Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009 PENTECOST Acts 2:1-21

Judas said to Him, (not the one of Iscariot), "What has happened, that to us You are about to manifest Yourself, yet not to the world?" Jesus answered and said to him, "If ever anyone loves Me (with God's love) My words He will safe-guard; and My Father will love him, and to him We will come, and a dwelling alongside him We will make. The one not loving Me (with God's love), My words he does not safe-guard, and the word that you hear is not Mine, but of the One sending Me–the Father. These things I spoke to you remaining alongside you. But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send in My name, That One will teach you all things and will remind you all things which I said to you. Peace I leave to you, My peace I give to you; not just as the world gives, I Myself give to you. May your heart not be disturbed, nor made timid.

Today, Pentecost Sunday, we celebrate the work of the third Person of the Triune God–the Holy Ghost. But His work perplexes us much more than that of the first two Persons. The Father's creation is all around us to behold and enjoy. The Son's blessings of forgiveness, life and salvation are evident at the cross where Jesus gave His life for us. But the work of the Spirit is less visible. Other than as a dove at Jesus' baptism, and as tongues of fire at Pentecost, the Spirit usually works behind the scenes.

This is by design, of course. The Holy Spirit prefers that all of your attention be focused on Jesus! Like the gaffer or key grip in a play or movie, the Holy Ghost knows He is not the star, so He does his important tasks behind the curtain, letting Christ Jesus have the spotlight, and get all the recognition. But as the credits roll out, there you see the names of all those whose vital jobs made the show possible. Today, the Festival of Pentecost, is the time to roll those credits and honor the Spirit's work.

You learned the two main jobs of the Holy Ghost back in confirmation class. First, his job is faith: to show Jesus to us by the Gospel, revealing Him as the only Savior in Whom we may believe. Then comes His second task of faithfulness: to well up your faith to overflowing, so that good works result as a blessing to family, friends and neighbors who need your help. In both these tasks, the Spirit is the chief worker at all times, yet He chooses to remain invisible in your heart as He accomplishes them.

It's about that time, confirmation age, when we first begin to question God as the disciple Judas did. What's the deal, that the Spirit would show Jesus to us and bring us to faith, while so many others do not end up believing? The first mistake you might make is to think that there was something special about you, that God would choose to bring you to faith, as opposed to other more worldly sinners . But don't be deceived. You are a poor miserable sinner, unworthy for God to choose you for faith.

So, if it's not that you are more *lovable* than others, why did the Spirit select you to be a believer in Jesus? It is purely by God's grace alone that you were elected! In His divine foreknowledge, God knew you would believe, and keep Jesus' words safe in your heart by the gift of faith. That's why you love others now with God's Own holy agape love. For this is the same love with which the Father has loved you in Christ Jesus, His Son, Whom He sent to the cross for your eternal salvation.

And once the Holy Ghost selected you to be a faith-filled believer in Christ Jesus, don't think He's done with you then. Far from it. His job is just getting started then, since He is sent by Jesus to teach you all things Jesus desires you to know. He does this in Sunday School and in Bible Classes, if only you stop resisting the Spirit as He works to gather you where Jesus' words of instruction are offered regularly here. Then, when that word of God dwells in you richly, it is readily recalled in your mind.

You are blessed this day to hear the Gospel message of God's love for you in Christ Jesus in your native tongue, without a Pentecost miracle needed. You are blessed to receive the gifts lifted up as the Pastor says "the peace of the Lord be with you", the body and blood of Jesus, given and shed at the cross for your forgiveness. You are blessed to be baptized in the Name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the same Spirit sent on Pentecost in Jesus' Name for the salvation of sin-sick souls.

Yes, by the power of the Holy Spirit this day, you are made into those who love Jesus with God's Own agape love. The Holy Ghost safe-guards Jesus' words in your heart and keeps that Gospel message as the firm foundation of your faith in Christ. And those words of Jesus have come true for you when He says, "We will come," (all three Persons of the Holy Trinity--Father, Son and Holy Ghost), "to make Our dwelling place in you" as you are now faith-filled believers by the Spirit's working.

