Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

If it is of God… Acts 5:29, John 20:19

[for the audio version click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who join Thomas saying to Jesus “My Lord and My God!” said … Amen!

We now have this pretty interesting conflation, two different perspectives have started to see Jesus as something much more than what was imagined. The leaders of Israel seem to be rethinking what they did to Jesus. Thomas straight out asserts Who Jesus is “My Lord and My God!” Gamaliel was a very important man at the time. Luke, the writer of Acts, singles Gamaliel out by calling him “a teacher of the Law held in honor by all the people. The Jewish Encyclopedia says: Gamaliel was the son of Hillel who is still one of the leading authorities on Jewish law and is quoted by many people today. He was the head of the school Hillel in his time succeeding his father. “Gamaliel, as it appears, did most toward establishing the honor in which the house of Hillel was held, and which secured to it a preeminent position within Palestinian Judaism soon after the destruction of the- Temple. The title “Rabban,” which, in the learned hierarchy until post-Hadrianic times, was borne only by presidents of the highest religious council, was first prefixed to the name of Gamaliel.”[1] Much later on in Acts, Paul seems to take special pride in being a student of Gamaliel’s. (Acts 22:3) He gets a lot of notice in Acts, during the early church. If he is proceeding with caution against the embryonic Christian church, then he must have some idea that Jesus is who He says He is.

The amazing things that have happened, certainly culminated in the Resurrection of Jesus, leaves little doubt as to Jesus’ claim to be God. Gamaliel had to have been part of the court that condemned Jesus. I would guess that Gamaliel fell right in line with the majority consensus. Caiaphas proclaims to the leadership that this man, Jesus, must die to save the nation. No thought is given that there might be something a lot more compelling with Jesus, that He might be who He said He was. The concern was with the preservation of the status quo; Israel, it’s leadership and maintaining their way of life. As highly regarded as Gamaliel was, he certainly followed the party line. While we know that there were members of the Sanhedrin who objected to the illegality of the proceedings to try Jesus, Gamaliel wouldn’t have been one of those objectors. If he had objected the Sanhedrin might have at least backed off from condemning Jesus to die and might have even decided to do something else regarding Jesus.

The paradigm has clearly changed for the leadership in Israel. They thought that they were dealing with a nuisance that would burn itself out. They tried, and for the first time in history, killing a man didn’t make Him go away. It seems Gamaliel is hedging his bets a little, but it’s pretty clear that he sees Jesus as a lot more than being an ordinary man. Gamaliel compares Jesus to Theudas and Judas the Galilean. It seems though that Gamaliel is taking Jesus a lot more seriously than Theudas or Judas, neither one of them rose from the dead. It seems that the leadership is trying to prevent a panic. They’re trying not to acknowledge it, but clearly there is a new archetype and they know that they can’t just make the problem, Jesus, go away. They hope that they can, but now they have something much bigger than they expected while trying to avoid setting the rest of Israel off, that Jesus is who He says that He is.

The difference is that while Gamaliel is trying to hedge, not set off a rush to Jesus and still not taking Him seriously. He seems to know the truth, but as so many people do for so many bad reasons, Gamaliel is trying to save his position in Israel. The disciples, as Luke writes, know the truth, they know that there is no other option, they are beaten and we know how brutally Jesus was beaten. Maybe the disciples weren’t beaten as badly, but you know that they suffered more than enough that they shouldn’t be back out on the street rejoicing and teaching and preaching about Jesus. They knew the truth and saw there was no alternative to Jesus, the Sanhedrin was still trying to play its political game with its own people, the Romans and irrational as it sounds God, even though Gamaliel certainly had some perception that Jesus and his disciples were more than the garden variety revolutionaries of previous years.

