Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sermon: Trinity – 2015

31 May 2015

Text: John 3:1-17 (Isa 6:1-7, Rom 11:33-36)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The Christian faith is very inconvenient.  We insist upon saying that our God is the only true God, and that “whoever desires to be saved” must “worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity.”  And whoever does not believe this faith “faithfully and firmly cannot be saved.”

Our Athanasian Creed has something in it to offend just about everybody.  

And in case you missed all the beheadings of Christian men, women, and children in the last few years, we’re hated around the world, and not just by Muslims.  Totalitarian states of every kind revel in violence against Christianity.  And while no-one is beheading Christians in our own country, we are being targeted as bigots, homophobes, insensitive, hypocrites, and – just as we were called in the days of the persecutions of the Roman Empire, we are today labelled as “haters.”  Our people are being fined huge amounts by extrajudicial tribunals – right here in the United States – for refusing to violate their consciences, even as supposedly conservative governors throw our religious liberties under the bus.

Dear friends, this may come as a shock to you, but we Christians are not liked in our society.  We insist on being different.  We insist on being exclusive.  We insist that Jesus be our top priority in life, and that there is no other way to be saved but through Him.  And in our society, this is heresy. 

For as the church confesses, and as Scripture testifies, Jesus is both God and Man.  The Father is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and neither of them is a Man.  There are three distinct persons who are clearly called “God” and “Lord” in our Holy Scriptures, even as God is not three Gods, but one God.  

Our Lord Jesus Christ even went so far as to say, “I am the… truth.”  At the Lord’s trial, Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”  Our Lord answered Pilate with His silence.  Pilate was looking truth in the divine face, and allowed truth to be crucified and put to death.  Today, most people scoff at the idea that there is a single truth.

And according to our doctrine of the Trinity, Pilate allowed God to be murdered.  For in the Christian faith, God can die, because God is a Man.  And God does indeed die on the cross.  And who kills God?  Sinful men from every walk of life.  The government killed God.  Ambitious men killed God.  Ordinary soldiers killed God.  Religious people killed God.  Priests and Scribes and Pharisees killed God.  Ordinary Jews in the mob killed God.  And in fact, you killed God.  I killed God.  We all killed God, from Adam and Eve, right up to those being born at this very moment.  Our hands are stained with the blood of God, dear friends.

There is enough here to offend everyone.  And we are also offended, dear friends, because we poor, miserable sinners do not like the truth and more than the rest of the world, comprised of sinful men, does.  It is a most inconvenient truth that God is Triune, that God is Human, that God died, and that God’s creatures murdered God.  And the greatest marvel of all is that God the Son foreknew this, and even planned to take human flesh and die a sacrificial death for us.  “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!.... For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?”  

The world tells us this makes no sense.  The world tells us we must repent of our foolish faith.  The world tells us to shut up and agree with them that we are self-aware blobs of cells, that we have no purpose, and that our highest good is to do what’s best for us alone.  But because we don’t submit to them, the world would like to kill us even as the world conspired to kill our God and Lord on the cross.  The world does not understand love, sacrifice, or atonement.  The world does not understand sin, or why death happens.  The world certainly doesn’t understand Jesus or the meaning of His death.

Not even Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel, understood who Jesus is and why He came into the world.  But to his credit, Nicodemus did come to Jesus in order to understand.  Jesus explained to him: “No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.”  And the Lord Jesus Christ revealed the great and glorious gospel to Nicodemus: “So must the Son of Man we lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

The world should rejoice, brothers and sisters, because this Gospel is actually not exclusive, but rather inclusive of all who believe.  The Gospel calls all people to repent of their sins and believe the Good News, regardless of one’s sex or sexual desires.  The Gospel calls all people to become part of Christ’s bride, regardless of race, tribe, tongue, socio-economic status, or politics.  The Gospel affords no-one a special privilege, but offers privilege as sons of God and heirs of eternal life to all sinners who confess and are absolved, to all who call upon the name of the Lord, to all who are baptized and who believe, to all those who faithfully and firmly hold the catholic faith.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”

Because of who He is, we bow before our Triune God, dear friends, in humble and yet joyful worship.  And we can indeed love God because He first loved us: by creating us in the garden of Eden, by redeeming us at the cross, and by sanctifying us in our very flesh where He comes to us.  We join the prophet Isaiah in the Most Holy Place, singing, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth!”  And even though we are men of unclean lips, the Lord uses His servants to place a cleansing coal upon our lips, even Christ’s very body.  And indeed, our “guilt is taken away, and [our] sin atoned for!”

