Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!


Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

He Rescues - June 25, 2017 - Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 07) - Text: Jeremiah 20:7-13

The preacher in Ecclesiastes was right, there is nothing new under the sun. All these seeming new sins we have in our world today are nothing more than warmed over sins and some with new names. And today we do not even call it sin, we call it a mistake or an error in judgement, or a lapse in judgement, anything except sin. As we get into our text for this morning, if we did not know that it was written between 626 and 586 BC, we might think it was something being written today, here in the good old USA. I must confess, that especially as a pastor, I can relate to this text, but as a Christian who exercises your faith, I am sure that you also will relate to this text as well.
The context of our text is that Jeremiah was prophesying God’s truth, especially the truth of violence and destruction, of gloom and doom, and the other prophets, the king, and the people did not like it. We might liken what Jeremiah was doing to the pastor who continually preaches the truth of God’s Word, rightly dividing law and Gospel, no matter how politically incorrect, or against public opinion his proclamation might be. As we will see, Jeremiah was proclaiming what the Lord had given him to proclaim. Unfortunately, because of the sin of the children of Israel and because of their refusal to acknowledge and repent of their sin, the only thing the Lord was giving Jeremiah to proclaim was violence and destruction, or as we might say today, gloom and doom.
In particular, Jeremiah faces off against the temple-warden, Pashur, who holds him in contempt. Notice how everyone is against the messenger, as if the message does not mean anything, only a way to accuse the messenger. How often do we get mad at the Pastor for what he says, when he is only saying what God has given him to say?
Getting into our text, we begin with what I call “the Word,” that is, Jeremiah’s complaint. We begin at verses seven, “7O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. 8For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long” (7-8). Jeremiah says that he was deceived by God into being a prophet. He thought that he would be able to prophecy good things, but now he has only violence and destruction, gloom and doom to prophecy. If he had only known that he was only going to be prophesying gloom and doom then he would not have signed up, or so he thinks.
He complains because he is ridiculed. He is ridiculed because he never prophecies good. All the other prophets are prophesying good things and he has to keep prophesying the bad. If only he could be like the other prophets then he would not be ridiculed, then he would be able to get along better, again, or so he thinks.
Notice how he turns to blame God for his troubles. It is God’s Word that has made him an insult and a reproach. It is all God’s fault that he is having so much trouble. Even Jeremiah has a hard time seeing that it is the people who have brought this violence and destruction on themselves. God is merely keeping His promises. He is merely dispensing justice. God is giving the people what they want. He is giving them their own way. Which suggests to us to be careful of wanting our own way, lest God would give us our own way, which leads to the road of violence and destruction.
At this point in our text we might ask ourselves, “are we more like Jeremiah, or the people?” Do we proclaim God’s Word as truth and have others complain of our “close mindedness,” or do we complain because the pastor proclaim’s God’s Word as truth and we complain to him about his “close mindedness?” Do we listen to the message, or do we blame God and miss the message all together?
Getting back to our text, we read what I call “the plan.” We pick up at verse nine, “9If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. 10For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! ‘Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ say all my close friends, watching for my fall. ‘Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him and take our revenge on him’” (9-10). Jeremiah has a plan. He knows how he will get out of always being in trouble with everyone. He knows how he can be politically correct and not offend anyone. His plan is that he will just be quiet and say nothing. If he does not say anything, then no one can accuse him of anything. That sounds like a good plan. Perhaps we have felt that way before. And certainly this would be in line with what we have always been told as children, “If you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all.” If only it were that easy.
There is just one minor flaw to his plan. He cannot do this. He cannot be quiet, because God’s Word is like an all consuming fire within him. He just has to say something. He just has to say what God tells him to say. He just has to, otherwise he will burn up.
He has to say what God gives him to say and, yet, the whole while his friends are waiting for him to get something wrong so they can accuse him of being a false prophet. Nice friends, right. His friends are watching his every move. They are writing down and documenting everything he has to say, looking, searching, waiting for him to say or do something wrong so they can say, “gotcha.”
At this point we might again ask ourselves, “are we more like Jeremiah? Do we try to hide God’s Word, do we just not say anything and not have others complain of our “close mindedness,” or does this merely apply to the pastor?” Do you stand out as being different in your workplace? Or do you say what everyone else is saying, not trying to rock the boat? Does your faith show, or do you try to hide it for fear of being set out as different? Please understand, I am not trying to make this a belittling issue. This is a tough thing and we believe the words of Jeremiah, he was ready to quit, or at least to try to quit.