Clearly John is continuing to emphasize that Jesus is much more than what most people seem to want to believe. Thomas declares it: “My Lord and my God!” Jamieson writes: “He is overpowered, and the glory of Christ now breaks upon him in a flood. His exclamation surpasses all that had been yet uttered, nor can it be surpassed by anything that ever will be uttered in earth or heaven.”[2] This is not some gratuitous acknowledgement, Thomas was completely overwhelmed and was utterly sure who Jesus was. Meyer writes : “ It is a confessionary invocation of Christ in the highest joyful surprise, in which Thomas gives the fullest expression of profound emotion to his faith, which had been mightily elevated by the conviction of the reality of the resurrection, in the divine nature of his Lord. The ὁ κύριός μκὁ θεός μου was the complete and highest confession of Messianic faith,” This is the first time when someone really addresses Jesus as God. For those who like to question who Jesus was and whether He claimed to be God, here is where someone is declaring who Jesus is. It may not be bragging if it’s true, but it’s more credible when someone else is declaring the fact. And again, there are plenty of places where Jesus is readily understood by those He is talking to as to who He is. If it wasn’t true, wouldn’t Jesus lift Thomas off his knees and set him straight? If it wasn’t true Jesus wouldn’t have just let Thomas’ comment ride.

We are His disciples. We see Jesus is making it very clear that Jesus has the authority to and intends for us to take what the disciples then and we who are His disciples now, that we aren’t to just go back home as if it’s all ending. He makes it clear to His disciples then it’s only beginning. He tells them, and us, that the Father sent Him. He has been sent to us to take His word, His life, what He has done for us dying for our sins and then resurrected to give us eternal life, that it isn’t for us to keep to ourselves. Matthew 28:18, John 20:21, Acts 1:8, Mark 16:15, Matthew, John, Luke and Mark all report that Jesus came to send us to tell the entire world about the salvation that Jesus gives us. In John He reinforces this message by giving them a preview of Pentecost. “He breathed on them.” The Greek word the hagios pneuma, the Holy Spirit, pneuma meaning the movement of air, the breath of His Body. He is giving them the Holy Spirit to strengthen them and for them to understand that they constitute His church. As He does by giving them the keys of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16:9, He is empowering His church to not just bring the Good News to the world, but that Jesus is empowering His church to save people to the Kingdom, but to also make it clear to those who aren’t saved and that His work is done through His disciples in His church.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6494-gamaliel-i

[2] Jamieson-Fausett-Brown Bible Commentary on website  http://biblehub.com/commentaries/jfb/john/20.htm

Palm Sunday the next step to the Cross John 12 First Saint Johns April 9, 2017

[for the audio of this sermon click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who shout Hosanna, God save us said … AMEN!

Palm Sunday has been seen by Christians in many different ways. Some to the effect that this was Jesus’ big move, that the people were falling in line and Jesus would re-establish David’s kingdom. Certainly the people that day saw it as such. They are shouting “Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” We see those words today almost as a platitude, something you say when David’s Son, Jesus, comes riding in as Zechariah prophesied and seems to be making His political or military move. The people greeting Him see it that way, recall from last week’s readings: “ESV John 11:47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” Even Jesus’ disciples were sure that this was a power play. That Jesus’s being crucified, was a huge miscalculation. Maybe on His part? Who knew, but things just weren’t coming out the way they were supposed to.

To be clear, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the direct, immediate march to the Cross. There is no turning back, there are no backup plans. Maybe some second thoughts, you really can’t blame Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, knowing full well what is going to happen to Him in about twelve hours, at least raising the possibility to the Father that maybe this isn’t how we want to go? But the plan was in place, everything is set.

We see prophecy of the passion going back to David’s time in some of the Psalms He wrote: ESV Psalm 22:7 All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8 “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” Clearly a prophecy of the mockery from the Roman soldiers and the leaders of Israel. Matthew 27:41 is about the mockery about Jesus being King of Israel, that if He’s the Son of God that the Father would surely save Him. ESV Psalm 22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet-17 I can count all my bones- they stare and gloat over me;” Clearly a description of a man who has been stretched out on a cross, nailed to it so that they could plainly see his ribs. David is being shown by God that his descendant, Jesus, is going to be killed in a way that he wouldn’t even know. Crucifixion wouldn’t be used as a means of execution for at least another 500 years after David lived. Yet he writes pretty vividly what we know of the crucifixion of Jesus. “18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” A clear reference to Matthew 27:35. No we can’t know for sure, but in terms of biblical prophecy, no one really questions that Psalm 22: starting with verse 7 is prophecy of the events that we plainly seen in each of the Gospels. The scene had been set over a thousand years ago when David wrote the words of Psalm 22. Yahweh told David quite plainly that his descendant, Jesus, would be killed in a very violent way.

