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Funeral Homily for Brownie Good

June 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Augustana, 2012

Click here for mp3 audio 40 Funeral Homily for Brownie Good.mp3

Pat, Steve, Lee Ann, gathered family and friends, grace and mercy from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

There are more than a few standby passages in the Scriptures that we turn to in hours saddened by grief but there are perhaps not too many that are as straightforward in their clear confession of Christ Jesus and His victory over sin death and the power of the devil than the ones you have chosen to be read and heard by all here today.  Job, a patriarch like Abraham and Lot, perhaps even the richest man of his time, a man who suffered not as a result of his sin, but rather he suffered so the mercy of God could be shown through suffering.  He confesses very clearly the resurrection of all flesh on the last day, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” (Job 19:25–26)  And from Saint Paul here, “If God is for us, who can be against us?  I am certain nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”  And Simeon’s Song from Luke chapter 2, holding the eight-day old baby Jesus in his arms he cried out in prayer to God, “I can now go to my rest in peace, my eyes have beheld my own salvation.”

Three men from the Scriptures confessed the steadfast promises of the Lord God.  There might be a tendency to think that these men Job, Simeon, and Paul are Bible men, just sort of soft men.  You know the type, men who don’t know how to work hard; they have soft hands and softer heads.  If anyone thinks that about Job, they certainly haven’t done their homework.  Simeon’s background is a little tougher to determine but he was more than likely not a priest.  He had received the consolation from the Lord and typically one doesn’t receive such consolation, such comfort from the Lord, without truly needing it.  And Paul too was not just an academic but a trained tent-maker and earned his living with His hands and on top of that he suffered, like all the apostles he truly suffered for the sake of the Gospel, the message of Jesus Christ.  “If God is for us,” Paul asks, “who can be against us?”  Paul should know.  Just about everybody was against him.  As it turns out, Paul was asking a pretty important question because if we’re attuned to world at all we know we have a few enemies out here and even a few we cannot see too.

Try to look at it any which way you can and the impediments to faith and life in this world are still there.  Condemnation, government oppression, being hard pressed on every side, persecution for the sake of the faith, hunger, nakedness, dangerous circumstances, or threat of the sword.  These are the things Paul was talking about.  Add to that list, injustice, discrimination, prejudice, lack of work.  Then throw in a measure of nature conspiring against us in wind and violent storms, and the failures of our own bodies whether they just wear out or there’s a flaw in the genetic code so that they don’t work right or look right so that our own bodies actually work against us.  And don’t forget the more subtle enemies like fear and doubt.  And those are just the enemies we can see.  There are the powers and principalities, the powers of the devil, the demons allied against, seeking to drag us away from the glory of God.  And I read the papers and I watch the news and they seem to be winning.  On days like today it looks like they’ve already won.

Brownie was certainly no stranger to suffering.  He suffered the loss of four of his brothers and four of his sisters.  He suffered the painful loss of a son, Barry.  I used to visit Brownie about once a month and bring him the Lord’s Supper but I’ve only been here four years, so I don’t know Brownie outside the sun porch with his oxygen.  When I came over we’d sit and chat for a while.  Brownie would always ask about me and my family and about the church, of course.  And sometimes we’d swap sea stories as sailors often do.  And I don’t think he was happier than when I was telling him about going hunting a couple of years ago or a house project I was involved.  And we’d sit and fuss about the politicians, of both stripes, we weren’t partial.  And when we’d had enough of that we’d have the Lord’s Supper.  And afterwards, when I stood up to go, I shake his hand and he’d light up, grateful for the visit, and smile and thank me for coming and wish me well.  A pastor could get used to making calls like that.  Well enough of my musings; let us meditate on God’s Word.

Job, in the midst of having lost everything, all his wealth, his family, even his health, still he wants it recorded for all history that he is innocent.  “His spirit soars to his only hope: his Redeemer, God Himself.  The divine Redeemer will stand on the earth on the Last Day and Job knows he will receive his vindication in his resurrected body, from which he will see the Redeemer with his own eyes.  What great news that today, the Redeemer sees you in your helpless state.  A true Redeemer who buys back His kinsman from bondage, Christ Jesus has won you for Himself at the cost of His own flesh and blood.” [1]

And Paul was well acquainted with “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword.”  He was imprisoned many times, beaten many times, shipwrecked, he was left adrift for a night and a day in the open sea, on frequent journeys and journeys those days were always dangerous.  He was in danger from rivers, in danger from robbers, in danger from my own people, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposed to the elements.”  (2Co 11:26-27)  He could testify from experience that that nothing could keep you from the love of God in Christ Jesus has for you.