The last section of our text is a word of good news and encouragement, what I call the “promise and praise.” We pick up at verse eleven, “11But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble; they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. 12O Lord of hosts, who tests the righteous, who sees the heart and the mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you have I committed my cause. 13Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers” (11-13). After all is said and done, Jeremiah knows that God’s Word does what it says. He knows that God is on his side and that the word which he prophesied, the Word of the Lord which he proclaimed, will happen, not because he proclaimed it, not because the words came out of his mouth, but because they are the Lord’s Words and the Lord does what He says.
Jeremiah knows that he holds the trump card. He knows that God will bring vengeance on his enemies. He knows that no matter how much his enemies watch him, how much they record, how much they wait, how long they wait for him to slip, their waiting and watching are in vane, because God will do what His Word says.
All of  this thinking, this inner struggle we hear Jeremiah doing ends up with his giving praise to the Lord because, as he says, “He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.” Jeremiah puts his trust in the Lord knowing that the Lord will rescue him from the wicked.
The final upshot of all this is the fact that God’s Word does what it says. No matter what we might do, say, or think, no matter whether we confess God’s Word or not, no matter what we do, God’s Word will do what it says. No matter how much we do not say, or how quiet we try to be, God’s Word cannot be quieted. We have the advantage of looking back in time and seeing that God’s Word has accomplished what it says. The giver of peace, true peace has come. Jesus has already given His life on the cross for us. The violence and destruction, the gloom and doom that should have been ours has been dealt to Jesus. Jesus is the one who has rescued us from the hands of the wicked, from the devil. As the Lord examines our hearts and minds, by faith in Jesus, He sees Christ’s righteousness as ours. And God receives His just praise and glory.
The first question we might ask ourselves is, do we proclaim God’s Word, through our thoughts, words, and actions, or do we not want to cause any conflicts with our differences? The second question we might ask ourselves is, do we want a pastor who will preach God’s Word, whether we like it or not, or one who will preach what we want to hear, whether that leads to heaven or to hell? These questions are not new questions. This is not a new problem, this is an old problem, it just has a new name, political and religious correctness. The answer to how we deal with this problem is the answer of Jeremiah, the Lord’s Word will do what it says, “sing to the Lord! Give praise to the Lord! He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.” If these problems only affected this life then we might have a different course of action or result. But the answer to these problems affects our more important life to come, our eternal spiritual life. Do we deny God, or proclaim Him no matter what happens in this world. Praise be the name of the Lord, because He is the one, the only one who can help us to profess, and confess our faith in Him through our thoughts, words and actions. And He does. By Jesus’ blood shed on the cross, He forgives us when we doubt, when we try to be quiet, when we try to hide and even more, He stirs in us to show forth His love for us.
By God’s grace, He has given us life, from the moment of conception. He has given us new life through the waters of Holy Baptism. He gives us forgiveness through confession and absolution. He gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith through His Word and through His Holy Supper. All that we have is a gift from our great gift giving God. As we talked about a couple weeks ago, although all of this is freely given to us, none of this came without a price. The price for all that our Lord gives is the life of His Son on the cross. Yes, our Lord gives us all things and He even stirs in us a response of faith, that is that we do not hide our faith, nor do we keep our faith quiet, but rather that we rejoice and give thanks for our faith, that we share our faith with others, sometimes with our words, often with our thoughts and most often in our actions, and that we give glory to our Lord for all His good gifts and blessings saying, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Lutheran Difference - Explaining Doctrinal Consistency

I am Lutheran because of the consistency of the teachings of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) throughout the church body as a whole. Having said that, I would confess that today this consistency is not quite as strong as it has been over years past for the simple fact that, as congregations have changed their practices, they have also adopted new doctrines which are not as consistent with all congregations. Although there are differences in doctrine and practice in LCMS congregations, there is the same underlining doctrine of justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, as well as a proper distinction between Law and Gospel and a right administration and understanding of the sacraments.