Today is Palm Sunday and we remember Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. The whole Jerusalem community turns out to see Jesus. He certainly has made an impact. John writes: “The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.”(vv 17-18) As I pointed out in last week’s sermon, Jesus had done His miracles in Capernaum, about 117 miles away from Jerusalem. The place He raised Lazarus was about 2 miles away from Jerusalem. Everyone who mattered knew fully well who Lazarus was, knew that he had died and knew that Jesus raised him. Clearly Jesus had set up His notoriety in anticipation of His entering Jerusalem. If nothing else, everyone wanted to see the man who raised another man from the dead. If Jesus wanted to make sure there was a crowd He accomplished that, but soon that cheering crowd would be a jeering crowd, demanding His death which was prophesied 1,000 years before His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Psalm 118 and Hebrews 9 is the Gradual for today’s worship. Psalm 118 is referred to as the “Great Halliel” a Psalm of celebration referring to the deliverance of God, and certainly the people of Jerusalem see that their deliverer is now entering Jerusalem: (v 16) “Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous” … “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” … “With [tree] boughs in hand join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.” (vv 24, 27)

Dr Carl Fickenscher was talking about Palm Sunday on Issues Etc on April 4. He asserted that the crowd is shouting Hosanna, which means “come save us” that this Psalm is a coronation Psalm that they perceive that Jesus is coming to be crowned King of Israel. In fact Jesus is coming to enter into the holy places, the Holy of Holy in the temple. Only the priests could enter the Holy of Holy and that was only once during the year and that was on the Passover. If anyone else entered the Holy of Holies the penalty would be death. Jesus is now entering into Jerusalem because He is the Great High Priest, that by His sacrifice, His death, His blood, that He is tearing down the curtain that separates the Holy of Holies because by His death He has assured eternal redemption for all who are in Him. Jesus knows that He is going to the Cross, to be that sacrifice for the payment of all the sins of the world. The Cross becomes the Holy of Holies for all and He is proceeding into Jerusalem in full view of all in order to proceed to the Cross at the end of the week.[1] Matthew 27:51: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” Why from top to bottom? The curtain was 60 feet long and 30 feet high. Certainly a massive curtain and no one would try to tear it from the top. But in this we certainly see that by Jesus’ death, the curtain that had separated man from God was now removed by God and Jesus is now that link to the Father. Jesus goes in to the Holy places by means of His blood and security, our eternal redemption. Jesus becomes our High Priest by becoming our salvation, our intercessor with God the Father at His right hand. People had gone out to see the man who raised the dead and was certainly the man foretold by David, Isaiah, Zechariah, all of the prophets. They thought that He was coming into Jerusalem to save them from the Romans. He came to save them and all of us through history from ourselves and our sins and to deliver us so that we would have eternal life in Him because He died for us on the Cross and then overcame death when He rose from the tomb and was resurrected on Easter morning to give us the assurance who are in Jesus of our eternal resurrection in Him.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Dr Carl Fickenscher   “Issues Etc” April 3, 2017

The word endures CPH blog site Dear Girls: He is not your savior Heidi Goehmann   Apr 5, 2017

 

Long before Jerry Maguire uttered the words “You complete me,” we as the human race have had a penchant to search for fulfillment in anything but Jesus. We look to achievement, entertainment, wealth, glory, excitement, and people to fulfill us, to build us up, to make us feel valued and worthy of our role and place here on this planet.

While chasing excitement and building achievements can leave us in a whole mess of hurt, there is an epidemic I see among young girls, young adult women, and women of all ages and stages that is quietly but aggressively crumbling the foundations of our relationships.

Our need for men is killing our relationships with men.

In Genesis 2:18, God declares that Adam would be complemented by a helper.

The LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him.”

                                                                                                Genesis 2:18

Life is richer with someone to share it with. It’s why most of us seek marriage. Even as strong, confident women in the Lord, many of us long for someone to share life with. That’s a natural yearning set in us as God molded dust and dirt to create man, and opened Adam’s ribs to create woman. We were created in perfection for the mutual benefit of one another. What a blessing to have a companion, a friend, a lover! God gives us the gift of someone to share our hopes and dreams with, our joys and sorrows. Someone to lean on in the dark of night and to jump for joy with in the light of victory.

But just because it was created by the Lord doesn’t mean we need it.