Simeon trusted the Lord’s Word of promise that he would not die until he had seen the Lord make good on that promise to redeem Israel.  And the Spirit of the Lord brought him to the temple that day and there he was face to face with little Mary and Joseph and little eight day old Jesus.  And the Spirit of the Lord prompted Him to speak as a prophet from the Old Testament, “I have seen the salvation of Israel.”  He held Jesus in his own arms, the long promised one, the salvation of Israel.  Like Job, like Paul, like Simeon, Brownie was certain of his salvation.

I remember praying for Brownie over the years and wondering how hard it must be for a fellow who seemed to like people so much to have to be so isolated from them for fear of getting sick.  I remember thinking about the cruel irony that a guy who loved talking with folks and telling stories had so little breath to do it.  And I remember him being rather gracious about it.  He always seemed to be one of those guys who truly received each day as gift, as a gift from God.  I loved seeing those pictures because they showed so much more than the sun porch and oxygen tank, they showed such a full life, a life of blessing and love.  And what’s more, Brownie confessed with his mouth and believed with his heart these Words from the Scriptures that fill our ears and hopefully console our hearts this afternoon.  “I know that my redeemer lives.”  “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”  “I can now depart in peace, I have seen my salvation.”

As I said, these are not the mutterings of mad or soft men, but men who were tested by life and forged in the hot furnaces of trial.  They know that of which they speak and yet they knew the promises of God.

It is not just coincidence that in our church we sing Simeon’s song after the Holy Communion when we have beheld the body and blood of our savior Jesus Christ promised us under the bread and wine.  Despite what many may think the Christian faith is not Pollyannaish.  We are well aware of the “tribulation, and the distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” in our world and when we’re at our best we work hard to mitigate the effects of that suffering and feed the hungry and clothe the naked and sow the seeds of peace because of our Savior Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace.  And that happens because we are truly at peace.  And we know this peace, we know this rest from all our enemies allied against us only through Jesus, the consolation of Israel and the light to the Gentiles, Job’s Redeemer, Simeon’s salvation and Paul’s love of God.  It was Christ Jesus who was born into the world seek and save the lost, to rescue the world from sin, death, even Brownie, and to loose us from the power of the devil.  And look what He has done.  He has come and stopped the mouth of the old accuser, Satan.  Job is not only vindicated, Satan can’t accuse you of your sin.  He died on the cross punished under the Law as a fulfillment of it.  Simeon not only holds in his arms the salvation of Israel but the Savior of the world, he holds your consolation and your righteousness.  And Christ Jesus was raised to new life by God the Father as a proof, think about that, Christ Jesus came back out of the grave, out of the tomb as a proof that nothing, not even death, can separate us from God’s love.  “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for [you] all, how will he not also with him graciously give [you] all things?”

This is the summary of the Christian message that Jesus came only for sinners, sinners like you, sinners like Brownie, sinners like me.  He came to save us from sin and to help us to stand.  It was God’s plan all along and you will stand in your own flesh with Job and with Brownie, and be vindicated before God with Christ your Redeemer.  You will stand in the eternal temple of God and before Him and behold your salvation for all eternity.  You will live forever, even now from now on, in the love of God which in Christ Jesus.  This is God’s promise to you, just as certain as God made it Brownie, He makes it to you.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.


[1] Edward A. Engelbrecht, The Lutheran Study Bible (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2009), 807.

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Sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost — June 17th, 2012

June 19, 2012 Leave a comment

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Augustana 2012

Click here for mp3 audio 39 Sermon for Pent 3.mp3

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for the sermon today is the Epistle reading from 2 Corinthians.

