesus and your Heavenly Father! To be a Christian, to be one born of the Spirit means that you think, you see things along spiritual lines. We think in terms of the faith, in terms of the Creed – that our lives are shaped by what we believe, that we see things along the ways we have been trained from the Catechism. The world loves and trusts all sorts of things, power, wealth, fame. We have been born of water and the Spirit, and so we know that we are to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. That is the Spiritual truth. The world strives to get ahead, to have more and more, to be powerful and successful and make people adore you. We have been born of water and the Spirit, and we know that we are to love our neighbors, to serve them, to strive to make their life better even at cost to ourselves. That is the Spiritual truth that we are part of.

But the problem is, rightly now we are so fleshly. We know the Spiritual truths, we know how our lives ought to be – and yet so often we fall right into those comfortable, sinful patterns of the world. We worry about what our friends and neighbors think more than we worry about what God has said. We worry more about what luxury we might not have more than we worry about what our neighbor needs, what our Church needs. The old sinful nature rises up in us, and we turn our eyes away from Christ and towards that utterly sinful, messy world and we dive on in there. Luther is wonderful to read on this – I don’t think that there has been a theologian in the history of the church who has been so eloquent and so blunt on the struggles we have with our sinful flesh – here is one that I like – “The original sin in a man is like his beard, which, though shaved off today so that a man is very smooth around his mouth, yet grows again by tomorrow morning. As long as a man lives, such growth of the hair and beard does not stop. But when the shovel beats the ground on his grave, it stops. Just so original sin remains in us and bestirs itself as long as we live, but we must resist it and always cut off its hair.” That’s where we are at – constantly fighting the same struggles against sin, constantly beating down sinful desires. The struggles we worked against yesterday pop up again. And whenever we look in the mirror, whenever we take stock of our life honestly, we will always, always see more sin creeping. In fact, as you grow in the faith, as you learn to see things spiritually you will see more and more sin in your life, you will see clearly the vileness of things that you had been used to doing with nary a thought.

So then, what remains? Nicodemus asks, “How can these things be?” We can ask it too. When we see the sinfulness of our lives, when we cast off the smug, self-righteous “Oh, I’m a good person” attitudes and look at ourselves, we can ask this question too. How can we be turned away from sinfulness and unto God? What is our Lord’s response? “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.” It is true that sin is a vile illness, but you have been Baptized into Christ Jesus and His death, and this means that your sin has been taken up by Christ, that your sin was lifted up with Christ upon the Cross and put to death. On account of Christ Jesus, the sin that you have done is forgiven. The sin that merits your death and damnation is done away with. And that is how you have eternal life – that is how you have it now. You are baptized, you are joined to Christ, and you are risen as He is risen. It doesn’t always show, sometimes your sinfulness hides it, but Christ Jesus Himself dwells with you. The True and Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is with you, and they give you strength to struggle, strength to actually show love even now when you still must struggle against your sinful flesh. Life with God isn’t just a down the road in heaven thing – it’s a now thing. Yes, you will be perfected on the last day, but right now God is with you, right now He gives you life and strength. Right now your Lord gives you His own Body and Blood so that you might be kept firm in the faith, firm in forgiveness, strengthened to show love. And this is the wonder and the beauty of it all – Christ has given you salvation, given you His own Gospel light, and He makes this light to shine all the more in you when He draws you unto Himself. Just as the people in the wilderness were healed and had life when they beheld the bronze serpent, you are forgiven and have life when you are focused upon Christ, when you are focused upon the Word of God – and Christ Jesus wrests our eyes off the world and makes us to grow, to know the things of God. And when you fail, when you sin, He wrests your eyes back onto Himself. This is how you grow, by being focused upon Christ and seeing Him.

And because of this, you will stand out from the crowd. You will be different from the world, for the world could care less about the things of God. The world could care less for the Word, the world despises Baptism and the new birth it brings, the world despises this most Holy Supper of our Lord’s Body and Blood – but you have been given eyes to see, you have been called by God to receive forgiveness and eternal life. You have received the Gospel of Christ, and thus, all thanks be to God, you are different, you are changed – you are united with Christ. This Trinity season, the Gospel lessons will have our Lord teach you more about Himself and His love for you. May you diligently hear His Word, ever more clearly see His love, and grow in Him. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Saturday Night Service

Tonight, while my dad is on vacation, I will be heading to Woodward to conduct services at Trinity Lutheran Church on Saturday night. Saturday night services have always fascinated me a little bit -- in many ways they are appealing to me as a person (I could very easily see myself in retirement attending a Saturday night service -- if only most had good bible study attached!). Saturday night tends to be a lousy night for TV (actually, Sunday morning is much better for TV if you like Sports as I do or politics) - plus, you get dressed up, go to Church, then maybe catch dinner or a movie. It becomes part of your day.

Sometimes with Sundays -- well, once I get home from Church, generally that's all she wrote. Church is mentally and emotionally fatiguing (and that's not including the Sundays where I am fighting a cold and lose my voice! Thanks be to God that those are rare). I don't know, maybe it's because I'm a morning person and what we have here doesn't start until 9:30, but it seems like Church takes up half the day -- of course, during the week, I've generally been working for 2.5 hours by 9:30, so this might just be impatience combined with my morning personality.

Sometimes I wonder if a Saturday night service wouldn't be beneficial. It might cut down on that whole idea of "Saturday night is party night!" idea. It would undercut the whole "but this is my day to sleep in" argument. Of course the same could be said for a Sunday night service as well.

Of course - all of this is completely theoretical because:
A - We aren't (and shouldn't) move off of Sunday morning
B - I've never actually been to or done a Saturday night service.

As much as and as long as I have thought that a Saturday night service would better fit my own preferences - I've never gone to one. I'm sort of excited for tonight.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The myth of an order bringing polity in the Church

The LCMS has a congregational polity. We do not have "bishops" in the administrative sense, where a man tells who to fill what pulpit and the like. This brings with it many frustrations - congregations end up becoming much more divergent in practice, pastors and congregations are not often disciplined, many pastors are left woefully underpaid and otherwise abused. We often can think that if only we had bishops, this would be better.