In the very next chapter of Genesis, we see the damage sin causes in our ability to enjoy life together by acknowledging the weight we apply to the relationship in the struggle with our sin:

Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.

                                    Genesis 3:16 (NIV)

Sin in us creates an internal desire to be filled up by a man. The endless searching for the perfect boyfriend, the reducing of relationships to casual sex, the cultural obsession with how to turn his eye is the same creepy crawling of the snake that fooled Eve long ago. Girls, let us not be fooled.

The only man we need is Jesus Christ.

That first Adam, our boyfriends, our good friends, our fathers, our husbands, or any man were meant to be a complement in this life. They cannot fulfill our hearts, our minds, or our lives.

Jesus came into the world to fill it. His light breaks forth in the darkness of sin and death, sorrow and destruction. He is the light no darkness can overcome (John 1). When He is present in our lives through our Baptisms and His Spirit, we have all we need; the rest is just a bonus.

Because of this, the men in our lives do not have to hold the weight of our daunting expectations. That weight is a burden they cannot bear. When we seek for man to fill us, to make us feel good about ourselves and our lives, the pressure on the relationship is like a pop bottle closed too tightly. The struggle and pressure may be contained for a while with the lid, but either the pop explodes out when we open it, sopping our pants and notebooks in too-sweet stickiness, or all the air leaks out over time and you end up with flat pop, gross and a shadow of what it was originally.

The lovers in our life will never fully please us until we know the One who is the lover of our souls.

We know we are in need of salvation, as women and as people. We hurt. We want to trust. We long for someone who cares for us tenderly, who takes our broken pieces and makes us whole.

Jesus is our Savior. He is the Savior of your heart, of your soul, and of your very life.

Run to Him. He is already seeking you, chasing after you with His grace and affection. In His arms, we are free to enjoy the gift of human relationships with men. We appreciate the boundaries God has placed on those relationships, and the weight of fulfillment is lifted, making way for enjoyment in serving Him as Lord together.

The Gospel for you today: He is not your Savior. Jesus is.

HEIDI GOEHMANN

I love my husband, my kiddos, post it notes, Jesus, red wine, dark chocolate, Star Wars, and new ideas…not necessarily in that order. If I could pour time and energy into anything in this life it would be loving God and the people around me, even when I’m hangry or slangry. ?

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Leaving it all on the course for Him Matthew 5:21

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have left it all on the field for Jesus said … AMEN!

You’ve heard the interviews after an athletic contest, one of the most common phrases; “I left it all on the field”, basically I gave everything I had in order to win. It can get a little cliché, but by the same token, I have no doubt that each person who says that truly believes it. At the end of that contest; a race, basketball game, matholympics, I gave everything I had, physically, mentally, emotionally in order to win, or at least to do my best. I’ve done races where I expected it to be a little more challenging and at the end upset with myself that I was holding back too much and I could have pressed harder on the bike or the run. By the same token I’ve seen people sprinting to the finish line, giving everything and as soon as they crossed, going off somewhere and literally getting sick right after they finished. No question they exceeded their normal physical ability in order to find that tiny little bit that they had left in order to finish as well as they could.

We certainly see this in so many of the people described in the Bible. King David wrote dozens of Psalms, but if you think he was all about sitting at a desk pen in hand and dreamily wondering how to compose his poetry, you would be mistaken. Most of his prose was about the different ways that he was left it all out on the field for God. David was a powerful soldier, his soldiers followed him into many different situations, they trusted him as a leader who would be there for them, do whatever it took for his men and defeat his enemy. David had no compunction going out on that field and doing what God directed him to do and pouring every last ounce he had into the fight for his men, his country and very much so for his God. David lived his life for Yahweh, there were times when he failed in that and he failed in a way that only a great king and general could fail. As Dr Luther wrote: Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [or sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.”[1] If King David had known about Jesus and written about Jesus, he would have understood completely what Dr Luther wrote.

In a lot of ways that is what Jesus is saying in the Beatitudes, you have to go over and above, you have to leave it all out there. There may even be a physical price to pay. The Beatitudes can be taken in a legalistic way. Jesus is not saying you have to do this, you have to do that in order to be saved. People have told me that they live by the Beatitudes. It’s not about grace, it’s about them and their performance, what they need to do, that God is keeping score and waiting for them to tank, to hit the wall, to not finish the course. If they somehow fail in one of Jesus’ directives they failed to leave it all out on the field for Jesus, they kept some back for their own pleasure, maybe cheated on the course somehow and didn’t completely live up to what Jesus directed us to do.

