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Colossians and Ephesians Part Eight

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Colossians and Ephesians Part Seven

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Colossians and Ephesians Part Six

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Colossians and Ephesians Part Five

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The Holy Spirit: A Mighty Preacher of Jesus!

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Pentecost                                                      Calvary Lutheran Church

5 June 2017                                                  Jacksonville, NC

 

Acts 2:1-21

 

When the Holy Spirit is given it’s all about … Jesus! Bearing witness to Jesus. The winning your salvation by Jesus. The dishing out the salvation that Jesus crucifixion-ly won FOR YOU. Anyone thirsty for salvation is given Good Friday Jesus to drink – to believe. “Out of your heart will flow rivers of living water.” That’s spelled: F-A-I-T-H! Faith that is given Jesus. All that He is. All that He has done. FOR YOU. The Holy Spirit sees to that. Calling you to faith in Jesus through the gospel!   No doubt you learned this in your catechesis. Now let’s learn some more and rejoice. A disciple of Jesus never stops learning. Check it out Isaac, Stephen, Nathaniel, Grace and Hannah.

 

When Jesus appeared from Podunk Nazareth to publicly begin His trek to get hung on the cross for the salvation of the world, what happened? That’s right. He was prepared and heralded for that salvific service by a manifest and dramatic bestowal of the Holy Spirit. At His Baptism in the Jordan the Holy Spirit descended on Him in the form of a dove (Luke 3:22). Then the In-The-Wilderness-Full-Of-The-Holy-Spirit-But-Starving-Jesus repels and rebuffs Satan’s temptations to be a cross-less Christ with God’s almighty Spirit-filled Word (Luke 4:1-13). Next, in the region of Galilee Jesus teaches in the synagogues and in His hometown of Nazareth. He reads from Isaiah 61:1-2. That’s all about the promised Messiah or Savior of Israel: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me … to proclaim good news to the poor … liberty to the captives and oppressed … giving sight to the blind .. and to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.” But then Jesus audaciously and categorically declares in front of the entire congregation: “Today This Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing!” (Luke 4:14-21).

 

I could on and on. But you’re ready for lunch and confirmation parties. So, let’s fast-forward a bit. To today’s text. I know. I know. It’s about time! Well, check it out. The Lord’s puny church emerges from the prayerful quiet of an upper room. Waiting. Passively. Then she is given to. Pentecost-ed! As the LORD’s instrument she is prepared by the miraculous giving of the Holy Spirit revealed in powerful wind and fire for witness in word and deed that Jesus is the Savior! Savior of sinners! That there’s only salvation in Him!

 

So, the Good Friday-ed, Easter Sunday-ed and Ascended King of kings and Lord of lords bends down from the right hand of the Father, blows His promised Spirit across the blowing embers of His little band of disciples and stirs up a flame that has been burning ever since.

 

On Quasimodogeniti (or the Second Sunday of Easter) Jesus blew the Holy Spirit on the eleven disciples in the upper room – ordaining them – sending them as His pastors to use the Office of the Keys – loosing or binding sin (John 20:10-23). Now, He blows His Spirit on all. Pastors. Men. Women. Children. The whole church. All of His hangers on. What Moses wished for –that all God’s people would be given the Spirit – takes place. It is the LORD’s big Pentecost. His harvest festival that celebrates and proclaims His death and resurrection for all and FOR YOU!

 

Filled with the breath of the Holy Spirit the people in that little church opened their lips and spoke. Pentecost is about words and witnessing. Tongues heavy with Galilean accents – Galilean dialect were loosed to speak in all the known languages of the known world. Nobody that day could say that Jesus was not for them. Everyone heard the good news of their sins forgiven in his own language. His own dialect. Parthians. Medes. Elamites. Mesopotamians. Judeans. Cappadocians. People from Pontus. Asia. Phrygia. Pamphilia. Egypt. Libya. Rome. All over the Roman Empire! Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism.

