Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Festival of the Holy Trinity "The Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the eternal God who Saves!"

Jesus the Nazarene, a man approved from God unto you by powers and wonders and signs, those God did through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know–This One, in the timely will and foreknowledge of God was handed over through hands of lawless men, having been nailed, you killed; whom God raised, freeing the birth pangs of death, in view of the fact that it was not able to hold him by itself. For David says unto Him, "I kept seeing the Lord before my face through all, because He is out of my right hand, in order that I not tremble. Through this my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad, and yet also my flesh will dwell upon hope; because you will not abandon my soul into hades, nor give Your Holy One to see decay; You have made known to me the ways of life; You fill me in gladness with Your presence." Men, brothers, it is possible to speak with frankness to you concerning Father David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is among us up to this day. Therefore, a prophet he was, and he knew that an oath God swore to him, out of the fruit of his loins He would seat upon his throne, He saw ahead, speaking concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that He was not abandoned into Hades nor did His flesh see decay. This Jesus, God raised, of which all of us are witnesses. Therefore, to the right hand of God being exalted, the promise of the Holy Spirit, having received alongside the Father, He poured out what you yourselves see and hear. For not David ascended into the heavens, but he himself says, "The LORD said to my Lord, sit upon My right, until whenever I place your enemies a footstool for Your feet." Certainly, therefore, may all the house of Israel know that both Lord and Christ God has made Him–this the Jesus whom you crucified. 

Just how old is the Trinity? This term was not used in bible times, so some foolishly assume the triune God only exists in Christian dogma. But we see clearly the persons of the Trinity existed long before. God the Father prophesied His Holy One--Jesus would not see corruption. This Jesus was Lord at His Father's right hand in the days of Father David! Jesus was the great I AM before Father Abraham.

You see, the three-in-One God has always been there. From the Wisdom which created everything at the beginning, the Father made, the Word–Jesus spoke, and the Spirit did his bird-like swooping to carry out the divine work of making everything. God has always been three, yet a three that is at the same time a unified one. But don't ask me to explain it. God is much more complicated than we can wrap our minds around. Who can comprehend Him? None of us, this side of heaven, that's for sure.

Sometimes you may get frustrated trying to figure out God. You want to know everything about God, how He can be plural yet singular at the same time, and just what makes Him tick. But you are on a need to know basis, and your mind cannot fathom the ways of God, here and now. So, as difficult as it is at times, you are only given to know certain things about the Holy Trinity, like those things you learned as you studied the Apostles' Creed in confirmation class. But you don't have all the answers.

So be contented by what you do know, namely those things God has revealed to you for your benefit. You know God the Father is on His throne. You know that Jesus has risen and ascended on high to the Father's right hand. You know that the promised Holy Spirit has been poured out upon you. By faith, you know that these three persons of the Trinity work together as One for your blessing.    
You also know what God the Father has done through Jesus in his powerful, wonderful, significant miracles. Just as Jesus healed, forgave and saved people from sin, death and Satan's power, so too has He healed, forgiven, and saved you from that unholy trinity. For although your sins crucified and killed Jesus, the Father did not abandon His Holy One, or let death keep hold of Him. God raised Jesus from death to life again, to make His enemies of sin, death and the devil nothing but footstools.

So just Who raised Jesus? Did God the Father do it? Yes! Did the Holy Spirit raise Jesus? Indeed! Did Jesus raise Himself to life again. Most definitely! For the Holy Trinity works together in all things, from their cooperation in the creation of the world, to the resurrection of all on the last day. Where the Father is, there is the Son, and there is also the Holy Spirit. For though they be three, they remain One for you. So baptized into the name of the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit remain with you always.

Only one time were these three persons of the Trinity separated. At the cross, the Father forsook Jesus, and He gave up the Spirit. The body given you, and blood shed for you is Christ's alone. For this, your salvation, He was not abandoned in hell, nor did His body see decay. The Trinity is reunited forever.