I am fascinated with the inconsistency of the churches of my evangelical friends (those of Calvinest, Reformed, Anabaptist, “non-denominational” backgrounds) who have no trouble moving from church to church, following one pastor or another, changing their doctrines according to the whims of the pastor, or those who simply change pastors and then follow whatever doctrinal changes the pastor wants to make. How in the world do you believe anything if what you believe is constantly in flux and changing? One pastor says that dancing is a sin. He leaves, and the next pastor says dancing is okay. The pastor I like relocates, and so I relocate with him. What is the foundation of my belief? Should my company move me to another location, how do I go about finding a church home? I guess I go to one that makes me feel comfortable. What about being as the Bereans? And to what do we hold the pastor accountable if there is no standard of teaching?

For the most part, those of the Roman, Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopalian, Lutheran, etc. denominations have a set of unmovable, unshaken doctrine. This unmovable, unshaken doctrine is the standard by which one can rightly “examine the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11b). If there is no standard, how can one be sure if what is said is so?

In the LCMS church if a pastor takes a call, then the congregation calling a pastor can rest assured that the pastor they call has subscribed, that is has made a confession of faith, to the Lutheran confessions so that they know he will teach the same doctrine as the man who was before him. They do not need to be concerned about whether or not something that was sin is now not sin or something that was not sin is now sin. And should one move from one LCMS church to another LCMS church, they can be sure that the same doctrine will continue to be taught in their new congregation.

As many have certainly heard, “you have to stand for something or you will fall for anything.” While many churches of many denominations do not publish what they stand for, their core confessions or statement of faith, the LCMS Church boldly presents our confessions for others to read and hear. Indeed, they are all posted on the lcms.org website for all to read.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

You Will Be for Me a Holy Nation - June 18, 2017 - Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 06) - Text: Exodus 19:2-8a

Two weeks ago we celebrated Pentecost Sunday and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Last Sunday we celebrated Holy Trinity Sunday and the fact that we worship a God who has revealed Himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Pentecost Sunday brought us to an end of our Easter Season, but not an end to our resurrection celebration. Indeed, the very reason we worship on Sunday is because each and every Sunday is for us Christians an Easter celebration. Today we move into what we call the non-festival portion of our church year and the season of Pentecost. The non-festival portion of our church year is that portion in which we do not have a lot of celebrations, as we did with Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter. This non-festival portion of our church year continues until Advent. So, beginning today and for the next twenty some odd Sundays we will hear the Sunday as the Sunday after Pentecost.
Today is also a secular holiday as most of you know. Just as it is fitting and as we did celebrate mothers and motherhood a few weeks ago, so today we fittingly celebrate fathers and fatherhood today. So let us acknowledge our dads and say, Happy Father’s Day to all our fathers here today and we are glad you are here.
Our text for this morning is our Old Testament reading and it reminds us that we can never truly be independent as we might think ourselves to be. While this inability to be independent is especially true in our spiritual life, it is also true in our daily life as well. We are constantly dependent on other people for many things in life. We depend on the grocery store to have a supply of food to purchase. We depend on the city to make sure we have water. We depend on the power company for gas and electricity. We depend on so many people in our world. As a nation we may be independent from the rule of any other nation and we elect our own leaders, but we must never forget that we are never independent from God. It is when we begin to forget that we are dependent on God that we begin to fall prey to other temptations, which we can see is happening in our nation today.
With our own independence and our nations independence in mind, let us look at our text and see how God related to the nation of Israel and how dependent they were on Him. Very briefly, the background of our text is that the children of Israel had just experienced the first Passover. They had witnessed the lose of the oldest child in each Egyptian family. They had been lead out of Egypt, safely through the Red Sea. They saw the Egyptian army drown in the Red Sea. Now here they were at the base of the mountain, ready to receive the Lord’s commands.
Our text begins with God reminding Moses and the Israelites of all that He had done for them. We read, “3while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (19:3-4).  The imagery of the eagle is one which brought to mind that God is a strong, yet caring God. The eagle is the symbol of strength. It is a very strong bird, but the eagle is also a bird which cares for its young. When the mother eagle is teaching her young to fly she takes them high in the sky and lets them go, literally drops them. As they fall helplessly toward the earth the mother swoops quickly under the baby bird in order to safely catch it before it hits the ground. Here in our text God tells Moses to remind the people how much He cares for them, so much that He used His strength to carry them out of their bondage and slavery in Egypt.
In verse five He goes on to explain to Moses His plan for making His covenant with the Israelites and what is their part of the plan. We read, “5Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine” (19:5). Israel’s part of God’s plan was simply to obey the commands of God. God said, if you obey me then all nations will be my treasure. God chose Israel to be a part of His plan to save the world, notice to save the world, not just Israel. Israel was to be the mediator of the knowledge of Yahweh, between He and the world. Israel was not to keep their knowledge of God from the rest of the world, they were to be God’s instruments to bring salvation to the rest of the world.