A Roman Catholic friend of mine introduced this link by saying, "A dissident Jesuit, educated beyond his intelligence, gets put in is place." The Jesuit in question, the CEO of the Asian Catholic News Agency, thinks that quantum physics nullifies the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

The article of the smackdown is a nice read - but not the main point. What we see here is an example of a "dissident" who isn't removed. I just read Willa Cather's "Death Comes for the Archbishop" - and much of that book is about how this newly consecrated bishop is often ignored in New Mexico, and basically has to handle things very much in the same way I handle them.

It is a myth to think that any specific polity will bring order in the Church. Sin will always strike at the order in the Church, it will always bring about false doctrine and schism and stupidity. The solution is not hoping for order, or thinking that if the right man gets in somewhere else that everything will be rosy where you are. No - the solution is to act properly according to what you have been called to be. If you are a Pastor - be a faithful pastor to your sheep, and also a faithful colleague to your fellow pastors, reproving where reprove is needed. If you are a parishioner, be a faithful parishioner. Hear the word, receive the Sacraments, support and respect those who care for you spiritually, and encourage them to do so when and where they fail (for they too are human and will fail).

Whatever the polity, Satan will try to destroy. Whatever duties are given to an office in any polity, Satan will try to pervert. Tend to the office you have been placed by God, whatever the polity or structure - and thus obeying the Word of God and by the use of the Word of God, put Satan to flight.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pentecost Sermon

Pentecost Sunday – May 23rd, 2010 – Acts 2 and John 14

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
The day of Pentecost is here – the day which we remember the Apostles sitting there in Jerusalem, and then the mighty rush of wind, and then the tongues of fire, and then the speaking in tongues so that all who are present can hear. . . hear what? Our reading today from Acts cuts off Peter’s sermon – he basically had begun to preach – said we aren’t drunk but this is just what Joel told you would come – and then we don’t hear any more. So, what does Peter preach that day – when the Holy Spirit comes upon him, what does Peter proclaim? Listen to his first two sentences – “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know – this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” And then the last sentence – “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you have crucified.” The Holy Spirit comes – and what happens? Peter preaches that Jesus is True Man and True God – He is the LORD – and He has died and He has risen – and what is the response to this when people ask what do we do? “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the LORD our God calls to Himself.”

And so here we are – here we are – we who are far off, who are the children’s children’s children many times over – this is the promise we have received, that we have been made part of. We have been called to repentance, we have been baptized – many of us at this very font – we have received the Holy Spirit, and we have been called by God to come to this place and hear His Word and worship Him. You are part of Acts 2 – you are part of the events of Pentecost. What started then with the establishment of the New Testament Church extends to right now, right here. We are part of that very same Church – we have the same LORD and Christ, we have the same baptism and forgiveness, we have received the same Holy Spirit.

So then, what does this mean? What now does life as one who repents and receives forgiveness from Christ look like? What does life look like for one who has received the Holy Spirit? Is it a life of power and might – where we can put our hands on people’s heads and shake a bit and then knock them to the ground and say, “Be healed”? While it could be fun, at least for me, to go around smacking people upside their head – that’s not the point. Or does receiving the Holy Spirit mean that we get to go and speak in tongues and talk in strange languages? Well, I suppose it could, but on Pentecost day there were people from all over gathered into the Temple – Parthians and Medes and Elamites and folks from all over. What do we have here. . . English speakers of mostly Germanic descent. There’s not really a need for that, and the Holy Spirit didn’t have the Apostles speak in tongues just so that they could be cool and have people ooo and ahhh at them. And I could go on – there are those who thought receiving the Holy Spirit meant you rolled around on the ground – you know, holy rollers – or that you barked like a dog, or that you got to play with snakes – on and on and on. I would rather suggest that we listen to the Words of our Lord Jesus Christ and what He describes in our Gospel lesson.

“Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My Word, and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’” This is a fantastically dense verse. We are the people who love Jesus – so what shapes our lives – keeping His Word. Now, this doesn’t just mean “obeying the commandments”. This isn’t just law here, this isn’t just a command to be nice. This word “keep” really has that sense of hold fast to, cling to – to hold onto God’s Word in faith. We are to hold fast to and cling to God’s Word – all of it. Commandments – yes indeed. We are to strive and to struggle to do good. But also we are to cling by faith to the Word of God which tells us that we have forgiveness in Christ Jesus because of His death and resurrection for our sake. We are to cling to that very truth that Peter proclaimed on Pentecost – to keep what the Scriptures say and teach – all of it – Law and Gospel. This is what it is to keep the Word, to see that we know it, that we learn it, that we live in it. Our very lives are shaped and defined by the truth that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. That’s what we hold on to, that’s where we live. We struggle against sin and delight in Christ’s forgiveness. And what happens at the very same time as we live in that Word? The Father and the Son come to us and make their home with us, live with us, be with us.

And of course, this keeping our focus on the Scriptures, this being in the Word isn’t simply our own action, it isn’t something that simply comes about by our own strength. Rather our Lord says, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that came upon the Apostles on Pentecost, the same Spirit that Peter promised to those who heard and believed and were baptized, the same Spirit that we ourselves have received by the gift of baptism – He has come to us and He teaches. The Spirit brings to remembrance – He makes us remember the things that Jesus has said to us. Or to put it another way – the Spirit makes us to keep Christ’s Word – to make it so that the Word of God is up front in our life. The Holy Spirit makes us to remember God’s commands, so that during the week when we live our lives we know the difference between right and wrong, so that we know what is good and God pleasing and can strive to do that. Without the Spirit, you cannot try to please God, because without the Spirit a person doesn’t really know God and can’t know what God wants – and you end up with all the various false religions of the world where people make up their own things and the Lord says, “In vain do they worship Me, following the commandments of men.” The Holy Spirit focuses us upon the Word so we don’t careen off into that. The Holy Spirit also makes us to remember God’s love for us, makes us to remember that the Father sent the Son to be our Savior from Sin, so that when we are burdened, when we understand and see the weight of our sin, we repent and with joy and gladness receive forgiveness. The Holy Spirit draws us closer to Christ, He makes us to trust in the forgiveness that Christ won even while Satan and the world mock us and try to condemn us. That’s what the Spirit does. Do you wish to know if you have received the Holy Spirit – it is as simple as this. Have you been baptized? If so, the Holy Spirit has laid His claim upon you. Do you confess that Jesus is LORD – that He is God Almighty? No man may say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. Do you repent of your sin and receive Christ’s forgiveness – that is worked by the Word of God through the Holy Spirit. This is where we live, this is our lives as Christians – those who by the Spirit are brought to the Word of God and live in that Word of God and keep that Word of God.