The Christians in Corinth were not too sure about Paul, the apostle.  He had been a little harsh in his first letter to them, they thought.  I believe the phrase is: “he stepped on everybody’s toes.”  He wasn’t very “apostolic”, he wasn’t very “pastoral” in their mind.  He didn’t speak all that well.  He’s terribly hard to understand in his letters, all those run-on sentences.  He had a knack for getting in trouble with the authorities too often.  He’s a bit of a weakling, really.  He just recently had a terrible run-in in Ephesus.  Luke records some of what happened in Acts chapter 19 which we don’t really have time to go into.  But suffice it to say, Paul thought he and the people he was with were done for, they had essentially started a riot, so much so that maybe for the first time, Paul begins to think he might not live to see Jesus’ return in glory.  And so writing for the second time to the Christians in Corinth he spells out in a little more detail what he knows lies ahead for us in eternity.  He uses an extended metaphor of tent and heavenly dwelling to talk about our earthly flesh and our risen, glorified bodies leading to verses 9 and 10 where he says very plainly that we will appear before the judgment seat of Christ.  But all of this is grounded on what has come before it; it is part of Paul’s extended line of thinking to the Corinthians about his ministry to them and ultimately their ministry to others in the name of Jesus.  In effect, Paul acknowledged that they didn’t think all that much of him and been expecting something a little flashier.  Something a little more along the lines of the victorious Christian life where everything is perfect and smiles all around and every prayer always heals cancer!  And isn’t that how it goes.  All over the country now, new pastors are going to their congregations and I’m sure there are people wondering in those churches, even out load, “This is who the Lord gave us to be our pastor?”  Maybe even many of you are still wondering how it is the Lord called me here.  I say let’s try to figure it out together because I’m still not sure sometimes and I know I’m not worthy of it.  But this is Paul’s message.  Paul uses this as a proof that the message is so much more important than the messenger and the message is Jesus, crucified for you dear sinner, Jesus is crucified for you.  Jesus came only for sinners.

And so for two chapters Paul carries in this way trying to explain to them his sincerity as an apostle.  By chapter 3, he is showing that the ministry of Christ far surpasses the ministry of Moses.  By chapter 4, he’s changing tack to show that this great treasure God hides in fragile vessels like clay pots.  Clay pits that crack so that means pastors are “crackpots.”  We are those vessels.  God puts his message in you because the message is so much more important than the messenger, to show that this surpassing greatness comes from God and is not a human devised religion.  Paul says, Christians are “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Co 4:10)

This is the link.  This idea of death and resurrection in the body of Paul, in the bodies of believers, in the bodies of Christians, this is the link between chapter 4 and what Paul is saying today.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.”  (v. 16-17)  So, by the time we get to our text today, Paul is decidedly not just delivering some thoughts about the future hope of resurrection but showing us that the frailty of life, that frailty which is so real to us this week, is proof of the work of Jesus Christ in us.  Don’t worry if you didn’t make the connection.  I had to go back and work through it all to try to understand it.  It’s just intensely profound here.  The suffering and persecution and loss and grief and that people endure and still remain faithful to the message of Jesus becomes a proof for the true nature of the Gospel itself.  In fact for Paul, all the sufferings and trials he has experienced were not proof that the Lord had abandoned him and the message he preached but were rather confirmations of that massage.  Paul knew it.  As Jesus went so go those who follow after him.  Too often we follow after the Corinthians in our thinking.  We think that if we love God, He should reciprocate and we should be living the victorious Christian life!  And we struggle.  Disease stares us in the face and we blink and we get afraid and we doubt and we don’t get better.  And we think maybe I just don’t believe enough.  Maybe I need to pray harder.  Maybe I need to get thousands of people praying for me to overcome this illness.  And we forget what Paul taught us.  We forget that in this body we groan.  If we want to see resurrection in our life we need to be ready to see crucifixion.  But Jesus is at work crucified for you, He is at work to bring you through trial and suffering to resurrection in glory everlasting.  “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, with all its groanings, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”  This is the link to what came before and to our reading today.

As many of you know, our son, Daniel, became a Cub Scout last fall with three goals, go camping, shoot a bow and arrow and go fishing and in quick order, last fall we had an opportunity to go for the trifecta in one weekend, Fish-a-rama.  We went down below Rutherfordton in the foothills.  We were assigned a tent at one of the sites and Daniel thought it was the greatest thing ever.  But it was the first weekend in October and if you remember we had an unusually cold fall that came early.  And we spent the night, all night, in that old scout tent, shivering, yearning, groaning even, for our real home.

