Archive for June, 2014

Festival of the Holy Trinity

June 17, 2014 2 comments

Matthew 28:16-20

June 15, 2014


Note:  below is the audio and the text for the sermon from Sunday.  You can listen to it by clicking the embedded player below

or downloading it at the link here:

Sermon for Holy Trinity


TrinityIn the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The text for the sermon this morning is from the Gospel just read, Matthew 28.  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded of you.”  This is our text.

These are the last lines of Matthew’s Gospel.  Otherwise known as the Great Commission, Jesus mandates his eleven disciples to make more disciples just before he ascended into heaven.  This text is full of meaning and instruction.  A lifetime of discipleship would not exhaust the words of our Lord to his disciples.  And it is perhaps especially fitting that this text was chosen as the Gospel reading on Holy Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost.  Sitting at the point in the church year in between readings that focus us on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, it is fitting that Holy Trinity Sunday and this reading from Matthew start the church off on the second half of the year when readings call our attention to the teachings of Jesus and our life in Christ.  What is a disciple?  How do you make disciples?  What is a disciple to do in order to be a true disciple.  All this and more packed solidly into the Great Commission from Jesus.  We’d better get started.

Now even if we nothing of Jesus of Nazareth, we should know a great deal more about him simply by reading this passage of scripture.  The eleven, there are eleven now, 12 minus one, had gone out to the mountain where Jesus had told the women he would be back in verse 7.  And when they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted.  Just this line tells us so much about faith, the early church, and one simple fact.  Jesus is divine.  Jesus is God.  Jesus is the Lord.  Who was Jesus for the past three years?  A traveling Jewish prophet with a group of disciples from Galilee.  They were certainly not the sort of folks you would expect to take over the world.  Only one thing can explain the radical shift from traveling group of disciples to leaders of a world-wide missionary church in a matter of a month and that is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and this passage and Pentecost.  The eleven had been down in Judea, other evangelists record some of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances in Judea, but Matthew records this one in Galilee where it all began for them.  The eleven would no longer be following a penniless preacher; they would be going to all nations to make fellow disciples of Jesus.  That in itself is amazing and more about that in a minute.  But first, what’s a disciple?  Where to we get that word?  Discipulus, Latin for pupil, and from discere, Latin for to teach.  What then ultimately is a disciple?  A student.  In the old days, it meant a follower, a groupie if you will but in the academic sense.  Plato was a disciple of Socrates and Aristotle, of Plato.  And Jesus says make more disciples.  More people from every nation should follow after me and hear my preaching through you and receive my healing through you and come to a knowledge of faith and salvation and thus accomplish the will of my Father who sent me, through you.  Who are disciples today?  You are.  We all are.

Some people would say that Jesus didn’t really say this.  They say it’s a later addition to the text by the early church.  But I say to you, if Jesus didn’t really say it, I have no business standing here before you today and we’d all be better off at home reading the Sunday paper or gardening.  Because if Jesus didn’t command it, then I have no reason to try to make disciples.  Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  That same authority is the authority by which I stand before you this morning confident that in my attempts this morning to teach everything Jesus has commanded us, I am carrying out our Lord’s desire to continue to make you his disciples.

How is the Christian church to make disciples?  What does Jesus command?  Baptize and teach; that’s how you make a disciple.  Baptism without teaching is not what Jesus commands.  To be baptized and then to never darken the door of a church again is not what Jesus is mandating.  And yet, teaching without baptism is another way to get it wrong.  One’s discipleship is in question if one rejects the Lord’s command to be baptized.  This is simple.  Make disciples by baptizing and teaching.  And the Christian church has never not known baptism.  Acts chapter 2 on the day of Pentecost after Peter’s preaching to the masses gathered there they ask, what shall we do, then brothers?  And Peter’s response is “repent and be baptized.”  Why?  Because Jesus said so.  And into what shall we be baptized?

This is a good question because here is the heart of the passage before us.  “Baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  Can you quickly scan scripture in your mind and think of a more forceful proclamation of the divinity of Jesus Christ?  Here the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are listed as co-equal and the Spirit as a separate person also.  Trinitarian theology is not a construct of the early Christian church; it is at the heart of the scriptures and the revelation of our God about himself to us.  Three divine persons but of the same divine essence.  Baptize into the name, singular, not the names, plural.  There are not three gods but one God.  “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one.”  Baptize into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, not in the name of an impersonal divine power or force.  God bestows His name on us.  Just as the great “I Am,” bestowed his name on Israel and gave it to them as a gift that He might be known by name.  Here is the pure gift of God, that he bestows on us his name and we can know him as he was have us know him.