And, dear friends, the God who died for us men and for our salvation, also rose again, to defeat death and the grave, to conquer sin and Satan, and to deliver to us everlasting life.  This is most certainly true, most inconveniently true, most gloriously true,

The Christian faith is most inconvenient, dear friends, and thanks be to God that it is!  For the object of this faith is Christ Himself, God in the flesh, who breaks through sin, sorrow, and even the ultimate enemy death itself, to deliver unto us forgiveness, faith, salvation, and life that has no end!

For we have been baptized, dear friends, not in the name of the world, not in the name of a Unitary God, not in our own names, the name of our country, the name of our accomplishments, and not in the name of the world’s heroes and idols.  But rather, we have been baptized, set apart, redeemed, and born again of water and the Spirit in that most inconvenient name, that most glorious name…  

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

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sermon: Pentecost – 2015

24 May 2015

Text: John 14:23-31 (Gen 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Not long after receiving a second chance after the flood, mankind blew it again.  When told to repopulate the earth and spread out, our ancestors decided to gather together, saying, “Come, let us build ourselves a city yand a tower with its top in the heavens and let us make a name for ourselves.”

Mankind had discovered “technology” – in this case, bricks.  This enabled him to build a skyscraper.  And instead of obeying God’s will to repopulate the globe, he decided to use technology and project management to glorify himself.

But the project would fail as God confused the languages.  Reluctantly, man spread out and re-peopled the planet, but at a terrible price: the confusion of languages resulted in misunderstandings, divisions, wars and walls between races of people who were in fact all sons of Noah.

In the late 1800s AD, a son of Noah named Ludwig Zamenhof, a Polish Jew, felt the effects of the curse of Babel.  His own small town had ethnic tensions, in part, because there were four languages being spoken.  This boy grew up to be an eye doctor and a linguist.  He created a new language to fix the Babel problem.  He called it “Lingvo Internacia” – The International Language.  It was intended to be a second language for everybody.  It was easy to learn, and took off rapidly.

Being Jewish, Dr. Zamenhof knew about the curse of Babel.  And though he knew about the Garden of Eden and the Fall, He did not confess Jesus nor the Holy Spirit.  But he had hope that his language would be the secret to world peace, and would undo the damage of Babel.  He published his language under a pen name: Dr. Esperanto.  “Esperanto” means, in the International Language: “one who hopes.”  The language itself became known as Esperanto.  It is still spoken around the world.

Of course, Dr. Zamenhof’s dream of a worldwide language and world peace didn’t materialize.

But, dear friends, we are not without hope.  In fact, we have a hope rooted in an ironclad promise.  The hope for mankind and for true peace is not found in one more human language, nor in fallen human words.  Rather, our hope is in the Word, the eternal Word, the Word of God, the Word made flesh: the same Word by whom all things were made; the same Word that creates us, breathes the Spirit of Life into us, redeems us from the effects of the fall into sin, cures us from death, liberates us from the devil, and gives us everlasting life – all as a free gift of love, given to us on the cross, received at the font, pulpit, and altar.

For even if Dr. Zamenhof’s dream were to be fulfilled, and the whole world learned to speak Esperanto, it would only bring us back to Babel.  It would not cure the curse of sin that came to us at the Fall.  

To be sure, understanding is a good thing.  Learning one another’s languages is a good thing.  Esperanto is a remarkable language and it is good to learn it for many reasons.  But, dear friends, our hope is not to undo the curse of Babel, but rather to be cured from the curse of sin.  Our hope is not to get on with human cooperation in order to pursue technology and make a name for ourselves, but rather our hope is to return to our state of innocence and blessedness of the Garden of Eden.

The world doesn’t need to fix a symptom, but rather to be rid of the problem.  And on the Day of Pentecost, God did more than Esperanto could ever hope to do!  For on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and bridged the gap, not with words, but with the Word, not with human hopes, but with a divine promise.  On Pentecost, the Gospel was proclaimed across languages, cultures, and peoples.  For the Church transcends all the divisions of Babel by a common hope, the hope that is eternal, sure, and given to us by grace through faith.  It is the hope of eternal healing and transformation in Christ, through the Gospel, and by means of the Holy Spirit.  We have this gift, dear friends, right here, in this place of hope and healing and peace, in the preaching of the Word, in your Holy Baptism, in the hearing of the divine words of forgiveness, and in the sharing of Holy Communion.

