Monday, March 28, 2016

Resurrection of Our Lord 3/27/16 "Just One More Thing..."

Resurrection of our Lord–Homily
3/27/16–Year C

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! 

Throughout my life, ever since childhood, I have been fascinated with detectives and detective stories. I still remember one Christmas, long ago, I received what I thought to be the greatest gift ever. It was a book, a Hardy Boys book. But this book was not one of their usual mysteries, rather it was something more and something greater than that. It was the Hardy Boys Detective Handbook! As a young boy, no more did I simply have to read about detectives, with this book I could be one! In it, it taught me how to dust for prints, look for clues, and ask the right questions. Unfortunately, as a child with my newly learned skills, I found out rather quickly that my case load was not as abundant as Frank and Joe Hardy's. This love of detectives remained with me throughout adolescence, from the Hardy Boys to the Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles. 

My affinity for detectives, mind you, was not solely of the literary genre. I also watched the great detectives on television. Having read detectives and watched them on TV, I was just a bit tickled that after I took an aptitude test in high school, one of the careers listed was detective. Pastor was not listed and there in lies the humor of God. From Murder She Wrote to Law and Order, from Cagney and Lacey to Simon and Simon, from Hunter to the Rockford Files, from Monk to Longmire these detectives are forever with me. And I know I look more like Kojak, but he was before my time. Yet one detective stands above them all in my memory, the one my Grandfather and I used to watch whenever his TV specials were on in the 80’s and 90’s, the scatter-brained, bumbling mess of a detective, Lieutenant Columbo. Columbo's brilliance was that you could always tell the precise moment when he had figured out the mystery. As a skilled predator about to capture his unassuming prey, he would ask innocent question after innocent question. He lured them them into his investigative web, until he built to the moment of his most famous tag-line. The line that would pierce the hart of the hardened criminal and render their sturdy defense into a house of cards. No matter the crime, no matter the mystery, no matter how big or how small, a criminal mastermind knew the tables had turned on them, if they ever heard Lt. Columbo wearing his overcoat with half-smoked stogie in his hand utter these words, “Excuse me, Just one more thing…”

Now why mention this? Why this on Easter Sunday? Why Columbo? Well I do so, only because of the words that Jesus spoke from the Cross on Good Friday. Moments before Jesus yielded up His Spirit, with final breaths, he proclaimed to the world, “It is finished.” That night and the whole next day the world believed him. Pilate, after sentencing Jesus to Crucifixion, believed this minor inconvenience was finished. The High Priest Caiaphas and Annas, as they watched the spear pierce his side, believed that the “Jesus problem" was solved. His death, indeed, finished the matter. So too the soldiers assigned to crucifixion duty that day, believed that at the ninth hour their work was over. The bystanders who mocked him and spit on him and chanted for his death, “crucify him, crucify him,” believed that their democratic voice had won the day. Even the apostles, who sit locked in the upper room, terrified that they would be next, believed it was finished. They believed their three year journey with their beloved Rabbi was over and they sit in that room grief-stricken. 

And the devil, the devil who laughed loudest on Good Friday. The devil who had whispered into the ear of Judas, turning him away from the light and into the darkness. Who had caused a friend to turn into the worst of betrayers, believed that he had won. As he stirred the masses to chant for Jesus’ crucifixion, he thought he had seen the last of the Messiah, the Christ. With each hammer stroke, with each labored breath of Jesus, and at the last with his incarceration in the tomb, the devil firmly believed his hold on the world was permanent. Satan had done, what he was unable to do in the Garden, what he was unable to do before being kicked out of Paradise, He killed God. As our Lord’s lifeless body was laid in the tomb, the evil one began his victory dance. Confident that it was indeed finished, his grip and rule of death on the world could never be interrupted again.

Yet, as the evil one was celebrating, Jesus was picking the locks of hell's gates. This we confess in the words of the creed, “He descended into hell.” St. Peter tells us exactly what he was doing on that Holy Saturday in his First Epistle, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison.” There Christ trampled down death by his death, and upon those in the tombs He bestowed life. And on the first day of the week, at early dawn, the Almighty Father proclaimed to the world, to Pilate, to Caiaphas and Annas, to the soldeirs, to the bystandards, to the women, to the apostles, and to the devil himself, “Excuse me, just one more thing…Christ, My Son, is risen! Christ is risen, and you, death, are annihilated and your tombs are laid empty! Christ is risen, and you, devil, are cast down again and your kingdom is broken! Christ is risen and you, apostles and women, lift up your heads and rejoice! Christ is risen and you, soldiers, fall upon your knees and honor him! Christ is risen and, you mockers, hold fast your tongue, repent, and be forgiven! Christ is risen and you, Caiaphas and Annas, no longer bear false witness, but bear true witness! Christ is risen and you, Pilate, your verdict and your sentence has been overturned!" On Easter morn, the Father turned the tables on the entire world.

The Father’s proclamation this morning, His, "just one more thing,” is not only proclaimed to those who stood by the death of our Lord 2000 years ago, but it is spoken directly to you. The Father has “just one more thing” to tell you as well. Christ is risen! Jesus is risen, for you. Just when you think your life is finished. When you feel your faith is empty. When you believe sin has gotten the best of you. When you believe you are unworthy of love, from a person or from God. When you heard the doctor’s diagnosis and believe it to be the end. When your anger gets the best of you. When you find yourself captive to addiction. When you start to believe the devil’s whispers and think of yourself as worthless, unworthy of God, unworthy of grace. When you believe that death is the only end. The Almighty Father from heaven proclaims to you, just one more thing. Christ is risen. Christ is risen and nothing will separate you from Him. Christ is risen and you are forgiven and healed. Christ is risen and through His water and His Word, you also will be raised! Christ is risen and life reigns. Christ is risen and there is nothing in your life, in your past or in your present, that He has not redeem. Christ is risen and you are forever loved! 

