Lessons and Hymns for Pentecost 2 C (Proper 7)

These are the Scripture readings you will hear this coming Sunday:

Isaiah 65:1-9
Galatians 3:23-4:7
Luke 8:26-39

Click here to read the above lessons and the propers for the day.

Jesus Brings Release from the Bonds of Sin, Death and the Devil

The Lord finds those who did not seek Him or ask for Him. He spreads out His hands “to a rebellious people” (Is. 65:2) and calls them to be His people and to dwell in peace upon His holy mountain (Is. 65:9). For wherever Jesus Christ enters in, Satan is cast out. Those who were enslaved and driven mad by the assaults and accusations of the devil are set free by the Word of Christ. He drowns and destroys the old Adam in us with the waters of Holy Baptism and thereby brings us out of death into life. No longer naked in our shame, living “among the tombs” (Luke 8:27), we are brought into the Lord’s house, fully clothed by Christ; He has come in “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) to fulfill the Law on our behalf and to redeem us from its every accusation. Therefore, having been justified by His grace through faith in His Gospel, “you are no longer a slave, but a son” (Gal. 4:7).

These are the hymns we will sing:

God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It (LSB 594)
We Are Called to Stand Together (LSB 828)
I Come, O Savior to Thy Table (LSB 618)
Sent Forth by God’s Blessing (LSB 643)
Praise the One Who Breaks the Darkness (LSB 849)

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Is This a Spiritual Moment?

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Probably not but I do feel a great sense of relief that the Blues finally won the Stanley Cup. This is something I’ve been waiting for since I was 15 years old. The happiness is well worth it.

Sadly, for too many people this type of happiness is all they live for. There’s so much more … and it all begins with Jesus.

“Oh, no! Oh, my! Ah, hah!”

Our devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:

Proverbs 8:22-31
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15

This Sunday in the Church Year is called The Holy Trinity. This is the one major celebration in the year that has its focus in a doctrine or teaching. The word “Trinity” cannot be found in the Bible, neither can “Triune.” Nonetheless, the teaching or revelation from God is there, and people needed to call it something. The name has also been chosen for a Sunday and more than one congregation.

What is most interesting about all of this is that this particular doctrine or teaching is one of the most complex and difficult in all Christian theology. I always say that is fitting and should not surprise us at all. It helps us to avoid thinking we could ever fully understand God. Anyone who writes a book entitled, “Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About God,” is either self-deceived or trying to deceive us. We struggle enough with what God has revealed about Himself; there is so, so much more that we could not begin to comprehend.

That, by the way, is almost a quote from Sunday’s Gospel Lesson. In promising that the Holy Spirit will come to His disciples, Jesus says that He has much more to say to them, but it is more than they can bear now. The Spirit will bring them along a little bit at a time “into all truth.” Personally, I even understand that to mean, “all the truth we can handle.”

When you go to a movie, or watch one in video form at home, you may or may not be aware that the director has employed three basic camera views as the story unfolds. The close-up plunges us into the most intimate details — an insect walking across a pane of glass, or the movement of one finger. The medium shot brings us into the same space and level of observation as the players on the screen; it is designed to help us feel as if we are in the same room, sitting at the table or on an easy chair. Finally, the longshot gives us the broadest of perspectives — the whole picture — the scope of the phenomenon without any details.

The doctrine of the Trinity is a kind of long shot of God. It is sort of like looking at the universe. If you start by counting stars, you will soon realize that the job is impossible — you’ll be long dead before you finish. There are at least four billion in the Milky Way alone, but that is just one galaxy. Existing telescopes reveal about a hundred million more galaxies; there are probably billions of them, and most are larger than ours. Just counting galaxies could take a lifetime. On the other hand, you can walk out in my yard on a dark night, look up at the stars, and just sort of sigh, “Wow!” You don’t have to understand the details to appreciate the long shot.

One of the things that God’s description of Himself reveals to us is that in His marvelous love, He became one of us in Jesus. He was not merely some fleshy apparition, either; He was vulnerable to everything we mortals face — including our mortality. Jesus told His disciples that He couldn’t stay with them because that wasn’t best. The best was for Him to return to the bosom of His Father and that His Father open up His great heart again and release the Holy Spirit to us. Jesus’ presence was no longer the best for them. The Spirit’s presence within them was best and still is. The long shot of the Trinity is incomprehensible, but coupled with the medium shot of God-With-Us in Jesus, and the close up activity and presence of the Holy Spirit, we get right back to “Wow!”