Today's hymns from LSB:
#501 Come Down O Love Divine
#489 Hail Thee Festival Day (Pentecost stanza)


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009 Easter 7 John 15:26-16:4

Whenever the Paraclete comes, Whom I Myself will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth Who goes out from the Father, That One will witness concerning Me; and you yourselves will witness, because from the beginning you have been with Me... These things I spoke to you in order that you not fall into a death trap. From the synagogues they will render you; but coming is an hour, in order that everyone who kills you will be of the opinion that he is offering service to God. And these things they will do because the don't know the Father, nor Me. But these things I have spoken to you in order that whenever their hour comes, you may remember them, that I Myself said to you. And these things from the beginning I didn't speak, because I was with you.

The Lord has given us in His church, the blessed opportunity to witness. But this is so very often misunderstood. We are not exactly eye-witnesses of Jesus like the Apostles were. We witness concerning a Jesus we have not seen with our own eyes. Yet we witness of Him just the same. It was difficult for the Apostles of Christ to witness in their day, and it is a challenge to each one of us as well. Witnessing is not easy, no matter how simple it seems to be for those smiling TV preachers.

Who are we given to witness? You know this's easy–Jesus! But which Jesus? Do we witness only the happy Jesus who heals the sick and teaches about heaven? We might like that, but that's not all of what Jesus was about. We might be tempted to only bear witness of the most pleasant aspects of Jesus' life and ministry, but if we do that we are not confessing the real Christ. It is a false Christ who is promoted as one who only wants good things to happen in His life or in yours.

Jesus testifies that the life of His witnesses would be murder...literally. The Apostles were indeed kicked out of the synagogues, mocked, jailed, and scourged. All of them but John were martyred, giving their lives for their faith. Witnessing isn't easy. It wasn't for Jesus, who experienced all this and more-- the hell of being forsaken by His heavenly Father at the cross for you. He bore witness of His great sacrificial love for you at Calvary, giving His body unto death, and shedding His blood for you there.

What are we given to witness? You might think that this one is easy too–my faith! But what exactly is *your* faith? You see folks in many so-called Christian churches get up and give their testimonials. "Jesus cured my cancer, reconciled me with my cheating husband, and got my kids off dope, and all that was just what He did last Thursday!" Is this what Christians are to witness? How does that help the one who has no cancer, or husbands, or kids? There must be something better for us to witness.

You bear witness not just to your faith, but to *The Faith*. This way you confess what Jesus Himself says about everyone, that each one of us is a poor, miserable sinner who deserves the wages of death. Then you testify to the fact that Jesus died for you and for the world, reconciling us all to God the Father at the cross. He has brought you there in Holy Baptism, crucified sinful you and raised up a new you in Him on Easter Sunday! This is The Faith, salvation by the death on the cross and resurrection of Jesus!

How are we given to witness? You may think you know this too–in all ways! Really? Has God asked you to go door to door to tell strangers about Jesus? Has He requested that you stand on the street-corners and proclaim God's word there? Does He want you to be that annoying person who interrupts every conversation with, "Yeah, well let me tell you what God did for me!"? Certainly, not all are called to be evangelists, or even to be pastors/teachers. How exactly are you given to witness?

The best testimony you can give of your Lord is to receive the forgiveness Jesus offers. You come regularly to God's house to hear His gospel, that God loves you in Christ and welcomes you to heaven for His sake. You bring your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to the baptismal font to join God's eternal family. You come to His table to eat His body and drink His blood for your forgiveness. You come to your Pastor to be absolved from your sins, as you would to Christ Jesus Himself.

God has given you His witness, in the words & actions of Christ Jesus for your forgiveness, life and salvation. He has given you to witness, as you receive His blessings in word and sacraments regularly. Not that this is isn't. Folks will criticize you, saying that you aren't doing enough. Those of the church of *you gotta* will find fault with your faithfulness. But you will not fall into the death-trap of unbelief. For the promised Spirit keeps you in The Faith, the one true faith, forevermore. Amen.

