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Trinity 2 2020

Trinity 2 2020

Ephesians 2:13-22

June 21, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Have you gotten used to sitting far apart each other yet, standing 6 feet away in the stores that you go to?  For some people, I’m sure the extra personal space is welcome, the personal bubble expanded just a little big more.  While things like technology, and phones, and internet are being used in new ways to help people stay connected to one another, it really is no substitute.  Jesus doesn’t socially distance Himself. He draws people to Himself, into a personal union with His people. 

St. Paul writes in Ephesians 2, “You who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”  Notice the verbs here, “have been brought.”  That is passive.  You are not the ones doing the bringing, but God is the One who is doing the work.  Luther explained this well in his explanation of the 3rd article of the creed, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him…” You see, Christianity is not like a ladder that we climb to try to reach God.  That is what the tower of Babel attempted, and we all know that didn’t work out well. Luther continues though, “but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” 

This is what St. Paul is talking about. But remember this: your sin separates you from God.  And your sin keeps you from God.  Dead in our trespasses and sins, separated from God, far away. But in the incarnation, God draws close to us. He comes down from heaven to dwell with sinners.  And He draws sinners to Himself, He draws sinners together around Himself, He invites sinners to dine with Him in the Kingdom of God.

God gathers a people to Himself. These people are to be holy and blameless. Notice what He doesn't say. He doesn't say God gathers the perfect.  He doesn't say God gathers the righteous.  He doesn't say God gathers those who have it all together. But God gathers strangers, aliens, those with no hope, the poor and crippled and lame.  Broken by the weight of our own sin and that of the world. Needy. Beggars. Not even able to go to God. 

You want to draw closer to God?  Good.  But this only takes place when and where He comes to you.  “It is not enough for God only to have his work take place in us people and to fill us with his gifts, with his light, his power and his comfort, he wants himself, with his nature, to enter our hearts. It is not enough for God only to make people his priests, who come before him and serve him, but he also wants to make them his temples in which he serves them. It is not enough for God to someday receive his people into heaven where they shall look upon him, who is enthroned in glory, face to face, but he himself, already here, wants to make them into his heaven and establish his throne in them. (Walther, From Our Master’s Table, 75)

This is what Jesus is doing today, here, now. From heaven to the Word to your ears. From heaven to font, poured out upon your head. From heaven to the altar to your mouth.  The means of grace are the means by which a person is justified, they are also the means by which the new character and nature are given. Worship is the primary context for the granting of new character and the strengthening of it. Worship strengthens and develops the new character not through mere habituation or practice, but through the operation of grace, which develops a new way of being. This formative character of worship centers on the word of God and the sacraments.

We find ourselves brought near to God, but also to each other.  No longer are sinful divisions to exist among us, because Christ has died to bring us together. “When you try to maintain your hatred or your anger or your separation, it’s as if you are reaching into the wounds of Jesus—where all of that sin went—and pulling it out again. Give the separation up! Let go of the anger! Leave it in the wounds of Jesus. He has reconciled you to God, His Father, through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. In the temple, there was a wall that separated God’s people and the Gentiles into the inner and outer courts. But in this spiritual temple of God’s church, there is no separation.  He has broken down the wall. Through faith in Jesus and by His blood, people are no longer divided in the worship of God, nor from one another.  Christ has abolished the law, that is the curse of the Law, by perfectly fulfilling it. He unites us into one man, into Himself. 

In doing so, God builds you up into a temple of living stones, who breathe with the Spirit’s breath, a people in whom God Himself dwells.  Israel not of the flesh, but of the Spirit, a church incorporating children of Abraham who believe as he believed in the Christ to come.  Built upon the prophets and apostles, founded upon Christ Himself, with the cross standing high and proud.