Hymns today from LSB:

#507  Holy, Holy, Holy
#803  Joyful, Joyful, We adore Thee!
#498  Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest
#604  I Bind Unto Myself Today

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pentecost - A sign for all to see

And in the fulfillment of the Fiftieth Day, they were all of a place in one accord. And it happened immediately out of heaven a sound as a moving, strong wind and it filled the whole of the house where they were sitting, and appeared to them, being distributed, tongues as fire and it sat upon each one of them....And Peter, standing for the 11, lifted his voice and proclaimed to them: "Men of Judea and all those residing in Jerusalem, may this, to you, be made known, and pay attention to my utterance...this is the utterance through the prophet Joel: "And it will be in the last days, says God, I will pour out from My Spirit upon all flesh, and will prophesy–your sons and your daughters, and your young men will see sights and your elders will dream dreams; and both upon my male slaves and upon my female slaves in those days pour out from My Spirit, and they will prophesy; and I will give omens in the heaven above and signs upon the earth below, blood and fire and mist of smoke; the sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood before the coming of the Day of the Lord, the great and the splendid one; And it will be, all, whomever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved."    

This Festival day we celebrate Pentecost. On this harvest festival, with Jews gathered from all over the world, God saw fit to undo, for a time, the debacle at Babel when He had confused all languages so that men could no longer communicate their wrong notions with each other. Now, it was God's turn to speak to the people, so He provided a new miracle which allowed each person to hear the message in their own language. But Pentecost isn't so much about the miracle, as it is the message.

Sadly, the message is sometimes lost in all the pomp and circumstance excitement of the miracle. We find this happening even today in churches with the most modern music, dance, and entertainment which captivates the masses. The style is quite interesting to many, but the substance is often lost. We too fall prey to such temptations whenever we want peppier tunes, more exciting sermons, or more beautiful decor where we worship. Such things are peripheral. The key remains the "message".

Peter directs their attention, not once, but twice to his utterance. For the miracle of the tongues of fire was not for entertainment, but to enable the people to hear the message. And the message is clear: "God is pouring out His Spirit upon all flesh." Everybody, including you and me receives the Holy Spirit! Why? So that He work faith in your heart so that you believe the message Peter is proclaiming! Jesus sends the Spirit to connect you to Him & His message of love from the +: Jesus died for you!

Yet we hear Peter's words, finding ourselves mesmerized by the signs and the wonders, the sun darkened and the moon turned to blood! Such amazing miracles seem so very interesting to us. But we are quick to forget that they are given to us as signs. Signs don't direct our attention to themselves, but point away to something greater. You don't see a  40 miles to Raleigh sign, and stop to stare at it, do you? So why would you focus on the mere signs which point your attention elsewhere?

The signs are for the sake of the prophecy. Prophecy is not given with man's interpretation, but it's simply the proclaiming of God's word. Your pastor is given to preach not what he thinks or wants, but what God says. God gives signs to point you to greater things. You are excited that the moon will turn to blood, so be even more excited that the cup of salvation turns into Jesus' blood for your life and forgiveness this day. For today is the day of the Lord for you, as He feeds you His body and blood!

Still you hear how everybody has the Spirit poured out on them, how young and old, guys and gals, slave and free experience dreams, visions, prophesying. You are tempted to think to yourself, "Wow! If only I could do those things, surely people I know would be really impressed!" So you find yourself drawn to the Spiritual gifts that might manifest in you so that you can be special. But you are no different than those at Babel who tried to make a name for themselves. Repent and seek out a better way...

Instead of trying to make a name for yourself by what you get to do, God focuses you on a far better Name, His! You are given to call upon His name and be saved! Why? Because He already gave you His Own name at your baptism. You were baptized in the name of Father, Son and Holy Ghost to forgive your sins, make you born anew by water and the Spirit, deliver you from death and the devil, and give you everlasting salvation. Named with God's family name, you are now His forevermore.

This Pentecost Day, rejoice in the message of God's everlasting love for you in Christ Jesus! Amen.

