Pentecost Trinity Lutheran Church
19 May 2013 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
You’re in Jerusalem. It’s Pentecost. Pentecost, of course, means “fiftieth” day. It designates the Feast of Weeks celebrated at the end of the grain harvest seven weeks after the Passover (Leviticus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:9). You’re there, with all the Jewish pilgrims from all over the world, to give thanks – have a great thanksgiving if you will, for all of God’s goodness. But something happens that you never expected. It blows you away! Astounds you! Leads you to ask the question: “What does this mean?” What takes place comes as pure gift. And with the Lord there is always more! He’s always in the giving mood.
Just as Jesus promised He bestows the Holy Spirit on His apostles and the church. “A sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” “Tongues of fire.” “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.”
This event is the fulfillment of Bible prophecy too. Joel 2 to be precise. “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.” And now it’s happening. So when the last days begin? In 1948? In 1981? Or last year? No! The end of time began at Pentecost in Acts 2! Already in the days of the early church! The apostles were living in the last days already then in the year 33 AD!
And even before! Yes, when Jesus arrived on the scene the Holy Spirit filled last days began! First, the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus through a sermon preached in the Virgin’s ears. That’s huge! But that’s another sermon on another day – perhaps during Advent or Christmas.
What I want you to notice for now is that the Day of Pentecost and the church’s ministry parallel her Lord’s ministry! After all, when Jesus emerged from obscure and hick town Nazareth to crank up the end of time work of salvation for Israel and the world with His public ministry, He was prepared, equipped, heralded and emboldened for His winning the world’s salvation by a manifest, dramatic bestowal of the Holy Spirit who descended on Him “in bodily form, as of a dove” (Luke 3:22) at His Jordan River baptism! And then He was off preaching up a storm in the synagogues and the streets! Equipped and emboldened by the Holy Spirit Jesus had the nerve to proclaim that God’s kingdom had arrived! In Him! That God reigned on the earth! In Him and His ministry! Yes, Holy Spirit filled Jesus dared to call sinners to repent and then incredibly forgave sinners all their sin. The Holy Spirit filled Jesus pulled off a Good Friday and Easter Sunday – the most important days in the history of the world – for one those days He did the salvation of the world job!
So now, on the Day of Pentecost, Christ’s church and His ministers emerge from the prayerful quiet of the upper room (Acts 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit is miraculously bestowed – manifested in the power of the wind and fire so that His church and His pastors are equipped and prepared to be a witness to Jesus, the Savior of the world, in word (Acts 2:14-36, 38-40) and deed (Acts 2:42-47). So that in the preached Gospel, Holy Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper the forgiveness or salvation that Jesus won for the world is bestowed to died-for sinners like you and me! That you believe that not only did Jesus die for the world but that He died FOR YOU!
Jesus bestows the Holy Spirit on His apostles and church for the sake of preaching! The apostles preach! Pentecost’s miracle is the wonder of PREACHING! “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues (languages of all the various nationalities gathered in Jerusalem) as the Spirit enabled them.”
I’d better say it again. The Holy Spirit leads the apostles to preach! In each native language of all those various nations: “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs.” That’s the whole enchilada of the Mediterranean world at that time! All the scattered nations and languages from around the world. Babel undone, if you will. Babel reversed. All the various people understand the apostolic preaching in their own language: “we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues.”
The Holy Spirit filled preaching announces the “wonders of God.”
The “wonders of God” is what God has done in, with and under the body of Jesus, His Son – FOR SINNERS! And really, when you think of what God has done in Jesus, it’s really incredible. Incredibly wonderful! After all, God is spirit – but in Jesus He takes on flesh. God is timeless or eternal – but in Jesus He enters our time — conceived and born of the Virgin Mary – growing up in Nazareth. God cannot suffer – but in Jesus He does. God is holy and sinless – but in Jesus He takes all sin in that crucified body so that He is, “made to be sin” (2 Cor. 5:21) and becomes a “curse,” (Gal. 3:13). God cannot die – but in Jesus He dies – offering His body and His shed blood as the atoning sacrifice for all sin.