The languages that became our curse, have also become a blessing.  For in these human languages, the Gospel is preached.  And through words comes the Word.  And in this sense, all human languages – even Dr. Zamenhof’s “Lingvo Internacia” – actually do deliver hope.  Not in and of themselves, but in Christ through the Holy Spirit who came to the Church at Pentecost.

The Lord Jesus Christ has not left us as orphans, dear friends, ascending to the heavens to leave us as sitting ducks here in an increasingly  hostile, violent, and satanic world, but rather He has given us “another Helper, to be with [us] forever, even the Spirit of Truth.”  And according to the Lord’s word and promise: “He dwells with you and will be in you.”

For the ministry of the Holy Spirit empowers us, dear friends, for He is the “Lord and giver of life.”  “You know Him,” says our Lord, “for He dwells with you and will be in you.”  He dwells with you in faith from the moment of your baptism.  And He will indeed be with you “forever” according to the Lord’s Spirit-bound Word and promise. 

And the Work of the Spirit is so much more than undoing the curse of Babel.  Indeed, He undoes the curse of Eden.  He restores paradise by His divine means of delivering Christ to us, to the Church, the Holy Spirit’s creation.  For He “has called me by the Gospel.”  He has “enlightened me with His gifts.”  He has “sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”

Dear friends, “in the same way, He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”

Moreover, the Holy Spirit “daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.  On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.”  This is what happened that first Pentecost, and continues to happen in the life of every believer.

This, dear friends, is a hope that transcends human language, that reaches past Babel to Eden, that promises not just world peace, but eternal peace, divine peace, the peace that passes all understanding.  For within every Christian is an Esperanto, “one who hopes,” hoping in Him who is the Word whose Word delivers peace.  His Word is forgiveness.  His Word is love.  His Word is life.  His Word is hope, the hope of Pentecost, the hope of eternity!  Thanks be to the Word, to the Holy Spirit, and to the Father, now and even unto eternity!  Amen.

En la nomon de la Patro kaj de la + Filo kaj de la Sankta Spirito.  Amen.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sermon: Exaudi (Easter 7) – 2015

17 May 2015

Text: John 15:26-16:4

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Our Lord makes several promises in our Gospel.  First, He promises the coming of the “Helper” – that is, the Holy Spirit.  Then He promises that the Spirit will bear witness about Him, about Jesus.  And then He promises that the disciples will bear witness about Him, about Jesus as well.

It must have been strange for the eleven apostles just after Jesus ascended, but not yet Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit would come to them in the future.  It must have been confusing, a calm before the storm, not knowing what would happen, and yet having a promise from Jesus that something huge was about to happen; it must have been a strange feeling.  

Perhaps this is why so many passages from the Old Testament are about waiting on the Lord, being patient, and holding fast to the promises.  For when it comes to promises, we either believe them, and plan around them (even though they have not yet happened), or we take a more skeptical stance, and adopt a wait-and-see attitude before committing to anything.

Dear friends, in our modern life – in both our secular life and in our church life – this inability to commit is one of our greatest problems.  Young people complain bitterly and often that they would like to be married, but the people of the opposite sex in their lives will not make a commitment.

How often we start a project and not see it through to the end!  How often we join a gym or a club and then find excuses not to go!  And how easy it is to be baptized and confirmed, maybe even married in the church, or perhaps serving on a board or committee – but then fall away from church attendance, from bible class, from giving regular offerings, and eventually falling away from the Christian life itself.

Church membership is not a choice.  It is not based on feelings.  Rather it is a commitment, and it is based on promises: promises we make at our baptisms (and the baptisms of our children), and at our confirmations.  We may make additional promises if we are married in the church or if we are serving in some office.  But even more important, dear friends, is our Lord’s promises to us.  For this is what motivates us to commit to Him and to His bride: the gifts He promises us when we live in Him and He in us, through the Holy Spirit, through the Gospel, through the sacraments, and through communion with God and with one another.

When we consider the Lord’s promise to us of forgiveness of all of our sins, of victory over Satan and death, and of eternal life – committing to attend Divine Service and Bible class, commitment to pray and give alms, commitment to the Christian life in all that we say and do seven days a week is not a terrible burden, but rather a response of gratitude and love.

The disciples acted based on many promises from Jesus.  They waited on the Lord.  They followed Him and confessed His name in good times and in bad times.  His Word empowered them, as Jesus told them, “to keep you from falling away.”