And so what does this all mean? Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” The gift of the Holy Spirit is this – the Spirit focuses us upon the Word of God, and thus we are always focused upon Christ Jesus and thus we always know His Peace. We are at peace with God. God is not angry with you, God is not out to punish you – all that has been taken up by Christ. There upon the cross was your punishment, and now there is no more punishment left for you. The Triune God – Father, Son, and Spirit – is at peace with you, and dwells with you, makes His home with you – for you are forgiven because of Christ Jesus. This is the peace Christ has given you, the peace that the Spirit continually points you to. And this is not given as the world gives. In the world that which is given can be taken away. In the world, that which is given often has strings attached and hidden fees and fine print. In the world there’s always a catch, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But not as the world gives does Christ give His peace to you – for it is truly free. It is truly a gift. Nothing of yours is required, but rather God delights in giving you salvation – indeed, God loves you and maintains you and cares for you even as you wander. He calls you to repentance, calls you to return to your baptismal life, and showers forgiveness upon you. And thus, there is no need for your hearts to be troubled – no need for them to be afraid. Christ has won everything for you, enjoy His peace.

This, dear friends, is your heritage as a Christian. This is what the Father sent the Holy Spirit through His Son for – so that you might always be secure and confident in His love, that you might always cherish God’s Word in its truth and purity, and that you might always know and be sure of the forgiveness Christ has won you. What was revealed on the day of Pentecost continues here today, and it shall continue until our Lord returns – come quickly Lord Jesus. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"One Day More" - Day before Call Day version

The following was written the day before call night - to the tune of "One Day More" from Les Mis

[a lone seminarian]
One day more
Another day, another destiny
This never-ending road to Calvary
These men who seem to know my mind
For me a church will surely fine
One day more.

[Professor John Pless]
I did not assign a book today. . .
How can I teach when we are parted?
(One day more...)
[Professor Seinkbeil joins in] Tomorrow they'll be world's away
They barely got their programs started...

[Congregational President]
One more day all on my own
(Pless and Seinkbeil) - Will we ever meet again?
One more day with no one preaching
(P&S) Please come to symposia
What a vacancy this has been
(P&S) And I swear our doctrine is true
With these retired pastors here. . .

[Dr. Scaer] One more day, but don't get called
[Dave Ohlman] Should I stay or should I go?
[Scaer] The voters will be mean to you
[Ohlman] Shall I join my brothers there?
[Scaer] Take another year of study
[Ohlman] Fort Wayne isn't a bad place
[Scaer] Give my tests is what you'll do
[Ohlman] My place is here, I'll teach with you. . .

[Chorus of District Presidents] One more day till call night service
We will give them all the shaft
We'll be ready for these school boys
They will never ever last

[Rev. George Lange and Joyce Ostermann] Lose the guarantee
Hit 'em with a bill
Raise board and fees, loans should cover it still
There a little bit
Here a little cut
Most of them are broke so they won't miss much

[All students] One day to a new beginning
Raise your call documents high
[All Synodical Officials] Every voter is a king
[All Students] Every voter is our king.
But these congregations must pay our living
Concordia Health fees to be paid
[Everyone] Do you hear the cash till ring?

[Montage - during which a voice rises in the background]
[Jack Cascione sings:] I will watch there congregations
I will let old Herm Otten know
When they start genuflecting
When their liturgies look like Rome

(Entire Cast)
And tonight is the Judgment Day
And tonight we'll find out what our God in heaven has in store
One night long
One more day
One day more.

+ + + + + + + + + + +

This is just proof of how bored and stir crazy I was my last quarter at the Sem.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Love, Acceptance, Validation

Our Lord in John says that He does not give as the world gives. This has spurred me on to some thoughts. Christ does not love as the world loves, and this causes no end of confusion to the world.

In the world, to love means to accept and to validate. If I love someone, I will "accept them, warts and all". And if they stay warty, that's fine. In the world, if I love someone, I will validate them - I will support and encourage them in what they want (even if their want is foolish and self-destructive). Okay, so occasionally we might have an "intervention" where you move someone from highly self-destructive to less self-destructive, but that is highly rare.

This is not how Christ loves. Christ's love is a love that serves the one whom He loves, that provides for them what they need, not what they want. Which gives proper care for a person, not just the stroking of their ego. Christ's love is a love that seeks to improve the person, to heal them, to make them grow - not simply leave no where near well enough alone.

This is why the world rejects Christ - it despises His love and rather craves the shallow false-love that is popularized today. People jump from spouse to spouse trying to find one that will stroke their ego, that will increase their social status - rather than finding the spouse who is the meet and right helper who will improve them. People seek friends who are more apt to say, "Yeah, you are so right" rather than, "listen, you were out of line there."

Our sinful nature does not want to be healed - it wants to be told it's okay.
Our sinful nature does not want growth - it wants its deformities applauded.
Our sinful nature does not want love that serves it - it wants tyranny and control.
Our sinful nature does not want to submit to others - it wants to be accepted on it's own terms.
Our sinful nature does not want to become better - it wants wickedness validated.

The world does not know love, and so the world will never recognize Christ. The world will never know the God who is love, because it does not know love.