Hymns from LSB:
#501 Come Down Oh Love Divine
#497 Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord
#500 Creator Spirit by Whose Aid


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Easter 6

And he came, 1 of the angels, the 1 having the 7 bowls, the 1 full of the 7 plagues of the end, and he spoke with me saying, "Follow, I will show to you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb." And he took me up in the Spirit upon a mountain, great and high, and he showed to me the city, the holy one, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its light like a precious stone, as a stone of crystalline jasper, having a wall, great and high, having 12 gates, and upon the gates 12 angels, and names inscribed which is the 12 tribes of the sons of Israel. From the east, 3 gates, from the north 3 gates, from the south 3 gates, and from the west 3 gates. And the wall of the city having 12 foundations, and upon them 12 names of the 12 apostles of the Lamb. And the 12 gates–12 pearls; again each one of the gates was out of one pearl; and the street of the city purified gold as clear glass. And a sanctuary I did not see in it, for the Lord, the God of all might is its sanctuary, and the Lamb. And the city has no necessity for the sun nor the moon in order to shine upon it, for the glory of God enlightens it, and its lamp–the Lamb. And the nations will walk through its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it...  

Honestly, most of us didn't *love* math class. But there was some arithmetic we all needed to get by in this life to budget, pay our bills, and not get ripped off. There's also some bible mathematics which you need to comprehend God's word. Some of you, from bible classes here or elsewhere understand God's math. Others ought to have learned this already. So for the sake of all, bible math class begins:

We start with the number three. Even without any training, you could guess that #3 is God's number. We call on Father, Son and Holy Spirit each and every Sunday to be with us in worship. With the angels we sing three "holies" to God, and receive a three-fold blessing from the Lord at the closing benediction. God is a three. He is a Trinity. He even blesses us with three means of grace in the Divine Service, salvation from Baptism, forgiveness from Communion, and eternal life proclaimed in Jesus' gospel from His cross.

But there's another problematic number. The #4. Like the four directions of the compass, the #4 is the number of this world. It is a sinful world in which you live. It has been corrupted to its core by the fall of Adam into sin. Planet earth's days are numbered, and it will one day be destroyed and replaced. You live within this sin-sick world, tempted daily to follow the deadly ways of the world which could lead to your own destruction. Wherever you look, east, south, north or west, the world's seductions abound.

But you heard good news about this world in Jesus message to His 12 apostles. "In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world!" This world's wicked ways have been defeated by Jesus, for your sake! The 4-nication of this world Jesus has conquered by the 4-giveness of your sins at the cross. Though the wages of sin in this world is death, Jesus died your death at Calvary, destroying death for you and for this entire world, and rising to new life and new hope 4 you.

So God does a strange mathematical thing. He doesn't subtract the world from Himself, for taking 4 from 3 would leave -1. No, God so loved the world that He sent His only-begotten Son into the world. He didn't just add Himself to the world, but God multiplied His everlasting life in the world through Jesus. So God, # 3, enters the world, # 4, by multiplication. 4x3 equals 12! 12 becomes the number of God's church in this world.12 Old testament tribes of Israel, or 12 New Testament apostles, the number of God's people is 12.

So it is not at all surprising to see the number 12 associated with the bride of Christ which is His church. Whenever God (3) relates to His people in the world (4) the result of His multiplied love in Christ Jesus is always a 12. Even when it comes to entering the pearly gates, you might be surprised to find out that there is not one set of gates to the New Jerusalem, but actually 12 gates. Wherever you live in north, south, east, or west in this world, there is an entrance to paradise prepared for you!

In that day of Christ's coming, there won't be any need to ask Jesus any more questions, for He the  Lamb will be the Lamp which enlightens us all in our New Jerusalem home! He will be our Sanctuary there, the very Holy of Holies of the Temple where the mercy seat of God's love is found! But here and now, as you await that day with all earnestness of hoping, you still have questions, and you have many requests for help from Jesus scattered far from heaven, remaining in this world of tribulation.

But you aren't discouraged, for Jesus overcame the world for you, multiplying His love to you to make you of the 12, by baptizing you into His one, holy, catholic and apostolic church-the New Jerusalem.

Hymns from LSB:

#869   With the Lord Begin Thy Task
#556   Dear Christians One and All Rejoice  (Luther Hymn)  music  stanzas
#474   Alleluia! Jesus is Risen!