Pick up a grasshopper in your hand and imagine what that grasshopper thinks.  One, that your power holds him fast in your grip and two, the instinctive reaction that you can crush and destroy him at will.  Think about this for a minute, what would we know about God if not for the revelation of his name to us?  He would be the God of tsunamis, and earthquakes and cyclones and rainbows.  We wouldn’t know much more than a capricious God, angry most of the time and in a good mood sometimes when the stars twinkle at night.  The power of God is unmistakable.  All people have this little voice, this conscience that says, we ought to.  We ought to make something of ourselves.  We are answerable to this Creator whose voice we hear that we ought and we have every reason to be afraid of that ultimate voice.

Would you really kill the grasshopper just for the fun of it?  Of course not.  But how will that grasshopper know your true nature, your kind heart toward it?  So too the question about what is God really like?  And the first and immediate and I would say only satisfactory answer is Jesus of Nazareth.  Here was a man who claimed to be God, said things only God can say, did things only God can do and accepted worship that belongs only to God.  The only possibilities says CS Lewis are “Lord, Lunatic or Liar.”  He who is God from all eternity was made flesh and dwelled among us.  In Jesus, God was seen and heard and touched.  Here is the answer to what God is like.  God became a man, went to the cross, and suffered the agony of hell as sin’s punishment.  He died for us who were heretofore mere grasshoppers in the hand.  He died for sinners.  He died for you and me.

There is no greater love imaginable, and that my friends in Christ, is what God is like, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  Forgiven we are no longer afraid of God.  We know him as Father because of our status as his children through our brother Jesus.

When we come to know those things we are being made into disciples. Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


Festival of St. Barnabas (Weds after Pentecost)

June 17, 2014 Leave a comment

June 11, 2014

Note:  Below is the audio for the sermon Wednesday.  You can listen to it via the embedded player

or at the link here:

Sermon for St. Barnabas. mp3

st barnabas

Pentecost artwork

June 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Have you ever done a search for Pentecost artwork?

The reason I ask is because if you do, you’ll soon fine Mary. the Mother of our Lord, included among those with flames atop their heads.  Oftentimes, she is central to the picture.

I think I always assumed only the twelve apostles had the tongues of fire.  The traditional artwork seems to suggest otherwise.  Go and read for yourself, the text is unclear.  In addition to the art I used for the Pentecost sermon post, here are a few more I found.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? 45-pentecost PENTECOST DUCCIO_Pentecost





















I’m not trying to say anything other than that there appears to be a well established tradition that the Holy Spirit was not just poured out on the twelve to preach but on the 120 disciples, “all flesh” as Joel had prophesied.


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Sermon for Pentecost

June 10, 2014 2 comments

Note:  The text for this sermon is Acts 2:1-41.  The sermon can be heard by clicking the embedded player below

or by clicking the link and downloading the mp3 file to your computer for listening or perhaps even burning to a CD.

Sermon for Pentecost.mp3



Today is the festival of Pentecost.  After Easter it is the second most important day in the Church Year.  A statement like that might stop and make you think.  More important than Christmas?  I’d have to say, yes, Pentecost is more important than Christmas because there was never a time when the Church did not celebrate the day Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit on the Church.  And there was a good long time, some 400 years or so, when the Church did not celebrate Christmas.  And if Jesus was raised on the eighth day of the week, then Pentecost, the eighth Sunday of Easter, makes perfect sense.  Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard Jesus promise to send His Spirit and what that would mean.  Jesus said when the Spirit came He would make the truth of Jesus known to us.  In John 16, Jesus said, “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, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  (Jn 16:13-14)  All of that teaching is now come to fulfillment in the wind, fire and preaching of the resurrected Christ of God.  And in our readings today, the Holy Spirit came and that’s exactly what He did, just as Jesus said He would, just as the prophets had prophesied He would.  Jesus has ascended, yes; and now we have His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Yahweh.

I have to admit that growing up in the church, the full weight of Pentecost was lost on me.  I remember hearing that the significance of Pentecost had to do with great rushing wind, the tongues of fire on the apostles’ heads, and their speaking in different foreign languages.  But as I learned more, that I began to realize that while those are all amazing wonders, they are not the Good News of the Gospel.  Oh, they are amazing and they are well within the realm of God’s previous activity.  We know it was a powerful wind that drove back the waters of the Red Sea that allowed Israel to pass through on dry ground.  And we know that fire and the real presence of God are often synonymous in the OT, whether it’s in a burning bush, atop Mt. Sinai or column of fire and smoke that led Israel through the wilderness and came to reside enthroned between the outstretched wings of the cherubim atop the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle and later in the temple.  And we also know it was God Himself who confused the languages of humankind at Babel so it should be a powerful sign that God Himself should speak to all people so that they can hear the Good News about Jesus.  But still, these signs and wonders are not the Good News about Jesus.  Maybe, my pastors were trying to make the same point I am today but I was too fixated on the wind, fire, and tongues.  Probably.  No the whole point of the wondrous signs is that they accompany Peter’s preaching.