If you want to stay in the faith and not fall away, if you want your children to remain in the faith and not fall away, then listen to His Word, dear friends!  “I have said all these things to you,” Jesus said, dear brothers and sisters, “to keep you from falling away.”

Don’t fall away because you are bored, don’t feel like coming to church, want to spend money and time elsewhere, or because you think you know everything already.  Don’t tell me that you read your bible at home.  Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus tell you to read your bible at home.  It’s not bad to do it, of course, but not as a substitute for joining your brothers and sisters in prayer and in the Word.  He tells us to gather in His name.  He tells us to pray not to “my Father,” but to “our Father.”  He tells us to “take eat” and “take drink” and “do this in remembrance of Me.”  It is a communion, because the life of faith is lived out in community.

And, dear friends, that means service and commitment.  It does not mean showing up when you feel like it.  It does not mean putting a few bucks in the plate every now and then.  Our Lord committed Himself to go the cross for us.  Our Lord committed His Spirit to the Father.  Our Lord committed to sending the Holy Spirit to us.  Our Lord commits to us today in His Word and Sacrament.  This promise is for you and for your children!

“I have said all these things to keep you from falling away.”

Times have changed, brothers and sisters.  Once more, it costs something to be a disciple of Jesus.  “They will put you out of the synagogues,” promises our Lord.  “Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.  And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor Me.”  We live in a society that does not know Jesus, does not know the Father, does not know the Scriptures, and doesn’t even know the basics of reality, such as what a man is, what a woman is, what vice is, and what virtue is.  And we Christians have once more become “Enemies of the State” and “Enemies of the People” because we hold to the Word of God.  If we want our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren to remain in this one true and saving faith, we have to remain in the faith, dear friends.  We have to commit.  The days of fair-weather Christianity are over.  We need to allow God’s Word to have its way with us.  The time is now.  And we need for our children to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives by contact with Jesus: with the Word and the Sacraments, in the worship life of the church, in committing to the support, financial and otherwise, of this parish.

“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.”

Our Lord wants us in the faith because He wants us in eternity, in the new heavens and the new earth, in a renewed paradise, in our resurrected bodies, in flesh no longer held captive to sin and headed to death.  He wants us because He loves us! 

Dear friends, listen to our Lord’s promises!  Indeed, He promises us the Holy Spirit.  He promises that we will be His witnesses.  He promises us His righteousness.  He promises us His life that will have no end.  We can indeed commit to Him, dear brothers and sisters, because He is committed to us, come what may.  “I have said these things to you,” says our blessed Lord, “that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”  Thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ, whose Word is mighty and merciful!  Thanks be to God!  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Hison the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sermon: Ascension – 2015

14 May 2015

Text: Acts 1:1-11 (2 Kings 2:5-15, Mark 16:14-20)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Jesus has a lot of surprises. 

After teaching the disciples for three years about His kingdom, after performing miracles and changing the world, He submits to death on a cross.  And then, He surprises them by rising from the dead.  He surprises them by appearing to them for 40 days, continuing His ministry of teaching them.  And then, on that Thursday six weeks and four days after that first Easter, Jesus surprises the disciples again: by ascending into Heaven, at the right hand of the Father, disappearing into the sky.

But He also surprised them by a promise before He ascended on high, in a similar manner as did the prophet Elijah, blessing the disciples, like Elijah did to Elisha: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Great surprises indeed!  The world has never been the same since!

For the apostles – that is, the ones whom Jesus sent in His name, ordained under His authority, called by the Holy Spirit – preached the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake, and did so as our Lord said, in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and to the very ends of the earth – even as preachers are today sent far and near with this self-same good news of the cross, of redemption, and of the reality, dear friends, that your sins are forgiven, and that you have been baptized into Christ, and that you are called by the law to repent, and that you are graced with the Gospel unto the certain promise of the “resurrection of the body and the life everlasting”!

These eleven apostles were transformed from cowering sheep into bold shepherds – because of the Spirit that animated them, and by the Gospel that motivated them.  They were empowered by the same Lord Jesus Christ who continued to appear to them under the forms of bread and wine, even as He continues to come to us bodily today in this same Holy Supper, dear friends.

Indeed, Jesus is full of surprises!

On that Thursday, our Lord went up out of their sight, but He did not abandon them.  No indeed!  He continued to teach them through the Word.  He continued to forgive them through Absolution.  He continued to comfort them in their Baptism.  He continued to forgive and fortify them in the Eucharist.  Our Lord had promised them, and us: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

And so He is!