Monday, May 17, 2010

1 John in Latin

By this Wednesday, Rebecca and Suzanna Davidson will have finished their 2nd year of Latin with me - and what we've done for the past 2 months is simply read 1 John. They will finish reading 1 John in Latin on this Wednesday. That is just really, really neat.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ascension Observed Sermon

Ascension Observed – Luke 24:44-52 – May 16th, 2010

Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen +
Today we are observing Ascension day. Technically speaking, Ascension was this past Thursday – 40 days after Easter Sunday. For 40 days after His resurrection our Lord appeared to the disciples in various places, preaching and teaching. And then came time for the ascension. Our Lord’s Kingdom is not of this world, He would not remain to be some showy and flashy King, but rather He would be the LORD of the Church, spreading faith and salvation through the preaching of the Word. And He ascends to heaven. This is something that is a vital part of our Christian faith – not a worship service goes by in this place where we do not confess that He ascended unto heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father and that He shall come again. The ascension is a great part of our hope and joy as Christians – so what makes it so important? That’s what we are going to look at this morning – and I think we can really talk about three things that the Ascension teaches us, that it proves to us.

The first thing that the Ascension proves is that Christ’s work is done. That it is finished. That every word of prophecy has been fulfilled and completed by our Lord. Note what our Lord says to the disciples – “These are My Words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Everything. All of it. Fulfilled. The Old Testament was written for one purpose – to point the people of God to the Coming Messiah, to show them who it was who would crush the head of the Serpent and win salvation – to show them who the true promised seed of Abraham was – to show who would be the One to give Israel true deliverance from bondage – to show what kind of Kingdom great David’s Greater Son would have. All of the Old Testament pointed forward to Christ – Luther is wonderful to read on the Old Testament – He says that every page drips Christ. It was written so that people might know what to look for in the coming Messiah, so that they might recognize Him. That’s why we still read the Old Testament today, why it’s still useful to us – it points to Jesus. Even our lesson today – you have Elijah taken up by the fiery chariots – who is Elijah? The great prophet of the Old Testament, and when his work is done, he is taken to the Lord, and Elisha, who remains, strives to follow in Elijah’s footsteps. That’s foreshadowing for our Gospel – our Lord’s work is complete, and the Apostles remain, striving to follow in Christ’s footsteps and proclaim Him to the world. It all points to Christ.

And it is all complete. It is all fulfilled. There is nothing, not a single line, stroke, or dot of the Old Testament that our Lord has not fulfilled. It’s done. Everything that is needed, everything that is necessary for the victory over Satan promised to our first parents in the garden is completed. Do you understand what a comfort this is? Nothing is going to pop up at the last minute, nothing is going to go wrong, we aren’t going to have to suddenly scramble to some how find more forgiveness or something silly like that. Christ has done in all. For so many things, for so many plans in our life, little details pop up at the last minute, and we have to run around like mad trying to fix things. With your salvation, you will never, never have to do that. It is finished. Christ has done it all, and your forgiveness is won. Your sin is paid for. The fact that Christ has ascended shows and proves that everything is accomplished.

One other note on Christ’s work being done. We hear - Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all nations.” This is something that we need to remember. Christ tells us what it means to understand the Scriptures. If you want to understand the Word of God, you don’t need to know some bizarre, hidden bible code. You don’t need a special decoder ring. You don’t need some guy on TV telling you that the 3rd cricket in chapter 6 of Jeremiah means in October of 2010 there’s going to be some disaster. In fact, all of that is bunk, is lying spurned on by Satan. Jesus tells us what the Scriptures mean – thus it is written – that the Christ should died and rise and because of this we preach repentance and forgiveness. . . we warn people of sin and then show them Christ Jesus who has died and has risen so that they are forgiven. If you want to grow in your faith – ponder our Lord’s death and resurrection and how it impacts your life. If you want to learn how to be a “better” Christian – ponder how our Lord shows love – while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Show love like that – and when you see that your love falls short, remember Christ’s death and know you are forgiven and hoping and trusting in Him go try again. Everything revolves around Christ – and He has done it all, all thanks and glory be to God. This is what our Lord teaches and proves with His ascension.

There is a second great comfort that comes from the Ascension – something that gets pointed out throughout the Epistles of the New Testament. We have an advocate with the Father. Right now, Christ Jesus, true God and true Man is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He reigns in Heaven. All things are under Christ’s control – and He is there in heaven. And do you know what? You are connected to Christ. I like this word “connected” – a lot of people will talk about having a “relationship” with Christ. . . and we do. . . but the thing is, well, a lot of relationships in this world are messed up. Or they are long distance. Before my wife and I got hitched, we had a relationship – but she was in Norman and I was in Lahoma, and that meant that most of the time. . . well, long distance relationships stink. She’s here now, much better. You do not have a long distance relationship with Christ – it’s not that he’s just up in heaven and you’re down here but you get to call Him every once in a while. . . no – you are connected to Christ. Think on your Baptism – the Triune God claimed you as His own – Christ Jesus said that you would be His dwelling place. You are connected to Christ – personally – you are part of His body – you are more closely connected to Christ than you are to anyone. This is why we are taught that we are part of the Body of Christ – that’s how connected we are to Christ – He is always with us, even to the end of the Age. It makes any “relationship” that we think of pale in comparison.

And right now, your Ascended Lord is seated at the right hand of the Father – and you are connected to Him. Do you see what this means? Right now, heaven is yours. Right now, you get to participate in the heavenly things, in the heavenly life. Because Christ has ascended, we know that our prayers are joined in by the throngs of heaven – you never pray alone – the hosts of heaven pray with you. You never sing alone – you sing off key, who cares, the Angelic Choirs aren’t, and they make your voice sound good… make even my voice sound good. We touch upon heaven now, especially in our worship and our reception of the Sacraments – we are connected to Christ, and so we are connected to something much, much bigger than we often think about. And should Satan ever come and tempt you, ever bother you – tell you that you are alone – you can tell him to go hell, literally, for you are of the Body of Christ, you are connected to your Ascended Lord who reigns in Heaven, and Satan has no right to be in your presence, for where you are Christ is as well. That is what the Ascension shows and gives to us.

