When You’ve Said Jesus, You’ve said it All

 

Damasus wrote in the fourth century.

Hope, Life, Way, Salvation, Understanding,

Wisdom, Light,

Judge, Door, Most High, King, Precious Stone,

Prophet, Priest,

Messiah, Sabaoth, Teacher, Spouse, Mediator,

Scepter, Dove, Hand, Stone, Son, and Emmanuel,

Vineyard, Shepherd, Sheep, Peace, Root, Vine-stock,

Olive Tree, Source, Wall, Lamb, Victim, Lion, Intercessor,

Word, Man, Net, Rock, House:

Christ is everything.

I would add, Truth, Water, Resurrection, Friend.

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Psalm for the Prune Days

 

Ever feel like a shriveled prune?  Well, Psalm 119: 81-84 may resonate for you on those days.

My soul is weak from waiting for you to save me.
My hope is based on your word.
82 My eyes have become strained from looking for your promise.
I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
83 Although I have become like a shriveled and dried out wineskin,
I have not forgotten your laws.
84 What is left of my life?

The Psalmists Nephesh -soul is his whole being. “My whole self is worn out waiting for you God to rescue me.  I’m hoping to hear some word from you.  Though I put my hope in your word, so far there is no evidence that you are doing anything to save me from my current situation.  My eyes ache from looking for some fulfilment of your promise.  I keep asking myself, ‘when will you console me?’

Even though my life is like a shriveled, juiceless prune I have not forgotten your statutes, I have not forgotten your word.  I’ve been faithful, how many days will you allow me to suffer before you do something?  I’m nearly at the end of my rope and I don’t know how long I will be able to hang on, if I don’t perceive that you are going make your promises more than hot air.  I’ve been faithful, now it’s your turn.”

 

Praying with Open Hands

 

One Sunday I tried praying with open, outstretched hands.  I started to have shortness of breath.  My heart was telling me, “What do you think you’re doing? Knock it off.” So, at least in this instance, I listened to my heart. However, I do like Balthasar Fischer’s insight.

“I gained a new insight into this ancient gesture, when I read that the Assyrian word for prayer meant, ‘to open the fist.’  The fist, especially a fist raised threateningly, is the sign of a high handed, even violent person.  People grasp things in closed hands; they use clenched fists to assault…to beat others down so that they cannot get up.

Those who pray, however, are saying before God that they are renouncing all highhandedness, all pride in their own sufficiency, even violence.  They hold up their empty hands to God: ‘I have nothing that I have not received from you, nothing that you have not placed in my empty hands.  Therefore, I do not keep a frantic hold on anything you have given me; therefore, I too, desire not to strike and hurt, but only to give and to spread happiness and joy.  For I am dependent on him who fills my empty hands with his gifts.’”

Peace, I Leave with You

 

I just read about a brawl that broke out on Mother’s Day at a water park in Wisconsin Dells.  It started when one group took a chair from the table of another group.  Apparently not everyone has heard about “The peace that passes understanding” with which people are blessed at the end of a sermon.  Which means we have a lot of work to do in the world to get the word out about the peace which is present for everyone.

Martin Luther comments on Jesus words, in John 14, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you…Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

He does not leave them (the disciples) cities and castles, or silver and gold, but his peace as the greatest treasure in heaven and on earth. Jesus says, “I love you with all My heart and desire only your good, and My Father looks upon you most graciously.  This is the best gift I can leave to you.  For this is the highest peace, when the heart is content; as its is said ‘the joy of heart is the greatest of joys’; and again, ‘the sorrow of the heart is the greatest sorrow.’

The Holy Spirit: One who is alongside us.

Easter 7, 2018, New Athens/Darmstadt IL.

John 15:26 When the one called to be along side comes, whom I send from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes forth from the Father, that one will witness concerning me.

Come with me, back to a scene in the Garden of Eden.  After God created the man, God noticed that something was not good.  The man was alone.  The man needed someone to be alongside him, an ally.   God took a rib from the man and created a woman.  Together they would oversee and care for creation as God’s representatives.  The man was delighted God’s creation, and he called her Eve, because she was the mother of all living.  In more than 900 years of marriage, besides giving birth to Cain, Abel and Seth, Eve also bore other, “sons and daughters.” There we have the first Mother’s Day.