Hymns for today from LSB:
#613 To Thee Omniscient Lord of All stanzas
#539 Christ is the World's Redeemer stanzas
#842 Son of God Eternal Savior

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May 21, 2009 Ascension Acts 1:1-11

And coming after, while they were reclining, to the eleven He appeared, and He disgraced their unbelief and hard-heartedness, that those who saw Him raised, they had not believed. And He said to them, "You go into all the world; you preach the gospel to all creation. The one having believed and having been baptized will be saved, but the one disbelieving will be condemned. And signs, to the ones who have believed, these ones will accompany: in My name, demons they will cast out, tongues they will speak, new ones...upon the sickly, hands they will place and the power to make well." Then, on the one hand, Jesus, after the speech with them, was taken up into the heavens and sat on the right hand of God. On the other hand, they went out , preached everywhere, the Lord working with and the Word confirmed through the following signs.

One thing is certain concerning our God. He is not left-handed. Not meaning to offend all you south-paws out there, but the Father certainly had a choice as to which side of the heavenly throne upon which Jesus would sit, and He ascended His son to the right side. This is not by accident, but from design. Just as most people have a strong right hand, so too does God. Jesus is God's powerful Right Hand to save souls. With the Lord's mighty Right Hand, your salvation is now at hand!

Since His ascension, God's right-hand Man has been busy. He is active, for instance with His Word. He is your advocate before the righteous Judge, God the Father. Sitting on the same throne, He has the Judge's ear, and as your lawyer, He argues on your behalf. Not that you have been innocent. You haven't. You've sinned & fallen short of God's glory every day! Yet Jesus is a constant reminder to His Father that you are now blameless for your sins, which Jesus bore for you at the Cross of Calvary.

That Word which Jesus speaks to His heavenly Father is.the same Gospel message proclaimed to you in this holy, apostolic church. As Jesus tells the Father that He has died for you, receiving your punishment in full already at the cross, so too does your pastor preach this message to you, week in and week out. You are forgiven all of your sins in Christ Jesus, Who died for you. You are blessed to believe this truth, and by it, you are saved. You may be absolved in Jesus' name of all your sins.

Your ascended Savior is also quite busy with His Own powerful right hand. You hear that he who believes *and is baptized* will be saved. Yet your baptism was not your doing. It was not some ordinance you are to obey. It is pure gift of God. And your baptism is accomplished by God's hand, not yours. It is Jesus' Own hand which pours forth His living water to cleanse you of your sin at baptism. He washes, He renews, and He regenerates your life, born again by His Holy Spirit.

Yet believing and being baptized go hand in hand. The eleven apostles were baptized, but they had trouble believing, and were chastised by Jesus accordingly. You are baptized into The Faith of God's Word. That's why this Faith is to be preached everywhere, to all creation, that you may believe it and be kept in the one true faith. For a disciple of Christ is one who is both baptized and taught all things Jesus requires. The Gospel never speaks of *knowing enough* as though the learning is complete.

As your ascended Lord rules over His church not by *rules* but by His gospel love, He is also busy in heaven. His body is at work as He prepares a place for you there. No doubt blood pumps through His veins as he makes ready your room in the heavenly mansion. And while doing this, Jesus does not leave us without signs of His activity above. He has, after all, given you a new testament promise that He Who died and rose again for you will indeed give you His last will and testament inheritance above!

For this reason, His now ever-living ascended body comes down from heaven this day for you to eat in the bread. The blood which now flows though his ascended veins is given to you to drink in the cup of His Supper. These are signs that Jesus is living and active on your behalf even today, forgiving your sins in this sacrament, and doing all that is necessary for your eternal life and everlasting salvation. For you know that where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation!

Yes, on the one hand, Jesus has ascended to the right hand of God the Father, in heaven above. Yet, on the other hand, Jesus is also down hear on earth at the same time, working within the apostolic ministry–His word speaking forth through pastors-and-teachers in the office of the Holy Ministry, and His works still being accomplished through the sacraments of Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, and Holy Communion. For with our Ascended Lord, all these things are possible!