And then, there is one final thing that we learn, that we are reminded of with the Ascension of our Lord. I love what we hear in Acts – the Angel who says, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” The final joy of this Ascension is that we are pointed forward to the Last Day. We need to get rid of this fear that has arisen about the Last Day, the End of the World. You realize that this was what spurred on the reformation – folks were terrified of the Last Day – Luther was worried that Jesus was going to come back and kick his backside all over creation and into purgatory because he wasn’t good enough. That’s what almost drove Luther to despair – and the joy that He discovered is the fact that Christ has done everything for salvation, so we need not fear the last day – rather, as we confess in the Creed we “look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.” Christ shall return – and it will be good. These stupid things we have to deal with now because we live in a world of sin – then they will be gone. Aches and pains - they will be gone. Difficulty and strife – they will be gone. Even death – it will be gone, and the people it has tried to rob from Christ will return unto us at the blast of His trumpet. This is the promise of the Last Day – and we behold our Lord ascend, we see Him go up, and we know that at some point He’s coming back – and if it’s in our life time, fantastic, if it’s hundreds of years down the line, fantastic – because our Lord shall return, and in our own flesh we will rise perfected and glorious and we who are connected to Christ by the gift of Baptism and faith will rise and shine like His is risen and shines and we too will bodily go into heaven, never more to worry about sin or death or Satan or any of these old familiar foes that we struggle against daily. The Ascension is the promise of that – the promise that He will come again. The promise that we too will ascend to the New Heavens and the New Earth and receive everlasting joys.

This, dear friends, is why we make mention of our Lord’s Ascension in every, every service we have here – it is why we pray “Thy Kingdom Come”, it is why we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Our Lord is victorious, He has done everything that you need for salvation – and because you are His and His is yours, because you are His Body, you have access to the joys of heaven now even in this world, and you have the sure guarantee of deliverance from this world on the last day, all praise and glory be to Christ Jesus our Risen and Ascended Lord and Savior. Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thoughts upon attending a funeral

So, I attended a funeral today at a "Community" Church nearby. I knew the preacher (who also works part-time at a local funeral home - he does a fine job there). I find I don't like going to non-lutheran funerals in general - they tend to make me angry. False Doctrine does that.

Today, though, I ended up being more reflective. It wasn't horrible (it wasn't a solid Lutheran service), but it could have been worse. But even with an okay service, here is what I noticed.

1. "A Celebration of Life" is Law. A lot of times churches now hesitate to call funerals funerals. They think this is too depressing, and instead, we "celebrate the life of the deceased." The thing is. . . they are dead. Yes, the deceased was wonderful. . . and right now, I don't have that wonderful anymore. Yes, those times were good. . . but they gone now and so are those times. To simply celebrate the life is to highlight a gift that is gone. There's nothing wrong with celebrating the life - in fact, it is good to reflect and give thanks to God for the blessings we have received - but that reflection never will give comfort - it will always be a bittersweet celebration, and the bitter taste is the one that will linger.

2. Losing the Liturgy means losing prayer. So the preacher told us before hand that the service wasn't going to be "liturgical" -- oh, there would be an order, but it would just sort of flow. And we entered, and there was a song, and then there was an ex-corde prayer (including the preacher wanting help to get through the service), and then a reading of the obituary that was interspliced with personal comment and reflections (and I guess life-celebrations), and then we looked at pictures while the Carpenters (the band) sang. Then there was - I guess it was a sermon (at least the hope of heavenly reunion although not a lot of focus on Christ) - then another prayer - then a hymn, then "Still the One" by Shania Twain. . . and that was it.

The big thing I noticed is that there was. . . so little prayer. Everything in the Liturgy is prayer - we are constantly calling upon God in prayer whenever we speak in Church. And that was. . . just not there. It just made me appreciate the impact of a liturgical life on my ability to pray.

3. A guiding of emotion or a proclamation of the Word? Whenever I have a service, my thought is to proclaim the Word of God - any service. At a funeral, it is proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ for the sake of the deceased, to proclaim that they now live in the presence of God. It is bold, it is decisive. I don't worry about things that I don't know (I may mention them in passing) - I declare the Word of God. It is declarative, it is authoritative.

What I heard today seemed more to be a guiding of emotional responses through the grieving process (or at least to get it started). The emotion of the preacher was much more clearly presented - and he put himself in the position of being with us, not just in an empathetic way, but in a participatory way. And the movement of the service was in moving us to good feeling, good memories.

On all these things, I am glad I am a liturgical Lutheran.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Easter 6 Sermon

Easter 6 – Mother’s Day, 2010 – John 16:23-30

Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen +
What does the Christian life look like? What does a Christian do? What shapes what your life as a Christian ought to look like? There are many answers that might get tossed out there. Some would say that it is a purpose driven life. Some would say that it means living your best life now. Some might say it is a life of service and dedication. I suppose these are all good things – but you don’t need to be a Christian to have purpose, and I’ve known plenty of people who aren’t religious at all but are enjoying their life now. And a Buddhist can be quite dedicated and serve kindly. No, what defines the Christian life – what makes how a Christian goes about his day different and distinct from all the other peoples of the world? Our Lord tells us.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My Name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My Name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. That’s the thing, that’s what separates a Christian from all the other peoples of the world. Not successes, not power, not dedication, not delight in the things of this life – but prayer and worship. This is what Christ is speaking to – asking in Christ’s name is prayer. And that, praying to God in the Name of Christ Jesus is uniquely Christian, and it is what shapes our life. Consider now the 2nd Commandment – Thou Shall not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Well, if we aren’t to take it is vain, if we aren’t to abuse it, then obviously we are supposed to use it rightly, rightly in prayer. Pray, praise, and give thanks, as the Catechism teaches. To be a Christian is to be one who prays – and the Christian life is shaped by prayer.