God even tells them how they are to do this, “6and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel” (19:6). The Israelites were to be priests, set apart from the rest of the world, in order to serve the living God.  They were to be set apart, wholly consecrated to do the will of God. They were to be a holy nation, different from the surrounding heathen nations. They were to be God’s examples to the world.
To all of this the people responded and answered, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (19:8). What other response could they give. They had just been reminded of all their so recent experiences and how God so lovingly brought them out of their misery in Egypt. How could they respond with anything except that, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (19:8).
Are we any different from these people of Israel? I do not think so. Each and every Sunday we are reminded of what our Lord has just done for us, continues to do for us and will continue to do for us. Each and every day as we read our Bible and remember our baptism we are reminded of what all our Great God has done for us. We have seen what God has done for us, how He gave us our very life at our birth, even at our conception. How He gave us new life at our baptism. How He gives us forgiveness on a daily basis. How He gives us His Word and sacraments and how He comes to us through these means. How can we respond any differently from the children of Israel and say anything other than, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (19:8).
That may be what our response is immediately following our Divine service, but it changes at some point on the way home. Our response that we will do everything changes to something like, “I might do something if I am asked.” So much for our response. Our response becomes a burden. A burden especially for the person to whom you will be the twentieth person to turn down. A burden to you because you really have a great excuse as to why you cannot help with whatever it is you are being ask to consider to do.
Our response shows on whom we are depending for our physical necessities as well as for our salvation. We decide how we will respond to all the Lord has first given to us with our time, our talents, and our treasures, how much we will return to the Lord. We decide we need more of what God has given to use in service to Him while we are young, but we will decide to give God more when we get older and can afford to. So much for responding to God’s gifts. Rather than responding to God’s gifts we think we are the master’s of our fate. We think that what we have is ours. We think we are doing God a favor by offering our measly crumbs to Him.
When we are asked to volunteer, we sit back and wait to be asked personally. And when we are asked personally to do something, like teach Vacation Bible School, or Sunday School, like being on a Board or committee, we say, “no,” because we think we are supposed to do something, something we think we are not equipped to do. We forget that it is the Lord who works in and through us to teach or to work on any board of committee. We so easily forget what God has done and continues to do for us.
God’s covenant to us is the same covenant He made with the children of Israel. He has said that He will be our God and that we will be His people. We are very much in the same situation as the Israelites. We were enslaved, in bondage to sin. Sin was our master and sin still tries to keep us under its bondage. A quick run down of the ten commandments reminds us of our failures. A quick look at our response to God’s work, or rather our lack of response will also remind us of our shortcomings.
Because we are slaves to sin, God sent us a mediator. Jesus is our mediator. In much the same way that Moses spoke to God for the children of Israel, Jesus is the one who pleads our case before our Father in heaven. Jesus is also our high priest. He is the one who intercedes, prays, for us before our Father in heaven. Jesus is the ultimate mediator, the ultimate High Priest, because not only does He mediate our case, not only does He offer intercession for us, He gave the ultimate mediation, the ultimate intercession, the ultimate sacrifice of Himself for us on the cross.
God asked Israel and us to respond to His saving work by obeying His commands. In the same way that Israel could not perfectly obey God’s commands, neither can we. In the same way the Jesus came as Israel and perfectly fulfilled God’s commands, so Jesus came as you and me to perfectly obey God’s commands. Because of what Jesus did for us, we are His holy nation.
I keep telling people in private conversations, and in Bible class, we know we get it right when we point to Jesus, when we do it the way God has given it to us to do and that applies to everything in life, our response of faith of our time, talents and treasure. So to make sure we get it right I want to reread our text. (reread Ex. 19:2-8a) “2They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, 3while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” 7So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the Lord had commanded him. 8All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” (Exodus 19).