To Him be all glory and honor and power, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen! 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Pentecost 4B Sermon- Mark 4:35-41

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost- Sermon
6/21/15- Year B

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

  As I’ve been working on preaching around three-points in a sermon, some texts have been difficult to summarize into three points or topics for a homiletic outline. Some though have come rather easy, none as easy as today’s sermon. They came to me or were rather revealed to me earlier this week as I was reading the Gospel lesson in its original Greek. Reading in the Greek, I came upon a triad of things that has held my imagination as I reflected upon this sermon and the tragedies of this week. Mark in succession talks about a lailaps megalā, a galānā megalā, and lastly a phobon megan. Your ears already have probably picked up on Mark’s repetitive use of the word “megas.” This Greek word “megas" is familiar to us in English by removing the final consonant, “s.” Thus, the cognate “mega,” from which we get the old video game hero MegaMan or the lottery’s Mega-millions. Mega means “great,” “large,” or “huge.” These three megas, I believe, are Mark’s outline for his story. They seem to me to be an appropriate outline for this sermon as we talk about, A Mega Storm, a Mega Calm, and lastly a Mega Fear. 

A Mega Storm

  The disciples and Jesus set out on what was to be a normal ordinary trip across the Sea of Galilee. We know that it is routine trip as Mark’s Gospel has them sailing from one side of the sea to the other at least once every chapter, sometimes twice. Even more is this a boring trip in that it has put our Lord asleep. When I preached earlier on the parallel text from Luke at Bethany, I gave our Lord’s napping in the stern as prima facie evidence for taking my own nap taking. If the Son of God needs a nap, how much more do I a son of Adam need one. Napping aside, the journey from one land to the other is a common ordinary occurrence in Mark and would have been for the disciples. 

  It is not surprising then that this image of the disciples with Jesus aboard a ship became throughout the centuries, from the very earliest of days, a symbol for the entire Church. It is part of the reason Danish Lutheran Churches always have a wooden ship hung from the ceiling in their sanctuaries and also why the interior of the Church, where you all are sitting is called a nave, meaning ship, related to the word navy. Thus when we come to Church, we come aboard the nave and continue our regular ordinary journey from this land to the Promised Land and Jesus is aboard with us. Fortunately so far none of you have fallen asleep. 

  Now what was to be a routine trip has deviated from the norm, as the winds begin to pick up and blow with ever growing velocity. They begin to swirl and with them bring loud claps of thunder, flashes of great lightening, and ever perilous darkness. As the wind blows harder and harder against the sails and the hull of the ship, the waves swell to greater and greater heights. The ship pitches to and fro in ever growing degrees. The water breaks from its pillared waves and crashes onto the deck of the ship. With wave after wave the ship begins to take on water. What once was sea mist upon the faces of the disciples has now become flood water rising over their feet to their ankles and knees. The ship is being flooded and broken apart and the disciples fear for their very lives, “we are perishing.”  Literally in the Greek, “we are being destroyed.” The ship, the naus, the nave is going down at the hands of this mega-storm. 

  It is of no surprise then that the persecuted Church saw this story as chiefly a parable about themselves. For the Church is a ship, a navy, a sail on stormy waters. And these storms come in many different faces. The storms rise and crash against the Church and break onto her decks and has from her very first sailing. She faced the mega-storms of Nero and Diocletian and Roman persecution. She encountered upon the sea the storm of the Turk who conquered the Holy Land much of the Holy Roman Empire and who at the tip of the sword said “convert to Islam or be destroyed.” The storm of Isis bears that same message wielding the very same weapon and comes in a most horrific terror. Evil swirls around the Church all the time, no greater than in the face of a white man in his twenties who entered into a nave with thunder and the lightening flashes of a gun and murdered nine of our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. There in Charleston the Church felt in a horrific way the storm of this world and shared in the cry of the disciples, “we are being destroyed.” I had the great honor to know Pastor Clementa Pinckney as we attended seminary together. He was a good, faithful, and holy servant of God–full of life, light, and humor. We his friends mourn his death, but together with Christ we as the Church, the Navy suffer with all the people of Emmanuel AME. Against every storm that the Church faces she will need an intervention of the One who commands the wind and sea to obey. 


  The disciples aboard the ship, realizing the demise of their boat do a most logical thing, they wake Jesus up. They go to Christ, they pray to him and share with him their greatest fears. They seek Jesus’ intervention, not knowing exactly what that intervention might be. They don’t know what he will do or how he will act, but only that he will do something. He who cast out demons and who has healed the sick must surely be able to do something about the storm. They run to Christ seeking and imploring him to do something, to wake up, to save them who are perishing. Rising from His slumber Jesus emerges from the hull of the ship stands aboard the deck and looks with intent upon the face of the darkened storm and he rebukes it. He says to the chaotic waters rising and pitching the boat and to the swirling winds and to the claps of thunder and flashes of lighting, “Knock it off! Calm down! Be silent!” And Lo, and behold, it is. Indeed the Lord God who created the waters can indeed calm them. What was a mega-storm has become at the Word of Christ a mega-calm. 

     The first thing, then we as the Church, do when facing such storms is to turn to Christ and his Lordship over the sea and the waves. What we do not do is grab a bucket and start throwing water overboard ourselves, thinking that  we can save ourselves. For we are not dealing with the storms of flesh and blood, but of brooding darkness of which St. Paul writes, “for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” In the face of such evil, the Church, we only have one recourse available to us, to run to Christ. To pray to Jesus to take up His word and run daily if need be to His holy Sacrament and be strengthened by His body and His Blood. It will take a divine intervention. It will take the power of God who alone has command over the storms to tell them to be silent. In the face of such mega-storms, you and I need a mega-word from Christ. 

  This, beloved in the Lord, was modeled perfectly for us this week by the family and friends of those who died in Charleston. For they stared into the face of brooding evil at bond hearing and what did each of them say to him? Turn to Christ. May peace be with you. I forgive you. No greater words of peace of calm of Jesus can be spoken to such storms than the words of God’s peace and of His forgiveness. That my brothers and sisters is what the Church does in face of storms. It speaks the Word of Jesus Christ. It speaks words of peace and of forgiveness. For that alone is God’s intercession for us. That, my brothers and sisters, is what Divine Intervention looks like. For it is the same word that Jesus has spoken to each of us, to our own darkness to our own sin. He says to us, “Peace. Be Still. I forgive you.” God in Christ has rebuked our sin upon the Cross and He has given each of us peace in our hearts. Thus it will take nothing less that the forgiveness and peace of God to be spoken to turn a mega-storm into a mega-calm. A peace and a calm which surpasses all understanding. The peace and calm of the martyrs themselves. 


