Saturday, June 24, 2017

Trinity 2 Sermon

Trinity 2 – June 24th and 25th, 2017 – Luke 14:15-24

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
When wisdom puts forth her call, will you come and learn? When wisdom cries out, will you be instructed and learn? Or when wisdom asks you to come and join with the company of the wise, will you instead demand to remain on your own, doing things your way, isolated and foolish? Wisdom or your own sinful and foolish flesh – which will you listen to? This is the question from the book of Proverbs which we heard read this morning, a question which the Pharisees with whom Jesus Christ is dining are familiar with. Jesus and the Pharisees have been gathered together, and He has already been teaching, and in response one person says, Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God!Well, this is true. Those who are at, who participate in the heavenly feast, well blessed are they! And yet, Christ decides there is more to point out. He shows forth wisdom again – so let us not be accounted among the foolish, but give heed to our Lord’s Words today about what true blessing, true wisdom is.

But [Jesus] said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready. So there’s the set up. There are plans for a banquet, for a great and wonderful feast. Everyone has RSVP's, and then the time arrives. Everything is prepared, everything is ready, it is time to feast, it is time to celebrate, it is time simply to rejoice in this wonderful blessing. How kind this man who hosts this banquet is! He makes no demands of those he invites. This is not BYOB, he doesn’t say, “You bring desert if you want it, cause I’m not making any.” No, all is ready, all is provided by this man. It is not merely a free lunch, but a free feast, one long expected, given simply out of the generosity and love of the host.

And yet – something horrible happens. But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.” And another said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.” And another said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” All these people who were invited, all these people who had nothing asked of them, who had nothing demanded of them, they decline. They won’t make it. They have excuses – and weak ones at that. I bought a field – well, won’t the field be there tomorrow? Come and feast today, and we will rejoice over your field together! I bought 5 pair of oxen – put them in the pasture, let them rest, and you yourself, rest and rejoice at the feast. I have a wife – well, bring her along, there is food enough aplenty! All weak excuses. This is not a matter of “my wife is sick and I must show love to tend to her.” This is not “my ox has fallen into a well, and I must rescue it.” No, all of these excuses that are given, they are things that could have been done later.

The master’s reaction is understandable. So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry. Understandable that. You’ve prepared a feast. You have gone to great expense, you have labored and worked – and then, you are blown off. People who said they'd come just don't. And for no good reason. In fact, out of simple disdain. It is understandable that this master would be a bit miffed, a bit put out. But this master does not pout, he does not whine – he rather does something creative. And [he] said to his servant, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” And the servant said, “Sir, what you commanded has already been done, and still there is room.” And the master said to the servant, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filed. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” Alright, if that’s how you people want to be – fine, we’ll feast and celebrate without you. You want to be cold and alone – I’ll feast with others. You know what, it doesn’t have to be the hoity-toity that I feast with. No, let the poor and the blind come, the weak and the lame – the people you snubbers probably snub all the time. In fact, let the strangers, those weary from travel, those who are foreigners and passer-bys, wanderers and vagabonds – let them come, they will rejoice and eat, and we are going to have one fantastic bash. And in your stubbornness, in your folly, you will miss it.

So, this is what Jesus teaches – and we know that there is more to it than this. Jesus did not just suddenly turn into Better Homes and Gardens or the Food Network – this is more than advice for throwing the perfect party, even when things don’t work right to begin with. No, we know what this means. The master is God Almighty, who has invited us into His House, His Church, invited us to the great and heavenly feast that shall last all eternity. And this is all His doing. What must you bring with you, what must you do to earn an invite? Nothing. All has been prepared. The great servant Christ Jesus has done all the work that is required, indeed, He Himself invites you to come, join in the joys of heaven.

And people don’t come. People hear of the free gift and don’t come. Life and forgiveness and salvation are yours! Eh, why bother? We can be shocked at this – at this disdain for the Gospel – and note, that is what it is, a disdain for the Gospel. The people here aren’t rejecting the “Law” – this isn’t about Law, what must any of these people who are invited do? What work is left for them? Nothing, it has all been done – it’s all Gospel. And we can think and wonder, how can people ignore this – how can they just blow it off?

Easy enough. Now, let me read from Proverbs again for a moment. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. How can people reject the Gospel, how can they just blow it off? We do it, do we not? Is not today the day where we gather and eat the bread of Heaven, Christ Jesus our Lord, in His own supper? How many aren’t here today? And lest we become smug because we are here and someone else isn’t, how many of us blew off one of the Sunday’s last month, or in April? Or had to drag ourselves out of bed really not wanting to be here… but what would people say? And of course, what about our own family devotions and study during the week – is that done eagerly, or perhaps not at all? How many of us take advantage of times of teaching? I’ve never taught a class where I had to say, “Sorry, we don’t have any more room, you can’t come today.” Do we, we who have the invitation of the Lord to come to His House – to learn His Word, to receive His forgiveness – do we ourselves value it and treasure it like we ought?