The fallacy is this, the Gospel doesn’t tell us that unless we are picture perfect, that we have somehow failed and therefore don’t manage to hit the finish line having left it all out on the course for Jesus. The Gospel does say that Jesus who is entirely perfect God and perfect man, something we could never be, a person that we will never be because there was only one Jesus. Jesus absolutely did leave it all out on the course and it was entirely for us, Jesus didn’t do all that He did for Himself. What’s the point? Jesus is the One through whom all creation came into existence, He is perfectly God, all He did was not for Him, but entirely for us. Nothing we can do, can add to what Jesus did for us, not one iota, not one jot or tittle.

Yet, many people are pretty sure it’s about sticking to the letter of the Law in the Beatitudes and that gets you over the line. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be obedient, Jesus said “if you love Me, you will obey Me.” But Jesus knows that we are fallible, that our obedience is qualified by our failings as sinful people in a sinful world. However, for all that Jesus did for us, how can we not strive to be obedient? How can we not strive to leave it all out on the course for Jesus?

Does a completely good, completely holy, completely gracious God want us to pluck out our eye and throw it away if we are not completely perfect in everything? In this day and age you can’t look anywhere that doesn’t offend your eye. The issue is, did you let your eye linger over that which offended? Or did you realize, “hey, this isn’t glorifying Jesus or doing me any good”, and just turn away? That’s what Jesus is asking us to do, in the Beatitudes. He exaggerates to make a point. He might say. “You really want to try to earn your way, this is what has to happen, if your right hand causes you to sin cut it off and throw it away. I’m thinking, none of us would truly stand that test. That does not, however, minimize the fact that we should strive to avoid things that offend our eye or what we do with our right hand, or our left hand in order to sin.

Marge and I were at Pastoral Leadership Institute immersion this past week, which, ironically is about us and our performance, and driving us higher in Jesus. It’s an honor to be asked to attend, not everyone is, and it’s recognition of the fact that we are striving in evangelism and discipleship and given the opportunity in PLI to push to the next level. It doesn’t makes us more saved, but it does push us to better serve you and the Kingdom of God as leaders of His church.

The Father is not trying to impose unrealistic expectations on us, He is trying to get us to realize that we can’t get there on our own effort. We will fail! We will have plenty of good efforts, being obedient to the things Jesus asks of us, but at some point we will fail to push as hard as we could. That doesn’t mean we’ve lost, that we should cut off our hand. Matt Popovits was one of the speakers, the overall subject was discipleship, which was great, I emphasize discipleship in my ministry. While we are called to be strong and faithful disciples of Jesus, our performance in that respect is not what saves us. The thesis was “How do I measure my worth?” For those who are so sure that it’s all about me and my “opinion”, because my “opinion” is so vitally important! I have bad news for youse, your opinion just doesn’t really matter. Heavens, how can I say such a thing, come on pastor, we all know it’s all about me! It really isn’t. I can tell myself how great and special I am, but despite what I think, it’s not going to get me diddly. Whose opinion does matter? Oh yes, God’s opinion. That is a great thing! By the way, I told Matt I was going to rip him off relentlessly here, he said “fine, go for it!”.

Anyway, Matt talked about “Performacism”, this idea that we measure our worth by what we do, how well we do it, in and of ourselves. Performacism drives you to the following: 1) The fear of and trying to avoid a horrible outcome, a false Hell that you’ve created, that you’re running from in order to make it to an “unfulfilling heaven, that you earn the applause and approval of your peers. That heaven can’t do what you want, doesn’t fulfill your life.”[2] God’s not all powerful, it’s all about you and what you do and more importantly the way you want it to play out. It drives me nuts hearing people talk about heaven as a boring place, “why would I want to end up there”. Heaven is not our ultimate destination, our ultimate destination is the eternal resurrection. We will be put back on this earth in our physical bodies in order to live our lives the way God intended us to live, a world filled with unlimited possibilities and life fulfilling beyond anything we could imagine. Matt points out that Adam and Eve rejected the “Garden of Yes” in favor of the “tree of no”. We make that wrong choice all the time, a garden full of all kinds of possibilities in order for us to indulge in our personal besetting sin.