  The result of such a mega-calm after a mega-storm is a mega-fear. By fear here we mean awe at the result of such a deed. This too, if you have been watching any of the news coverage this week has been modeled for us in the faces of countless news reporters who stand with mouth ajar as prayer, love, and forgiveness has been the response to the storm of Charleston. They are blown away by the response of forgiveness and peace that has been shown by the family members of the victims. They are in awe that Christians would ever respond in such a way. To the bystanders and even to us, great fear is the natural response, because that is the natural response to seeing God do what He does. He alone commands winds and waves and nature responds at once to His Word. This is a fear producing reality. It is a mega-fear, because it is a sign that we are not in charge of our lives nor do we of our own power and strength control our lives. God commands the universe and it obeys, while we realize that we cannot even command our own bodies to obey us. 

     In those faces of awe and fear, we realize that we are seeing, the fear of the Lord, of which the Proverbial Solomon says, is the beginning of wisdom. This mega-fear is indeed the life giving good that comes out of every evil. It is the invitation to faith in Jesus Christ and to climb aboard the ship of the Church. It is an invitation to embark with the Disciples, with Christ, and set sail towards the New Jerusalem, and arrive together in the Promised Land of heaven.  Amen.   

Eternal Father strong to save
Whose arm has bound the restless wave,
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea! 

O Christ, whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at the Thy Word,
Who walk'st on the foaming deep,
And calm amid its rage did sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

"Eternal Father Strong to Save" by William Whiting 1860.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Funeral Homily–David Hasheminejad 8/6/14

Funeral Sermon-David Hasheminejad

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the risen Lord and Savior,
 Jesus the Christ.  Amen.  

Having been an avid sports fan throughout his life, David, certainly would have encountered “the sign” that usually accompanies every sporting event. One sees it in almost every game, from hockey to baseball, to football and sports in between.  Sometimes, in rare moments, it’s even broadcasted on live television. For those who know sporting events well enough and heard the Gospel lesson read on this day, you likely know where I am going with this. The sign is usually white with plain black letters held by a random fan at the game bearing that verse of today’s gospel lesson, John 3:16, a verse from sacred scripture that has become so common that one not even need be Christian to know it. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. To this, verse seventeen should also be added, because it is equally as powerful a witness to our Christian faith as verse 16; For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. In these two verses stand the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our own beloved Martin Luther, after whom we Lutherans are named, called these verses, “the heart of the Bible, the Gospel in miniature.” Thus all that the Bible speaks to us of is the love of God, who withholds nothing from His children, not even His own Son. That in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father born of Mary, fallen humanity with its sin and its death, is forgiven, healed, and given life everlasting. We Christians cling to this most gracious and holy promise of God, because in these moments when death surrounds us, we grieve and mourn, as St. Paul writes to the Church at Thessalonica, not as others do without hope. But, rather that in Christ, in His death and in His resurrection, we are a people of great and everlasting hope, even in grief. We have the hope of the Almighty God who does not wish His children to perish, but to live with Him forever in His kingdom. For this He sent His Son into the world. For David, He sent His Son into the world. For you, He sent His Son into the world. 

As well as we might know or be familiar with these verses from St. John’s Gospel, we likely are unfamiliar with their context. They have been so singled out and lifted up before the world that we forget the story in which they are spoken. Jesus is not simply speaking to the crowds or to the masses in a big block of teaching that we might find, say from St. Matthew’s Gospel. Nor is Jesus speaking to his disciples privately as we find him doing in other places, teaching them about the Kingdom of God or of the fate that will befall Him in Jerusalem, he will suffer, be killed, and on the third day rise again. Rather our Lord is speaking to the unlikeliest of men, He is speaking to a man of the Pharisees, Nicodemus by name. The story of Nicodemus and his relationship to Jesus becomes one of the subplots of John’s Gospel. In total we hear of Nicodemus three times: here at the beginning of chapter 3, then once more in chapter 7, and lastly in chapter 19.  

Here at the beginning of John’s Gospel, Nicodemus comes to Jesus under the cover of darkness, at night to ask Him questions about what He has been teaching and preaching. He comes at night to protect himself against the watchful eye of his counterparts. He comes at night to avoid their ridicule and their shame. To Nicodemus, Jesus seems like a true rabbi come from God, but he knows others do not see things that way. Thus he seeks out Jesus and inquires more from Him. Hidden away at night, Jesus speaks to Nicodemus of the new birth, the birth of water and the Holy Spirit, the birth of holy Baptism which opens the eyes of men to see the Kingdom of God at work in Jesus Christ. He speaks to him of the work of the Holy Spirit who blows where He wills, bringing the Spirit of Life to all those upon whom He lands. Jesus speaks to Nicodemus of the fate that must befall the Christ, as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up. Lifted up upon the wood of the cross for all the world to see—like the bronze serpent in the book of Numbers who healed all those who looked upon it—so too does Jesus heal all those who look upon Him crucified for us and for our salvation. Lastly, Jesus speaks to him the words of the heart of the Bible and the Gospel in miniature that we heard earlier. In this opening conversation, Nicodemus comes to learn of Christ and to hear His Word. It is the beginning of his relationship to Jesus Christ, one of seeking and finding, asking and answering. 

Looking to David’s life, we might see a parallel in this beginning relationship of Jesus and Nicodemus. I do not know for certain, and I will have to ask Salme this later, yet I’m going to wager that both their relationship with each other and their relationship together in the Church of Jesus Christ began in a similar way: under the cover of darkness, not in secret, but rather in the dark of unknowing. I can imagine there was much asking and answering, coming to know Jesus throughout his life from this odd bunch Christians, called Lutherans. And even odder than that, Finnish Lutherans, with their pula, coffee, and other Lutheran things like hot dishes, potlucks, and a love for all things jello. I can almost hear those perhaps nightly conversations David and Salme had about us Lutherans: who we worship, how we worship, and what a Small Catechism is. David’s own life of faith began like Nicodemus’, by hearing about Baptism, the work of the Holy Spirit who brings faith in Jesus Christ, who upon the cross has shown the Father’s love and redeemed the world. A life of faith that began not only by his questions, but by questions asked of him, “Do you believe in God the Father? Do you believe in God the Son? Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?” Then, being born anew by water and the Spirit to see the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of God mirrored in the relationship of bride and groom, of Salme and David. In their love for one another, David and Salme in their over forty years of marriage, with their joys and sorrows, their care and dedication for one another, showed us the Kingdom of God and the love of God for us His bride, His people. 