Paul’s metaphor is far more powerful, more intense than mine.  This earthly body is a mere tent; we long for our true heavenly housing, our resurrected, glorified body.  If you think that maybe Paul is talking about life here on earth being the tent and life in God’s house in heaven, verse 6 is a corrective.  “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.”  “For while we are still in this tent we groan.”  Paul is not saying, “Hey, nothing in this physical world really matters, we’re just tenting here for a while.”  No.  After all John tells us, the Lord himself became flesh and the Greek says not just that Jesus dwelled among us but that he “tented” among us.  (Jn 1:14)  Paul is saying that this tent in which we presently dwell will be exchanged for the eternal heavenly dwelling, that is, our resurrected body, redeemed for eternity, restored and transformed by God Himself to all its bodily perfection.  What Paul is saying runs counter to so much of what many believe about eternity.  When we die, we don’t just shuffle off this mortal coil and dwell forever in heaven.  This body is a mere tent that we yearn to trade in for our glorified, eternal body.  Our yearning for something better.  Our groaning is the suffering we undergo now and the present glory to be revealed.  Our future is not to become disembodied in heaven, but, as Tom Wright puts it re-embodied, or rather, even more fully bodied at the resurrection of the dead.[1]

In Paul’s day there were people who believed that physical things, especially the flesh of the human body was fundamentally inferior to spiritual things.  Despite Paul’s best efforts, these ideas continued to plague the church for centuries to the point that many just couldn’t believe that the eternal, divine Son of God became actual human flesh.  Paul was already defending the teaching of Jesus, the teaching of the apostles against these ideas.  These ideas are alive and well today.  Listen today to the stark contrast our funeral liturgy speaks in the face of such ideas.  This should be reason enough for us to have such liturgies so that we are not overcome by the spirit of the times when we are weak but return to the sure words our Lord and his apostles have spoken for us.  These are not human words.  These are the Words of God that we return to over and over again when we groan.  The way some have it, the goal of the Christian life is for our spirits to leave this world and fly away to heaven forever.  And yet Paul says that the goal of eternity life together with God in the resurrection is not to walk around naked, that is, a bare soul or spirit, but rather “clothed” with the further and greater clothing of a glorified body like Christ’s glorified and risen body.

Just as it was with Jesus’ resurrection so it will be with ours and this is God’s own doing.  “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”   This is such good news.  God has mnade a down payment.  Our very possession of the Holy Spirit is the down payment from God Himself that this will happen.  So, dear Christian, do you have the Spirit?  Of course you do.  Jesus Himself gave you the Spirit when you were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.  If you have been baptized into the Holy Spirit, you have been given the Holy Spirit.  Where God’s name is there you can be sure He is.  And so our great and future promise is that the Holy Spirit will not live in a tent forever; He will dwell in our resurrected and glorified bodies even as we dwell with God forever.

Those of you who have ever bought any real estate know something about what Paul is saying here.  If you’re serious about buying a piece of land, what do you do?  You put down earnest money, money that if you choose to back out of the deal later, you lose it.  God has put down a deposit on you, the Spirit.  So do you see what God has done?  In order for God to walk away from the deal, it would destroy the unity of the Godhead Himself.  The Holy Spirit in you is God’s pledge of future glory with Him in eternity.  I’m not trying to be clever here, but the truth is, in other words, God’s locked Himself into escrow for you!

This is why we are of good courage even in the face of all the difficulty and tribulation and the grief and the worry and the mourning that surrounds us on all sides even to the point of standing before the judgment seat of Christ.  That idea is more than a little unnerving to most of us.  Except that you dear Christian stand before the judgment seat of Christ trusting solely in the grace of God in Christ, you stand before Him trusting solely in the forgiveness of sins won by Christ Himself for you, you stand assured by the down payment of the Holy Spirit given to you that nothing can separate you from the love of God already shown to you in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and in His resurrection and gift of the Spirit to you as a down payment.  This is what gives us such great comfort in such times.  God has promised it.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.


[1] Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: 2 Corinthians (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 53.

Categories: Uncategorized

Sermon for Holy Trinity

June 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Augustana 2012

Click here for mp3 audio 38 Sermon for Holy Trinity.mp3


In 2006, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens described the Internet as a series of tubes.  I think the picture was something along the lines of the pneumatic tubes at the bank drive through that take the cash up and into the bank and out and back to your car.  He was roundly ridiculed all over the Internet as a geezer who didn’t know how the single most important network of the economy worked even though he was chair of the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Cell phones.  Computers.  The Internet.  Your car’s engine and I’m not talking about the old ones, I’m talking about the new ones with the computers and the fuel injectors.  We use these things every day without a second thought, and we rarely if ever think about how they work.