There is a place for you here, because there is peace and reconciliation for all in the body of Jesus. All believers have been brought near—to God and to one another—by the blood of Jesus (3:13). He killed the hostility for all on the cross. No longer is any believer a stranger or a foreigner here in the assembly of the baptized. All share the same foundation, the same cornerstone; Jesus Christ.  It is through the bestowal of the Triune name of God in our Baptism that we receive our place in the temple, the dwelling place of God.  That’s why we begin our service with the Trinitarian invocation and make the sign of the cross.  It’s not just a tradition, not just a reminder, but it is reality. You belong here. You have been invited.  There is place for you in the kingdom of God because of Jesus.  Christ has come near to you and brings you near to Himself. 

Trinity 1 2020

Trinity 1 2020

1 John 4:16-21

June 14, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

From eternity, God was Love. There was never a time when God was not, and there was never a time when God was not love.  All love is from Him.  Since God is love, then it follows that in knowing God we also know love.  In order to love, we must first be loved by the One who is love. That’s why the only answer that eternally matters to the problems of our fallen world is that the world receive and know the love of God in Christ.  

In this His love is perfect. For He loves us into existence even though there is no benefit for Himself. And there is more. Though He needs nothing, and has already loved us into existence, He is not done with us. He still loves us. He keeps us. He joins creation. He takes up the fragility of our fallen flesh in order to be subject to death. He wages war against evil on earth, outside Jerusalem, as a Man. Because God made it, God loves it, God keeps it. Thus does God redeem it. The goal of God’s love for us is that we have such confidence, such faith in Christ, that we have no fear of eternal punishment because God has poured out His wrath upon Jesus. There is none left for you. 

This is love of which St. John writes. It is not a feeling, it is action. He is not writing about an emotion or a desire to be filled. Love isn’t just an attribute of God. God is love, in and of Himself.  There is no hunger in God that needs to be filled. He does not need someone to love. In Himself, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, He has plenty to keep Himself occupied. God’s nature is turned toward and bound up in seeking, working, and being for the good of others.  Love fittingly describes the nature of God; His love is revealed in the flesh and blood of Jesus. 

The Father sends the Son into an unloving world, which is to say the Father sends the Son to death. He exiles the Son with the sins of Israel and the nations upon His Head. All the world is thus cleansed, pulled out of the flames, and the cherubic guard is removed from Eden. Heaven is open to all believers. He then sanctifies human flesh by raising Himself from the dead, defeating the last enemy, inaugurating the resurrection to come, and ascending to His Father’s right hand. The love of God is how He acts, what He does, who He is. The way of His love is selfless sacrifice for the sake of your redemption.

The world plays by the rules of self-righteousness and self-justification. Every post. Every action. Every statement. The world always finds a way to point back to itself. Look at how good I am. Look at how compassionate I am. Look at how much I care about fighting injustice. Look at how many people I can love in various ways at various times and put another notch on my bed. 

Christians do not play by the rules of the world. They are self-idolatry. The only righteousness you have is Christ's. The only source of love that you have is from the One who is love.  Your life points only to His life, death, and resurrection. If any good is done in your life, thanks be to God for His great goodness to provide! If any compassion, praise be to God for His great mercy to forgive sinners! If any justice, God be praised for His battle against sin and death! As the world tries to justify themselves, look to the One who justifies, redeems, sanctifies, and saves for the sake of the world. (Pr. Mike Suelze)

At times, it feels as though the devil has won and there are no men of honor or integrity left, that there is just the one who hates his brother. But that is not really new for God’s people. Elijah knew that feeling. For after boldly taunting the prophets of Baal and calling down fire from heaven, he lost his nerve, and full of self-pity and fear, he ran away. But he was wrong to despair. He was as wrong as Moses losing his temper in the wilderness, as wrong as Peter resorting to violence in the garden, as wrong as us poor, miserable sinners who tire of the spiritual fight and cave in to the mob of the sinful world. 

But the gates of Hell shall not overcome the Church of Christ. God’s Kingdom on this earth is always feeble and small, always on the edge of annihilation.  And so St. John writes, “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world.”

