June 5, 2022: Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for not leaving us alone here on this earth.  Thank You for both promising and sending us the gift of the Holy Spirit.  O how wonderful to have a special helper, an advocate, a divine comforter to assist us as we struggle through life.  Today we ask that You send the Spirit powerfully into our lives and uplift our faith on every level.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF THE BEST GIFT OF ALL: THE HOLY SPIRIT!

TEXT:  John 15: 26,27

Fellow Redeemed Sinners Made Holy By the Work of the Spirit:

          It’s not glitzy and glamorous.  Most people don’t grow up dreaming of becoming maintenance workers.  And yet, they are some of the most important and valuable people in our lives.  For they keep things running.  Think about it.  If you’ve lived a long time in a neighborhood, I’ll bet you’ve seen certain houses go from cheery, well-keep abodes of some older couple to a run-down, unsightly mess.  It’s sad and depressing every time you walk by.  Likewise, we’ve all seen blighted areas filled with graffiti and trash that once were thriving, well-maintained engines of commerce.  But, sadly, over time, someone didn’t take maintenance seriously and it decayed to wrack and ruin. 

          For these reasons, one of the most important budget items for any business or organization is: maintenance.  But sadly, due to the short-sighted nature of the modern world, it is the first item to get cut and the last to get increased until the situation becomes dire.  Just think how much could be saved on roads if they were actually maintained beyond a lick and a promise?

          Unlike humans, God is not penny-wise and pound foolish.  In fact, before He left earth Christ made special provisions to ensure that His fledgling Church won’t crumble.  He promised and sent us the Holy Spirit to enlarge, enrich, increase and maintain our faith.  And since Pentecost is all about His coming, today I want to talk briefly about:

PENTECOST: OUR FAITH REFRESHER

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          “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.  And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”

          Here Christ promises His faithful flock and special gift.  The gift of the Holy Spirit.  In this section He is called The Paraclete in the original Greek language.   That is an interesting word.  It has various shades of meaning that range from: a Helper, a Mediator, One who appears on another’s behalf, and also one who: encourages, invites, comforts and consoles.  It was sometimes used in a legal sense of a person who advocates, or speaks up for another who needs assistance.  Earlier in John 14: 16 Christ speaks of this 3rd Member of the Triune God.  “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor (Paraclete) to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth.”    Likewise in vs. 26: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.”  So, the Holy Spirit is true God, Whom both Christ and the Father have sent into the world to refresh our faith and maintain us on the pathway toward glory!

          Do we need this kind of help?  Absolutely!  At times all people and all Christians feel very alone and helpless.  We worry how we stand before God.  We worry about whether our future will be happy or sad.  We worry about whether our faith is genuine or we’re just kidding ourselves.  Christ knew all that.  He knew our sinful condition of self-doubt and God-doubt.  After all, He carried all our sins and all our doubts to the cross and died for them right then and there.  And now, He has sent a wonderful Counselor, a judicial Advocate, to argue for us before the eternal tribunal.  The Spirit says: “I have put Myself in that sinner. I have worked faith into his or her heart.  I have poured My love and Christ’s goodness into them.  I have protected them.  And so you, Satan, and the rest of your allies cannot hurt them anymore.  Be gone and cease and desist afflicting them!”  Yes, Pentecost is a faith refresher because it means God’s Spirit has come into this world to ceaselessly defend us!

II

          After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples must have bursting at the seams to get busy sharing the life-changing message they had experienced first-hand.  And yet, they didn’t immediately go out on their own and do that.  No, they patiently waited in Jerusalem and hung around the temple for the next 10 days because they knew that they desperately needed the Spirit’s power and not just their own.  And then, God sent the Spirit!  And what happened, aside from the rushing wind, the tongues of fire on their heads, and their miraculous ability to speak foreign languages fluently?  What happened was suddenly the disciples were fearless in proclaiming Christ and 3000 people were converted to Jesus that very day!  Yes, God needed and wanted those men to speak to others about the His free gift of salvation.  But God knew that “apart from Him we can do nothing” but with Him, with the Spirit empowering them they could shake the world!

          As we sit here today, 2000 years after Pentecost, Christianity has gone from being a robust, energetic faith which fears nothing to a rather timid faith where many of its adherents often sit back and say little, if anything, because they fear censure.  What does that say?  It says to me that we need to focus on and invoke the Holy Spirit all the more!  We need to pray to Him and ask for His help.  We need to “speak the truth in love” as St. Paul exhorts us.  We need to believe and to testify to God’s truths, the chief one being that: “God was in  Christ reconciling the world to Himself.”  Yes, we need to “trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding.”  And trust we can under the Spirit’s power!  Just as the Bible says: “It is God, the Spirit, Who works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure.”

          Maintenance work is not glamorous.  Neither is maintaining the vibrancy of one’s faith.  Hence, coming faithfully to church each week is not glamorous, Sunday School and bible classes are not glamorous, and neither is a devotional life or prayer.  And yet, maintenance workers keep the world from collapsing around our ears through their labors and the economy chugging along.  And the Spirit, by maintaining our faith keeps our lives from collapsing, too.  In fact, with Him in our corner, we more than “chug along” we shake the world!  So, thank God the Spirit for His Pentecost blessings and then put them into practice.  You’ll be amazed at what He will do for you and everyone you touch!   Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH….