This is the thing. Jesus speaks this word of warning to Pharisees, to educated, wise men who knew their scripture. They knew the promises of the Messiah. And when He came, some would hearken to Him, but many would scoff, would ignore, would have better things to do than to follow this Jesus – in fact, many would not only reject our Lord’s invitation, but instead demand His death. They were the people who should have known better.

We dear friends, we are the people of today who should know better. Have you not been taught and trained? Did you not learn the 3rd commandment and it’s meaning – or is that all forgotten? Does your catechism lie ignored in a box or dusty on a shelf? What is the 3rd commandment? Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching or His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. Hold the Word sacred. Learn it, be in it, study it, grow in it. Remember that the depths of the wisdom of God are deep, and that there is much to learn there, always more to study and learn there, always more to understand.

And not because God is mean and petty. Not because God wants you to jump through hoops, do little dances to entertain Him. No. Because God loves you, because the Father has sent Christ into the World to go to the Cross and die for your sins, to rise to give you new life. This is what Christ brings you in His Word. And God never wants your separated from that, never wants you to fall away – but God knows how Satan works, how he stalks and preys upon Christians – destroying so many not with loud and brash sins, but with the simple sin of indifference to the Word. Satan wants you to think that you have better things, more important things than to study the Word, than to join together with your fellow Christians in the reception of God’s Word of Forgiveness and His Holy Supper. But God wants to shower His forgiveness upon you. There are many chances you have not to simply study on your own – but to join with others, to have that 2 or 3 or many more gathered in Christ’s name where you will be built up. Be in the Word, because God’s Word is wisdom and life and salvation. Indeed, this is all for our good, for our benefit. We don’t prove anything to God by our diligence in attending, we don’t earn brownie points with God by what we do – rather, this place is about God serving us. God invites us to His house, calls to us in His Word, so that we would be prepared for the eternal feast in heaven. This Supper today, which we will receive – what is it for? Now may this true Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, strengthen and preserve you in the One True Faith. Strengthen, preserve – go now and face the trials of life ready for heaven, ready to spit in Satan’s eye when temptation comes, ready to go gladly when the Angels come to gather you to Abraham’s bosom – Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace!

God wants you to be strong and prepared. God wants you to have peace. God wants you to rest secure in the His love for you, to dwell in His forgiveness, to know the wisdom of God – that is, to know that God has mercy and love for you and sees to your salvation, does all that is required. So He pours all this out upon you in His Word, and send His Spirit upon you to make you to know this wisdom – and thus the Spirit shall do even until the Last Day when we are called to the eternal banquet without end. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Trinity 1 Sermon

Trinity 1 – Luke 16:19-31 – June 17th and 18th, 2017

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
What is your posture? When you are in the presence of God Almighty – what is your posture? What is your approach? How do you stand? Do you stride boldly before God and say, “see all that I have done for you!” or do you stand humbly before God and say, “see all that I need, for I need it from you?” Our Gospel text for this day is the Tale of Lazarus and the Rich Man – and a contrast is shown and developed between the haughty Rich Man and the poor beggar Lazarus – but I will contend today that this text isn't talking about your life or success in the world, but rather how you stand before God. Let's dive in.

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.” So there's the contrast – you've got one guy with money and wealth and power, and you've got the other guy with nothing. In Jesus' day, purple dye was insanely expensive – only the filthy rich could afford it. And your clothes weren't generally fine – they'd wear out too quickly. And food tended to be simple – daily bread was the expectation, not daily feasting. The Rich Man is the American Dream – big house, great clothes, fantastic food. And then, there's the beggar. And he's a miserable beggar – he's not even a panhandler with a good story, he's just a beggar. Weak and miserable. Too weak to chase off the dogs.

So let's be honest. Which sounds better? What seems to be the better life – what would you wish for your children, your grandchildren – for yourself? To be wealthy and successful, or to be a beggar? To rest comfortably with the fruits of your labor, or to be poor and wait upon the charity of others? And see, there's the rub spiritually, folks. We know that as good Christians we are to show love to our neighbor, that we are to be kind and charitable. In fact, in that famous “love” chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 – you know; Love is patient, love is kind – the Latin translates it as Charity. And it's a good translation – Christian love is a love that gives with no thought of what it will get in return – it is charity. We know we should be generous, that we should be charitable – but what about receiving charity? What about simply receiving a gift – especially something that you need and can't get for yourself? Oh, we don't like that idea at all! We want to give something back in exchange, we'll make it up to people. We'll make it a loan, or someday I'll wash your back because we cannot stand the thought of being reliant upon others, upon needing them to support us. We are independent! We stand and fall on our own two feet, and we don't need anyone else!