We have confidence that despite our frailty, our sin, greed, and fear, that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is enough. Tired, though we are, we rest in the Lord of the Sabbath who gave His life as a ransom for ours. This is the Love that abides in us: the Spirit sent from the Father and the Son to guide us into the Way of all Truth, to offer perfect prayers with groans that words cannot express on our behalf, to keep us, to sanctify us, to lead us, comfort us, and to deliver us from all evil. This is the Love that casts out fear, that picks us up and dusts us off, feeds us, encourages us, and holds us fast. 

“And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21).  There is much which you can do to love your neighbors. Your love reflects the love by which Christ gave up His life for you. If you are praised for it, to God be the glory! If you are persecuted for it, to God be the glory! If no one ever finds out about it, to God be the glory! We love others simply because God first loved us. And we have the love of God in Christ, and that is enough.

Trinity Sunday 2020

Trinity Sunday 2020

John 3

June 7, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

The hymn we just sang, “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” is hymnic version of an ancient hymn called the “Te Deum.”  This hymn is Christianity’s oldest and best known hymn to the Holy Trinity and to Christ, the Redeemer.  It had been used in the liturgy since at least the 6th century, and was already considered a classic by that time.  Just in our hymnal alone, we have 5 versions of this hymn.  This version we sang today is commonly called the “German Te Deum” as it was written by a German priest in the 1700s, and translated into English in the 1800s. 

As far as the Te Deum itself goes, the origins are not really known, though probably the most exciting possibility of its authorship is that St. Ambrose composed it upon the event of his baptizing St. Augustine on April 24th or 25th in the year of our Lord 387.  For over 1600 years Christians have been singing this hymn.  Luther went as far to say that it ranks next to the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds in terms of the creedal qualities, the clear and concise statements of faith about the Trinity and Christ.

The hymn begins in heaven with the unending praise of the cherubim and seraphim, building upon the passage in Isaiah 6 that we heard today and the angelic song of the “Sanctus.” This is the song that we will sing in heaven, for all eternity as we praise the One who brings us salvation and eternal life and as we long for the day when the church on earth will join the church triumphant in the unending song. Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts/or Sabaoth. This the General Yahweh, commander of the heavenly angelic army.  And so when we sing the Sanctus just before Communion, we join our voices with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, to laud and magnify God’s glorious name. 

The Te Deum then moves us to earth in the historical incarnation of the Son of God, and the concludes with the people of God petition Him to spare, keep, and remain with His church. Then it ends with a verse of doxology, of praise, to the Trinity. 

So, in this hymn, maybe written by Ambrose upon the Augustine’s baptism, reflects our Scripture readings today: the Old Testament from Isaiah 6 and the Sanctus; the Epistle from Romans 11 and the doxology; and from John 3, wherein Jesus speaks to Nicodemus about the new birth which takes place by the water and the Spirit when the Triune name of God is placed upon a person as the waters of Holy Baptism are poured out. 

So let’s turn our attention to John 3.  Baptism is how salvation is poured out, how new birth occurs, how the life of Christ enlivens your life.  This is why the historic, Christian belief, is that a person becomes a Christian, that is a disciple of Jesus, by means of baptism – for it is at baptism when the triune God places His name upon a person, gives new birth by means of water and the Spirit, delivers from sin, death, and the devil, and grants eternal salvation to all who believe in Christ.  That in baptism, the old man is regenerated, a new man in Christ is born.  This is why we begin our church service in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. It recalls our baptism into the name of the Triune God. 

By this saving act of God, lifting up the Son of Man on the cross and giving new life from above by water and the Spirit, He shows His love for a sinful and fallen world.  And do we ever see the fallenness of the world. Disease and death, murder and riots, division and disunity.  This is the fallen world that God loves. This is the fallen world that God sent His Son into. This is the fallen world that Jesus died to save. 

Christ was lifted up for all to see. St. John says this is how God loved the world. The whole world. That means, that by Jesus being lifted up on the cross, by His all atoning and sacrificial death, He shows that every single life matters from the moment of conception in the womb, to the moment of natural death and even into eternity.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

This means that a person’s identity is not primarily shaped by the color of their skin, or the language they speak, or their nationality, or where they have been or where they are going.  A person’s primary identity is found in their relationship with God. That doesn’t mean these other things don’t matter, it means the primary thing is who you are in regard to God, the Triune God, who has saved. 