I would also suggest that we think of this in terms of worship. Jesus here is speaking to the disciples together – He says the Greek equivalent of “y’all”. Until now, y’all have asked nothing in My Name. It’s a corporate thing – not just someone going off by himself praying, but the people of God coming together for worship. And what happens here – we gather in the Name of Christ, and we pray, over and over and over. And I’m not just talking about the collects or the long prayer of the Church. When y’all in the Congregation say something here, it is in reality most likely a prayer – either asking God for something or giving thanks. Confession – that’s a prayer. Lord have mercy – that’s prayer. We hear the Word of God read, and then we pray – Thanks be to God – that’s a prayer - that’s thanksgiving. Giving praise to God works this way as well – to glorify Him, that’s part and parcel of using God’s Name as it should be used. Our hymns – these are giving praise to God as we are instructed in the Second Commandment. That’s why the Third Commandment follows the Second – Remember the Sabbath Day – because when we remember the Sabbath day we keep the second commandment and the first as well, and when we don’t remember the Sabbath day, we break the first two. The Christian life is one of prayer and worship – and our prayer and worship of God should shape and focus everything we do in our lives.

It often doesn’t. Even Jesus tells the disciples – you haven’t asked anything of Me yet. Our prayers and our worship falter quite often. None of us is surprised that there are empty spaces in the pews this morning – even though we have enough people on our rolls to have them filled. And I’m not going to just turn this into a “lambaste the folks who aren’t here” day – Luther in the Catechism instructs us to rise with prayer and go to bed with prayer. For how many of you was prayer the first thing you did this morning? We have access to God – God has promised to listen to us – do we think what a wonder and joy this is – how incredibly amazing this gift is? Often we don’t. Often we don’t appreciate this gift like we ought. That is why we are called together for worship and prayer – to be part of the congregation, to be part of the Church is to be those who are “called out” – the word in Greek for congregation is Ekklesia – called out, called to something. We are called away from the distractions of the world so that we might be in prayer and worship, that we might hear the Word, that we might grow.

This points us to a truth we must remember – our prayers in and of ourselves are poor – but they are heard because of Christ. We are instructed to pray in the Name of Jesus – that is at His command and with His authority guiding us. The very act of prayer – of ending a prayer “in Jesus’ Name” – of starting this service “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” reminds us that our relationship to God is not based upon our works, upon our merit, but upon the love that God has for us – based upon the forgiveness and mercy we have from God on account of Christ Jesus. This is something that makes Christian prayer stand out – we go before God not with arrogance in ourselves. We do not say, “See how well I have served You – now give me my due.” Rather, we ask in the Name of Christ. We are weak, but He is strong – and He is righteous and just, and He has won us forgiveness and because of this we ask. Our relationship with God isn’t based on what we have earned – but as Jesus tells us, the Father loves us. Our relationship with God flows from Him, is started by Him, and when we pray, when we are called here together to worship, we see and learn this truth again – that God loves us, that God gives us what we need, be it for this life, or be it sending His only Son to be our Savior from sin that we might be restored to relationship with God for eternal life. All of this is summed up, is brought into focus in a life of worship and prayer. And this is what shapes our lives now. Christ tells the disciples that He is going to the Father, and until He comes again to bring us to the Father with Him, we live this life of prayer.

I would note something else about prayer and worship. It isn’t of our devising – it isn’t something that “we” come up with. Prayer is something we are taught by Christ, and prayer is shaped by Christ. Or our worship – our liturgy – we don’t make it up, it’s the Word of God, bits and pieces of the Word of God set to music that we might speak God’s Word to each other. Our Epistle today touches upon this – James instructs us “But be doers of the Word, and not just hearers only.” Now, normally, if we hear this, we jump straight to loving the neighbor type of stuff – honoring your parents (especially today), caring for those who need care – doing the commands that we have heard. Indeed, that is part of it – James says pure religion is caring for those in need, but it’s more than just that. When we pray, when we worship – we are doing the Word literally. Our prayers are shaped by God’s Word, our worship is shaped by God’s Word – when we pray, when we worship – we do God’s Word. We love God – we love the neighbor – for our prayers include our neighbors as well. How many people do we pray for – we come together and we pray for the whole Church, for our rulers. We pray for people that many of us don’t know – sometimes by name if they are ill. Is that not showing love to the neighbor? And this is good for us – for we teach our tongues how they ought to be used – God opens our lips so that we might pray, praise, and give thanks – and then we learn better to bridle our tongues the rest of the week. This shapes us, this shapes us as Christians.

Because this is the thing – God has called us to come to His House, to be with Him, to hear His Word. Christ has called us to partake of His own Body and Blood. Do we recognize what a wonder this is? Do we realize how awesome and awe inspiring this is? This prayer, this worship, should be the highest thing in our lives. Often it is not. Pastor Hall from Redeemer says that we are “functionally atheists” – that we will maybe, maybe have this hour or two of time devoted to God, and then the rest of the week we just run back to the things of this life just like anyone else – that we do not keep ourselves unstained from the world, as James would say. And we fall into the thinking of the world, we become burdened with the worries and cares of this world, we think of the things of this world and we get beat down. And thus it is to us that Christ says, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Jesus knows the trials you face. Jesus knows the temptations you face in the world, the burdens and fears that come upon you. And to you He says, “I know you have not relied upon Me as you could – rely on me now. Ask of Me for strength, mercy, forgiveness, all that you need for this life and the life to come, and you will receive it. Your joy will be full, for I will be with you.” That is what this Word of God means – that God uses this gift of prayer to give us rest, uses worship to pull us out of the trials of this world – that this House here is a temporary placeholder until we enter our Heavenly Home for good. We get now a brief pause from all the hustle and bustle of life in this fallen world and are focused upon God and His love for us, pointed again to our eternal victory in Christ. We hear proof that we have forgiveness because of Christ’s death for us upon the Cross. This here, being gathered together, this is what it is to be a Christian, to be gathered with all the company of heaven in prayer delighting in God’s gifts. Take advantage of this gift often, in your own homes and together with us, that your joy may be full. Christ is Risen, He is risen indeed, Alleluia.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Try your own pastor. . .