Telephones used to be easy.  If you spoke into the receiver the sound waves of your voice would be converted into electrical energy and transported along a series of physical wires to the person you were talking to and then that electrical energy would be converted back into sound waves by the little speaker in the handset.  Today’s cellular phone technology, except for those who truly understand it, is comparatively voodoo.  And yet we don’t actually believe it’s really sorcery that lets me talk to my neighbor next door or my brother half a world away.

Today is Holy Trinity Sunday.  Christians are certainly Trinitarian every Sunday but today we concentrate on the gift of knowing what we know about God about how He has revealed Himself to be and to act throughout the entirety of the Scriptures.  We don’t just get Father, Son and Holy Spirit, from the New Testament.  Actually we primarily get it from the Old Testament.  It is not enough to say these things are a mystery.  It is not enough to shrug your shoulders and say we can’t really know or only pastors learn these things in seminaries when your children and grandchildren ask you questions about these things.  It is not enough to believe less than what God says about Himself.  It is sin.  As we just confessed, “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.”

Peter speaks about Jesus today.  This is actually the second half of Peter’s Pentecost sermon.  And he speaks about Jesus how?  Did you notice?  He speaks about Jesus by quoting two Psalms.

       “ ‘I saw the Lord always before me,

for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;

26    therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;

my flesh also will dwell in hope.

27    For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,

or let your Holy One see corruption.

28    You have made known to me the paths of life;

you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

 That’s Psalm 16.  Straight from the Greek translation of the Psalms, too.

And then there’s this:

       “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord,

       “Sit at my right hand,

35        until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’

That’s Psalm 110.  Peter speaks of Jesus as though he believed the Psalms spoke of Jesus.

Peter’s conclusion is very simply, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Lord and Christ.  The Greek title for Yahweh throughout the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures was Kyrious.  We’re so used to these words we don’t hear them as the crowd listening to Peter heard them.  Peter is saying that Jesus is Kyrious, that is, Jesus is Yahweh.  Peter was saying something that the crowds would have thought to be very different from what they knew.  God cannot be human.  In the minds of the 117,000 who did not hear his preaching that day, Peter was blaspheming. Seven weeks earlier they had turned over to the Romans a man from Galilee in order that He be put to death for blasphemy, for claiming to be the Son of God, for claiming to be Kyrious, Yahweh, Divine Messiah of God Most High.

I hear it all the time:  “The Holy Trinity is one of those made up doctrines of men.  The phrase isn’t in the Bible.  God does not say He is three but One.”  Pentecostal Oneness churches.  Unitarians.  Mormons.  Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The Unification Church, the “Moonies”.  Islam.  Dear friends learn something about Islam.  Islam was a movement begun in the 600’s AD as a reaction against Trinitarian theology.  “God is not three,” they say, “God is one.”  The Lutheran fathers simply called it Mohammedanism.  No different categorically from the Sabellianism and Arianism fought by the early Church Fathers centuries before it came on the scene.  There is this tendency by people who have no sense of history to think that Islam is one of the three great monotheistic religions but it’s only 1,400 years old.  Technically it’s an ancient antitrinitarian heresy, a really successful one in human terms, but simply a heresy nonetheless.

“Oh, the Trinity is just a mystery.  We can’t really understand anything about the transcendent God in this human language of One Divine essence in three divine persons.”  Except that we can.  By listening to the Lord God speak of Himself and by listening to Jesus speak of His Father and of the Spirit of God whom He will send.  When we do all that listening we come up with statements about God that keep our understanding about God firmly structured.  We do not have three gods; we have one God.  If we worshiped three God’s we would be denying what God says about Himself in the Scriptures.  “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Dt 6:4)  And yet Jesus is fully divine.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  These statements in the Scriptures that tell us something of who God says He is get condensed.  Today in our marketing soaked world we might call them slogans or tag lines, but because they are statements about what we believe about God we call them creeds, from the Latin word, “credo,” which means literally “I believe.”  As in “Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipoténtem, factorem cæli et terræ, visibílium ómnium et invisibílium.” You don’t even have to know very much Latin to know that’s, “I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.”  Credo.  I beleive.  What is it that you believe about God?  Credo.  I believe what God says about Himself.