So when we see the things going on in our world, violent riots and crime and evil and we look at these people and wonder how they can do such things. How can they be so different, or how can someone who is so like me do things so different than me?  It’s the same reason that you sin in thought, word, and deed, by what you have done and by what you have left undone.  It’s because of sin. 

And its Jesus, and Jesus only, that is answer to the sin which plague us and our world.   Only Jesus saves.  Only Jesus reconciles. Only Jesus enlivens.  For only Jesus deals with the root problem of this fallen world. Jesus comes only to save sinners.  Only Jesus reforms, He does so into His image.  Jesus, and therefore His Church should in following His lead, care primarily about people’s souls.  Care that people are dead in their trespasses and sins. And that life, true life, eternal life, comes through the birthing from above, which is the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit. 

So when look at another, we should view them as a person for whom Jesus died.  This is a person that God desires to be born of the water and the spirit to have the life of Christ. This is a person whom Jesus wishes to gather to Himself for all eternity.  When we start to view people in that sort of light, it shapes our love, our life, our service, our attitude, slowness to anger, quickness to forgive. For God loves even them. God loves even you. 

Whoever believes in [the Son of God, be it with a strong or with a weak faith] may have eternal life.  Worthiness does not depend on the greatness or smallness, the weakness or strength of faith. Instead, it depends on Christ’s merit” (FC SD VII 70-71). 

Pentecost 2020

Pentecost 2020

John 14:23-31

May 31, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

On this day of Pentecost, we celebrate the great blessing shown to us by the Holy Spirit through the universal preaching of the Gospel.  On this day of Pentecost, the Christian church remembers how a beginning was made with a gentle breeze and fiery tongues upon the Disciples so that they would go out into all the world and proclaim the mighty works of God. On this day of Pentecost, we have a reminder of our own heavenly birthday by the Holy Spirit through the waters of baptism, and of the continual work of that Spirit throughout our lives.

On this day of Pentecost, we also get to witness the confirmation of two young Christians, wherein they confess again the faith delivered to them so many years ago in their baptism. We have the unique joy to celebrate with them in their first reception of the Lord’s body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.  The peace that Jesus promises in the Gospel reading today is yours. This is why after the words of intuition the body and blood are held up to you and the blessing is given, “The peace of the Lord be with you always.” This is not wishful thinking, or some future reality. This is literally God’s peace between you and Him, the peace of God which passes all understanding, delivered to you personally in the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  

We hear the promises, and the Holy Spirit works in us.  He gives us the gift of hope. We hear the Word of Christ’s death and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit pulls us from the world and leads us closer to Jesus.  When the eyes of our faith are fixed on Him, no matter what is going on around us, when the fear and anxiety of this present age fills our hearts, when God Himself seems hidden from us, we turn to Him with our cries. The Spirit gives us a lively, active faith that looks to Jesus. Hold fast to Jesus’ words and the reality He brings, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” 

Easier said than done, at least for us.  But not so for God.  And so God the Father sends God the Spirit in the name of God the Son for this blessing, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.”  The Holy Spirit has to ignite such a love in our hearts, to stir up a holy love for the Lord, for His Word.  For love is a fruit of the spirit, as St. Paul says in Gal 5:22.  Since the Holy Spirit motivates us to love God, He also motivates us to love our neighbor. For true love of God does not exist without love for the neighbor. 

“If anyone loves Me… My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”  The Holy Spirit also makes us into His temple, the dwelling place of God. As St. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 3:16, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” For the Holy Spirit is likened to the soul of the Church.  In a living body there must be a soul. The soul gives life, for as soon as the soul leaves the body, the body is dead.  So the Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life.