In exchange, the sinner is forgiven – for Christ’s sake. The sinner is holy – for Christ’s sake. The sinner will live forever – for Christ sake. The sinner has salvation – for Christ’s sake. What a blessed exchange! What a sweet swap! God Jesus has all your sin and damnation. You have been given His holiness and His heaven!
Again, the miracle of Pentecost is the wonder of preaching! Preaching Jesus who came to save sinners. You, me, the world!
Are you Pentecosted? Have you been given the Holy Spirit? Are you full of the Holy Spirit? Well, are you? Of course you are! You believe in Jesus, don’t you? You believe in His promises, right? Then you are a Pentecost Christian!
What’s that? Some of you object? You say that you can’t feel or see the Spirit in your life? Here’s what I say to that. SO WHAT! As long you believe in Jesus you’re good! Remember the sermon two weeks ago? The Holy Spirit’s job (according to Jesus Himself in John 16) is to call sinners to faith in Jesus. All eyes and ears on Jesus: His gifts – His promises! The Spirit bears witness and gives all glory to … JESUS!
Every time you hear a faithful sermon you are Pentecosted. Each time that the pastor proclaims that your sin is forgiven because Jesus died for you, you are filled with the Holy Spirit. In your Baptism you were given the “gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). At your Baptism God “saved you through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5). Rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit! He’s the Lord and Giver of life – life eternal. Holy Baptism – what a wonder! “Born again of water and the Spirit,” as Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:5). The Lord’s Supper is a Pentecost every Sunday for you! There you hear Christ’s words that are “Spirit and life” (John 6:63).
In the Word and Sacraments the Holy Spirit is at work for you. Giving you what Jesus won for you by His death on the Tree! You are full of the Spirit! Your created, redeemed, baptized, forgiven, bodied and bloodied bodies are temples of the Spirit. He resides in you so that you always repent of your sin and believe the preached Word that proclaims the “wonders of God.” Wonder of God Jesus who saved you!
Happy Pentecost Sunday!
In the Name of Jesus.
Seventh Sunday of Easter Trinity Lutheran Church
12 May 2013 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
Exodus 20:12 “Honor your … mother.”
WARNING: YOU’RE GOING TO GET MORE THAN YOU EVER BARGAINED FOR TODAY. SO BUCKLE UP AND HANG ON TIGHT. Are you ready? All right. Here we go.
Well, there you have it. “Honor your mother.” The commandment doesn’t mess around. Gets right to the heart of the issue. This is what God requires. This is His will. Everyone has a mother. And she is to be honored.
Why? The no-brainer answer is: God commands it! End of sermon right? Well, don’t tempt me. I may just do it. But that’s cutting it way too short. Even for me. There’s got to be more. And there is.
Moms are also to be honored because they are God’s good gifts in the world. Moms are the Lord’s instruments. His hands. His mouth. The Lord uses a woman – her body — to carry, give birth, and raise children. In the beginning God blessed the married couple Adam the man and Eve the woman with these words: “Be fruitful and increase in number,” (Genesis 1:28). Side note: did you notice that in the beginning God’s good and gracious will is that only a man and a woman are to be married? Just checking! And it’s the only marriage there is in God’s eyes. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh,” (Genesis 2:24). In addition, and this applies to the vocation of motherhood, Genesis 3:20 states: “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” Eve’s name gives the clue to the essence of her calling. And to all women.
So, we are to “honor” Mom because God is hidden but actively at work in the world for the benefit and well being of His creation through motherhood! It is God who empowers a woman to be a mother. Through the woman He creates, sustains, and raises children. Motherhood is a divine and holy vocation! God is well pleased with it! He calls it “very good,” (Genesis 1:31)!
Over the past few years and months the Lord has blessed our congregation with the “very good” of motherhood and the gift of babies! It’s been quite a run recently. Joyous births. Many happy Baptisms too! All because God has created a woman’s body so that a baby can be conceived in her womb.
