Home > Uncategorized > Sermon for Pentecost 9 — Heavenly Host Sunday, July 26

Sermon for Pentecost 9 — Heavenly Host Sunday, July 26

Note the audio for this sermon can be heard by clicking the embedded player below.

Grace and peace…

Anyone read mysteries? They’re fun aren’t they? If the author is really good there’s more than one false trail through the all the evidence as it’s revealed. More than one person has a motive, opportunity, and means to be the perp. And in the end when the mystery is revealed it seems like all those even seemingly extraneous pieces of information click into place like tumblers in a lock.

fb7d813dba358c4b9513a092a611f9d6If you read Paul’s whole letter to the Christians in Ephesus, you’ll get the sense that Paul is hitting something of a high note here in our reading before he goes on. Chapter 2, by grace you’ve been saved through faith, not by works lest anyone should boast. Last week’s reading from the first part of chapter 3, remembering that we who were once far off, alienated, separated, strangers, have been brought near, made citizens of God’s eternal kingdom, by the blood of Christ. Everything up to now has been leading to this prayer, this blessing. Such is the case Paul is trying to make about the mystery of Christ.

It’s really an unfortunate thing that many modern translations use the word secret here for the mystery of God in Christ. Mystery and secret are two different things. We know a little something about mysteries, so let’s start out with secret. What’s a secret? The tabloid newspapers delight in exposing secrets don’t they? So and so celebrity is secretly dating some other celebrity. Some other celebrity couple secretly got married. But once the secret is out, there’s really not much else to it. Whereas with a mystery, the more you learn about a mystery the more there is to learn. There are layers. This is especially the case with the mystery of God in Christ.

Salvation comes by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, for all people. Gentiles, people who were once thought to be outside the people of God, have been brought in, made inheritors of the riches of heaven, by the blood of Jesus. This is indeed a mystery. There are so very many questions in that last paragraph a lone, a lifetime would not be long enough to investigate fully all the meanings and implications. How much more the rest of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians? The rest of his letters? The rest of the NT or the whole of the Scriptures? Here in our Epistle reading today Paul is describing the very center of the Christian life, what its core is, something not unlike the total faith Jesus is calling Peter to as He calls him to step out of the boat. Paul is telling us something of the mystery of God in Christ, even its posture, kneeling in humble receptivity for everything God gives.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, that he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith and to know the love of Christ.” Paul is essentially letting the Christians in Ephesus listen in on the prayers he prays for them, that they would know the immeasurability of God’s wisdom and Christ’s love. These are good things to focus our attention today as we celebrate together praise God for what He is doing among us together here at Heavenly Host Lutheran Church and School.

It’s good to see so many folks back in church. Things get busy in the summertime and people travel. With our school starting this past Friday and the public schools starting tomorrow, it seems like our community is returning to a fuller rhythm again. Before long, ladies Bible class will be going, the choir will be rehearsing and singing in church again. I always like that. Lots of good work was done in the school this summer and the sprinkler system is repaired finally. We have our pastoral student intern, Vicar Presley with us. Starting tomorrow we have a new administrative assistant in the church office. Lots of things are coming together. And we have much to be thankful for. Reading this passage from Ephesians, I almost get the sense that Paul is not just praying for the church in Ephesus but for all churches to be strengthened with power through the Spirit of God our inner being so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith and we know the love of Christ.” Certainly as our school starts, it is our prayer that students and teachers grow in the same wisdom and love and so be filled with the fullness of God. Now so, perhaps more than ever.

A number of people have asked me about the training I attended last week in Springfield. I’ve said it was as good or better than anything I’d done since seminary and it was. Some of it was about ministerial health and wholeness not something I’d never heard before but it was delivered in a very different way than I’d experienced before. My seminary professors and my vicarage supervisor were always very clear about taking the care to do the tasks of pastoring excellently and taking care not to neglect one’s family. But this time I received this training in a different context, in what seemed like the context of battle. With my background, I’d liken it to military basic training before 9/11 and the changes that have been made since. You can imagine that the whole atmosphere of basic training changed when recruits were faced with the immanent pressure of battle. It’s not a matter of if you’ll ever need the training but when.

And so it is among us. In the last two months alone, we have watched as the highest court in the land reduced what God instituted in the Garden as very good, into nothing more than a legal arrangement any two consenting adults can center. And in the past two weeks we have watched the inevitable result from Roe v. Wade, what appears to be the unconscionable use of aborted fetuses. There are more and more mass shootings. And that’s just what makes the national news. What about all the intensely personal stories of grief and sorrow over illness and loss, even shame over the mistakes we’ve made, that we experience in our neighborhoods, families, and in our own hearts? It’s not a matter of if we’ll ever need to be strengthened to understand the fullness of the love of Christ for us, for our world, it’s a matter of when.

Paul knew this about the Christians in Ephesus and he may have even anticipated that future generations of Christians, would need to know of the power of God poured out on us. But I want to point out especially that this text does not end in a lament from Paul but rather a hymn of praise to God, a doxology.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

The fullness of God dwelling in us richly overflows in high praise, in doxology, “to Him be glory.”

The name of the group leading the training I went to is Doxology: The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care and Counsel. They take their name from a verse of a very new hymn, “O God, O Lord of Heaven and Earth” number 834 in our hymnal.

O Spirit, who didst once restore

Thy church that it might be again the bringer of good news to men,

Breathe on Thy cloven Church once more,

That in these gray and latter days

There may be those whose life is praise, each life a high doxology

To Father, Son and unto Thee.

While there are some amazing things about life in our world, things symbolized by the rainbow God gave Noah, renewal, rebirth, new life, even love, we cannot deny we are in gray and latter days. When even that sign and promise of God is coopted That’s why it’s not just good but truly essential to come to church and hear God’s promises. Not just to check the box of a commandment fulfilled but rather to receive the gifts of God poured out on us anew and be filled again with the Spirit of God. To praise Him whose promises never fail. To praise Him who poured out on us the power of God in Holy Baptism. To praise him who does for us far more than we ever to think or pray for. It why it’s good that our school is a place where at least for now, an increasingly corrupt state has so little say and we can teach God’s truth and share together in the fullness of His love, to share in the mystery of God poured out for us in the blood of Christ Jesus.

Another mystery, is that God continues to let things go as they are. Why? The closest thing the Scriptures tell us about that mystery is so that more people can know about God in Christ. And so we come to hear and rehear, we read and reread, we study and wrestle with the mysteries of God in Christ for another Sunday, for another school year. Thanks and praise be to God who works through us with power He has given us. Amen.

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