The picture I have just given of the Trinity unfolds in Sunday’s lesson from Romans. Paul spends the first four chapters carefully laying out in unquestionable terms the fact that we are made right with God by grace through faith. That is another irrational, but thoroughly appreciable, doctrine of Christianity. As a matter of fact, though we do not have a Sunday named for it, it is the most important teaching of Christianity. This is the one that Luther would have us spend the most time studying and it is the one for which the Letter to the Romans is most famous. It is interesting, therefore, that from this point on in that book Paul talks about what that teaching means to us and does to us, and our lifelong response to it.

Sunday’s five short verses from Romans are stuffed full with thoughts and implications. Paul begins with a reference back to what he has already been saying for four chapters: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” “Access” here is like a social introduction, especially an introduction to royalty.

Paul has already said and will continue to elaborate on the fact that in God’s grace we receive the righteousness of God Himself. That ought to create a kind of tension for us. If God looks at us in Christ and sees righteousness, we ought to be able to get a glimpse of it ourselves, but that is not what we usually see. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit is with us in both our receiving and our responding to God’s free grace.

In her book, Who Knows What Is Good?, Dr. Kathleen Farmer relates a conversation between two small children in the back seat of a car, on their way home from church. One says, “Fasten your seat belt.” The other responds, “Why should I? The pastor said if I trust in the Lord, the Lord will take care of me.” “Well!” came the indignant reply of the first child, “You can’t expect God to do everything for you!”

I heard a similar story about a fellow who arrived by the swift action of an automobile accident before St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. He complained, “But I thought God was supposed to take care of me!” St. Peter replied, “When you started making your cars go so fast, He had somebody invent seat belts. He even had somebody install them in your car. It wasn’t His idea for you not to wear one.”

But the spiritual life isn’t entirely like that; God isn’t standing off at a distance, providing inventions that depend on our whims. God is with us in His Spirit to enable us to believe the joyous Gospel of His grace and to help us live a joyous response in the everyday. Paul lists a rather strange evolvement within us from suffering to perseverance to character, all leading back to hope.

On Trinity Sunday, we are reminded of the long shot, medium shot, and close-up of God. From the long shot, we see the invisible, the incomprehensible — the holy, perfect and almighty Creator of that vast universe with all its galaxies and stars and known-but unseen dark forces, including one wispy ball of throbbing life, hanging in the heavens, bathed in common light, and inhabited by us. Our response, when we realize that the Creator who looms over it all has expectations of His creation and creatures, is “Oh, no! That’s God?” The medium shot shows us a man, with thorns jabbed through His scalp, nailed in vicious indifference to crude wooden pieces shaped like a cross, and our response is again one of incredulity, “Oh, my! That’s God?” Finally, the close-up is within us — enabling us to see the grace and love and forgiveness of God for us, and our response is the exhilaration of faith, “Ah, hah! That’s God!” (The illustration of the camera shots is not original with me. I apologize that I no longer remember the source.)

Blues Win! Blues Win!

A dream has been fulfilled. The St. Louis Blues have won the Stanley Cup, the sport’s ultimate prize. I was privileged to see the Blues play for the Cup in 1967 when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens.

The team has suffered a lot over these 52 years but I’m thrilled they have finally achieved every team’s goal–win the Cup!

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

Following Jesus

In order to be His disciple, we must follow Jesus. In addition to following Him, Jesus informed His disciples that there are other requirements to be a disciple. In Mark 8:34 we read, “And calling the crowd to Him with His disciples, He said to them, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.’” The one who follows Jesus’ call to be a disciple will understand what John the Baptist meant when he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). The disciple who denies himself is unaware of himself and knows Christ only. By teaching us that we must deny ourselves, Jesus has prepared us to carry our crosses. Knowing only Him, we are unaware of the burdens of our crosses; we view our lives as disciples with joy. Disciples keep their eyes on Christ, without thinking of themselves, and “count it all joy…” (James 1:2) to face trials and testing of their faith.

Prayer: Lord, place in me a heart that seeks the lost. I pray for guidance, wisdom, and courage as I share Your love with others. I thank You for the privilege of being Your instrument to tell others about the life-saving Gospel. In Your name I pray. Amen.

Blessings on your journey as a steward!

Lessons and Hymns for Holy Trinity Sunday

These are the Scripture readings you will hear this coming Sunday:

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Acts 2:14a, 22-36
John 8:48-59

Click here to read the above lessons and the propers for the day.

The Triune God Reveals Himself in Christ Jesus

The divine Word of the Father also is the holy wisdom who “was beside him, like a master workman,” who “was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always” (Prov. 8:30). This Word became flesh and suffered death in order to bestow life by the preaching of His Gospel “to the children of man” (Prov. 8:4). He honors the Father, and the Father glorifies Him by raising Him from the dead, so that all who keep His Word “will never see death” (John 8:51). Long ago, “father Abraham rejoiced” in the day of Christ, for “he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Though Christ was “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,” “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death” (Acts 2:23, 24). As He “received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:33), so it is by and through the Son that God the Father pours out the Holy Spirit upon His Church.