    A few chapters down the road, we again encounter Nicodemus: this time in chapter 7 where he no longer appears under the cover of the night’s sky, but rather is found in broad daylight. There he stands, this time not with Jesus, but rather surrounded by his fellow Pharisees. They are arguing among themselves about what is to be done with Jesus. Should he be arrested, tried, denounced, and condemned? The prevailing thought amongst the chief priests and Pharisees is yes, yet in the brightness of day, Nicodemus stands up and defends Jesus before his brethren. In only a single verse, Nicodemus is lifted up by John as one who now speaks openly and in defense of Christ. He becomes not only a seeker of Christ, but a teacher of the scriptures, and one might say a meek and humble proclaimer of Jesus. 

Here again we find a counterpart with David’s own life as His marriage blossomed and bore fruit: two sons, and later, grandchildren. There in their home, David and Salme raised their sons in the faith. They taught them and spoke to their sons of Jesus and His love for them. David taught them in his humble way to see God throughout the splendor of His creation as he took them camping and vacationing to parks all over the country. As he traveled with them to visit new lands, including going to Finland to see what Finnish Lutherans are like in their native land, he exposed His sons to the world and the goodness that is found in all people and the love that God has for us all. He undoubtedly even had to defend Jesus to them, as parents have to do with each of their children when they ask, “Do we have to go to church this Sunday?” Having three kids of my own, let me say that no parent, not even clergy, are immune from such questions. Throughout those years he taught his sons what it was to be a man, to be gentle and humble and to be faithful. He taught them the Bible, often pointing to Jesus’ words in Matthew, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God, as the source for why he never won the lottery.  

Here, in all of those ways, Daniel, Kia, Tiffany, Lola, and Leia, David taught you of God’s love for you. Through his care, play, teaching, and gentle spirit, He showed you in his way the Father’s love for you all. In his humble and caring nature, he showed and taught you the humble and caring nature of the Son, who loves you and is with you always to the close of the age. Who is with you now in this time to comfort you and remind you of the hope that we have in Him and in His resurrection. 
Lastly, Nicodemus appears for the final time on Good Friday after the crucifixion, After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. The one who had come in secret at night, who had stood up for Jesus among his brethren, now lovingly takes care of this rabbi sent from God. Here at the end of the gospel, Nicodemus walks with Jesus into the tomb. 

Today, in sadness and grief, David walks with Jesus at the last into the tomb. Death is the great enemy of God and of man. It is that which separates us from one another, that which causes this body to fall apart and to fail. It hushes the breath of God that breathed the breath of life into us when we were born. The tomb is death’s victory over man, but it is not the victory over God. For David’s tomb is Jesus’, and that is the place where God speaks and acts and shows His great love for us in the raising of His own son from death. Jesus’ death, his tomb, undoes death, so that the apostle writes, “neither death nor life…will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It is the place where God acts with all power and love, shattering death, removing the failings of this body, healing and making whole his creation that he loves so much. Death becomes not the condemnation of man, but the gate by which we enter life-everlasting. O Death where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we walk with David and will this afternoon carry him to his own tomb, but we do so knowing that it is the place where God acts with the power of His love. In death David now knows fully the goodness of John 3:16-17.  

And we who walk with him to the grave, go too with our Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that the good byes we say this day are only good-byes for now. We know that in the glory and splendor of the resurrection, Jesus’ bursting from the tomb on the third day, we too by faith shall be raised with Him, with David, and with all the faithful. For God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. For God sent His Son into the world so that death would no longer have the final word of our lives, but rather that we might have life. Life eternal. Life forever united to our beloved father, grandfather and husband. Life together with God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit now and ever and unto the ages of ages.  Amen.     

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Seventh Sunday after the Pentecost Sermon- 7/27/14

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost-Sermon
7/27/14- Year A

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

Have you understood all these things? [Yes.] Good, still jet lagged from my travels this past week I could use a Sunday off, especially when it comes to explicating and exegeting these numerous parables from our Lord this morning. For we’ve had in succession over the last weeks Gospel lesson after Gospel Lesson from chapter 13, the chapter of the Kingdom parables. It has been a trinity of Sundays for us hearing each week from Jesus “The Kingdom of heaven is like…”, but for the crowds and for the disciples it was likely a single day’s teaching from their rabbi. Parable after parable on the kingdom of heaven, that indescribable reality of God and His Christ, which we can only glimpse by illustration and analogy. If this was, as Matthew depicts it for us, a day of parables then this question put forward by our Lord–the question I put forward before you–and answered by the disciples takes a comedic twist. Having sat through many a college and seminary day’s lecture, let me just say that when the professor asks you if you’ve understood everything, you say YES. You do not hesitate in your response and you reply almost with the same haste as the disciples did this morning. Having taught many a confirmation class, let me also tell you that I’ve heard this rapid reply before from my confirmands. In my best guess the “Yes” of the disciples comes not because they’ve understood with Solomonic like wisdom, but rather because Jesus' words makes their brains hurt. They, not unlike me and perhaps even you, are mentally fatigued from wrapping their minds around seed, soil, wheat, weeds, pearls, treasure, mustard, yeast, the dragnet, and their explanations. Unfortunately, they could not be saved by the bell, but rather found an opening from Jesus and took it. Or at least that’s how my cynical mind reads the closing from today’s conclusion to this Thirteenth Chapter. But seeing as you are already here and I am already here let us, as St. Paul commends us, press onward and run with endurance the race that our Lord has set before us. 