 

By the end of the day, 3,000 sinners were baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and they too were given the gift of the Holy Spirit. 3,000 believed that Jesus died and rose for them! 3,000 went back to their countries and homes – bearing the good news of Jesus Good Friday-ly crucified, risen, and reigning in their own native languages to their children, families, co-workers and anyone that would listen.

 

The Spirit of Jesus that brings the fire of the Father’s love continues to fan the flames over His church. The Spirit-breath of God came to you in your baptism – filling you with heavenly fire – breathing eternal life in your death. Melting the chill of your cold and hardened hearts with God’s burning desire to rescue you in the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. In your baptism the Holy Spirit let loose with the rivers of living water – a water rich in grace – a water that saves you as the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

 

The Spirit continues to enliven, enrich and sustain you –faith you — whenever Christ’s Word is read, preached, chanted – at home, in church, across the kitchen table, the backyard fence, or around the office water cooler. Or as Jesus promised: “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

 

The Holy Spirit is no idle, empty breeze. He is a mighty preacher. He carries the Word of Christ from mouths to ears, from preachers to hearers, from Christians to the world, from you to your neighbor or family. The Spirit is a preacher. A proclaimer. Comforter. Counselor. He takes what belongs to Jesus (His Good Friday death) and delivers it to sinners for their salvation. That’s what He’s done for you. The Holy Spirit is the UPS or Fedex delivery Person of the Holy Trinity. He delivers the forgiveness and eternal life that Jesus died to win on the cross. He makes it your own in the hearing of the Word of Christ.

 

Mighty wind and fire are nice. So too are Galileans speaking in foreign languages and dialects. However, the truly miraculous and marvelous work of the Spirit is that He uses mouths and tongues to spread the message of Christ’s salvation to all people! Mouths and tongues of sinful preachers like Kuhlman or Dart – even your tongues and mouths to speak Christ’s forgiveness so that the Good Friday cleansing blood of Jesus gets sprinkled throughout the entire world on each person.

 

We don’t get rushing wind or tongues of fire today. That was the first Pentecost. Those things marked that day as something special and unique. However, we still have the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit among us. Jesus has given us holy baptism, holy absolution, the preaching of the gospel and the Lord’s Supper. That’s how Pentecost and pentecosting continues.

 

Every Sunday is a little Pentecost where Jesus sees to it that His forgiveness is preached – where He puts His Good Friday all atoning and sacrificial body and blood into your mouth with the bread and wine. Purifying and cleansing your mouths – your tongues to speak as His instruments in the world.

 

Pentecost continues where Jesus puts His Word on your lips and in your hearts – the Word that says: “Jesus died FOR YOU and for His sake you are forgiven and have eternal life in His name.” And as I now tell you the same: Jesus died FOR YOU Isaac, Stephen, Nathaniel, Grace and Hannah and all the rest of you gathered here today. All your sin is His. His righteousness is yours. Your sin does not belong to you anymore. Jesus has it and He buried it all in the black hole of Good Friday death on the cross. You are forgiven. It is true. He sent me to tell you that.”

 

Happy Confirmation Day!

 

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

Memorial Cemetery Sermon

Seventh Sunday of Easter                            Trinity Lutheran Church

28 May 2017                                                    Murdock, NE

 

Memorial Cemetery Service

Luke 3:1-14

 

What a preacher! John the Baptist, that is! Calling people to repentance. And then to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”

 

Those fruits are simple acts of social kindness that begin appropriately in the desolate desert where John baptized sinners to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah where nights are very cold and grub is hard to come by. “The man with two coats should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”

 

You would think that producing fruit that keeps with repentance would mean that you would have to quit your job in disgrace. Especially if the religious leaders and the radical Berkeley students despise you and call for your immediate resignation. Can you imagine the protests at the sight of tax collectors and Roman soldiers? The Pharisees were always going ballistic but they went ballistic on steroids when Jesus welcomed tax collectors to be his disciples – Matthew and Zacchaeus for example.