But being ascended, the disciples – and that title includes us, dear brothers and sisters – could not simply sit idle and depend on our Lord to put His hand to the plow.  By ascending to the Father, the Lord has delegated the management of the kingdom to us, to the church.  He has given the pastors of the church the authority to forgive sins, to preach the Gospel, and to administer the sacraments.  And like a baby bird getting nudged out of the nest, the once-cowering disciples were to take up their crosses, spread their wings, and become courageous martyrs, witnesses of our Lord, indeed, in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.

Our Lord had told them: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

But He doesn’t just tell the church to do these things alone.  He doesn’t leave them powerless.  For He says: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Dear brothers and sisters, though we in the church appear weak – subject to tyrants and mullahs and dictators and bullies and Supreme Court justices – in Christ, we are strong.  In the Spirit, we are bold.  In the Word and Sacraments, we are redeemed and live forever.  We exorcise demons, we preach in languages that didn’t even exist when our Lord ascended, we continue to strive against the evil serpent that beguiled Eve and intimidated Adam, we handle the deadliest poison this world and its prince have to offer, and yet we live.  We preach a Gospel that forgives sins and gives immortality to the mortal.  And through it all, our Lord is still working: working through His church, working through His ministers, working through His Word, working through His sacraments.

Yes indeed, Jesus never ceases to amaze and surprise!

And yet, it seems at times like we have been abandoned.  We cannot place our fingers in the hole of the nails as did St. Thomas.  We can’t recline next to Him at table like St. John.  We cannot hear Him call out our name like St. Mary.  Nor do we see Him bodily ascend as did the Men of Galilee.  

But He does not abandon us, dear friends.  He is here with us, in body and in Word.  He is here with us even in His lifeblood, which was poured out for us, and which is given to us, to restore our life and bolster our faith.  In fact, dear friends, it is we who abandon Him in our constant sinning: when we find something to do other than to receive Him in the Sacrament at the Divine Service; when we spent time with the television or radio instead of studying His Word; when we pursue a life of entertainment in place of a life of prayer.  We must repent, dear friends!  Our Lord is calling us to a better way, and He doesn’t leave us or forsake us!  He will be here, in space and time, where we dwell, here for us in Word and Sacrament, until He returns in glory.

For Jesus is not yet done with the surprises!

The angel testified: “Man of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?  This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way you saw Him go into heaven.”

Jesus will surprise us with His coming again “with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom has no end.”

Hear, O brothers and sisters!  Hear the Word of the Lord, the Good News that Jesus has atoned for your sins!  Hear the good news that you have been baptized into His name!  Hear His call to repent, and His declaration of absolution!  Our blessed Lord continues to give Himself to you, in His body and blood and in His Word, unto forgiveness, life, and salvation, even as we await His coming again in glory.

Jesus continues to surprise His beloved people, with peace and forgiveness and joy and renewal and life – now and even unto eternity!  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Hison the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sermon: Rogate (Easter 6) – 2015

10 May 2015

Text: John 16:23-33

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

In our Gospel, our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son, makes reference seven times to the Father.  It just so happens that today is a secular holiday in which we honor our mothers.  There doesn’t have to be a conflict between the two.  For motherhood and fatherhood are closely related.  You can’t have one without the other. 

The church father Cyprian said that you can’t have God as your Father without having the church as your mother.  Martin Luther similarly said, “The Christian church is your mother, who gives birth to you and bears you through the Word.  And this is done by the Holy Spirit who bears witness concerning Christ.”  

So just as every Christian has a heavenly Father, every Christian likewise has a heavenly mother, the church.  Our Lord Jesus told us that we must be born again, and just as our earthly mothers birthed us from their very bodies, amid blood and water and pain and joy, so too are we given new life from the Body of Christ, amid the blood of the Lord’s sacrifice given to us in the chalice, amid the water from the Lord’s side given to us at the font, in the pain of the Lord’s passion and death and burial, and the joy of the Lord’s resurrection – each one of us, dear friends, has found the new birth, being born again, having a Father in heaven and a mother who continues to nurture us all our lives in Word and Sacrament, in the Gospel, and in the forgiveness of sins in Christ, given to each one of us, even as parents provide for us in this body and life.