It is helpful to us when we study the parables, especially these from Matthew’s gospel as they are all clustered together, to find the common themes and threads that link them all in a chain of parables. There are several books written that seek to do this, to find those red threads that hold the parables together and show commonality between them. This morning I’ve found one that my rural colored lenses have spotted. Is it just me, or has Jesus talked an awfully lot about fields? For it seems to me fields keep popping up throughout these weeks. Again I am aware how my culturally formed eyes might pick this up more quickly then some, because open fields were the very first thing I missed when I moved from Iowa to Southern California. I am also keenly aware that I might not be bringing anything new to your attention as well. You’ve probably already noticed this and are well ahead of me. For those who might not be or maybe weren’t here these last couple of weeks, a quick review might be needed. Today, we heard about the field in which treasure was hidden and mustard seed sown. Two weeks ago we heard about the various soils upon which the seed of God’s word fell, rocky, thorny, hard paths, and good ground. Now the word field was never mentioned, but if there’s good soil and you’re planting in it, well a field by another name would grow as well. Coming from Northeastern Iowa let me also tell you fields can be quite rocky as one of the pre-planting rituals of the northeastern Iowa farmer’s kids, and usually their friends, is rock-picking. Last week we heard of another field in which not only was good seed sown, but bad as well. It was a field filled to the brim with God’s good grain and the devil’s deceitful darnels and dandelions. We’ve heard much about this parabolic field, which Jesus himself finally defined for us and for the twelve as the world, oJ ko/smoß, the cosmos.  

The field, the world, the entirety of the cosmos is the place where the good seed of God’s word is scattered graciously and abundantly. The world is the place where that seed grows and bears fruit, showing itself as wheat and shining forth as the sun in the Father’s Kingdom. The world, the cosmos is the place where the mustard seed will grow and become the a tree, greater than any other shrubbery. Birds will come and make a nest in its branches and it will give relaxing shade to those underneath its leaves. It is this world where a treasure is hidden, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Normally we first interpret this parable in terms of us. The Kingdom of Heaven is like we who are the man who finds Jesus and then gives all and does all to purchase Jesus, the treasure, hidden in the world. Yet this seems a backwards interpretation of the parable or at least a secondary reading of our Lord’s word, because it seems to destroy the thread which hold all of these parables in order, that we are not the farmer, the sower, or the finder, but rather that we are the field, the soil, the seed, and the treasure. 

Reading the parable this way, do we not hear echoes of St. John’s famous gospel line, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him?"  

Do we not also hear the words of St. Paul, "you were bought with a price?"  

Or the words of the Catechism, "I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true?   

You my brothers and sisters are the priceless treasure of God, you are the pearl of great price that God has risked everything, sold everything, given everything to have forever and ever. In the parable of the treasure hidden in the field, we see the Kingdom of God not as our ascent to Him, but rather the joy and love with which our God looks upon the world, upon the field, upon His good soil and seed, upon His wheat and gives His all for, that He gives His son for. There we see the true treasure of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not that we have purchased or found or own God for ourselves, but rather that He has purchased, found, and welcomed with joy into His barn us sinners and saints. Jesus Christ is the man who has purchased and won us for God, through His cross and passion, through the forgiveness of our sins. He did so on calvary and He does so each week as we gather around this table and have his life giving body and blood placed in our hands. This is the Good news! This is the Gospel of our salvation! This is the seed of God’s word that has been planted in the world long before its creation. It is the mustard seed which grows ever taller and richer and fuller in our hearts as day by day we cling to nothing but Jesus by faith, holding His word, His life, in our hearts and minds. It is the yeast which permeates our entire lives, leaving no batch of flour, no lumpy parts of our world, our homes, our bodies, and selves unaffected. Rising and maturing in us and in the world by faith. It is that Gospel, the outstretched arms of Jesus upon the cross, crucified for us, which is the dragnet by which the church on earth humbly and faithfully proclaims drawing into its embrace the whole cosmos, fishing for men. 

It is only in knowing this, that God has loved you so very much that He would give His life for yours by faith that we can see that not only are we His treasure, but now He is ours. The Gospel of Jesus Christ received by faith, becomes our treasure in this world that we sinners stumble upon. Christ, together with the Father and Holy Spirit is by faith our pearl of great price whom we seek after in Word and Holy Sacrament to listen, to receive, and to then offer up our treasure, ourselves, our time and our possessions, the very signs of His gracious love to us. Faith in this very Gospel, moves us to continue to mine the Word of God each day to hear his word for us and to hear His Word proclaimed every Lord’s day. Faith moves us to spend our time with Him who moves mountains, forgives sins, and loves us to the end. It is faith alone by God’s grace alone that allows us—even when we struggle, confronted by conflict and pain, dealing with our own sins and brokenness, and even when our heads hurt seeking to wrap our minds around what is going on around us—to say, “Yes, Lord.” Yes, we understand, that at times we don’t understand, for our mind and our will is not yours. Yes, Lord, we understand, because we simply trust that your forgiveness will be always bigger than our sin, your mercy greater than our stinginess, your love more perfect than ours, your truth richer and deeper than we could ever fully comprehend this side of the grave. Yes, Lord, we understand that we can only see Kingdom in glimpses, parables, and shadows, but we know that despite our lack of sight you work all things for our good and at the last will reveal all for all for you love of all. Until that time we simply pray, “Yes, Lord”, your kingdom come, your will be done. Amen.   

Sunday, July 20, 2014

6th Sunday after Pentecost (A)-Sermon

Pentecost 6–Sermon
7/20/14–Year A

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

We know weeds. Growing up in the midwest on the farm in a house surrounded by almost 8 acres of grass one learns the difference of weeds rather quickly. Surrounded by that much green grass and fertile soil, made sure that there were plenty of those little yellow flowers dotting our verdant carpet. Dandelions were the play thing of many days growing up on the farm. Many times they were plucked for a lovely little yellow bouquet for my mom or grandma. Next to gathering them for the important women of my life at the time, the best was when they went to seed and were these little white puffs on a stem. Holding them, we made a wish and like the wind blew until all those little seeds had blown all over the grass. I’ve since learned now why we had so many dandelions. As I got a little older, I remember gathering dandelions with my friends. We’d hold one tightly between our index finger and incant, looking back on it a rather dark and morbid saying, “mama had a baby and her head popped off.” As soon as the word “head” was recited we’d flick our thumbs and pop off the dandelion’s golden mane and watch it tumble to the ground. 