Hymns this evening from LSB:
#489 Hail Thee Festival Day!
#494 See the Lord Ascends in Triumph
#491 Up Through Endless Ranks of Angels
#493 A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009 Easter Six John 16:23-30

And in that day you will not ask me anything. Amen, amen I say to you, if anything you ask the Father in My name, He will give to you. Up to now you have not asked anything in My name; ask and you will receive in order that your joy be made full. These things in proverbs I have spoken to you; is coming, an hour when no longer in proverbs will I speak to you, but freely concerning the Father I will announce to you. In that day in My name you will ask, and I do not say to you that I Myself will ask the Father concerning you. For the Father Himself befriends you, because you have befriended Me, and you have believed that I Myself from God have come. I came forth alongside the Father and I have come into the world. Again, I am leaving the world and am going to My Father. His disciples said, "Look, now in freeness You speak, and a proverb you are not speaking. Now we know that You know all things, and that we have no need in order that we ask You anything. In this we believe that from God, You came."

When I was young, after my big sister made me eat mud pies, I was angry. So I prayed that God would strike her dead with lightning, as punishment. I prayed very sincerely, and even ended my prayer in Jesus' name...In an ecumenical prayer service, after many prayed to their heathen gods, a Lutheran Pastor took his turn at the podium, announced that they were all stronger after those pagan prayers, and then offered a rather nondescript prayer about a Son of God, ending in Jesus' name.

It seems that there must be more to praying *in Jesus' Name* than meets the eye. God didn't strike my sister dead, even though I attached Jesus' name to my prayer. That Lutheran pastor later apologized for the failings of his prayer, although it was in Jesus' name. Even the disciples had much to learn about this new thing–praying in Jesus' name, which they had not yet, at that point, been doing. Praying *in Jesus' name* is not just attaching a magic formula to your prayer...

So what exactly is praying *in Jesus' name*. Well, suppose somebody claimed to be doing something *in your name*. Should they do it without your acknowledgment? No. You must authorize someone to act *in your name*, because they represent you. Doing anything for you, *in your name* means that their actions are to be taken exactly the same as if you were there doing it yourself. Acting *in your name* as proxy is the equivalent of you doing the very act yourself.

That's just what asking *in Jesus' name* is all about. Whatever we pray *in His name* should be exactly the same things He would pray for. Your prayer-life therefore should mimic that of Jesus Himself. As Jesus prayed God's name to be made holy among us, so should you. Like Jesus prayed for God's kingdom to come down here to earth, so do you. As He prayed for the Father's will to be done, you pray for it too. For daily bread, forgiveness, and rescue from temptation and evil, you pray.

But let's be honest for a moment. How often do we search the scriptures so that our prayers speak as Jesus spoke? Most times we find ourselves asking for worldly gains, for selfish desires, for what we think might make us happy. Oh, we may attach Jesus' name to such superficial prayers, as though that makes them somewhat holier...but that is not really praying *in Jesus' name*. For praying *in His name* pictures Jesus' Himself as the Prayer, His words speaking through us to the Father.

Although you are not very good prayers, do not be dismayed. For you have a great Answerer to your petitions. And the good news for you today is that His answers are not dependent upon your perfect praying! For in the *name of Jesus* your Savior already came for you, almost 2000 years before you thought to ask Him to. He came to give up His life as your ransom price at the cross. You believe by the gift of faith that Christ came for you, that by His death, your death would be vanquished forevermore!

Indeed, from God the Christ came *in Jesus' name* for your salvation at Calvary. But He keeps on coming to you even today! Jesus came down from heaven for you to baptize you *in His name* where He washed away your sins and carried them to the cross where He bore your punishment in full. Jesus comes from God each time His Gospel message is proclaimed, from the pulpit in sermons like this one, which declare you forgiven, saved and worthy of eternal life *in Jesus' Name*.

And *in Jesus' name* you partake of His Supper. You eat *in His name*, as though He is right there with you, because He is! His body given for you and His blood shed for your redemption are yours in your Lord's Supper. For the words *in Jesus' name* mean that He is there, speaking and acting. Amen.