Today, as always, we are reminded that God is the prime mover. God gives and we are given to. God gives us life at conception and new life through the waters of Holy Baptism. God calls us to and gives us faith and He calls us to a response of faith. Very much like Israel our initial response is “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” But then the realities of life settle in and the devil, the world and our sinful nature pull and tug us in other directions. We tend to seek our own independence thinking we are our own person. As the struggles of life close in, God continues to call out to us. He continues to loves us and care for us. As we sink in the muck and mire of this world our Lord reaches out His hand and pulls us out of our sins, washes us, clothes and robes us in His robes of righteousness. Ultimately, through the faith that He gives to us in His Son whom He gave to give His life for ours, He calls us to heaven and seats us at His banqueting table where He feeds us His eternal manna. Today, our response might best be, “All that the Lord has spoken we will fail to do, yet thanks be to God that Jesus has done it all for us and the Holy Spirit works in and through us to imperfectly do some of what His desire is for us to do.” And most certainly He stirs in us to rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

In the Beginning God! - June 11, 2017 - Holy Trinity Sunday - Text: Genesis 1:1-2:4a

This morning we celebrate Holy Trinity Sunday. We celebrate the fact that we worship a God who has revealed Himself to us as one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our second lesson from Acts shows us that Jesus is truly God as He was before David, even as He was at creation. Our Gospel lesson reminds us of the trinity in Jesus’ command to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Our text is the Old Testament lesson and the account of creation with our emphasis this morning being on the “proof” of the trinity at creation. With that said we must confess that, “yes, the word ‘trinity’ is not in the Bible,” but that does not mean that we cannot use it to describe how God reveals Himself to us, that is as a trinity, a three in one, a triune God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God clearly describes Himself as being one God as we heard last week, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). And as being a plurality, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as we will see.
Our text for this morning is the Old Testament Lesson from Genesis and although this text would make for a wonderful sermon recounting the might of our almighty God, that is not our agenda for this morning. Instead, our text for this morning and God’s account of creation is set before us as “proof,” if you will, of the trinity of our God.
Before we use this text as “proof” of the trinity, let us take a moment to look at some of the important messages from this Biblical account of creation. As we look at the account of creation and let me say that I am not an expert in science but nonetheless I would put forth that there are basically two theories of how our world came into existence. One theory, posed by human beings who are known to be wrong, is that it came into existence by itself, without God. This theory comes in many forms and variations, and although most are referred to simply as the theory of evolution, I prefer the term “Darwinism” named after its main creator, Charles Darwin. The theory of Darwinism is only a theory and we Christians must also confess that the Creation Account, at least in human terms, is only theory as well, because neither can be proven, because no one, except God, was around at creation, so no one can say with absolute certainty that it happened one way or another. As Christians, however, we take God’s account as fact because we believe that He was there at Creation and because He never gets it wrong. When God speaks it is truth. Darwinians suggests that all that we see came about by its own doing. To me that sounds as reasonable as my suggesting that I was born according to my own doing.
With that said, let us take a quick overview of this Biblical account and theory of creation. First, we will make note that this account was recorded by Moses as directed by God. Again, as I just said, no one was around at the creation of the world except God and since God does not lie we accept Moses’ account as God revealed to him and moved him to write. Besides, if you really take a look at the facts of the creation of the world, you will notice that the Biblical explanation fits the facts a lot better than any human explanation, especially since the human explanation is an explanation tainted by sin, and because they change over time. Remember, after God created a perfect world, sin enter the world through Adam and Eve. And if anyone wants to discuss this more in detail, please find me later.
Anyway, the Biblical account of creation reminds us that there is an absolute, there is an ultimate authority, and that ultimate authority is God the Creator. Ultimately we will be held accountable to Him. The Biblical account of creation personalizes the creation of the world. The world was thought out, was planned, was designed, was created special. All things in the world have meaning and purpose and as Christians our response is to be good stewards of all things in this world, meaning that we are to take care of the environment, as well as be good humanitarians. As Christians, recognizing that all things were created and given to us by God we will respond with responsible stewardship of all of creation.
The Biblical account of creation also reminds us that we are special. We are not just the products of many accidents that happened over millions and billions of years. Rather, we were thought out. We were designed. We were created special. We have a purpose. Our lives have meaning. We are God’s children and have been created to be loved by God. And, as a response of faith, God works in us to live our lives to His glory.
With that said, let us move to our trinity emphasis, that is that this creation account is “proof” of the trinity of God in whom we worship. Our text begins with the words, “in the beginning God,” and the word God is in the plural. In Hebrew there is a singular form of the word “god” (El) and a plural form of the word “god”  (Elohim) and the word which is used in our text is the word “god” (Elohim) in the plural. And yet we do not understand the word god in the plural to mean that we worship a pantheism or a polytheism of gods, that is we do not worship a god who is in all things nor a god who is many gods.