When we turn to our text this morning from John’s Gospel we note that as Jesus neared the hour when his ministry on earth was completed, he did not want his disciples, his church, you and me to be alone in carrying on his ministry in the world as his representatives.  “I will not leave you as orphans,” he promised.  “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another one to be alongside you, who will be with you forever.” Thus, we have the Holy Spirit alongside of us, as an ally in the place of Jesus. God became flesh through Mary and lived among us until he accomplished that for which the heavenly father had sent him, that is, to reconcile, to make peace with the world which had been at odds with God ever since our first mom and dad failed to trust God in the garden of Eden.  Jesus’ hour of glory was on the cross, in his resurrection and when he ascended to take his place at the right hand of God.

But the Holy Spirit, poured out on Pentecost and richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ in baptism is with us forever, right now, right here, and no matter where we are the other 167 hours in this coming week.  I saw a cartoon on Facebook which was a drawing of people walking, riding a bus, pushing a baby stroller, sitting on a park bench, looking out a window. The caption asked, “Where is the church?”  Then throughout the drawing little arrows pointed to various people riding a bike or walking or on park bench or looking out a window and each arrow saying, “Here, here, here.” Wherever we are, there is the church and there is the Holy Spirit alongside us.  Okay, but what does the Holy Spirit do as our ally, our advocate, our helper?

Last Thursday was Ascension Day.  Gathered with his followers Jesus promised that they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit and when the Spirit came upon them they would have power to be “my witnesses…to the end of the earth.”  We know what happened on Pentecost as people heard that group of Jesus’ followers, who only a few weeks before were hiding behind locked doors, doing nothing. Who only ten days before stood gawking into the sky at Jesus disappearance wondering, “Now what do we do?”.  But ten days later, as the result of their Holy Spirit driven witness the church grew by 3,000 in one day and not long after to 5,000.

The Holy Spirit is also a witness. Jesus said, “He will bear witness to me.” The focus of the Spirit’s message is never on himself, but always on Jesus. Jesus and Jesus alone.  He witnesses to us about Jesus helps us recall Jesus teachings.

Before followers of Christ were called Christians, they were called followers of the Way.  During Jesus night time meeting with Nicodemus Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” And “whoever believes in him is not condemned.”  The way to the heavenly Father, the way to God is through Jesus and that means that path runs through the cross, the tomb, and the resurrection.  It’s the only way.

But the way is also, a way of living.  Jesus calls us his friends.  What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.  However, there are expectations of us as Jesus friends.   “That you love one another as I have loved you.”  On April 14-15 a huge snowstorm called Evelyn dumped a bunch of snow the one upper Midwest.  Eastern Wisconsin received some 30 inches.  On the Al Oberstadt farm a 70 by 100 – foot section of his barn roof collapsed. It killed one cow and injured 10 others. About 67 farms were impacted by the storm.  One of the people who stepped in to help was Kelli Zahn a member of St. Mary’s parish in Bear Creek.  She gathered a group of people, who put together meals to be delivered to fellow farmers in the area.  She said, “I just feel it was an act of God.  I felt like I was nudged by the Holy Spirit to say, ‘Hey, let’s do something to help people.”  Nudged by God to help these people.  The Holy Spirit nudges us to love one another as Jesus has loved us.  Nudges us to not only believe in Jesus as the Way, but to care for others a way of life.  When the Holy Spirit nudges us to reflect Jesus love for us by loving others, that is proof that we belong to Jesus, even in a time of wondering.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth alongside us to teach us that Jesus is the truth.    What is the truth?  Didn’t someone else ask that question?  I think it was Pontius Pilate at Jesus trial. The truth is that when God became flesh and lived among us, He came filled with grace.  Grace piled upon grace. Think of the grace we have already received today.  We confessed our sins and were promptly forgiven.  Poor miserable sinners one minute, saints the next moment, with sin, wiped out, wiped away, sin kaput, alive to Christ.  No wonder we respond with, Alleluia, Praise to God. Grace, nothing but grace.  In the readings, the Lord says through Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you.”  So, we sing following the sermon, “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.”  And we receive more grace in, the bread and wine of communion and in the blessing at the end of the service.

The Holy Spirit also shows us Jesus who is our life.  His life is like grace, life piled upon life, so abundant it flows over into eternity.  What a powerful gift we have with us daily in the Holy Spirit who is available to give all the help we need.  Next week we will hear even more about the Spirit’s wonderful work alongside us.