I believe what David said about Jesus.  I believe that God spoke to Jesus, even before He was born into human flesh, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”  I believe that Jesus even before He was born of the virgin Mary was with God as the eternal Word of God and was Himself God.  I believe that God the Father had as His eternal plan, before the foundations of the world were set, that He would send that eternal Word into human flesh to show His great love for His sinful and fallen creation, humankind.  This we believe.  No one else believes these things.  If they did they could say they believed what we believe.  It is not enough to say these things are a mystery.  It is not enough to shrug your shoulders and say we can’t really know or only pastors learn these things in seminaries when your children and grandchildren ask you questions about these things.  It is not enough to believe less than what God says about Himself.  It is sin.

Dear friends.  We do not have a God who delights in hiding from us.  We do not have a God who hides his great love for us, who delights in metaphysical nonsensicals and unhelpful paradoxes.  We have a God who tells us quite plainly who He is and most importantly how He loves us in sending His Son into the World that whoever believes in Him might have his death sentence pardoned.  We have a God who delights in telling us about Himself; a God who enjoys teaching us to know more about Himself and His great grace for us.  We have a God who even forgives our laziness and our willful ignorance of the mighty acts He was completed on our behalf.  The fact is no one less than the eternal God could have saved us from sin death and hell.  No one more than man could have died in human flesh under the penalty of the Law to satisfy the requirements of the Law.  The creeds are therefore no more than collecting in one place what God says about Himself in His Word.  Jesus is Yahweh should have been enough but as we all know sinful people like playing around with the definitions of words like what “is” means, what “kyrios” means.  So the teaching of the apostles collected in the Apostles’ Creed.  So the teaching of the Church collected in the Nicene Creed to combat Arianism and Manichaeism and all the false understandings of who Jesus is.

This is the great truth we have in Christ Jesus who is both eternal Lord and the Messiah of the Most High God.  What great joy we have from God Himself to say, “This we believe.”  Amen.

Categories: Uncategorized

Sermon for Pentecost

June 6, 2012 Leave a comment

Augustana 2012

Click here for mp3 audio 37 Sermon for Pentecost.mp3

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Jesus was raised from the dead on Easter morning.  He appeared to His disciples for 40 days in glorified flesh and bone.  He spoke with them and taught them and ate with them.  And then on the fortieth day, before He bodily ascended into heaven, he told the disciples to wait in the city for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  On Pentecost, 50 days after Passover, the long-awaited Holy Spirit is poured out on the apostles and the church and God announces that the last days are at hand.  Do we see Pentecost as primarily an historical event or do we see it as an event that continues to have profound meaning for us today.  Do we see where the Holy Spirit is active in the Church and even in the local congregation today?  Do we even expect the Holy Spirit to be active in our lives today?  Today I want to try to leave you with the assurance that the Holy Spirit is active in the life of the Church and active in your life to connect you to Christ Jesus.

Many Christians look at Pentecost as the beginning of the Christian Church, even some Lutherans talk that way but it’s not really accurate.  To talk that way is to cut off all those who believed in the promises of the Lord back through the ages.  The beginning of Luke’s gospel is full of these folks, Simeon and Elizabeth and Zechariah and John the Baptist.  These are Old Testament characters here in the New Testament.  They link us to what had come before.  They are believers because they trusted in the promises of God.  They are no different in faith from their fathers and mothers in faith who had taught them to listen to God’s promises and look for God to make good on them.  So then the church, is the company of those who believed comprised of Joel and Isaiah, and the faithful prophets of the Lord and the faithful remnant of Israel and the rest of the people and David and the faithful kings going all the way back to Moses and Aaron and those who had inherited the promised land and even Abraham and patriarchs back to Seth the Son of Noah, and even further back to the first believers, Adam and Eve in the garden.  Eden then is the proper birthplace of the Church.