We are also told in verse two that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” Here we have another indication that there is more to God than a singleness can encompass. God is God and He is Spirit. In the New Testament we are given the name of God the Spirit as the Holy Spirit and we get a better understanding of God as Father and Son as well as Holy Spirit.
Finally, in verse twenty-six, God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness...” Again, we see the plurality of God as He again refers to Himself in the plural. Now, let us not misunderstand God in the plural. As I said, this does not mean that we are polytheistic, in other words this does not mean that we worship a god who is many gods. Remember, we do not make a doctrine, a teaching using only one passage of the Bible, but we keep the Bible as a whole to understand God and what He reveals and gives to us. Thus, when we get to Deuteronomy, we hear the Lord say, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one” Deut. 6:4. Here in Deuteronomy the word god is in the plural and yet He tells us He is one. Thus, we see that this plurality of God is held in His singularness, three persons in one godhead is how we say it.
Every Sunday we confess our faith in our triune God. We do this as we confess either the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed and on this Sunday, Holy Trinity Sunday, once a year we confess this faith in the Athanasian Creed. These creeds were written in defense of the trinity of God and in order to refute heresy’s that were going around concerning the trinity of God. Today they remind us of our confession of the trinity and the role of God in all of life.
In these creeds we confess that we believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. We confess that we believe that God is the Creator of all things and that He created all things out of nothing. As human beings we change things, we remake things, but we cannot create or destroy matter, only God can do that and that is what He did, He created, brought everything into existence out of nothing. He said, He spoke and it came into being. He is the ultimate authority and He will hold each one of us accountable for our lives.
We confess that we believe in God the Son, that is Jesus Christ who is true God, who gave up the glory that was His in heaven, who took on human flesh and blood, who lived perfectly for us in our place, obeying all the laws and commands of God for us, in our place because we cannot, who took all our sins upon Himself and suffered the eternal death penalty for us. He became accountable for us, in our place. He gave His life for ours so that we might have forgiveness of sins. And with forgiveness we have life in this world and life in the world to come, yes, eternal life in heaven.
We confess that we believe in God the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who comes to us through the means of grace, the Word, the Bible and the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It is the Holy Spirit who comes through these means to give us faith, to strengthen us in our faith and to keep us in faith until eternal life.
Verse one of our text, then, is the summary verse of all of Holy Scripture. Verse one reminds us that in the beginning of human history and time, and even before, there was nothing except God. There was not even time as we know and understand time. At creation God created. He created time. He created all things out of nothing. He created us.
In the beginning was God. He was not created. He was not begotten. He simply was and is and always will be. God has no beginning. He has no end. He simply is and He is eternal. Indeed, that is how we understand God as He tells Moses He is “I AM.” He is God in the eternal present.
In his Gospel John begins with the words, “In the beginning...” but he continues with “was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God...” and he continues a little later with the words, “the Word became flesh.” John shows us that Jesus is God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus was with the Father and the Spirit at the creation of the world as nothing was made that was made without Him. John shows us that Jesus is God who became flesh for us, He dwelt or tented for a while among us. Jesus came only for a short period of time, enough time to accomplish our forgiveness and salvation. John shows us the way to salvation. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6). The exclusive claim of the Christian Church, and why we are so hated by the world, is that there is only one God, the one true God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and there is only one way to heaven and this is by faith in this one true God.
Again, the Bible does not use the word “trinity” or “triune,” but it does reveal to us a God who is a plural in a singular, a God who is three distinct persons in one God. The Bible passages of which we have been reading this morning are only a few of all that are in the Bible that show God to be a triune God. Yet, even more, our Bible directs us to how great, wonderful and loving our God is. Even though we are conceived and born in sin, even though every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, even though we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness, even though we continually refuse and reject His gifts, we might say, even though we act like spoiled rotten children, He continues to shower us with His love and His good gifts and blessings. Certainly this is inconceivable to the non-Christian, but to us who would otherwise be perishing, these are words of great comfort and joy. What a great God we have. This morning we praise the Lord that, although we may not fully comprehend with our finite minds His incomprehensibleness (and I might add that for that we are grateful, that is that we have a God who is bigger than our little minds), He has revealed to us what we need to know for salvation and all that we need to know is wrapped up in faith in God the Father who created us, in His Son Jesus Christ who gave His life for ours and in the Holy Spirit who gives us that faith. And to Him we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Putting On the Lord’s Spirit - June 4, 2017 - Pentecost Sunday - Text: Numbers 11:24-30

Last week we somewhat celebrated that church holiday that is pretty much ignored, as we said last week because it is not such a sellable holiday. Last week we were reminded that Ascension day had occurred and we were looking forward to our celebration of today, Pentecost Sunday. Last week we were reminded that for forty days after Easter Jesus showed Himself to be alive and then on the fortieth day after Easter, Ascension Day, Jesus gathered His disciples, gave them His authority and promise to be with them, told them to wait in Jerusalem and then ascended back to the place from which He had descended in order to come and save all people.
Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. Today marks fifty days after Easter. Today marks the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, to the disciples and even to us. Now there are some who would suggest and have us believe that Pentecost is the first time we see or hear of the Holy Spirit. That is not correct. As a matter of fact, we see and hear of the Holy Spirit right from the beginning. In Genesis chapter one we are told that the Spirit of God hoovered over the face of the earth. But even more specific, a little later in Genesis chapter one we are told, God said, “Let us make man in our image” (v. 26). This us does not mean that we worship a God who is many gods, because in Deuteronomy the Lord tells us, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). Here in Deuteronomy we have the word God in the plural as He tells us He is one. These and similar passages remind us that we worship, what we humanly label, a triune God, a God who is three persons in one Godhead. But there is more evidence of the Holy Spirit throughout all the Bible. In our Old Testament reading for this morning we are reminded that God poured out His spirit on the seventy who prophesied. And so we see that God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God in all of Holy Scripture and in all times.
But, in order to help us get a better understanding of what we are celebrating today, Pentecost Sunday, let us go back a little. Perhaps you remember that after God created the world, man fell into sin. Sin brought death, eternal spiritual death and physical death. At one point God cleansed the earth with a global flood saving only Noah and his family. Unfortunately, sin was not eradicated as the population again began to grow so people began, again, to sin, which should not be a surprise since sin was now in our DNA, indeed we are conceived and born in sin. And so, instead of obeying God spreading out and populating the world the people all stayed at Babel, grew to be a large number of people and worked to build a tower to themselves, thinking themselves as gods, that is what it means when we read that they wanted to make a name for themselves, they wanted everyone to know who and how great they were, at least in their own minds. Here let me just throw in a contemporary analogy. The people at Babel thought so highly of themselves that they were in control of this world, a lot like some believe concerning man’s ability to control the world and even the weather today. How pompous of us to think so highly of ourselves. Anyway, when God saw what the people were doing, not obeying Him, He went down and divided their tongues, that is He gave them all different languages so they could no longer communicate with one another. Not being able to communicate with each other, the people had to find those who could speak the same language and then they dispersed to different parts of the world. And here we have a lesson in what is mislabeled as races. Truly, there is only one race, the human race, but from the disbursement of the tower of Babel we have the various cultures or ethnicities that have come about in the world today. And yes, this is genetics, as the people who spoke the same language found each other and then dispersed, going to various places around the world they carried with them certain dominant genetic information which give us the distinctive characteristics of the various cultures we have in our world today. With this information as our background we move on to today.
Fast forward to fifty days after Easter, to Pentecost and we have what many call the undoing of the tower of Babel. At the tower of Babel the languages were separated, at Pentecost God gave the gift of languages so there was in essence the uniting of languages. This brings us back to the fact that when God promised to send a Savior, that promise was made before there were the various people groups, when there was only Adam and Eve and so now the message of salvation again has the opportunity to be given to all people.
Now, finally, getting to our text. Moses is God’s chosen leader for the children of Israel. Moses was having a difficult time leading by himself. So, the Lord provided help. The Lord had Moses appoint seventy elders. These would be men of good repute who would serve under Moses at God’s direction. The elders were separated from the rest of the people and as we heard in our text, all except two gathered around the tent. Then we are told that the Lord poured out His spirit in an extraordinary way allowing them to prophesy giving evidence of the authority He was bestowing on them.
The next thing we hear is that “a young man ran and told Moses,” that Eldad and Medad were prophesying in the camp. These two were chosen as part of the seventy, but for some reason they failed to be with the others. Joshua, who was to be Moses successor, was jealous for Moses. He pushed Moses to stop these two men. However, Moses tells Joshua that he would like that all could prophesy. Moses was not a power hungry, authoritarian leader. He was humble servant of the Lord. Moses who was not afraid of losing any authority and we know that His authority did not diminish, but instead God multiplied his authority and power by giving these seventy more authority and power.