Matt further observes that we make ourselves a “Functional Savior” that it’s all in our hands whether or not we make it to that amazing eternity. It’s our activity, and accomplishments that save us, so that we are valued by ourselves and by others, because, heavens! in today’s world, it is all about everyone else’s who so precious opinion. We have that problem on a massive scale in our society today and something that our youth get so caught up in, but we’re all susceptible to it. Our self-image, whether our physical attractiveness is valued by others. In a world where everyone’s equal regardless, ya right! Our hypocritical world is just so full of themselves. The fight is to be as superficially attractive as possible to be of value, if you’re not, you might be patronized a little, but just not taken seriously. We see girls today going to extremes because hey the vital thing is to be beautiful, get the right guy, have all kinds of worldly wealth and live happily ever after. Forgetting that despite all our efforts, some, like me, who’ve just been ugly from birth, end up simply being dumped out the other end of life, whether we were beautiful  or not because we no longer meet the standards.

The cut to the chase is this; Jesus tells us that we can do it the hard way, by our own standards, our own worldly, wrong opinions. Or, because Jesus did it the hard way for us, we can trust in Him, that He has done all that’s necessary. Yes, we should leave it all out on the course for Jesus, because that’s what He’s done for us, but never think that is what gets you His promises.

We are so incredibly valued by the Father and there’s not one thing that we can add to that, not by anything we’ve done, not done, or done wrong, but solely who we are in Jesus, so incredibly valued because of who we are in Him and that He died a horrific death in order to save us. For such a huge price and to be adopted into true life in the Father’s family in baptism, we are, each one of us, so incredibly valued and loved. There are those of us who the Holy Spirit is moving to do big things, to serve at high levels. There are those of us who just physically can’t or who are called to do what we feel are humble things. Doesn’t matter to the Father, yes we should follow our calling, but no, we should never doubt how precious we are to the Father and what we are to Him in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Dr Ryan M. Reeves https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/ryanreeves/2016/04/20/did-luther-really-tell-us-to-love-god-and-sin-boldly/

[2] Matt Popovits PLI seminar, Cary, NC, February 9, 2017

The Holy Spirit gives us the Church to serve the world First St Johns Memorial Day May 24, 2015

[For the audio version of this sermon click on the link above]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit, AMEN

Today is Pentecost, the birth of the church, when the Holy Spirit descended on those who were chosen to establish the church and to bring it into the world. The church was given authority by Jesus through the Holy Spirit. This is why the church is important, because through Pentecost it was empowered to preach, teach, administer the sacraments, keep the keys and be representatives of Christ on earth. Nothing, no one, there is no other way that Christ’s ministry is conducted on earth than through His church. I emphasize HIS not mine, not yours, not the people who built it. This was built and has been maintained under the direct authority that Jesus has given it through the Holy Spirit. So when someone tells you they don’t need the church, about worshipping God sitting at the beach or on a mountain, that is just pure rationalizing nonsense. The church was authorized by Jesus, this is when the church was born, on Pentecost, the church is the ministry of Jesus Christ on earth, He is the Son of God which He demonstrated through His life, as Luke says at the beginning of Acts: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1: 1-3 ESV)

Today is also Memorial Day, which is an unusual juxtaposition of topics. The ultimate hope and promise of the world is in Jesus, that hope and promise ministered through His church. We take for granted, that the church is a constant reminder of Hope and promise, it is the church that is always there at those most important points in life; birth, being a part of the church, death, those times in our lives when we need more than the limitations and superficiality of the world, the empty platitudes of a shallow, sinful and hopeless world. We, in the church don’t dwell on the emptiness of this life. We focus on the hope and promise of eternal life. That hope and promise is in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and culminated in the appearance of God the Holy Spirit in the form of flames dancing on the heads of those who Jesus appointed to be the evangelists and ministers of His church, “on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18). That is our hope and promise, not what man does in the world, but what the Holy Spirit does in the church of Jesus Christ. It is only through Him who works through His church that we have the hope and promise of life eternal, real life, life more abundant in the resurrection.