From there play turned to pursuit and mission. The days of childhood games gave way to chores. Dandelions were no longer a toy, but an enemy. An enemy that threatened the very verdant blanket around our house that we prized and cherished. Weeds became pests in need of chemical warfare. From Roundup to other more potent things, the grass would be sprayed until not one little yellow bouquet remained. If chemical warfare didn’t do the trick, then we brought in the heavy artillery, especially around the house. Indeed one of the very signs I knew I had reached manhood was when my grandfather handed over to my care our gas powered Weed Eater! Pulling the trigger the cords of that head would dice up weeds better than any samurai sword. For more strategic and selective targeting, there was of course the harder and less fun work of using the weeding fork and uprooting them by hand. Weeds in Iowa, like I am sure they are in California, were only good for one thing, their removal. We see them, in our grass, in our garden, and we terminate with extreme prejudice. 

In Jesus’ parable this morning we hear again about the farmer, who seems even more careless than last week by allowing weeds to invade and permeate his wheat field. Let them both grow together until the harvest, he tells his hired hands. Farming today, we’d say that’s a terrible idea for protecting your harvest and at the very least it just looks bad with wayward weeds jetting out from a perfectly and strategically lined row of beans. The one thing we don’t do with weeds, is leave them be. Yet that is the order our farmer issues to those who work in his field. Don’t uproot them. Don’t spray them. Don’t pull out the heavy artillery and weed eat them. Let them be. Let them grow. Let them remain in place for now in the wheat fields of Galilee.   

For there is a weed prevalent among wheat fields in that part of the world, very likely the same weed our Lord speaks of today, called the darnel weed. It, unlike the bright yellow dandelion, is a much more subtle and deceptive weed. So much so that while growing it looks no different than ordinary wheat. The plants are so closely related in appearance that it is given another name, “false wheat.” It isn’t until their ears open that the difference between them is revealed. Wheat, ripe and ready for the harvest is as we know brown. Darnel is black. There only at the last, when its fruit is revealed is the wheat so readily distinguishable from those pesky weeds, sown by the evil one. In the wheat fields of Galilee the foolish farmer is shown to be wise and discerning in his patience, in his endurance, in his long-suffering of the enemy’s dirty tricks. For in doing what we would do with weeds, he would lose his precious wheat either mistaken for weeds or because the root systems of the both are intertwined beneath the surface. In removing weeds, He would lose that good seed that He had planted and he would rather suffer the weeds than allow even one ear of his grain to perish. Thus no arial support spray, no weed eater, no plucking just for fun only patience, mercy, and long-suffering for this Lord of the harvest. 

Though He knows about Galilean wheat farming, our Lord really isn’t talking about that today, nor of fields, nor of wheat, nor weeds. He speaks of something much more precious than the clothing of the field, the withered grass, or fading flower. He speaks of His good creation, the world, the people He fashioned before the foundations of the world. Those born anew of water and the spirit and those awaiting their adoption as sons and daughters of God. He speaks to us and of our life in the church and in the world a place of both wheat and weeds. As wheat we know the weeds of the world, the dandelions with their bright and unmistakable displays of sin, evil, and lawlessness. Those who persecute the Church and try to silence the Gospel’s proclamation by force. Those weeds who harm their fellow brother or sister for the sake of their own selfish use. Those who shoot down planes from the heavens and take innocent blood upon their hands. We know the weeds and our weed-like nature knows what to do with them. Yet every generation has encountered such evil from the foundation of the world. So that in every generation it is asked why does the Lord permit this to be so? The answer to that is found in the parable and it was there proclaimed in the psalm. You, O Lord, are gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth. The Lord is patient, merciful, and long-suffering with his whole people with his whole creation. He suffers the weeds of this world, not only for the sake of the wheat, but for the sake of the weeds themselves. Where we would rush for the spray can or weed-eater, God showers down rain upon both the evil and the righteous, the waters of His mercy and of His forgiveness. Yes, even for those most heinous of dandelions. 

For He can do what we can not, where we see nothing but weeds destined for our attack, He sees the potential for new wheat. Not only does He sees that potential, it is His gracious will that all might come to know His goodness, lay down their evil ways, and receive His forgiveness. It is the very reason He planted His good seed Jesus Christ into the world. By the cross of Christ He forgives all and has forgiven all. It is the work of the shed blood and broken body of Jesus in the flesh, that redeems all flesh both the wheat and the weeds. For the wheat and for the dandelions the Father has offered up His Son, thus our God suffers. He suffers with patience waiting, hoping, and longing for their redemption, the day when they will be wheat and shine like the sun in the Father’s barn.  

As it is for the dandelion so it is for the darnels. Those unassuming weeds that grow hidden among the wheat, those who are like the wheat in every way except for one. One that only the Farmer in his keen and fatherly heart can see, discern and judg: their fruit, their faith. Looking out in the congregation I see such wheat and weeds, indeed looking to my own heart I see such wheat, such weeds. Good seed planted in his Kingdom, nurtured by water and Word, Wheat and Wine for growth, maturing, and fruit bearing for the harvest. Yet more often than not I look not unlike that darnel weed growing its own way, in need of mercy. In need of the patience and long-suffering of a good and gracious Farmer who is swift to forgive and wait, and rain down upon me, up on us all, the salvation of his life-giving baptismal water again. Thankfully He does, restoring we errant weeds to fruit bearing wheat. For He indeed is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth. He is with the weeds, and he is with the wheat, and he calls his servants to be the same. 

He calls his wheat to show mercy, to be long-suffering, and to forgive. Not to be like our fallen nature and destroy the weeds throughout our life in this field but allow both to grow together. That is the word he speaks to the servants in the parable, interestingly enough though that is not exactly what the word in Greek is. The word is actually aphihmi, the word means “to forgive.” Forgive them to grow together until the harvest. As we live in the Church and in the world we are reminded to be like the wise and good farmer. We are called to forgive as we have been forgiven. For if God can forgive the dandelions and he has by the blood of His Son, and if he can forgive the darnels and he has by the blood of His Son, then surely we too can forgive one another for our weedish behavior and tendencies here in His field, His kingdom. God has forgiven us our sins, surely we can forgive and bear with one another in their weakness as well. Surely too, we like the wheat of the Lord of the Harvest can shine the graciousness, compassion, kindness, patience, long-suffering and truth of the one and only Son to the wheat and weeds around us. 