The vocation of motherhood is all about service. Listen to Jesus: “If anyone would come after me, HE MUST DENY HIMSELF and take up his cross and follow me,” (Mark 8:34). As the Lord’s instrument, Mom is the Lord’s hands and mouth so that she can serve her neighbor: her child! She denies herself, her needs, her wants, her desires all for the sake of her child. She lives as a little Christ for her child. She lives not to be served but to serve as she gives her life (time, talents, energy, emotions, health, hope, faith) as Mom for her child. In this way the Lord gives meaning to this service of motherhood.
When Mom is pregnant she shares everything! She shares her body, her DNA, her nutrients, her strength and her own physical space with her child. Pregnancy, labor and delivery are very hard work. Perhaps the toughest physical activity a woman goes through. Mom endures it all for the sake of the baby! Mom lives for her!
After the labor and delivery the mother continues to keep her child alive by nursing her, bathing her, and diapering her. Mom bundles her baby to protect her from the cold. Mom makes sure baby gets vaccinated to protect her from harmful diseases. She does endless loads of laundry. She teaches her child how to pray. Brings her to Holy Baptism, Sunday School and the divine service regularly so that her child is and remains a Christian.
But motherhood is very physical! It has everything to do with physicality! Having a baby is what her body does! Caring for a baby is what her body and soul do! Her body cares for another body! It includes feeding (nursing with her own breasts), handling excrement, suffering sleep deprivation, tending to high fevers, ear infections, chicken pox or the flu, cradling and cuddling with her hands and arms the baby’s little body! Indeed, motherhood is one of the most physically and spiritually demanding vocations in the world.
However, Mom doesn’t give up. She uses all her intellect, her soul and all her gifts as she cares and raises her child. She feeds, clothes, washes and molds her child in the ordinary, every day, and yet very challenging tasks that too many people shun these days. She dares to parent! She audaciously mothers according to God’s Word. Mom’s mothering is an example of what it means to live as a little Christ for the sake of others.
So we’re back to the Commandment: “honor your mother.” Honor her as the Lord’s instrument to give you life and care for you. Honor your Mom. This is the good use the Lord has for you – His died for, forgiven and redeemed people.
Where you have failed to honor your mother, repent! Confess your sin against your mother – to God and to her. What’s that? You say that you haven’t sinned against your mother? Nonsense! The people we sin against and hurt the most and on purpose are usually the people most close to us – the people we love the most. That includes Mom.
So use Jesus and His Blood to mediate otherwise your sin will destroy your relationship with her. Where you have failed your mother ask her to forgive you. And mothers – be explicit – forgive your child in Jesus’ name. Declare Christ’s forgiveness to her. Speak His absolution in your family as the female bishop of your home. Tell the sinners in your family that Jesus died for their sin and that you forgive them too.
That is precisely why Jesus died! His death has a purpose. He died for sinners. You’re one of His. You belong to Him. Since you’re His, that means you’re a sinner! A forgiven sinner! I tell you that Christ’s forgiveness is powerful enough to save even you: a Christian!
Mothers, remember that you are the Lord’s servant in your vocation. You’re not the pope infallible. You’re not God. You sin and violate your vocation all the time. The little sins against your family and God are easy to see. However, the big ones – the deepest sins — you don’t notice that often and they spring on you from behind. “Sin crouches at the door” as God told Cain in Genesis. Sometimes your sin flat out surprises you. Hits you like a ton of bricks. Catches you. Here is what you often say to your family or to God after your sin has done its collateral damage: “I didn’t have any idea! I was only trying to be the best of Moms! I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t intend for that to happen! I didn’t mean to hurt you. I only wanted what was the best for you.” The best of intentions sometimes have the worst affects. And you’re crushed. The regret. The shame. The guilt.
So Mom, where you have sinned against your child or your family, confess the sin – to God, to your child, or the members of your family. Then beg for forgiveness expecting to receive it for Christ’s sake. No matter what the sin: the termination of a pregnancy, constant negativity, keeping score, neglect, selfishness, bitter anger, or the worship of the self.