But Jesus also calls the Holy Spirit the Helper, the Comforter.  He is the Helper who comforts us before God Himself, who enlightens and sanctifies us with His gifts.  When we are down in the dumps, when the devil accuses us because of our sins, the Holy Spirit upholds us so we don’t plunge into despair and disbelief.  That is why St. Paul says in 2 Cor 1:21 that we are secured in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Not only does the Spirit enliven the Christian, but He keeps us with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

Part of that keeping is the continually growth as a disciple of Jesus.  Confirmation is not the end of anything, but rather the continuance of your life of faith now nourished by the Sacrament.  The Spirit teaches us the art and life of a Christian, which is not one of mere knowledge of the Bible, but that, in a faith, a person tastes and sees the goodness of the Lord. Proverbs 9:10 proclaims, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” This knowledge comes from the Holy Spirit, the Teacher as Jesus calls Him, who will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that Christ have said to you. 

The whole point of Scripture, the main theme that runs throughout are the mighty deeds of God centered on the life and work of Jesus and your reception of His free gifts by faith.  This was the content of the message of Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, culminating in these words, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus delivered up according o the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it” (Acts 2:22-24). 

After hearing this good news, the crowds asked, “Brothers, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself’” (Acts 2:37b-39).  

You have done this, rather, that has been done to you.  You who are baptized in the name of Christ have received His Holy Spirit.  You are recipients of the gift of His promises, you have been called by God to Himself for a life of faith in Him and love for others; fed, nourished, and strengthen by the body and blood of Christ to life everlasting. 

Easter 7 2020

Easter 7 2020 Exaudi

1 Peter 4:7-14

May 24, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

Audio

The Church began her long wait.  The disciples would all die before Christ’s promise return is fulfilled. Generation after generation would arise in the Church, and still the beloved of the Lord wait. We wait because we know that He who has kept every other promise will keep this one too.  In the meantime, we live as a community of faith in what is not fully seen, but what we know without a shadow of a doubt to be true. Jesus sits enthroned at the right hand of God, filling all things and waiting for the Father to proclaim the moment of Jesus’ appearing. 

As Christians, we live in expectation of Christ’s return.  This last Thursday was Ascension Day, and after Jesus’ ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father. The visible presence of Christ has withdrawn into His invisible presence in the Word and Sacraments. We join the Church throughout the ages in the long wait for Jesus’ final appearing, as we confess in Creed, “And He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”  All the while comforted by His constant nearness. 

And so, St. Peter reminds and encourages us, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober minded for the sake of your prayers.”  In other words, be ready.  Pay attention. Clear headed. Prayerful. But above all, while you wait, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. The Christian life is an apprenticeship in the love of God and the love of neighbor. 

To be able to love, to truly know love and to love, is to know God.   For God is love, and if God is not known, then neither is real love.  People take f Bible verses out of context all the time, to meet agendas on what they think love should feel like and look like.  But you cannot have love if you don’t have the love of Christ.

“Therefore, when we have been justified by faith and regenerated, we begin to fear and love God, to pray to Him, to expect aid from Him, to give thanks and praise Him, and to obey Him in times of suffering.  We also begin to love our neighbors, because our hearts have spiritual and holy movements… God is not loved until we receive mercy through faith. Not until then does He become someone we can love. (Ap V 4, 8).

“Thus, before all else, Christ came so that people might learn how much God loves them, and might learn this so that they might catch fire with love for Him who first loved them, and so they also love their neighbor as He commanded and showed by His example—He who made Himself their neighbor by loving them.” (Augustine, quoted in William Harmless, Augustine and the Catechumenate, 441).

As people loved by Christ, we should always be prepared to meet Him, either by His return or our death, whichever comes first. And that preparation shows in our reception of Christ’s love and in outwardly by loving others.  This is how love covers a multitude of sins.  Of itself, our love has no power to forgive.  But the love of Christ in us does.  In Christ, we love others and freely forgive them.

We are called to live the new life He has given us as stewards of His gifts.  To use our tongues and service for the good of others to the glory of Christ.  And do we ever have the opportunity to do just this.  In these times, one of the biggest issues for people is that they are feeling lonely and unloved.  Stay at home orders, isolation, working from home, social distancing.  (Which really is physical distancing).  These things isolate us from one another, and while technology certainly is a marvel, it is no substitute to intrapersonal connections. But we are not separated from Christ. Even though He has ascended, He has not left His people alone. 