What does this mean? As we have been reminded over the past few weeks, God gives the Office of the Keys to congregations, that is God gives congregations the authority to preach the Gospel, to administer the sacraments and to forgive and retain sins. This authority is carried out in our congregations when congregations call pastors to carry out the office of Holy Ministry in their midst. And this is carried out when members of congregations live out their calling in the priesthood of all believers.
God gives congregations pastors to exercise the Office of Holy Ministry. Pastors are called by God, through the congregation to preach the Gospel, administer the Sacraments, and forgive and retain sins. When we remember that God comes to us through means, the means of grace in particular, we begin to understand the importance of this Office. Without a pastor there is no one to deliver the means of grace. Without the means of grace the gifts of God remain undelivered. No gifts, no faith, no forgiveness, no life and salvation. But with a pastor, the Gospel is preached, the Word of God is expounded, both on Sunday morning in Bible class and in Divine service, and at other times during the week through Bible studies. With a pastor the sacraments are administered, children and adults are baptized and the Lord’s body and blood are given for the forgiveness of sins. With a pastor confession is heard, either corporately, during the Sunday morning service, as we did this morning, or privately, and absolution is given. Thus, the gifts of God are distributed and given: faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.
God gives the priesthood of all believers, that is God gives all believers faith and strengthening of faith as well as guidance and direction to live lives of faith so that others see the faith that is in our hearts so they too may be brought to faith. As believers, as members of the priesthood of all believers we are to work together with our pastor and with each other. One of Satan’s greatest victories in any congregation is when he works to divide us. There is the “we” and the “they.” Of course, that is our nature, after all we are conceived and born in sin and Satan knows the best ways to work this out. One person gets upset with another. Someone does not like a decision that was made. Someone stepped on someone’s toes. Someone’s feelings got hurt and what happens, we begin to divide and conquer. Lest Satan get a grip on us, perhaps we would do well to constantly remind each other that this is God’s church, not our church, not their church.
Perhaps we would do well, also, to constantly remind each other of the purpose God gives us for being His church in this place. First and foremost, as you have heard me say, time and again, God’s purpose for us as individuals is to be loved by God. God created us to love us and He shows His love time and again, especially He showed His love in the giving of Himself in Jesus Christ as He died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, including the sins we have talked about this morning from our text, jealousy, envy, divisiveness and the like. As a congregation, God calls us to be His people in this place for the purpose of strengthening the faith of our own members. In other words God’s first call is that we make regular and diligent use of His means of grace by being in divine service and Bible class. We are to be so filled with God’s gifts and grace that we overflow and share our faith with others which is God’s will so that His Kingdom here in this place may be extending out into the community. And if we are doing these things then this will indeed bring praise and glory to His Holy Name.
God calls and when God calls His calling is never without a purpose. God called the seventy and put His Spirit on them, giving them authority to be of service to Moses and to Himself. God calls us and puts His Spirit on us, which was done at our Baptism. He gives us gifts, talents and abilities and His authority to be His people, His disciples, His witnesses to our family, friends, neighborhood and the world. God calls each one of us. He calls us to life, to faith, to our vocation, and He calls us to be loved by Him. When we fail to be in divine service and Bible class we refuse the gifts and call He extends. It’s kind of like telling your mother you do not want any of the fresh cookies she spent all morning baking. And yet, even when we refuse and reject the gifts of God He continues to call us to be given the gifts He has to give, forgiveness, life and salvation.
Fifty-three days ago we celebrated Jesus’ death, not that we celebrated His dying, but we celebrated the fact that He took our sins and paid the price for our sins, which should have been ours to pay, eternal spiritual death. Fifty days ago we celebrated Jesus’ resurrection, the fact that Jesus did not stay dead and the fact that we worship a living God. Right after Easter we asked the question, does Easter make a difference? Obviously to too many people in our world it does not make a difference. Last Sunday we celebrated Jesus’ ascension and we realized the importance of Jesus being in heaven, as well as being everywhere present, where He is watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us. Today we celebrate God’s continual working with us and among us. Although we may tend to downplay the Holy Spirit and His work today, He is still with us. He is constantly working through the means of grace which is how He works with us. He is constantly point us to Christ, to the cross, to forgiveness of sins. My prayer is Moses’ prayer, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them.” To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.