These are the hymns we will sing:

Holy, Holy, Holy (LSB 507)
O Worship the King (LSB 804)
Lord Jesus Christ, You Have Prepared (LSB 622)
Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee (LSB 803)

“The Holy Gust”

Our devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:

Gen. 11:1-9
Acts 2:37-47
John 15:26-27, 16:4-11

A popular phrase describes feelings of excitement or exhilaration as “a rush.” The events of the day of Pentecost begin with a sound like a rushing wind, followed by a sight of what seemed like tongues of fire that separated and then came to rest on the head of each apostle. The result was that other kind
of rush!

For the apostles, I am sure the rush included increased adrenaline flow, a rise in heart rate, etc. But it was more than that. We are not told if the result of anything wind-like was visible, as well as audible, but those men, like sailing ships on a windy sea, were propelled by what happened to them.

Picking up on that idea, Glendon Harris once wrote about “The Holy Gust.” The words ghost and gust are related; in both Hebrew and Greek, the words for “Spirit” are also the words for “wind” or “breath.” In Ezekiel’s vision, when he called to the wind, the Spirit or breath of God came into the dead, dry bones and they became living beings. On Pentecost, the Spirit breathed new life into the apostles and the Church was born.

After receiving the Spirit’s power, Peter preached boldly: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” He said more, of course, but what he said had impact. Sunday’s lesson from Acts picks up with the people being cut to the heart and asking what they should do. Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ and for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

About three thousand people were added to the faithful that day, and they did not just go home and forget about it. Luke wrote: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…Every day they continued to meet together in the Temple courts…And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

I have asked confirmation classes and even groups of adults: “Who baptized the 3,000 people?” Most will answer, “Peter.” Then I ask, “How long did that take?” The answers vary, but calculations begin to reveal a problem. If Peter took only one minute apiece to learn the person’s name, ask a few questions, do the baptizing and greet the next person, it would have taken him two days, two nights and two hours straight! Even at 30 seconds apiece, it would take 25 hours. If all 11 apostles baptized people at the steady rate of one minute apiece, it would have taken four and one-half hours.

Acts tells us that 120 disciples were gathered together that day. My guess is that they all shared the Good News and all of them baptized people. That brings the numbers into something more understandable and workable. At that rate, they could take five minutes apiece and still finish in about two hours. At one minute apiece, they could baptize all 3,000 in 25 minutes.

The growth of the early church was fantastic! Three thousand people in one day is amazing — adding more every day is even more amazing. If every LCMS congregation added just one person to its confirmed membership every day for 1998, the Synod would more than double in size! The rush of the Spirit adding to their number “daily” must have provided the early church more than one kind of rush. Here’s a rush from the present. Dr. Eugene Bunkowske says that about 23,000 people are being baptized in Africa every day!

In Sunday’s Gospel lesson, Jesus tells His disciples: “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about me. And you also must testify.” When the time came, they certainly did testify. I think the example of Peter being transformed from cold turkey at Jesus’ trial to exuberant preacher at Pentecost is a great encouragement to all of us who think we are too timid or otherwise inadequate to share the Gospel with others. On his own power and resources, he was a dismal failure. In the power of the Spirit, God’s amazing grace came through with amazing results.

The story is told of a ship lying still on a totally becalmed sea. The face of the water was like a giant mirror. Nothing except the men and mice on the ship moved. Then, a sailor noticed that at the very top of the mast a little pennant began to flutter. He called to the others to unfurl the upper sails. Soon the ship moved on the face of still quiet water, driven by currents of the upper air. Glendon Harris suggested that the story is something of a parable of life. Whether as individuals or as a church, when we find ourselves going dead in the water, we need to spread the sails that catch the impetus of higher and better things. Moved by the “Upper Current,” the Holy Gust, we move forward.

Jesus told His disciples, and we are His disciples, that the Spirit would testify and so must we. When God provides the task, God provides the power. Christmas is a gigantic festival in the church. Every year we remember Emmanuel — God with us, but in that exact same sense, God is no longer with us. After the ascension, Jesus was no longer physically present with His disciples. I love Christmas, and I would probably make more of it, rather than less, but Christians of our era should probably make even more of Pentecost. After Pentecost, although Jesus was not present physically, He was present SPIRITually. Rather than marvel at the devotion and success of the early Christians, we would do well to copy them in daily devotion, regular gathering for the empowering of the Spirit and going out on Christ’s mission. With the Upper Wind in our sails, who or what could stop us, let alone slow us down?