I tell you that Jesus died for all your sin! He doesn’t exclude any sin from His sacrificed Body on the Tree! He never says: “I love sinners but you’ve stretched it beyond my wildest dreams! I died for the sin of the world but I didn’t know that you’d ever do that!” So kids or members of the family, forgive your mother. Tell her that you forgive her. Don’t clam up. Don’t slam the door to your room. Don’t’ run away. Don’t play tit for tat. Don’t try to get revenge or make plans to hurt her. Instead, forgive her as God in Christ has forgiven you of everything in His Good Friday dying.
Now, I know that Mother’s Day is bittersweet for quite a few women. Many women can’t get pregnant. Others have miscarried.
For you who can’t get pregnant the Lord can still use you for good – as His servant – to be a little Christ to others. How? By adopting unwanted or orphaned children. All of us Christians are children of God because He adopted us. God is our Father and we are His children through adoption. Listen to Ephesians 1:4-5. “For he [God] chose us in him [Jesus] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he [God] predestined us to BE ADOPTED AS HIS SONS through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will.”
That’s pure gift! Adoption is pure gospel! To be adopted by God is to be saved! You are gifted with salvation when He adopts you as His child, His little one who believes in Him. The fact that God the Father has adopted you as His child is precisely why you are free to live out the gospel in your life by adopting a boy or girl to be your child. In doing so you exhibit and extend the love of Christ to a child who desperately needs to be loved.
Now if you’re trying to get pregnant the Lord provides wonderful doctors, technology and medicines as His instruments. Use the science. Use the doctors. However, there are the biblical God-pleasing guidelines that need to be followed. And what would that be? The medical treatments should be in accord with the one flesh union of holy marriage! In other words, in vitro-fertilization is acceptable as long as the genetic material (sperm and egg) that is combined comes from both married parents! In that way the child that is conceived is still made of the flesh and blood of both married parents.
To use a sperm “donor” or an egg “donor” (someone to whom you’re not married) goes outside the bound of holy marriage and it is a kind of adultery. This also includes surrogacy. Using a surrogate mother was a disastrous plan for Sarah and Abraham (Genesis 16) (despite all their good intentions) and it remains a bad idea today. Even though motherhood begins at conception, the surrogate mother who gives birth to the child would have a conflicting claim to the child.
Please also remember that with in vitro fertilization there can be the conception of multiple embryonic children in which only one is brought to term. The “extra” embryos are usually thrown away, frozen, used for experimentation or murdered for their stem cells. Parents, have a divine calling to protect all the children they conceive even if it is done through in vitro fertilization.
Is it possible to adopt an unwanted frozen embryo? YES! It is possible to implant one of these embryos in the womb of a woman and let her carry the child and bring it to term. This is called having a “snowflake” baby. This does not violate the one flesh union since there was no extramarital mingling of DNA. This is an adoption – another example of God’s love for others. Snowflake adoption is really a rescue from certain/imminent death.
Last year actress Gwyneth Paltrow revealed in an interview that she “nearly died” after suffering a miscarriage during her third pregnancy. To you mothers who have miscarried, the Lord knows your pain and deep anguish. Jesus’ Good Friday and Easter counts for these little ones too. These little ones are very precious to Him. They too are reconciled to God through His Blood. We commend them to Jesus. And we pray for a happy reunion in heaven and eagerly wait for the resurrection of the body on the last day.
Mothers, the Lord has good use for you. Not to live for yourself. That’s idolatry. A selfish life is not enlivening. It’s destructive. It harms those who need your love. Jesus didn’t give Himself into death at Calvary so that you could live like that. The Christian life of motherhood is twofold: faith in Jesus and then love for the neighbor. Jesus doesn’t need your love. But your children do!
And that’s precisely why you’re a mother. You are the Lord’s instrument. His hands. His mouth. To love. To care for those He’s put into your life as a little Christ. Offering your body as a living sacrifice for your children.
So children: “Honor your mother.” That’s the Lord’s very good use for you.
In the Name of Jesus.