People are also feeling unloved.  Unloved in that so many have been made to feel “unessential”, separated, not worth much. And yet, God loves the unlovable. He visits the lonely. He covers the multitude of sins by loving the world to the point of sending His Son to die that you may live. Through our words and actions of recipients of God’s love in Christ, we bring Christ to a world that is dead in sin so that some might come alive in Christ, even as we have been made alive.  

 

Easter 6 2020

Easter 6 Rogate 2020

John 16:23-33

May 17, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

In this world’s wilderness the heat of tribulations and all sorts of troubles come upon us. There is never a lack, and no one needs to go looking for difficulties in life.  But when we find ourselves in need of heavenly blessings, then the best way for us is, that as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so that those who looked upon it were saved, we might look upon Christ, so that we may believe in Him and have eternal life.  We are to look up to Him who was lifted up; that is we are to cling to Christ with a believing heart so that we are able through prayer to knock on the gates of heaven. Then relief from the venomous bite of sin shall be given, and all kinds of comfort for the soul and heavenly blessings. 

However, if such a prayer is to be well pleasing to God, then it has to occur by faith and without doubting. For God was not pleased with the Israelites when they complain and doubt God’s care during the Exodus. Because of their complaints and misbelief, God sent fiery serpents among them who bit the people so that many people of Israel died.  We are to avoid such misbelief and complaints, and instead look up to Christ, who is lifted up so that all who look upon Him in faith may live.  We should knock with prayer not one or two times, but often and frequent, by faith and without doubting.

I want to speak a little bit about this prayer by Christians as introduced in the Gospel reading and show how it is to take place. First, that prayer is required of all true Christians. Whoever wants to be a disciple of Christ must not only hear the Word, but do the Word, pray the Word, act upon the Word. Prayer is necessary for a Christian. It is the sacred duty of the baptized child of God. While we are neither worthy of things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we must daily ask God to take away our sins. Since we all have a need for receiving good gifts from God, it is truly good, right, and salutary that we seek them from Him with devoted prayer.

But what does it actually mean to pray, and what does Christ require of us? In the Gospel reading, Christ wants to strengthen the faith of His disciples and to grant them His peace by teaching them about true prayer to the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.  To pray does not mean to move our lips, but it is an exercise of faith, to lift up hearts to the Lord. It doesn’t start with the tongue, but from a heart cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  In the Old Testament, if a sacrifice was to please God, it had to be ignited by fire, a fire that fell from heaven.  So too, if the spiritual sacrifice of prayer and the sacrificial offering of our lips are to rise before him as incense, the lifting up our hands as the evening sacrifice, (Psalm 141:2) our heart has to be ignited by the heavenly fire of the Holy Spirit as the blood of Christ is applied through the Word and Sacraments.

We pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, enabled by Him to approach the Father on the merits of Christ. Now again in the OT, if a person wanted to pray, they turned and faced the Temple in Jerusalem, for it was there that the altar of God was placed, where sacrifices were made, and where God has promised to meet His people for their good.  This was pointing forward to the spiritual sacrifice of our prayer that is placed upon the atonement altar of the New Testament, that is, upon Christ Himself.  We don’t face a location, but we face a person, again, we look up Christ as He is risen for all to see and believe.  We are to turn our hearts and minds away from all earthly distractions, and lift them up to God the Lord in true, godly devotion and praise.