Memorial Day is an important day, we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, who remembered Jesus’ words when He said: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.”(John 15:13 ESV) The beginnings of Memorial Day were right after the American Civil War, a war that has close meaning right here in York. Some local activity and especially west where the greatest battle in North American history took place, the Battle of Gettysburg. Men and women who died in a war to free those who had been kept in slavery, so that they would be free to live their life.

Memorial Day was instituted as “Decoration Day” in 1868. War often has many noble causes, and certainly those who died in serving their country have given their all, regardless of the nobility of the war, have without doubt served nobly to put themselves in harms way to serve their fellow man. But there is a sobering reality of war, in that nobility there is such terrible tragedy. Charles Oliver was a chaplain in the confederate army during the Civil War and wrote the following during and after the fighting around Chancellorsville, Va in May 1863: “War is such a strange thing. Here we are gay, careless, jocular, yesterday we ran for our lives across this very field, while death dealing shot were sweeping over its hills. Today some of us laid the shattered remains of our brave comrade T.E. Dillard in a soldier’s grave; at this moment though the sun shines so brightly, and the breeze kisses our cheeks so kindly; yet are we now in the midst of a great terrible battle … All this day I have been oppressed with the thought that it was the Sabbath.”[1] A man of God who willingly rushed to serve those in the midst of terrible tragedy, remembering amid tragedy that we all will kneel in worship of God.

Specialist Emily Thompson wrote the following while serving in Afghanistan: “There is a numbness inside that I can’t seem to figure out. I miss home. Yet, I think about those who gave their lives before me, those who are dying right this instant, and I miss home for them even more. Such a sense of guilt is present when I think about home. I wish to leave so badly, yet I do not feel worthy of leaving this place. Going home leaves a part of me behind, one that I will never get back. A piece so lost, like those who have fallen and given their all for someone like myself. Six feet under and remembered as a memory; I pray for peace. I swear to live for them, to drink and celebrate the greatness that they are, and to breathe in the life that they have lost. For each and every one are my blood and my heart, the reason behind my tears, and the intense encouragement to face another day with nothing but sheer gratitude.”[2]

The world is never going to be an easy place for the genuine Christian. For those of us who understand that there is death in living, we are baptized and the old man is put to death, we are reborn in the Holy Spirit and become true sons and daughters of God the Father, He is our Father, He is the Father of Jesus Christ, God the Son and from the Father proceeds the Holy Spirit. To be His son or daughter means to be a part of the sacrifice of the Son. It also means to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit as Christians have been since the Holy Spirit became part of the disciples and then guided them to build the church of Jesus Christ and has been guiding Christians since then to build the catholic and apostolic church. Without the church who will reach out to the lost, who will serve a hurting world, who will be there when you need guidance? There is no one else who will be there to show you true salvation and eternal life in Jesus. You can come to this church, you can call me, and I will talk to you, I will listen to you, and sometimes, yes, that might be at a difficult hour of the day or day of the week. I would hope that in times of crisis, tragedy, genuine struggle that you would call me and want me to help you. That is what the church is there for and not just from me, but other brothers and sisters in Jesus. Tell me, where else are you going to be served like that? Who else will come out and minister to you in times of genuine need? Christ’s church is to be there in times of genuine need. There is no one else who will be there for you when you face times of doubt, desperation and tragedy. That is why, among other vital things, that Jesus established His church. That is why the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples and led them into the world to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus and to be a beacon of light and hope in a desperate and sin filled world.

Dr Martin Luther gives us the best way to reconcile Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the establishment of Christian discipleship in the world and the mess of sin and tragedy in the world: “It is not enough simply that Christ be preached; the Word must be believed. Therefore, God sends the Holy Spirit to impress the preaching upon the heart—to make it in here and live therein. Unquestionably, Christ accomplished all—took away our sins and overcame every obstacle, enabling us to become, through him, lord over all things. But the treasure lies in a heap; it is not everywhere distributed and applied. Before we can enjoy it, the Holy Spirit comes and communicates it to the heart, enabling us to believe and say, ‘I too, am one who shall have the blessing.'” [3]

Finally I ask you to remember fellow Coast Guardsman Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal who was killed in action and made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq on April 24, 2004.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom.

[1] Brinsfield, Davis, Maryniak and Robertson  Faith in the Fight quoting Charles J Oliver pp 103-104

[2] Emily Thompson  Face Book post May 22, 2015

[3] Martin Luther, about Pentecost, from his 1523 church postil