I am going to cite (without him knowing it) another pastor in this Sunday's sermon. . . just a passing phrase he has that sparked my interest. And it will work well. If I had just said ___________ - eh. But if I quote another pastor. . . well gee, this must be good.

We don't respect our own as much. I can say something - eh. If you read the same thing in a book, it's an eye opening wonder. I can visit a congregation and just in passing over the Lenten dinner say something that their pastor has been saying till he's blue in the face for a decade. . . but when I say it. . . Oooooo, Ahhhhhhh.

There can be this. . . disdain of what our own congregation's pastor knows, what he says. It seems as though we put more value on what a person says the further away that person is from us. Try your own pastor. You know him - you've dealt with him - if he is faithful then you've seen him be wise and well versed in the Word. Chances are, he will be faithful now, and chances are if what he says isn't what you "want" it's probably what you need to hear.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Nothing worse than "rights"

If one wants to discuss Christian theology, or the Christian life, one must completely abandon any reliance or usage of the idea of "rights". Think about what a "right" is. It is something that you can demand from another - you must give this to me, to must allow me to do this... it is my right.

The Christian life is not one where we demand our own way. We are not to lord it over one another as the Gentiles do. Rather, we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. To claim a right is to demand to be serve, to demand to have your own wants and desires satisfied. In what way is this a Christian approach.

Now, granted, the thing that got me thinking about this was the issue of women's ordination. Too often that discussion is laced with talk about "rights". Well, Scripturally speaking, no one, man or woman, has a "right" to be a pastor. Some men are called - but there is no right that one can demand.

But we live in an American culture where we think of "God Given" in conjunction with "rights" - where our civil ideas of justice are infused with quasi-deistic jargon that gives out selfishness a religious sheen.

Watch yourself, o Christian! See if you are demanding your rights -- and if you are, make sure it is not out of selfishness or greed, but a desire to show love to your neighbor. Hide not your selfishness under the guise of "rights".

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cyprian and the Babylonian Captivity

Whenever Mother's Day approaches, I end up thinking of Cyprian's famous dictum, "No one can have God for his Father, who does not have the Church as his mother." It's one of my favorite quotes from the fathers - one of the more profound ones, and one that we in America, who tend to lord things over the Church ought to remember. We are not in authority over the Church but the Church has authority over us. The Church is not created to follow our whims, but we are to honor and obey the Church.

Yet, this is also a passage that is often thrown at Lutherans by those of Rome, for their argument is that we have left the Church. However, I would note what Cyprian also says later in the same paragraph - "Does anyone believe that such unity which comes from the strength of God and is held together by the sacraments of heaven, can be divided by the falling out of opposing wills?"

The focus of this unity that is within the Church is centered upon the actions of God and upon His Sacraments. The unity of the Church is truly a sacramental unity. Thus, I think it is no surprise that when Luther strikes out against the abuses of Rome, one of the first full fledged critiques comes in the form of Luther's Babylonian Captivity of the Church. It was in the abuse of the Sacraments that Rome revealed her own error. The unity Rome wished for was not that from God via the Sacraments, but of submission to the will of the Papacy.

To be a Christian is to be gathered around the Gospel rightly preached and the Sacraments rightly administered - to be those who hear and do the Word in the liturgy and prayers - to be those who ask of our Heavenly Father to receive His good gifts. Any focus or definition of Church which pulls away or detracts from the Centrality of God is of the devil and is anti-christ.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Easter 5 Sermon

(Which I hope to deliver today - come let this plague that has hit my upper chest and throat clear up quickly!)

Easter 5 – May 2nd, 2010 – John 16:5-15

Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen
This passage of John is part of what our Lord taught the Disciples in the Upper Room on Maundy Thursday, on the night when He was betrayed. Jesus knew that His earthly ministry was coming to a close. Soon would be His death and resurrection, and soon would be His ascension. And our Lord says this – “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper would not come to you.” Christ tells us that the Holy Spirit is going to come, something we see on Pentecost, something that lasts to this day. Why is this an advantage? Why is this better than just having Jesus walk around and preach? Because there is a change – because the disciples are going to be apostles – because they are going from mere students to those who speak of and for Christ, sent out into all the world. The Church would not be just there in Judea, but Christ will send the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit would work through the Word of God proclaimed by these Apostles, proclaimed by those who follow in their work and line until the Church would spread to all nations, even to us today. There would be a shift – it would no longer be that disciples gathered together to only one place to hear Jesus, but that the Risen and Ascended Lord would send His Workers all over the world, and all over the world people would be gathered in to Churches, just like this one, and people would hear the Word of the Lord preached, would receive the True Body and Blood of Christ for their forgiveness, and in this way, Christ would be with us always, even unto the end of the age. Christ is going to spread His Church – He is going to make it be universal, throughout the whole of creation, and He does that by ascending and then giving the Holy Spirit, the Helper, to see that the Church grows through the proclamation of the Word in all lands, to see that congregations are established around God’s Word and Sacraments. This is the advantage – that we don’t have to find the one spot in all the world, the one town or temple where Jesus happens to be – but that He will come to us wherever we are gathered together around His Word.

This dear friends, is the work of the Holy Spirit. By the Gospel, by the Word, the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and provides every congregation with everything that they need. Right now, we here in this place have the Holy Spirit – He is here doing His job of focusing us on Christ and causing us to grow in faith. Everything we need for life and salvation is right here – everything that makes a Church a Church is right here – even right now in little Lahoma. This is the gift of the Spirit, this is the advantage the Helper brings.

But it is important for us, dear friends, to give heed to the words which Christ Jesus speaks to us this day – because in this Gospel lesson He tells us precisely what the Spirit will do in this place, what His job is. You see, many people make claims on the Holy Spirit, many people shuffle off their foolishness and crackpot ideas and schemes onto the Holy Spirit. Some people use the Holy Spirit as though He is some sort of trump card – I’m gonna do this cause the Holy Spirit told me to! That’s not what Jesus says the Holy Spirit’s job is. Listen to Christ Jesus, who sends us His Spirit – “And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” The Spirit will come and “convict” the world. What does that mean? It means to speak to, to speak about. When the Holy Spirit is present, there is always the Word of God, and not the Word of God talking about abstract dreams and visions and powers and might – but the Word of God speaking directly, convictingly, about sin and righteousness and judgment – the Holy Spirit is there and makes the Word of God hit home. Makes the Word of God hit you right here in the chest. When you hear the word “convict” it means speaking the Word of God decisively.