And so Jesus instructs us that we are call upon the Father with all boldness and confidence as dear children.  Our identity as God’s children rest upon our baptismal grace.  And so we pray in Jesus’ name, for that is the only name given by which we can be saved. Just as no one can please God except through Christ alone, so also no prayer can be acceptable to God unless it takes place in the name of Christ. To pray in the name of Christ means to base our prayer upon the merits and the intercessions of Son of God. This is why Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you.” And then again, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” 

Our prayers should take place with true humility and total reliance on God. In them we are to submit all our desires to God’s will and leave everything up to Him. Christ teaches us in this Gospel account that God will provide what is best for us, even if He does not answer our prayers in the way we want.  We must follow the decision of the Spirit and not the flesh

Don’t grow tired of prayer, but endure in hearing the Word of God and responding with your praise and thanksgiving and intercessions.  Holy desire increases during hardship and temptations, as we have experienced during these past couple of months.   So begin everything with prayer. End everything with prayer. In the morning, we should ask God to reign over us all day with His Spirit and protect us with His angels. In the evening, we should ask Him to pardon our sins which we loaded upon ourselves throughout the day.  This is why Luther’s Morning and Evening Prayers are such jewels, because they ask for this very thing. But above all, the Lord’s Prayer is the model for Christian prayer because it is the prayer that Jesus’ teaches us to pray and covers all that we need for this body and life. 

This sermon is based off of Johann Gerhard’s sermon for the 5th Sunday after Easter, Postilla, 402ff.

Easter 5 2020

Easter 5 2020 Cantate

John 16:5-15

May 10, 2020

Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID

This morning in our Gospel reading we take a step backward from last week’s reading in John 16.  Here in this section of John, we hear Jesus’ words promising the Holy Spirit to His disciples and the role of the Spirit in the lives of God’s people.  The disciples have journeyed and stayed with Jesus up to this point.  They will soon abandon Him during the most severe trial of His passion. But they will soon be gathered, forgiven, strengthened, and commissioned after the resurrection. Christ will preserve them after Pentecost and their reception of the Holy Spirit enables them to proclaim the gospel and face trials similar to the ones that Jesus Himself faced. 

Jesus forgives their unfaithfulness, and His own perfect obedience and faithfulness to the Father will be imputed, given, to them through faith. In light of this grace that forgives, restores, and strengthens, the Spirit will of truth will guide God’s people according to God’s Word, glorifying Jesus, but also that the Spirit will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment. 

You stand convicted by the Holy Spirit today.  You already confessed at the beginning of the Service today the truth of this, from 1 John 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  You, who are truly sinners, don’t want to be considered sinners. You feel sin as a burden. You want to do better and even though it accuses and condemns you, you love God’s Law. You see in it what is truly good and beautiful and true.   And what you are led to see by the Holy Spirit is also righteousness, not your own, but the perfect righteousness of Jesus.  “But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 

A Christian, you must believe in two things at the same time. You must believe the law which accuses you and calls you “sinner.” You must also believe and trust in the gospel which comforts you and calls you “saint” on account of Christ.

The devil will try to tell you that the sins which you commit every day will cause God to stop loving you, and therefore you are not a saint. The devil is a liar and he is the master of half-truths. He will tell you that the Holy Spirit does not dwell where there are habitual sins and you have got them. He will tell you that the Bible teaches that Christians progress and grow in their sanctification and you are growing in sins, getting worse.  Yes, you are a sinner, you sin daily and in many and various ways, this is most certainly true.   But the love of God toward you is stronger than the sinfulness that clings to you. Although you are sinners, God is your Father who has made His Son, the Lord Jesus, your Brother, that you might live in His Spirit. 

Jesus says, “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is Mine; therefore I said that He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.”

The Holy Spirit gives away the Kingdom to sinners. He glorifies the Son in the crucifixion, where He is lifted up before the world. There upon the cross, Jesus has earned the forgiveness of your sins, He has earned your sainthood, He has earned you a place in His eternal kingdom.  And then He sends His Spirit to you to deliver what belongs to Jesus and declare it to you. 

Sinner and saint. That is what you are on this side of eternal glory. As a sinner, the Holy Spirit convicts your misbelief and sin.  As a saint, sin does not rule over you any longer and the Holy Spirit has called you out of your sinful life to the life of Christ.  If you fall into sin, you will rise again by grace. You live by God’s grace, and grace alone.  By grace, in His Word and Sacrament, you receive God’s mercy. Without the Holy Spirit you can’t do this. But through the Word and by the means of the blessed waters of your Baptism, the Holy Spirit delivers Jesus, so that you might live in Him. 

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