Peter preaches a fine sermon.  Peter, who just moments prior to the outpouring of the Spirit was still gathered with the disciples in the upper room, presumably with the door still locked for fear of the Jews.  Peter preaches a sermon about these wonders based on Joel chapter 2.  These men are not babbling drunk, they are speaking in the languages of the Parthians, Medes, and Elamites and the residents of Mesopotamia and all the others present there in Jerusalem for Jewish harvest festival.  This is a great day, the day of the Lord bestowing the Holy Spirit on all who believe.  But even here, we aren’t truly at the Good News about Jesus because the Gospel is not that the Lord’s gives the Holy Spirit.  No!  Why does Jesus say He’ll send His Spirit?  Jesus says the Spirit will come not to glorify Himself but to glorify Him.  The Holy Spirit comes and guides us to Jesus, the truth.  The Holy Spirit comes to point us to Jesus.  Remember, Jesus said, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  You might be wondering where all this is in Peter’s sermon today.  And you know what the problem is?  The problem is we don’t have the whole sermon today in our reading.  We divide it up, and read the second half next week on the festival of the Holy Trinity.  If we had the whole thing today, we would hear Peter preach to all those people in the temple courtyards that Jesus of Nazareth, the one that everyone knew did mighty wonders and signs, was betrayed, crucified and killed by many of the very same people who were listening to Peter preach.  But that this very same Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and ascended to His rightful place of authority in heaven.  That’s the Gospel.   That’s the Good News of God for a world smothered by death, and enslaved to the power of rebellion against God Himself.  And that’s why when the men heard the Gospel preached by Peter and the other apostles in their own languages, they repented of their sin and sought the forgiveness of sins that comes only through the working of the Holy Spirit.

There are a great number of problems in the Christian Church throughout the world today.  Look around and in almost every place you’ll see something other than Christ preached.  Oh they preach fine sermons on the strengths of Christianity.  Or they’ll preach strong Christians and the Christian is preached.  Or they preach fine sermons that lift up the organization and the Church is preached.  But Peter and the apostles did not preach the Church or the Christian; they preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified and raised from the death for the forgiveness of sins.  Just as Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do when He was sent.

Peter’s sermon is a fine corrective for any church or for any pastor who would forget about the centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  A church can feed the hungry and house the homeless and, without Christ at the center, not be the church.  Our school could be the best educational institution in the county, even the state, and yet without Christ at the center of what we do, not be the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst.  We should keep the true purpose of our school foremost in our minds today as we meet to ratify the school’s budget.  We don’t have a school so that we can be better or more loving than other schools.  We have a school because we believe children need to learn about the world with the full knowledge of who created it and who redeemed it by dying for it on the cross.  That’s it.  Our congregation can put thousands of dollars any areas of work we call ministry, but if it is apart from centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, it is something other than the work of the Holy Spirit.

We sometimes hear that Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, the beginning of the Christian Church.  But that’s not right.  Pentecost is most certainly not so much the start of something completely new and different, but the Lord’s own confirmation on all that has taken place over the past 50 days.  Think of it that way.    When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, what happened?  His baptism was confirmed by the great voice from heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove onto Jesus.  Now in the wake of Jesus’ suffering, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, we have a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the whole Church, and that Spirit points us to Jesus Christ and His suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection for the forgiveness of your sins.  That’s the purpose of Pentecost.  That’s the work of the Holy Spirit, to point you to what Jesus did for you.  Amen.



Sermon for Weds in Easter 7

June 10, 2014 Leave a comment

Note:  The sermon tonight is more of a Bible study format based on Numbers 16.  As usual the sermon can be heard by clicking the embedded player here

or now by downloading and listening to it on your computer at the link below.

Sermon for Weds in Easter 7.mp3




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Sermon for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

June 10, 2014 Leave a comment

Note:  the sermon can be heard by clicking play in the embedded player

or by downloading at the link provided below.

Sermon for Easter 7


For a little more information on Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes.

I also mentioned the Voice of the Martyrs organization.




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