Monday, June 23, 2014

2nd Sunday after Pentecost (A)- 7/22/14

Second Sunday after Pentecost-Sermon
6/22/14-Year A

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

There was a name that I remember from my youth that I knew what it denoted, but not the etymology from which it arose.  Growing up with grandparents in the midwest, let me just say there were many such idioms and expressions that boggled my mind. I could use them, and use them correctly, but I had absolutely no idea where they came from and outside of their figurative usage, what they literally meant. For example, whenever something needed to be fixed, Mom or Grandpa would declare themselves to be a regular Patch Adams. Now the name itself hits at the definition and so it didn’t take me long to figure out that a Patch Adams is one who patches things, be they bicycles, lawnmowers and tractors, or even scraped knees healed and mended by a mother’s love. Yet it took me several years, and really not until the Robin Williams’ movie, to realize that Patch Adams wasn’t just an expression like a Johnny-Come-Lately, but rather a real live person. Not only is Patch a real person, but the name is indeed indicative of his vocation, a doctor. 

The movie, by the same name, chronicles in Hollywood fashion (meaning more fiction than fact) the story of his journey through medical school and to becoming a doctor. In one of the more poignant subplots to the movie, Patch, rather courageously and foolishly tries to build a relationship with one of the patients, Bill, who is dying from cancer. Bill is angry and grieving. He is so filled with anger that he routinely yells and screams at the nurses and doctors, gladly hurling his bed pan at them every chance he can get. Patch himself receives such treatment, over and over again. Each time going in hopeful that he will get through to Bill, and release him from the anger and pain that is affecting every relationship around him, even with his family. In one of the more poignant scenes of the movie, Patch enters Bill’s room one last time adorned with angelic robe and wings and says, “Death. To die. To expire. To pass on. To perish. To peg out. To push up daisies. To push up posies. To become extinct. Curtains, deceased, Demised, departed And defunct. Dead as a doornail. Dead as a herring. Dead as a mutton. Dead as nits. The last breath. Paying a debt to nature. The big sleep. God's way of saying, "Slow down.” To which Bill responds, “To check out.  To head for the happy hunting ground. To find oneself without breath. Buy the farm. Cash in your chips.” In naming death, in speaking of it, even in a humorous way, Patch is able to release Bill from the pain, anger, and fear that until that moment held him captive. From the moment of his diagnosis to that moment, he though still alive was dead, after that moment though dying he was filled again with laughter, life, and peace. 

It seems to me that is the same thing that is going on in our second lesson from Romans this morning and the Apostle Paul. This passage is a foundational one for us Lutherans as it helps to comprise our baptismal theology and also our funeral rite. If you were listening carefully you would have heard in 11 verses, St. Paul speak of death, died, dying, or dead 13 times! Over and over St. Paul in repetitive refrain speaks of the reality of baptism in the life of the Christian. It is death. It is the death of death, the death of sin, the death of the devil, the death of the powers of this world. But why speak of these things on this Sunday, the 2nd after Pentecost? For on the Day of Pentecost a few weeks ago we spoke of the power of the endless life of God, through the Holy Spirit, pouring out upon the disciples and upon us. Last week on Trinity Sunday we spoke of our life being lived in the life of God. This Sunday, we seem to be going backwards a bit in hearing from St. Paul about death. Yet it seems to me the reason that we hear from Romans 6 this morning is found in its paring with the Gospel Lesson. 

At the end of Chapter 9, Jesus is there standing with his disciples and he asks of them what will be a rather ironic thing. He tells them, The harvest is truly plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. In rather rapid fashion, in the very first verses of chapter 10, the Lord of the Harvest responds by calling His laborers to His side to work in His field, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot. The irony is found in that those disciples that were praying for laborers, turn out to be the very laborers for which they were praying. For Jesus sends them out with the word of His power, “As you go, preach, saying, ‘the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.” Our Lord sends out His disciples with the power and gift of faith to do His work in the world, to be harvesters of His field bringing life to death. His words this morning from Matthew are the continuation of that instruction to His disciples, warning them of the fate that will likely befall them for being associated with Him. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they call those of his household. They are words of loving warning from Jesus to the reality of the Gospel in the world. It will be rejected, mocked, spit upon, denied, crucified and pierced. Just as the world will do to Christ himself. So will His disciples too find themselves mocked, derided, spat upon, crucified and pierced either by the instruments of persecution or by the words and looks of their peers or even their own family. 

What sin, death, and the devil do to the very Son of God, the Father himself will undue. For the Father knows the very number of the hairs on the head of His beloved Son and he will not let Him go un-vindicated or without justice. He will raise Him from the dead. He will clothe Him with life. This the Father does for all those who confess Him before the world. This He does for all the disciples of His Son, those who by faith cling to the mercy and grace of the cross. In this both Jesus and St. Paul reiterate that the final word for the Christian is a word of resurrected life. Thus St. Paul writes, consider yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Thus Jesus repeats in three-fold refrain, Do not fear. For though the world will reject your message and though your family might reject you for your faith, the Father will never let you out of His grasp. Being dead to sin, death, and the devil, you are forever God’s, a child in his kingdom and a laborer in his field. 

This is why these words come to us on the second Sunday after Pentecost, as the focus of the Church’s calendar and year has now switched, from following closely the events of our Lord’s life to the life of the Church. It is why the color has changed from white to green, the color of the growing branches in the vine of Christ, the color of the verdant work of the Holy Spirit among the life of the faithful. The time after Pentecost, follows naturally having celebrated the Victory of our Lord’s defeat of death during Eastertide and having celebrated the church’s clothing with power and life from the Holy Spirit, to the work of the disciples in the harvest of the Lord, preaching the kingdom, healing the sick, cleansing the lepers, and raising the dead. This is the mission, the commission of the Church from Jesus himself as we heard last week. It is the natural praise of Christ and the sharing of his word that follows naturally from having received everything from Him. It is the gift and work of every disciple. 