Today's hymns from LSB:
#469 Christ the Lord is Risen Today
#766 Our Father Who From Heaven Above
#490 Jesus Lives the Victory's Won

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009 Easter 5 Cantate John 16:5-15

"And now, I go up to the One Who sent Me; and no one of you asks me, `Where are you going?'; but because these things I have spoken to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I Myself speak the truth to you, it is an advantage to you that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Paraclete will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And having come, That One will convict the world concerning sin and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment. Concerning sin on the one hand, because they do not believe in Me. Concerning righteousness, on the other hand, because I go up to the Father, and you no longer see Me. And concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. Still, much I have to say to you, but you are not able to bear now. Yet whenever that One comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide your way into all truth; for He will not speak from Himself, but what He hears, He will speak; and the things to come He will announce to you. That One will glorify Me, because of that which is Mine He will take and announce to you. All which the Father has is Mine; through this I said that out of Mine He takes and will announce to you.

In the Gospel today, Jesus gives His disciples fair warning that He is returning to the Father in heaven soon. Although He knows that it brings them sorrow, He then proceeds to tell them that the Spirit is coming to *convict* the world. And this news is supposed to be a comfort? Who wants to be convicted?! But it is the first task of the Holy Ghost, and a needful task that everybody be convicted by God's Law. That's why the Spirit pricks your conscience whenever you do wrong, convicting you of your own sin.

Yet that is not the only job of the Holy Spirit. He also has the task of *convincing* believers of the truth. After He points out your sin through God's Law, then He points out God's better way in the Gospel. This good message is one which convinces you that it is nowhere near enough to simply stop sinning and attempt to change your ways. The Spirit guides you to the Way of all Truth, which is Jesus Christ alone. He convinces you that success is not found in what you try to do, but in what your Savior accomplishes.

First, the Spirit convicts the world with respect to sin, namely the specific sin of unbelief. In the end, this is the only sin which is damnable, since by resisting the Spirit by not believing, a person rejects the only way of receiving the grace of God. Salvation comes through faith, and without it we are lost. May God bring us to repentance for our doubts, and for our shameless disregard of the Faith which we confess.

In you the Spirit has worked the gift of faith, creating a believer where a non-believer once stood! He did this when His gospel word first came into your life, probably at your Baptism. There the water and word forgave your sinful unbelief, and faith was given to you in your heart. Now you are a believer, trusting in Jesus and His truth--the faith of all the Saints which we believe from Holy Scripture. A baptized child of God, you now trust in Jesus and what He announces to you through His Spirit–your salvation!

Next, the Spirit convicts the world regarding righteousness. This one seems odd, since we would suppose that things that are *right* would not need to be convicted. But now that the Righteous One– Jesus has returned to the Father, there are many who assume His good works vanish with Him. So they try to substitute their own works for His. May God bring us to repentance for such self-righteousness.

But it is the Spirit Who convinces us of true righteousness. He teaches you about the first kind of righteousness, that of Jesus Himself who kept the Law perfectly in your stead. He did everything right, even his passive obedience of death on a cross where it was finished. This righteousness of Jesus is yours, given to you at the Lord's Supper when you eat of His perfect flesh and drink of His holy blood. Now, forgiven, He uses you to bless others for their sake in His second kind of righteousness–your good works.

Lastly, the Spirit convicts the world about judgment. The prince of this world, the devil, has been defeated and the cross and judged already. Yet many today will make their own judgments based upon whatever this world embraces. You too can quickly fall into the temptations of tolerance, greed, laziness, lust or envy. May God grant each of us repentance for those times we have readily embraced worldliness.

The Spirit convinces you of a better judgment. His gospel message announces to you a different judgment than Satan received. You are judged faith-full by the power of the Holy Ghost. You are judged righteous with Christ's Own righteousness credited to your account by faith. You are judged saved by grace, in the merits of Jesus alone. God's judgment glorifies the work of the only Savior of your soul. So convicted that your works merit nothing toward your salvation, you are convinced of the way of truth.