The Spirit will use the Word of God to convict us, to hit home concerning sin. “Concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me.” God’s Word speaks bluntly and decisively about sin – and all sin is ultimately an ignoring of God’s Word, of refusing to follow, refusing to believe what God has said. The Holy Spirit’s job is to make it so that we see and know this when we hear the God’s Word of Law preached to us. And this is true – sin is always about unbelief. Think back to lesson 1 of the Catechism – what is the First Commandment? You shall have no other gods. . . Thou Shalt have no other gods before Me. What does this mean? We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. If we did this – if we feared God above all things, if our highest respect was upon Him at all times, we would not sin. But sometimes we fear other things more – we fear what our family and friends might say, we fear not being in control, we fear not having our way – and we sin. If we loved God above all things, we would never sin – but we can love ourselves more, love money more, love the respect we get, what people think of us more – and we sin. If we trusted God above all things, we would never sin – but we put our trust in our own strength, in our own power, in our own plans – and we sin. Sin always happens whenever we fear, love, or trust something above God. And the Holy Spirit speaks about this with conviction – we might want to dance around our sin, to play it off as not that bad, it’s not that harsh, oh, I was nice over here, surely that makes up for that little bad there. And the Holy Spirit hits us over the head with the Law – no, your sin is vile and it is against God. Every sin, even the ones you like to poo-poo and treat as inconsequential – it is sin against God. Repent. That is what the Spirit does – and if you ever hear someone downplaying sin, minimizing sin, saying that sin is okay – they aren’t speaking the Word of God and the Holy Spirit is not there. He convicts the world concerning sin.

Our Lord also tells us that the Holy Spirit will convict the world “concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer.” The world has many messed up ideas about what is righteous, about what is good. And then Christ came – and when you looked at Christ, you saw conclusively what righteousness is, what it looks like. And even then, much of the world hated this righteousness. They hated Christ’s righteousness so much that they crucified Him – but even in that, even in going to the Cross Christ showed us what righteousness is. He went to the cross to win forgiveness – to see that we sinners receive mercy and forgiveness and eternal life from God. That is righteousness – He does what is right in saving you, even at the cost to Himself. And now we live in the time of Christ’s Church, we live as those who await His Second Coming – and in the meantime, the Holy Spirit will use the Word of God to speak directly and with conviction towards Christ’s righteousness. We do not physically see Christ right now, but the Holy Spirit holds the Gospel before our eyes and says, “See the righteousness of Christ Jesus, righteousness that He showers upon you and gives to you.” The Holy Spirit speaks with conviction about the Gospel, the Good News that Christ Jesus is the spotless lamb who has died for us and risen for us. The Holy Spirit speaks to Christ giving us His own righteousness through His Word of forgiveness, through Baptism, through His Supper. The Spirit is who focuses us upon this, who opens our minds to understand this, who opens our hearts to believe. And so, we know that whenever one doesn’t point to Christ as the Savior, whenever anyone points to what we must do to win God’s love, what we must give to earn our salvation – we know that they are not speaking with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit speaks concerning Christ’s righteousness, the righteousness by which we have life.

And finally, our Lord tells us that the Holy Spirit will convict the world “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Christ Jesus has won the victory over the world, over the devil, over the powers of evil. But right now, we don’t always see that. We look around and see wickedness and vileness and evil. We see Christians persecuted, we see Christians mocked. And we ask ourselves – why doesn’t Jesus just hurry up and come back? The Apostles and the Early Church, they asked themselves that. Luther wanted Christ to return quickly. We do ourselves! Thy Kingdom Come. Come, Lord Jesus! That is the prayer of the Church. And why does Christ delay – I can’t answer fully. It’s good that He does – If Christ had returned in Luther’s day none of us would be here, so we know that God’s love for us had some part in His delay, that He’s waited for us to be brought to faith. How long – that’s in His hands – we trust in Him and pray as He has commanded us. But in this meantime until His second coming, we see the world, and it can be easy to become depressed. We see dog eat dog to get ahead, and we can wonder if our suffering is worth it. And the world continually calls out to us, offers us vain, fleeting promises. And we are tempted. And at those times, the Holt Spirit comes and uses the Word of God to speak to us directly and with conviction about this truth – that the ruler of this world is judged. The Holy Spirit points us to the true victory that we have in Christ, the eternal victory. This is why Luther has us sing in A Mighty Fortress “This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will – he can harm us none – he’s judged, the deed is done. One little word can fell him.” Or even our sermon hymn, as I can’t just have us sing A Mighty Fortress every Sunday – verse 4 – “Praise to the Lord, who will prosper your work and defend you; surely His goodness and mercy shall daily attend you. Ponder anew, what the Almighty can do, as with His love He befriends you.” The Holy Spirit takes the Word of God and makes us to see the victory we have in Christ – even now, even in spite of the world. This is the job of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is active today, He is the Helper we need today – but not necessarily with flash and spectacle. Not necessarily with wonder and awe. No, the Spirit uses the Word of God to speak decisively and with conviction that which we need. The Spirit with boldness proclaims the Law, so that we repent of our sin, all of our sin. The Spirit with boldness proclaims the Gospel, the righteousness of Christ, so that we might cling to Christ alone. And the Spirit with boldness proclaims Christ’s victory over the world, that we might live in confidence and joy. We are part of the Christ’s Church, spread through the world, yet united to our Lord through the working of the Holy Spirit. Let us now then see the fullness of this, and join in with our brothers and sisters in all times and in all places, with angels and archangels even – in our Lord’s most Holy Supper. Christ is Risen (He is Risen indeed, Alleluia) Amen.