And so it is fitting, dear friends, that we have yet again borne witness to the miracle of Holy Baptism, even as our newest member, little Ethan, has been made an adopted son of the Father and an adopted son of the Church.  He has today joined the Holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, and has been given a promise that the Lord will never forsake Him, has named him as his very own child, has marked him with the sign of the holy cross, and will love him unconditionally even unto eternal life.

The seed has been planted, it has been watered, and now it will grow according to the Lord’s providence.  Each member of Ethan’s family has been called by God to bear witness of the Lord Jesus to him, our dear brother in Christ: to pray for him, to teach him the Word of God, to faithfully bring him to the Lord’s house, for worship, for instruction, and so that he may be loved and nurtured by his brothers and sisters in Christ, his church family.

And as Ethan grows up in this faith, he himself may be called to become a father himself to his own children, to bring them to the holy font to receive adoption as children: of God our Father and the church our mother.  For one of the benefits children have is to petition their fathers for what they need.  The Lord’s prayer is the prayer of a Son to a loving Father, with seven remarkable requests to our Father who art in Heaven: 1) For His name to be kept holy among us, 2) that His kingdom may come to us, 3) that His will be done among us, 4) that we thankfully receive our daily bread, 5) that our Father forgive us our sins, even as we forgive the sins of others, 6) that the Father will help lead us through dark times in our lives, times of temptation to “false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice,” and 7) for rescue from the evil one.

Today, this prayer has become Ethan’s prayer, even as it is our prayer, dear friends.  

And our Lord Jesus further promises: “Whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you.”  Our Lord spoke in figures of speech, but says, “the hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but will tell you plainly about the Father.”  Jesus tells us: “The Father Himself loves you.”

For even in the corrupted and sinful human relationship of parents and children, we imperfect parents and imperfect children catch a glimpse of what the love of God truly is.  And it is in our heavenly Father that we see perfect love – even when we earthly mothers, earthly fathers, and earthly children fall short of the ideal.

Ethan is beginning his Christian life in perilous times.  For the first time in hundreds of years, Christians in western society face hatred, discrimination, and persecution.  We are treated with scorn and contempt for believing in the Bible.  We are punished for our refusal to allow the world to define our beliefs for us.  Our Lord Jesus calls us to follow Him through it all, by taking up our crosses, by laying down our lives if we are called to do so, even as the Son laid down His life in obedience to the Father, and in love for us, so that we could be redeemed from death and brought into that perfect communion with our Father who art in heaven, even unto eternity.

Our Lord says: “In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus came to bring us at last to our Father, to make us His children.  Jesus has come to bring us to our mother the church, a mother that loves us by raising us in godly fear and love of the Father.  In the nurture of the church, we are not only birthed, but fed, comforted, loved, and given all that we need to grow.  

It is not so politically correct these days to honor motherhood.  The world treats mothers as second class citizens.  The world treats motherhood as a necessary evil and as an impediment to chosen gender roles.  Natural biology still mandates that there are mothers and fathers, men and women, boys and girls.  And we Christians still delight and glory in the reality that the Lord has created us in His own image, male and female, and that in this glorious created order, life goes on by means of parental love, even as eternal life comes to us from our heavenly Father and churchly mother.  

For we are not alone.  We have our heavenly Father even amid the world’s tribulation and the assaults of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature.  We have our baptism, which can never be taken away from us.  We have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world, united in the Father’s love, the Son’s passion, death, and resurrection, and the Spirit’s renewal.  And in baptism, all that the Son has is given to us as a free gift, including His very righteousness.  

Let us thank God for our earthly parents, and especially on this day for the mothers who gave us life by giving birth to us.  And let us especially thank God for our new birth by water and the Spirit, for our mother who gives eternal life to us by giving birth to us as Christians, for she “gives birth to you and bears you through the Word,” bringing us to the Son who has saved us by His blood and mercy.  And let us thank God and rejoice with all the saints and angels in heaven for today’s heavenly adoption of Ethan.  

“With a voice of singing, declare, proclaim this, utter it to the ends of the earth.  Alleluia.  The Lord has redeemed His servant.  Alleluia!”  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Hison the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Sermon: Cantate (Easter 5) – 2015

3 May 2015

Text: John 16:5-15

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Sometimes after a tragedy or an illness, a person has to learn how to function all over again.  Sometimes people need to relearn how to walk, to talk, to read, to play music, to drive a car as if they never knew how to do these things before.  Sometimes a person has to re-learn who he is, who his family members are, and what it means to be a human being.