May 29, 2022: Ascension Sunday

Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for leaving heaven and coming to earth to save our souls.  Thank You for offering Yourself up as a sacrifice to the heavenly Father for our sins.  Thank You for going back to glory to prepare a place for us when we leave earth, too. And finally, thank You for listening to our prayers each day and making sure that all things work for our eternal good and our eternal joy.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR RISEN AND ASCENDED LORD JESUS CHRIST!

TEXT:  Psalm 47: 5-6: “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.  Sing praise to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.”

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

          Have you ever felt homesick?  Have you ever been far removed from family and friends and found yourself longing to return to that special place, that place of love and joy we all call: home?  Think of the soldiers in Ukraine today.  Do you think they are counting the days until they return home?  Do you think they are looking forward to the welcome that they will receive?

          What exactly is home?  It’s the place where you feel totally at ease.  It is the place where you feel safe and happy.  It’s the place where you experience real joy.  The joy of love without end.  Yes,

HOME IS WHERE THE JOY IS!

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          Ascension is my favorite church festival.  I hope after today it’s yours, too.  And it’s my favorite for a lot of reasons.  First, I love the ascension hymns.  Second, I take great comfort that Christ has gone on to glory to prepare a special place, a home for me in heaven.  Third, from heaven He can hear my prayers and the prayers of all other believers and answer them immediately instead of being confined to some physical dwelling on this earth where a long line awaits an audience with Him.  But, most of all I enjoy Ascension because it was the day of joy for my Lord.  It was the day when He went home.

          Put yourself in His shoes.  Imagine leaving heaven and coming to earth.  Imagine leaving never-ending joy behind and coming into this world of sin, hate, fear, sickness, heartache, and death.  Imagine knowing that at age 33 you would suffer horribly and die miserably on a cross after being tortured.  Imagine knowing that most would reject Your loving sacrifice for their souls.  Truly, love, real love, filled Christ’s heart and soul.  For what other reason would cause God’s Son to spend 33 years feeling all of our pain? 

          Now, imagine His work being done!  He has completed His mission.  Eternal forgiveness has been won.  Death has been defeated.  Satan and all the pain and sadness he brings has been put in chains.  And now it is time to go home.  Christ was not sad when He left this world.  He was joyful!  He was going back home.  He was picking up the fullness of His Kingship over all creation so that He could continue to help and assist His children without any kind of hindrance—without being confined by time and space.  No longer would He be able to help people one at a time.  Now He could be present everywhere and help us at every moment.  Imagine His joy at all this?  Imagine His Father’s joy?  Imagine the Spirit’s joy over having Him back home?  Imagine the party in heaven!  Well, you don’t have to imagine because in our Psalm it is described.  “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.  Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.”  That’s what the sons of Korah wrote about 900 years before the event even took place.  Yes, right here we see how eagerly God anticipated His Son’s ascension.

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          Do you feel joy over Jesus’ ascension?   When I was a child I thought to myself: “I wish He would not have left.  I wish He were still physically here to help me.”  You might even think that the disciples thought the same thing.  But, you’d be wrong.  Those who had had their lives directly touched by Christ were not sad when He left.  They, too, were joyful.  We read of this in Luke’s Gospel when he writes at the end of it: “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.  Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.  And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”

          Dr. Luther says this about Jesus’ ascension.  “We must, therefore, conceive of his ascension and Lordship as something active, energetic and continuous, and must not imagine that he sits above while we hold the reins of government down here.  Nay, he ascended  up thither for the reason that there he can best do his work and exercise dominion.  Had he remained upon earth in visible form, before the people, he could not have worked so effectually, for all the people could not have been with him and heard him.  Therefore, he inaugurated an expedient which made it possible for him to be in touch with all and reign in all, to preach to all and be heard by all, and to be with all.  Therefore, beware lest you imagine within yourself that he has gone, and now is, far away from us.  The very opposite is true: While he was on earth, he was far away from us; now he is very near.”  Yes, He is as near as the blessings of your baptism.  As near as the strength You receive in the Lord’s Supper.  As near as any form of His preached, taught, or read word of truth.  For in the Gospel in all its forms Christ is near and present.

          Obviously, the disciples understood this.  That’s one reason why they were joyful over Christ going home.  But the other reason is that infused with His self-giving love they now were able to actually be unselfish.  For perhaps the first time in their lives they thought first about Him and not themselves.  They were happy for Him.  They knew this Psalm and so they knew the joy He was experiencing as He left their sight.  Yes, now they really knew that Home Is Where the Joy Is! 

          My Friends, true lasting joy will never be found on this earth.  It is only found in heaven.  So, as you draw closer each day to your death, don’t fear.  Don’t fret.  Don’t worry.  Instead, look forward to it!  For death means that you’re going home!  And just as your Savior has prepared your soul for that day of triumph, so, too, know that He has prepared a glorious homecoming for you there!  Yes, Ascension really is His happiest of days and ours, as well.  Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…..