 

Well, John the Baptist’s call for producing fruit that keeps with repentance is to act honestly in your profession. If you collect taxes “don’t collect any more than you are required to.” If you are a soldier, especially the mercenary kind, “don’t extort and don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay.”

 

Again, soldiers can remain soldiers. Just do your soldiering honestly and with honor. Do it to help and not to harm. Not for your advantage but for others.

 

This is in keeping with the biblical teaching that God uses creatures to take care of creatures – people to take care of people. God uses soldiers as His instruments in the civil realm to keep the peace. To protect the innocent and the nation. And sometimes that means going to war. Yes, sometimes that needs to take place.

 

God protects. God cares. God acts for you, His creature through another creature, the soldier.

 

As a citizen I am called by Jesus to love my enemy. But a soldier has the duty to kill the enemy. Romans 13 teaches very clearly that God has appointed earthly rulers to restrain sin and has given them the authority to “bear the sword.” The soldier, acting under a lawful chain of command under the authority of the state, therefore has a legitimate calling from God, who Himself acts through human vocations.

 

Dr. Martin Luther in his writing “Can a Soldier Be Saved?” advised that the soldier should look at soldiering this way: “It is not I that smite, stab, and slay, but God and my prince, for my hand and my body are now their servants.” The Christian soldier, living out his faith in his vocation, loves and serves his neighbors by defending and protecting them. Yes, soldiers can abuse their license to kill. Luther goes so far as to say that soldiers should refuse to fight in wars that are clearly evil. But those who have the Christian vocation of being a soldier may fight “in good conscience.” Before God soldiers should be humble and repentant. But before the enemy, they should “smite them with a confident and untroubled spirit.”

 

No wonder then that many who are buried in this cemetery did just that. And God used them as His instrument to help you. To protect you. So that you can live freely. Have a family. Keep a job. Worship Jesus.

 

Thanks be to God for using them as His instruments.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

A No Brainer — Suffering for being a Christian

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Seventh Sunday of Easter                         Trinity Lutheran Church

28 May 2017                                               Murdock, NE

 

1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-9

 

Suffering. Sometimes you suffer because of bad choices you make. On the one hand the choices are really bad and they come with disastrous consequences. On the other hand there are times that you will endure suffering because you confess Christ. Christians suffer for being a Christian? Sure. That’s a no brainer. Even in America. Absolutely. The enemies of Christ and His church are baring their teeth. Their goal? Bully. Intimidate. Shut down. Eliminate. Eradicate. Depending on the enemy.

 

Confessing Christ – worshiping Christ – adoring Christ – regularly receiving Christ’s gifts in the divine service is costly. You may not get a job. You may lose your job. Your starting position on the team (some would consider that to be the most horrifying). You stand to lose your reputation. Friends. Family. Maybe even your life. In 2010 an elderly bishop told newly ordained pastors in the church: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die as a martyr in the public square.”[1]

 

This should not come as any surprise to any of us.  Christians suffer – FOR BEING CHRISTIANS.  The blessed apostle Peter preached it a long time ago.  So did Jesus (Luke 6:22-23, 26; see also Acts 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:4).  And the times haven’t changed.  So here is Peter’s timeless and true message for you today.

 

“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering as though something strange were happening to you.”  To have Jesus’ name branded on you puts you in peril.  To confess Jesus as Lord brings you many enemies and sometimes some immense suffering.  Always has been the case.  There’s nothing new here!

 

Christians always face to possibility of being confronted with the mockery, insults, antagonism, discrimination, and persecution from the world that adamantly opposes Jesus and those who believe in Him.  I’ve mentioned them before. I’ll mention them again. Radical and fanatic atheists such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Stephen Hawking would just as soon eliminate you Christ confessors from the face of the earth PDQ so that the world can achieve its potential. They have made many alliances, many coalitions and colluded to raise millions of dollars.