If Eden is the birthplace of the Church that must mean that God has been in charge of the Church since the beginning, lording and shepherding His people throughout all of time.  That idea brings with it the idea of continuity with the past rather than discontinuity.  First there was Israel; now there is the Church.  No.  We are God’s people; we are God’s Israel says none other than the Jew of all Jews, Saul of Tarsus.  And so last week we heard the story of how God preserved His twelve as He always has.  Gad and Ruben and Naphtali are now Matthew and James and Matthias.  The people at the temple were pilgrims back again.  Many if not most of them had been in Jerusalem for Passover 7 weeks ago, 50 days ago, and now they were back to celebrate the Jewish Festival of Pentecost, the commemoration of the Lord’s giving the Law at Sinai.  The movement we have from Easter to Ascension to Pentecost has been done before.  Through Moses God has led the people out of slavery in Egypt out into the desert to come up to Him on His holy mountain where He dwelt in fire and smoke.  A foreshadowing 1400 years in the making.  The Lord Jesus frees all people from slavery to sin, death and power of the devil and leads them out to the holy mountain of God, Mount Zion in Jerusalem where the Lord’s Spirit is poured out in tongues of fire.  The Lord is bringing about His blessing on His people the reign of Lord has come down.  So that there is now no excuse, each can hear this News which is Good, in their own language.  The Lord is indeed in charge of His Church since the beginning and through all things.  Peter confirms it.

What is this this?  Are the new preachers drunk on new wine?  BTW, apparently new wine is not grape juice as some would have it; it is the newly released vintage.  No they are not drunk, it is but nine in the morning and they are respectable men.  “They are not drunk,” says Peter.   “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.  21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”  (Ac 2:17, 21)  And thousands returned to the Lord.  Isn’t that wonderful?  The people witness the Lord make good on His promises and they return to the Lord.  Three thousand were added to their number we are told.  Oh that that kind of thing would happen today we say.  And this is said in the heart of Billy Graham land and this is wished for after countless waves of Christian fads have washed over the decks of the ship that is the Church.  Three thousand sounds like a fantastic number.  But it’s not.  I tried to find it this week but I couldn’t.  For some reason the number that sticks in my head is about 60,000.  That’s the number of pilgrims that come to Jerusalem at any of the three great festivals would have been somewhere around 60,000.  I could be wrong and I’m going to keep looking but that’s the number that sticks in my head.  Three thousand of sixty thousand is just five percent, and that would be just the number of pilgrims.  Tacitus, the Roman historian estimated the population of Jerusalem in 66 AD to be around 60,000.  The number of people in Jerusalem would swell to double normal during the three big pilgrimage festivals so let’s work with a conservative figure of 120,000.  Now were down to just two and a half percent of those there.  Consider also these people knew what Peter was talking about.  They were far more familiar with the OT than even we are today which is sad because we have so many more advantages than they do.  More free time, several different copies of the Bible in our homes.

Why should we expect today to be any different?  People look to some many other places to find life.  People turn to the imaginations of their heart to make a god they think will give them life, and they end up looking for God in all the wrong places.

Pentecost teaches differently.  Commenting on John 16, Luther writes: “Here Christ makes the Holy Spirit a preacher.  He does so to prevent on from gaping toward heaven in search of Him, as the fluttering spirits and enthusiasts do, and from divorcing Him from the oral Word or ministry.  One should know and learn that He will be in and with the Word, and that it will guide us into all truth, in order than we may believe it, use it as a weapon, be preserved by it against all the lies and deceptions of the devil, and prevail in all trials and temptations… The Holy Spirit wants this truth which He is to impress into our hearts to be so firmly fixed that reason and all one’s own thoughts and feelings are relegated to the background.  He wants us to adhere solely to the Word and to regard it as the only truth.  And through this Word alone He governs the Christian Church to the end.” (AE 24:362)

The Holy Spirit is active in the preaching of the Word in this Church today.  If you do not perceive it, it has less to do with my preaching of it, and more to do with the condition of your heart to hear it.  The Lord’s preserves His Church.  He will preserve it and He will do it not by separating the preaching of the Word from the office of the ministry, as so many might think.  The Lord is nothing if He is not consistent through all of time.  Our job has preachers and hearers is to listen for where the Holy Spirit is Preached.  We will know if it is the Holy Spirit if that Word is consistent with the revealed Word of God and consistent with the Word as revealed by Jesus.  How did Jesus say it this morning?  “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak…”  Contrary to those who have confused the work of the Holy Spirit with the spirit of the times, Jesus says categorically, the Holy Spirit cannot do a new thing.  He must do what He has always done.  “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

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