Ponder with me, for a moment, the Lord's prayer. Which person in the story looks more like the Lord's prayer.? Which one would be more apt to pray - “give us this day our daily bread” - which would be more apt to beg of God, “deliver us from evil.” How do you view God? Do you view God thinking that you are like a rich man who needs nothing, who has gotten for yourself everything you need by your own strength and efforts (not seeing how richly God has blessed you), or do you view God thinking of yourself as a beggar, who really only lives on account of the gifts and blessings that God gives you? Do you think you're doing alright and if God would give you some pointers on how to have a better life that would be nice (but you can go without, don't need to bother God too much, after all), or do you see that everything in your life is a gift from God – even your talents, your time, your treasure – and moreover that these gifts are given freely and wondrously to you by God, simply out of His love, out of His charity towards you – where you could do nothing to earn them? Do you think you live independent of God, or do you live only by what He gives you?

“The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment...” Pause there. Do you see? The rich man, who thought he was just fine on his own and could do all things by himself, dies and is in Hell, in torment. Lazarus, who knew he needed love and support was carried by the angels to the place of comfort. In the Jewish world they didn't talk of “heaven” so much – the good spot in the afterlife was Abraham's bosom, Abraham's side. Do you understand why I put the distinction that I did between the Rich Man and Lazarus – between the pride and arrogance that the Rich Man shows with the humble desire to receive that Lazarus demonstrates? If you think that all that you have is yours by rights, that you have earned it, that the things you have are simply the just deserts of your hard work – well, then you start living like the Rich Man. You become prideful in yourself and callous towards your neighbor who doesn't work as hard as you. But even worse than that, you turn yourself into an idol, you think you are the reason you have stuff, you think you have all the answers, and you stop relying upon God. On the other hand, when you see your own lack, your own weakness, then you realize how much you do rely upon God, how the only way you can live is to live in His love, to live with what He gives you. You learn to see it all as gift – you believe the promises that God makes to you, that He will give you your daily bread, that He will forgive you your trespasses, and that He will deliver you from all evil. You either rely upon God and receive with a glad heart His blessings to you – or you forget God and take pride in what you have – or even worse, you start blaming God and how He has done you wrong because He hasn't done everything the way you would want it.

Consider the Rich Man. Bossy in hell. Think about that – He is bossy in hell. Hey Abraham – send Lazarus over to me in Hell with some water. Have him hop to it. Bossy in hell. And then, when this is impossible – well, go send Lazarus down to my father's house. Just issuing orders, all the while burning in torment. Dare I say like how we can become bossy and rage when we are in pain or hurt or when things don't go how we would want them to go? At any rate, Abraham doesn't put up with it. Send Lazarus? Nope. Abraham says, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.” Listen here, buddy – God has given your family the Word of God (in this case specifically the Old Testament), which over and over tells of God's great love to His people, love they don't earn, a steadfast mercy that endures forever, that constantly forgive sins, that promises salvation. That's what they need. That's what they ought to be paying attention to. And yet the bossy rich man still thinks he knows best - “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!” Do you catch the arrogance? Forget the Word of God, I know what will work better – send Lazarus back from the dead. But Abraham is the bearer of an unfortunate truth - “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” If you make your excuses, you'll just keep on making them. If you are determined to ignore God and think you know better than Him – you'll keep on doing it all the way into hell, just like you, Rich Man, just like you.

The Word of God is hard to hear, because our sinful flesh hates it. Our flesh hates the Word of God because we want to be the hero of our own story – we want to be the cause of every good thing, we want to sing out, “I did it my way” and have everyone laud and praise us for it. Yet, what do the scriptures show? Over and over again they point out the folly of our heart, the error of our ways, the depth of our sin. However much we might try to hide behind the myth that we're good people – the Scriptures show us our sin. No matter how often we boast that we are better than others, the Scriptures remind us that we are dying and but dust. And our sinful flesh hates that. Our flesh hates to be told that were aren't the Rich and powerful – it hates to be told that we are beggars. That we are poor, miserable sinners. And yet, what else does God tell you in His Word? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” What else does God tell you in His Word? “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Or “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Do you hear? God has chosen to love you, to pour His blessings of not only body but His blessings of soul upon you. He has claimed you as His own in the waters of Holy Baptism and poured His Spirit upon you. He has created in you a clean heart, for He has no desire to cast you from His presence but to have you dwell with Him for all eternity. Indeed, Christ Jesus knows your trials in this life, your struggles against sin – that you are weak and powerless against them – with might of ours could nought be done, soon were our loss effected, but for us fights the valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Christ fights for you and wins you salvation – and this doesn't rely upon you – indeed, He won it for you before you were even born and could think to offer aid. This is His love for you. This is the truth you have been made to see. That you have all blessings in Christ.