Some people look for the Spirit to come in similar dramatic wind and fire today. They forget the three years of intensive, daily training in Jesus’ Word that had gone before. They forget the institution and first reception of the Sacraments. They want the rush of emotion and exhilaration without taking the time to walk with and sit at the feet of the Lord. The Spirit’s sources are really no different today than they were two thousand years ago. In the Word and Sacraments, those who repent and are baptized are not only forgiven but empowered by God Himself.

Years ago, we got a black Labrador puppy and named him Brute. He is the most enthusiastic dog I have ever had. He runs and leaps high into the air for no other reason than he can. We also had a hound named Ginger. When Brute arrived, she played her role as queen of our property to the extreme. She was regal, but grumpy and bilious. I had to intervene a few times to keep her discipline of Mr. Enthusiasm to a minimum.

We also had a cat named George. He had no trouble keeping Brute at bay, but when he used his claws, causing the puppy to yipe, he had to answer to the grouchy queen. I guess Ginger thought that if she couldn’t hurt the puppy, no cat was going to! One night, I took the dogs for a walk. George joined us. In the dark, like a shadow of a tree at night, Brute disappears. George did not see Brute approach him and the puppy startled him. He hissed loudly and aggressively. Suddenly, I heard the thunder of Ginger’s paws hitting the dirt as she zipped across the yard to intervene. George also heard it and immediately rolled over on his back in a position of total submission. The thundering sound had captured his total attention, and his response was, “Hey, Ginger, it’s cool.”

May the sound like a wind capture our attention this Sunday. May the fire of God’s love lead us to repent the sins that necessitated the Lord’s trial, suffering and death. May the power of the Spirit in the Word and Sacraments enable us to be all that Christ has called us to be. Our lives need the ventilation of God to breathe some fresh life into us. I can imagine that Christ sometimes wants to blow us right out of our seats, to thunder down on us and motivate us — not into submission, but into action. The Lord who humbled Himself to come down to where we are is still working, in the Spirit, to raise us up to where God is. His grace and love make Him willing to meet us where we are, but we should not confuse that by thinking we are where He wants us to be.

Colonel (Buffalo) Bill Cody used to tell a story about an Englishman who was actually blown right off his wagon seat by a gust of wind swooping down the rocky mountains. The startled fellow brushed the sand and gravel from his whiskers and said, “I say! I think you overdo ventilation in this country.” We are in no danger of over ventilation from the Upper Wind — the Breath and Spirit of God. No, as I look around I see it quite the other way. Too many lack the Gusto!

Mid-Week Stewardship Thought

Giving Sacrificially

King David said, “I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing” (2 Samuel 24:24). David knew the importance of giving God something meaningful or of value. David felt that his giving should cost him something. When we give sacrificially, as David did, we understand that it has less to do with how much we give than how much we give up. To give sacrificially means that we give something we love to something we love even more. For example, we value our money, but we value more the opportunity to use our money for God’s kingdom.

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, You are the source of all good things. Daily we receive Your love, mercy, and grace. Change our hearts so that we may become loving and giving people. Help us, Lord, to overcome our selfishness. We pray for the strength to give You our first and best. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

Blessings on your journey as a steward!

Lessons and Hymns for the Day of Pentecost C

These are the Scripture readings you will hear this coming Sunday:

Genesis 11:1-9
Acts 2:1-21
John 14:23-31

Click here to read the above lessons and the propers for the day.

The Holy Spirit Gives Peace

Following the flood, Noah’s descendants failed to spread out and fill the earth as God had spoken. Rather, they exalted themselves; with “one language and the same words” (Gen. 11:1), they spoke proudly and arrogantly. The Lord humbled them by confusing “the language of all the earth,” dividing and dispersing the people (Gen. 11:9). That dispersal was reversed on Pentecost Day (the 50th day of Easter), when God caused the one Gospel of the Lord, Jesus Christ, to be preached in a multitude of languages. “At this sound the multitude came together” (Acts 2:6), for the preaching of Christ is the primary work of the Holy Spirit, whereby He gathers people from all nations into one Church. The Holy Spirit teaches and brings to our remembrance the words of Jesus, which are the words of the Father who sent Him. These words bestow forgiveness and peace to those who keep and hold on to them in love for Jesus. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27).

These are the hymns we will sing:

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest (LSB 498)
O God, O Lord of Heaven and Earth (LSB 834)
Creator Spirit, by Whose Aid (LSB 500)
Holy Spirit, Ever Dwelling (LSB 650)
Holy Spirit, Light Divine (LSB 496)

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