Hymns for today from LSB:
# 633 At the Lamb's High Feast We Sing lyrics
#556 Dear Christians One and All Rejoice lyrics
#478 The Day of Resurrection lyrics

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday, May 3, 2009 Easter IV John 16:16-22

A little, and no longer will you see Me, and again, a little, and you will see Me. Then His disciples said to each other, "What is this which He says to us? ‘A little, and you will not see Me, and again, a little, and you will see Me,' and that ‘I go up to the Father'?" Then they said, "What is this, ‘the little'? We do not know what He says." Jesus knew that they wanted to question Him, and He said to them, "Concerning this you seek out with each other, that I said ‘a little and you will not see Me, and again a little and you will see Me?' Amen, amen I say to you, you will weep and mourn yourselves, yet the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow, into joy will become! The woman whenever she labors she has sorrow, because her hour has come. But whenever she births the child, no longer does she remember the anguish, throught the joy that a human has been born into the world. And you, therefore, now on the one hand, sorrow you have; on the other hand, I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and your joy, no one takes away from you!"

If you watch the most popular TV preachers, like Joel Osteen or Robert Schuller, you will notice that 99.44% of the time, they will seem happy. With perma-smiles pressed upon their faces, they give the impression that being a Christian means always being glad, and never being sad. Their preaching and teaching reflects, this, as though there is something wrong with, and something downright sinful with a Christian ever being down in the dumps. They seem to be saying that true believers are never sad.

But nothing could be further from the truth! Even the very best of Christians get melancholy sometimes. Those with a very strong and Christ-focused faith can get depressed. It is to be expected while we live in a world filled with disease, decay, and death. It is just plain natural for us human beings to have the real emotions of sorrow when evil occurs. It would be downright un-natural if we didn't feel badly when bad things happen. Sadness is simply a part of life for every faithful Christian.

Jesus affirms as much in His words to the disciples. He tells them that they are soon to be filled with sorrow. In a very short time in fact Jesus would be seized from them to suffer and be crucified. Then, for a brief period after His resurrection, Jesus would be leaving them to ascend back to His Father in heaven. And as is typical when someone close to you moves away, they would be sad to see Him go. But this sorrow at Jesus' departure is necessary. It is part of God's plan for the disciples.

Why does God want us to be sad? You would think, logically, that the Lord would want Christians to put on attractive smiles all of the time and be happy. But He doesn't, at least not this side of heaven. That's because, since Adam and Eve's fall into sin, sorrow and sadness has entered the picture. Adam was cursed to work hard all his days and then die. This death–the wages of sin–he has passed on to each one of us. And Eve was cursed too, with labor pains and the rulership of her husband over her.

But praise God that it doesn't end with the sorrow of these curses. Just as a woman must endure the anguish of labor and delivery, God quickly provides the blessing to her of a newborn baby boy or girl. The joy far outweighs the brief suffering she just endured, for she now has a child to love for years! She quickly forgets the pains she went through, and may even desire to go through them again and again, because of the much, much greater joy that results from the suffering, pain and anguish.

You see, suffering, sorrow, and sadness are not *bad* things. Oh, they may *feel* bad for a time, but through them, God is well known for producing much good! That's just what God did through the painful, sorrowful, suffering and death of His only-begotten Son Jesus. He came for the express purpose of feeling pain, to suffer the anguish of death, on a cross. It didn't feel good to Him, no doubt, but it was worth it to Jesus. He did it because through His suffering and death, you are saved!

Jesus went through the eternal sufferings of hell as He hung upon that cross, forsaken in death. Your sufferings pale in comparison to His. So consider then how much less your sufferings compare with the everlasting joys you have as a child of God! You are cleansed with the washing of salvation in Baptism. You are fed with the bread of life eternal in the Lord's Supper. You are proclaimed forgiven by Jesus' Own words of absolute forgiveness. You have nothing but joys in heaven forevermore.

So consider it all joy whenever you suffer. If you are sad, rejoice at the joys to come which will soon replace and far surpass all your sorrows. For Jesus, for the joy set before Him, has endured the cross, scorning its shame, and has ascended to the right hand of God, as your Savior and Advocate. Amen.

Hymns for today from LSB:
#795 Voices Raised to You we Offer
#483 With High Delight Let Us Unite!
#818 In Thee Is Gladness