The greatest tragedy in the history of humanity happened ironically in the Garden of Eden.  When our first parents rebelled against their loving Creator – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – they alienated themselves, not just from the wonderful Garden, but also from God and from their own humanity itself.  We forgot what it meant to be truly human.

No more would we be perfect physical, psychological, and spiritual beings in perfect communion with one another, with nature, and with the eternal God.  The Fall was a cosmic tragedy that changed all of our existence in a millisecond.

And we have been learning how to be human ever since.

God had to reacquaint mankind with Himself (God) and with himself (man).  God had to send prophets with the Word of God so that man might relearn how to be human, to fill in the missing collective memories of his past, to make baby steps toward a reconstruction of life in perfect communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to move toward a restoration of our perfect, eternal state.

The people of God had to relearn about the holiness of God, that He is not a stone idol or a created thing, not a force of nature or a mythological hybrid between a man and a beast.  The people of God had to relearn about sin and death, about atonement and forgiveness, about eternal life and the covenants and promises of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

God provided the rainbow as a reminder of His mercy, the Temple as a reminder of the price of sin, and the priesthood to pave the way for our Great High Priest to come.  God provided prophecies to point us to the Lord’s coming in the flesh among us, and of what true humanity was and was to come.

And at the fullness of time, we were taught what it was to be truly human by the only perfect Man among all humanity, Jesus Christ.  Jesus taught us that God is “our Father who art in heaven,” that He is perfect and expects us to be perfect, that He is merciful, and gives us His righteousness as a free gift, and He Himself, the Son of God, laid down His life on the cross to undo the damage that we have done ever since Eden.  He rose from the dead to teach us that death is unnatural, and that it is overcome by love, by His blood, and by the will of the Father.

But we still had more to learn, even after the Lord’s resurrection.

This is what Jesus means by saying: “It is to your advantage that I go away.”  For God was not done revealing Himself to us, re-teaching us what we tragically forgot at the Fall.  For the Third Person of the Most Holy Trinity had yet to come and dwell with His Church, to guide us into all truth.  This is the “Helper,” the παράκλητος (“parakletos”), which can also be understood as “advocate,” “comforter,” “guide,” “consoler” and “intercessor.”  We know Him as the Holy Spirit.  He is equal in glory and co-eternal in majesty with the Father and the Son, uncreated, infinite, eternal, and almighty.  He is “of the Father and of the Son, neither made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding.”  He is indeed to be worshipped. 

He is neither a “she” nor an “it.”  He is not an impersonal force of the universe.  He is God Almighty, and our Lord Jesus Christ has begun to reacquaint mankind with Him in this Word that He speaks to us anew in the Holy Gospel.

The Holy Spirit has much to teach us, and promises to dwell in us as fleshly temples, even as He has “called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”  Dear friends, indeed, “In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”

In the Church, “He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers,” thus restoring to us our bygone innocence and our paradise lost.  “On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.  This is most certainly true.”

This is the work of our Helper, the Holy Spirit, who came at Pentecost, tearing down the linguistic walls between men (which began at Babel) and shattering the self-imposed boundary between mankind and God (which began at Eden).

Our Lord taught us what it meant to be truly human, in His life, preaching, teaching, and most of all, in His supreme act of love on the cross and in His glorious resurrection from the dead at the tomb.  And the expression, “God isn’t finished with me yet” was most certainly true as our Lord Jesus Christ promised yet another revelation of God, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, whom He promised would be sent to us. 

He came to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”  These are all things that we had lost touch with in our universal human amnesia concerning the God who created us, redeems us, and sanctifies us.  And our Lord had much more to say, but we could not bear them at that time.  As our Lord 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.”

Dear friends, our Father is merciful!  He has created each one of us; He has seen to it that each one of us has received the Word and promise of redemption in Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism, and He continues to come to us in the Word of Absolution, in the Gospel, and in the ongoing feast of the Holy Supper.  He has enlightened us to receive this promise and given us the gift of faith in His Word.  We poor miserable sinners, now forgiven sinners, are once more in communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Because of the Father’s love begotten in the Son, and the sending of the Holy Spirit, “who proceeds from the Father and the Son,” we are able to relearn who God is, who our brothers and sisters in Christ are, and what it means to be a human being, to be truly human as we were meant to be, and to live forever in Christ’s kingdom, “and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness,” now and forevermore.  “This is most certainly true.”  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Hison the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.