So then, how do you stand before God? Will you strut before Him, brag about your works, your virtue? Will you grouse about how He hasn't given you enough and shake a fist at Him for not humoring every stupid whim of your flesh? Or will you be content to simply confess that you are a beggar, a poor, miserable sinner who flees to God for mercy for the sake of Christ? It is no bad thing to be a beggar, for God is not some cruel rich miser who will leave you to die on His doorstep. No, He will raise you on account of Christ and give you life everlasting. You are a beggar – His beggar. +

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday – John 3:1-17 – June 10th and 11th, 2017

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
All sin, when it boils down to it, is nothing but idolatry – indeed, it’s nothing but self idolatry. All sin is nothing but having your eyes focused not upon the Triune God and His Will, but rather the fleeting and vain whims and wishes of your own heart. This has been the problem since the Garden when we listened to Satan and starting thinking that things would be so much better if we were the ones who were like God, if we were the ones who were in charge. So, what is God to do? His creation has been tarnished, wrecked, bound for destruction. His Adam, His Eve, His you, His me… lost and dying. Shall He just shrug? Shall He just let us get the punishment we deserve, shall He let us remain in our self-destructive self-idolatrous ways? No. Because He loves you, the Father sends His Son to win you salvation, sends His Spirit to turn your eyes off of yourself and rather onto His salvation. With this Sunday, we are entering the Trinity season, the season of teaching, the season where week in and week out we will be shown God’s Truth and Love that triumph over our sin and idolatry. God's not going to let you stay stuck in sin – He will come to rescue you, and for the rest of the Church year we will see the impact, the implications of what having the Triune God get involved in our life means.

And we begin this task with our Gospel lesson from John. “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 the signs that you do unless God is with him.’” At first blush, one might look at Nicodemus and say, “Eh, that’s not bad. That’s a pretty good answer.” Jesus gives him no praise. In fact, Jesus smacks him down hard. “Truly, truly I say unto you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” That’s a smack down. When Jesus begins by saying, “truly, truly I say unto you” – that’s the way of saying, “buddy, you are wrong, and let me tell you how.” And Nicodemus was off. Jesus knew that Nicodemus was full of fluff, knew that Nicodemus was blind. Nicodemus’ approach to Christ was terrible. First, Nicodemus comes at night – when it’s dark and no one can see. He says, “Oh, we know” – but he slinks in at night, doesn’t want any of his good friends to know that he’s daring to talk to this Jesus fellow. And what does Nicodemus know – that Jesus is what? A Teacher? A teacher Nicodemus is embarrassed to be seen with. And also, while being a teacher is a highly respectable thing – teachers don’t do signs … they don’t perform miracles. That is at least a “Prophet” thing. But do you know what the difference in Jesus’ day would have been between a teacher and a prophet? A teacher would have been answerable to the rulers of the Jews… a prophet answers to God. So what you have Nicodemus really saying is, “Okay, I don’t want other folks to know I'm talking to you, and since You are just a teacher, you should be working for me, because I should be the one in charge… and if I get control of You first, it will be good for me.”

“Truly, truly I say unto you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” You are blind, Nicodemus. You are caught in self idolatry. You are stuck elevating yourself – you try to elevate yourself over Me even as you hide from your peers and fear their disdain. At best you think I might give you some insight that you can use in your power-plays. No. You don’t see who I am, Nicodemus. Unless you are born again, unless you are born from on High by God, you will not recognize the Kingdom of God, you will not see that it is no longer about you and your petty desires – I am God, and I have come to establish My kingdom of love and mercy and forgiveness. And without the Spirit, you won’t be able to see it.

And Jesus is right. “Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’” That’s a swing and a miss. Nicodemus has no clue. Christ Jesus has spoken to him of that which is wondrous and Spiritual… and Nicodemus, I don’t want to even think where his head is at. Christ alludes to the Kingdom of God – but Nicodemus isn’t interested in that. No, tell mr about this born thing… does it involve women? It’s utterly disgusting and self-serving. Of course, what we too must admit, we who have been given eyes to see by God, that our sin, even the things we try to brush off as small and minor are just as disgusting and self-serving. All sin is disgusting and wicked… even the sins we in our old sinful flesh enjoy.

