Monthly Archives: May 2008

Second Sunday after Pentecost

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“God’s Reign and Righteousness”

Matthew 6:24-34

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

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24, ESV). Jesus’ words are not hard to understand. You cannot be the slave of two different lords at the same time. If you are under the authority of one master, you cannot also be under the authority of another one. If you are in the army of one country, you cannot simultaneously be in the army of another country, especially if the two countries are at war! There are two important points behind what Jesus says: first, as Bob Dylan put it, “You gotta serve somebody. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody” (“Gotta Serve Somebody,” Slow Train Coming). And, second, if you try to serve two masters, you will be destroyed. So if what you do and are is determined by something other than Jesus Christ, you can’t say “Jesus is my Lord,” because that means that everything you do and are is under the rule of the Triune God. It’s not difficult; Jesus is not oversimplifying when He tells us that it is one lord or the other. But simplicity is not our strong suit, is it? I have my complicating idols, just like you have yours. An idol is one of those other lords that we try to serve. Some are obvious, like wealth. There is a reason why Jesus said it’s harder for rich people to be under the reign of God than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:24). Not impossible, because God can make even big, slobbery, hump-backed creatures go through tiny spaces; but let’s just say that if you have sworn your allegiance to stuff and things, it’s not going to be any use going home and trying to get your camel through the eye of your knitting needle. Some of our idols are less obvious, but there’s an easy way to tell if some other lord has taken the place of the only true Lord in your life: if push comes to shove, does God win the tug-of-war? Does the pursuit of more stuff keep you from giving to the work of God through His Church? Do unbelieving friends or family members give you an excuse to neglect the services of God’s House? When you get right down to it, and I mean when you get right down to the bottom of your heart, what person, place, or thing wins the battles over your time, money, and energy? What person, place, or thing consumes you to the extent that you pay only lip-service to the lordship of the God whose creation and blood-bought possession you are? Do you say things like, “I’m a Christian” or “I’m a member of Trinity/St. Paul’s Lutheran Church” but everything you say and do either ignores that fact or directly contradicts it? And I’m asking myself a similar question: do I call myself a pastor in Christ’s Church but keep part of myself back so that I’m someone else when I’m not standing up here in front of you?

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Pentecost (and Podcast!)

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“Powerful Deeds, Wonders, and Signs”

Acts 2:1-22

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

Is there something missing from the Church today? We hear in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles about the sending of the Holy Spirit; we hear of violent winds, fiery tongues, speaking in languages never learned, bold preaching by former cowards, and mass conversions. We hear of amazed, confused, and maybe even frightened crowds. Jerusalem was packed to overflowing. Pentecost was a day of obligatory worship, and so Jews by birth and Jews by conversion had come from as far as Rome–over 1400 miles away–to be present at the Temple for the Feast of Weeks. The Hebrew Feast of Weeks, or “Pentecost” (Greek for “fiftieth”), was one of three festivals at which every male Israelite was to appear before the Lord to worship and bring his offerings. This feast was to take place when the first grain was gathered in Palestine, fifty days after the Passover. On this fiftieth day, the disciples were waiting together as Jesus had instructed them, and the Father fulfilled His Word. Just as Jesus had promised, “[T]he Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26, ESV). The violent wind, fiery tongues, and speaking fluently in unknown languages were all signs that pointed to the reality of Jesus Christ present in the power of the Holy Spirit, to bring people back into right relationship with the Father. “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21, ESV).

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

“What Do We Do and Why Do We Do It?”

Part 7: Nunc Dimittis through Benediction

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

“Now in faith I humbly ponder/Over this surpassing wonder/That the bread of life is boundless/Though the souls it feeds are countless:/With the choicest wine of heaven/Christ’s own blood to us is given;/He, though heav’nly, high, and holy,/Deigns to dwell with you most lowly” (LSB 636, st. 4). The Supper is ended; the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord of heaven and earth has seen fit to feed you His eternal Body and Blood. He has welcomed you to His Table and though you should serve Him, He serves you (Luke 12:37). He came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). It is your ransom paid that Christ gives you freely at His Table. Go now to life, go to death, in peace full and complete. “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32; LSB 199-200). With what joy old Simeon must have seen and held the young Jesus! “[I]t had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God…” (Luke 2:26-28, ESV). How far beyond understanding it all goes. How can God be small enough to hold? How can the Creator of heaven and earth and everything in between be grasped by the hands of an old man? God cannot be contained in temples made by human hands, but yet He comes into the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill His own law. The God whom Simeon praised, even as He was holding Him–this is your God as well.

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The Ascension of Our Lord

“Ascended Is Not Absent”

Luke 24:44-53

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

“…he ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty…” (Apostles’ Creed). Just fifteen words. But fifteen words are significant in the Apostles’ Creed, which does not even come close to including everything Jesus did. This “ascended into heaven” is the reason why we are gathered here this evening. Forty days ago we celebrated the greatest festival of the Church Year, the Resurrection of our Lord. Tonight we celebrate His Ascension into heaven, which means His return to the place where He was before He was conceived in human flesh in the Virgin’s womb. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, ESV). But why should we celebrate Jesus’ return to the Father? Because the Christian teaching about the Ascension opens up into everything else we believe about Jesus, His relationship to the Church, and His relationship to the world through the Church.

In fact, you are in this building precisely because Jesus ascended into heaven. He told His disciples, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:45-49, ESV). All nations, including the United States of America, including Minnesota, including Fisher and Euclid. And this preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins has spread to all nations because Jesus ascended into heaven. As He said to His disciples in John’s Gospel: “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27, ESV). And a few verses later, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7, ESV). And so Jesus did send the Spirit on Pentecost, and so the disciples did bear witness, beginning from Jerusalem. And God added to their number all whom He saved, all the way up to us in the year of our Lord 2008.

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