I know many of us having been praying for Reformation, for her growth and outreach, for her ministries to continue to thrive and be faithful, yet I have a sneaking suspicion that we are like those 12 men caught unawares of who they were truly praying for. For in praying for the work of our congregation, for people come and join our congregation and work in the kingdom, in Christ we find that we are praying for no one else, but ourselves. It is not someone else’s calling, it is our calling. It is not someone else’s job, it is our job. It is not someone outside to help grow our congregation, but rather it is our own names that Jesus himself calls to His side and calls to his work of laboring in His field, working in his harvest. Thus the Gospel of the Lord is read this morning and proclaimed to us all, Do not fear….you are alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. For though we may find His word a fearful thing, there is nothing to fear for God in Christ has defeated every enemy. Though we may find His word to go out into all nations, even out into our own homes to share His Gospel hard difficult and painful, it is the only true and everlasting joy we will ever know. Though we may even die, push up daisies, buy the farm, and kick the bucket for His sake and the sake of His gospel, we will nevertheless find our life with His, died, buried, resurrected and ascended to be with Him and the Father and Holy Spirit forever and ever.  Amen.     

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost Sunday Homily- 6/8/14

Pentecost Sunday- Sermon
6/8/14-Year A

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

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life. Some of you may remember a handful of months ago Bishop Bradosky came and spoke to our congregation. I don’t remember whether it was in his homily or in one of his addresses where he spoke a poignant word about our Christian life. He said, "apart from the Holy Spirit there is not one thing that a Christian can do in the life of faith." Again, I don’t remember specifically whether or not he referenced the Apostle Paul’s words, but the sentiment is the same, “No one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” There is nothing in our lives of faith that does not include the work or movement of the Holy Spirit. The Bishop is right and St. Paul is right, yet for some reason or another we seem to diminish and underplay the life of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We Lutherans are known for being 2nd Article people, that is Christ focused and centered people when it comes to our theology and worship. It is even one of our four values of the NALC, Mission Driven, Congregationally Focused, Traditionally Grounded, and Christ Centered. Our great gift to the whole Church catholic, as Lutherans, is our theology of the Cross. That everything we talk about theologically, biblically, and pastorally finds itself interpreted and understood by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We Lutherans take St. Paul seriously, “we preach Christ crucified.” Yet all of that has been stirred in our preaching and teaching, and blown into our tradition, by the Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of Life. 

But for some reason or another we seem to be bad about speaking of the Holy Spirit. In fact one of the worst Pentecost sermons I’ve ever heard, and as pastor trust me we know we preach bad sermons, but it came from a Lutheran pastor in a Lutheran congregation. At each and every time this pastor wanted to use a pronoun for the Holy Spirit in his sermon, he chose “it.” As if the Holy Spirit were a thing, an object, or some mystical force akin to the power of the Jedi. This is not what we believe and confess regarding the Holy Spirit, although the lightsabers would come in handy from time to time. The Holy Spirit is person, a person of the Godhead, three-in-one and one-in-three, proceeding from the Father and the Son. He is worshiped and glorified. He is God, the witness of the love between Father and Son. The witness of the love of Father and Son to us.  He is Lord. He is the giver of life and that is from the biblical witness, from Genesis to the end. The Holy Spirit is there at work bring life. We remember the creation, where the Spirit of God hovered about the waters. We see in Genesis 2 as God breathes the breath of His life, the Ruach Adonai, the Spirit of the Lord into the clay man, Adam. We see Him again in the Exodus as He fills the various artists and builders with the gifts they need to see that the tabernacle, the altar, the ark, the lampstand, the table of the bread of the presence, the vestments, and all the other things used in the worship are completed and used in communion with God. He is there breathing into the lives of David the King, Solomon the Wise, inspiring their psalms and wisdom.  He is there breathing into the Prophets, His prophetic word for the people, the judgment and salvation, the Law and the Gospel of God. He breathes words of life and hope for a hopeless Israel. He brings them the comfort of God and the assurance of the Lord’s redemption. As Isaiah speaks, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Words that will find their fulfillment in Christ, upon whom the Holy Spirit will descend to do this very thing. To heal, to proclaim liberty, to give sight, and preach the gospel. He, the Lord and Give of life abides and remains with Christ throughout His ministry, the Son and Spirit joined in the one work and will of God. Giving life to creation. 

In our Gospel lesson we see Him again do that very same thing, in almost the same fashion as Genesis. Where God in Jesus Christ takes men, lifeless men in their fear and guilt and self-imprisonment, and does what He did to Adam of old, He breathes the breath of life, the breath of God, the Ruach Adonai into them and giving them peace and the power of His life. He did it to the ten in that locked room. He did it to the rest of the church on Pentecost, all 120 who had gathered in the upper room and out the windows and around the house in flames of fire, with the sound of a might and rushing wind, the Sound of the breath of Almighty God. He breathes His breath of life into you. At Holy Baptism the Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of life, gave life to you. Filling you with His gifts, drawing you into the waters of the font, and clothing you with faith. The Holy Spirit breathed into you the life of God, drawing you further into God’s life by point you to Jesus Christ and the free gift of salvation, hung upon the cross and bursting forth from the tomb. He fills you with His gifts for the building up of the whole Church in service to the Kingdom of God. God Has clothed you with the Holy Spirit and with His power made you a priest in His kingdom. On this day the Church celebrates the Spirit giving life to her, but today we also celebrate that through her He, the Lord, has breathed and given life to you.  

Today is not only a celebration of the Church’s birthday, but of yours and of your faith. For even at this moment God continues to bless you with His presence in the Holy Spirit, of whom the apostle writes, you are a temple. You carry within you the Spirit of God who intercedes on us with God. Who brings us to faith each day to Christ Jesus and who continues to speak His same words that he spoke to the prophets in you, of Law and of Gospel, of joy and liberty, of sight and healing, of peace and everlasting hope. For the Holy Spirit has called you through the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, sanctified and kept you in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all your sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to you and to all believers in Christ.  This is most certainly true.  

Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.