But Christ, in His wondrous love and patience, answers Nicodemus. “Truly, truly I say unto you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, He cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Let’s look at this part first. Christ here points to Baptism, where you were washed of water and the Spirit. Do you realize what you were given at your baptism? You were brought into God’s Kingdom, you were restored once again to His rule, to where His love and mercy and forgiveness reigns over you. You are no longer bound to Satan, but you are bound by Baptism to Christ. You are in His kingdom. And this is a wonderful and radical thing. How radical? “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” You had been nothing but flesh – flesh is that word for creation under the impact of sin, creation doomed to die. That’s all you were – but you have been born again, called by God out of the darkness of this fallen world and into His marvelous light. You have been made a new creation in Christ – you are spirit. Again, it’s a small part of the Nicene Creed that we often overlook – the Holy Spirit is the Giver of Life. Spirit is always tied to life – Spirit in both Greek and Hebrew refer to a movement of air, of breath, of breathing, of life. Which is why Christ continues, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The Wind [or Spirit] blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” The word there for Wind and Spirit – the exact same. The two ideas are tied together – this is why in last week’s Epistle when the Holy Spirit descends upon the Apostles there is a sound like a mighty wind. And the contrast is set up. It’s not about you being in control, Nicodemus. You do not get to control God, you don’t get to control God any more than you get to control the wind, the breeze. God works when and where He wills. And here is the thing – those who are born again, they realize that it is not about their will, not about their wishes. The Spirit gives life and rescues from sin, rescues from that self-idolatry. What does such baptizing with water indicate? It indicates that the Old Adam (the flesh) in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man (who is spirit) should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.

But then Nicodemus asks the kicker. “Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’” How. How is a terrible question of doubt. It implies that what you have heard is impossible. How is *that* supposed to happen? And sinful man loves to doubt God. Just How is God supposed to do all this, Jesus? “Jesus answered him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly I say to you, we speak of what we know and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” How? How? Maybe because I’m the Son of God, brainiac. Do you not confess that God is almighty, teacher of Israel? Then why do you keep telling God what He can or cannot do? No, I have come from heaven, come from the Father, come to bring the Kingdom of God to this world, and by My Spirit working through My Word, to bring people into that Kingdom. And what does this look like – let me give you an example, a parallel that you should be familiar with, Nicodemus. “And 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.” When the people rebelled and grumbled against God, the fiery serpents came and bit them, and they got sick and were dying. But when they looked at the bronze snake on a pole as God had commanded them, they lived. This was all foreshadowing, Nicodemus. The serpent has you – not the fiery one, but the old, evil serpent - Satan. And to destroy the kingdom of Satan, I will be lifted up upon the Cross, I will enter into death’s domain and I will rip it asunder, and all who believe in Me will live forever.

That, dear friends, is what the Kingdom of God looks like. It is Christ crucified for your sake. As you suffer under sin, as you fight against and deal with guilt and sorrow and pain and anger and hatred and all the other consequences of sin, Christ calls your eyes to behold Him crucified for you. See, your sin is no more, it is done away with – now lift up your hearts and rejoice, for the Kingdom of God has come, and you have been brought into it. Your sins are forgiven, your eyes behold Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit you have been given eyes to see and ears to hear, and you are now restored to the Father, you now even may approach Him in prayer. This is how God loves the world – not with petty baubles or riches that fade, the Triune God loves the world in this way – the Father sends the Son to the cross, and the Spirit makes us to behold the Son so that we might not perish but have eternal life. And that is where we live, that is who we are. That is whom God has made you to be – for you are a new creation in Christ, born again by water and the Spirit. Christ Jesus comes, and He blasts apart sin, blasts apart your sin, and He draws you unto Himself, gives Himself to you, even His very Body and Blood, so that you might have eternal life. This is the Triune God’s love for you, this is how He rescues you from sin and Satan and even from yourself. All thanks and praise be to our God now and forever. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pentecost Sermon

Pentecost – Acts 2 and John 14 – June 3rd and 4th, 2017

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
The day of Pentecost is here – the day on 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 had just 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 next 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 here's the closing 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. Then people ask what they should do, and Peter responds: “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. Seriously, this is us in the text – we are those 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 Apostolic 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 for 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 and pay attention to 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. Our entire 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 us. 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 strive to do that. Without the Spirit, you cannot try to please God, because without the Spirit a person doesn’t really know who God is 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 - the Lord says of them, “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 focused upon Christ Jesus and thus we 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 often has strings attached and hidden fees and fine print. In the world, there's wheeling and dealing. 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.