 

Why? It’s simple. They want to purge the planet of you dangerous simpletons. To them you Christ confessors are primitive, ugly, toxic, intolerant and bigoted!  You and your Christ on the cross have been standing in the way of a progressive worldwide utopia for way too long.  Christianity and Christians in particular are blamed for all the world’s ills, poverty, discrimination, name the phobia and Western civilization’s psychopathic tendencies such as believing that people are sinners and that there is a hell. Teaching children such things is tantamount to child abuse and should be criminalized. Of all the teachings in Christianity, the concept of God’s grace is arguably the most harmful, destructive, insulting, and psychologically crippling according to your enemies. After all, people should get what they deserve not what they don’t deserve.

 

Now, if these atheists have their way, you confessors of the Lord Jesus Christ will be systematically marginalized, demonized, arrested, institutionalized, imprisoned, Solzhenitsyn-ed, Siberia-ed, purged.

 

Then there is the prowling around like a roaring lion Satan looking for someone like you to devour and drag into forevermore hell.  The great red dragon hates the church.  He despises you because you are baptized and live from Christ’s own body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.  Satan, the old evil foe, is on the prowl.  And he is after you.

 

And if that isn’t enough there is more.  You have your own sinful flesh that hangs around your neck.  Always tempting you to worship yourself. As if your words are divine.  Enticing you to forsake Jesus and to treat His Good Friday and Easter Sunday like nothings.  As if His death and resurrection are lies and that Jesus cannot be trusted.  So that you’ll just give up on Him and trust only in yourselves and your words.

 

So, “it is time” as Peter says, “to be self-controlled and alert … to stand firm in the faith.  When and if such suffering has come to you already, you are not alone.  Christians all over the world suffer because they bear the name of Jesus.  They lose their job.  They lose their family.  They lose their reputation.  They sometimes even lose their earthly life.  This is happening all over the world. One study by the Center for Studies on New Religions showed that nearly 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2016 and that as many as 600 million were prevented from practicing their faith through intimidation, forced conversions, bodily harm or even death. Bearing Jesus’ name, confessing Him as Lord, and worshiping Him is risky and hazardous.

 

But do not despair.  And do not be ashamed.  There is no shame in suffering for your confession of Jesus! Notice what Peter says.  It is what he learned from Jesus Himself.  Jesus talked the same way.

 

When you suffer for being a Christian:  “rejoice.”  Yes, that’s right rejoice!  Jesus suffered.  And so do His disciples.  But Jesus rose from the dead and sits in glory at the Father’s right hand.  And so will you, His disciples.  You too will be raised in glory on the Last Day.  In Jesus and sharing in “the sufferings of Christ” you are “blessed.”   Suffering for being a Christian gives you the opportunity to:  “praise God.”   In addition, it teaches you, as Peter says to, “humble yourselves … under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time.”  Suffering for being a Christian, not for being a thief, murderer, criminal or meddler, BUT FOR BEING A DISCIPLE OF JESUS teaches you to “cast all your anxiety on God because he cares for you.”    Suffering for bearing Jesus’ name teaches Christians to “commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”  

 

In other words, suffering “according to God’s will” for bearing Jesus’ name teaches you to trust in Jesus all the more.  To strengthen your faith in Him! To simply be a beggar before Him!  To receive all that He gives in the way He gives His gifts. A hanger on!

 

The suffering doesn’t last forever.  While it lasts it is painful and real.  But it only lasts a “little while,” (1 Peter 5:10).  Just as the Father restored His Son to life and glory after much suffering, so too with you.  In the meantime Jesus Himself prays for you.  He intercedes for you.  That you do not fall but rather remain steadfast, strong, and firm in the true faith, no matter how much the world, the devil and your sinful flesh rage against you.  For Jesus is stronger still.  The world and Satan could not do Him in.  He will see to it through His words of promise – his promises of forgiveness and life eternal won for you by His suffering and death on the cross.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

 

     [1] Cardinal Francis George.