 

 

 

Nudged by the Spirit

 

Jesus calls us his friends.  What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.  However, there are expectations of us as Jesus friends.   “That you love one another as I have loved you.” (The following is drawn the weekly farm paper, the Country Today.  I’m using it in a sermon tomorrow.) On April 14-15, snow storm Evelyn dumped large amounts of snow on the upper Midwest.  Eastern Wisconsin received some 30 inches.  On the Al Oberstadt farm a 70 by 100-foot section of his barn roof collapsed. It killed one cow and injured 10 others. About 67 farms were impacted by the storm.  One of the people who stepped in to help was Kelli Zahn a member of St. Mary’s parish in Bear Creek.  She gathered a group of people, who put together meals to be delivered to fellow farmers in the area.  She said, “I just feel it was an act of God.  I felt like I was nudged by the Holy Spirit to say, ‘Hey, let’s do something to help people.”  Nudged by God to help these people.  The Holy Spirit nudges us to love one another as Jesus has loved us.  Nudges us to not only believe in Jesus as the Way, but to care for others a way of life.  When the Holy Spirit nudges us to reflect Jesus love for us by loving others, that is proof that we belong to Jesus, even in times of wondering.

 

Holy Spirit Sunday

 

The Seventh Sunday of Easter seems to be like a guest who we really appreciated hosting, but now has stayed a bit too long.  We really want to move on to Pentecost and Trinity Sunday and then the Pentecost season.  Since Easter 7 follows Ascension Day on Thursday, which is mostly ignored, do we ignore the seventh Sunday in favor of an Ascension Day Sunday? I know, this is only a problem for preachers and those planning worship.

This weekend I’m at two churches in Illinois, New Athens and Darmstadt, where they use the one-year lectionary.  The gospel emphasizes the promised coming of the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit.  Why don’t we call this Sunday, Holy Spirit Sunday?  We tend to give the Holy Spirit short schrift anyway.

While I’m at, I think the translations of Paraclete are too narrow.  The Paraclete is more than Helper, an Advocate, A Comforter or Counselor. It is all of those and more.   A Paraclete is one called to be alongside us in the place of Jesus who has ascended.  The Paraclete is sent by Jesus and the heavenly Father, to carry on the ministry of Jesus.  It is among us forever, to teach all the things which Jesus did and taught. To guide us in carrying out Jesus command to love one another.  To bear witness to Jesus and impel us to bear witness of Jesus.

Have a blessed Sunday in the Holy Spirit.

 

A Sermon in Poetry

 

I’ve done a few sermons in poetry, though it’s been awhile.  This morning I came across a poetic Easter sermon from the fourth century.  It seems to have been more common then.

Join, then, all of you, join in our Master’s rejoicing.

You who were the first to come, you who came after,

Come and collect now your wages.

The rich and the poor, sing and dance together.

You that are hard on yourselves, you that are easy,

Honor this day.

You that have fasted and you that have not,

Make merry today.

The meal is ready: come and enjoy it.

The calf is a fat one: you will not go hungry away.

There’s kindness for all to partake of and kindness

To spare.

Away with pleading of poverty:

The kingdom belongs us all.

Away with bewailing failings:

Forgiveness has come from the grave.

Away with your fears of dying:

The death of our Savior has freed us from fear.

Death played the master: he has mastered death.

Things I Did Not Do

 

Things I did not do, but wish I had, and not quite sure why I didn’t.

While serving in Albert Lea, MN for eight years, I never ate Lutefisk.

Try curling while in Marshfield, Wi.

While on vicarage, I spent two weekends in Pembroke, Ontario filling in at area churches.  I water skied on the Ottawa River, but did not drive across the bridge into Quebec.

Go to the horse races in Collinsville, Il

Accepted covering the vacancy in Troy, Il. in 2004, it would have saved them a lot of trouble over the next couple of years.  Could have worked with Sarah while she interned at the congregation and interim principal Walt Schefft.

The list of things I have been able to do far outdistances those listed above.

Luther on Psalm 118

 

After reading psalm 118, I “serendipitously” came across a portion of Luther’s exposition of the same psalm.  This is vintage Luther.

Ps. 118:5-6 From the straits I called to Yahweh, Yahweh answered me in a wide-open place. The Lord is for me, I shall not fear. What can humankind do to me?

Luther: You must learn to pray and not sit alone or lie about, hanging your head and shaking it, brooding over your thoughts, worrying about how you can escape and looking at nothing but yourself and your sad and painful condition.  Get up, you lazy villain, then fall on your knees, lift your eyes and hands toward heaven, take a psalm or the Lord’s Prayer, and pour your trouble with tears before God, lamenting and calling upon Him…God desires it, and it is His will, that…you not let it lie upon yourself, dragging it about with you and being chafed and tortured by it, so that in the end you make two or even ten or a hundred calamities out of one.  He wills you should be too weak to bear and overcome such trouble, in order that you may learn to find strength in Him, and that He may be praised through His strength in you.  Behold, this is how Christians are made!