A Sermon for Series A Proper 7 2017 “The two shall become one”

 

Old Testament Lesson  Jeremiah 20:7-13

Second Lesson  Romans 6:12-23

Gospel Lesson  Matthew 10:5a, 22-33

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read.  [Matthew 10:5a, 22-33]

In Genesis, chapter two, God institutes marriage as a life-long commitment between one man and one woman.  And, then he says this: Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

When I got married, I thought I understood what that meant, but it’s much deeper than a person can imagine on their wedding day.  After almost forty-five years of marriage, I’m here to tell you, this ‘two shall become one’ stuff can be so true that it’s spooky.

I have a thought, and before I can express it, Patricia says exactly what I was about to say!  She starts to speak, and if she pauses, I finish the sentence with the very words she was going to use!  I make a suggestion … about changes to our property, or what I think would be a really great project for All School Art Day, or something as simple as what we ought to have for dinner tonight; and she looks at me as if to say, “Really?  That’s exactly what I had in mind.”

It wasn’t always like this, but over the years, more and more the two have become one.  In Ephesians chapter five, the Apostle Paul tells us what this relationship ought to look like.  And in fact, he tells us the order, the plan that God has for our lives.

The Bride is to be willing to submit to her husband, be willing to find her place in the plan that God has put in motion for all of his creation and being satisfied in that position because the husband shows her the absolute, complete and perfect love he has for her.

Who wouldn’t want to follow a plan that positions them in the place where they’re lavished with total and ultimate love?  Who wouldn’t want to show that love to his wife; especially because the two have become one and in that sense, loving your wife is loving yourself?

But, that isn’t the way marriage always goes, is it?  Our sinful nature gets in the way.  It tells us we should care more about ourselves than for our spouse.  It builds dividing walls between us; walls made of doubt and mistrust; walls of resentment instead of forgiveness; walls that keep us apart, and separate; walls designed to divide and conquer, to return to a time when we were two incomplete beings, not one complete being.

This is what we devolve to in our sin.  No joy, no enjoyment, no laughter; only disappointment, frustration, and sadness.  A broken relationship, constantly in need of repair.  A corrupted union that we’re doomed to inhabit in our sin.

But we’re not left alone in our sin.  Our God does love us despite our sin.  He loves us with an unconditional love; and he sent the perfect Bridegroom with that perfect, unconditional love, to rescue us from our own sinful flesh; so that we could be made one with his flesh.

You see, after St. Paul tells us what the relationship between a husband and wife should look like, he says this: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

God doesn’t give us the gift of marriage only as this beautiful state for a man and a woman to be in, but even more importantly, he gives it as a reflection of our relationship with him. In our relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit draws us to repentance, and in repentance we leave our life of sin behind and cling to Christ, our Bridegroom, who willingly gave up his life to save us. Now in our marriage to Christ, we’ve become one with him.

We see it in our Baptism, as God places his Word in the water and the Holy Spirit unites himself with us and dwells in us.  We see it every time we come to Holy Communion and receive the body and blood of the Bridegroom, uniting us with him as he builds up our faith.

It’s a beautiful picture and a beautiful proclamation of our life in Christ; but by now, you’re probably wondering what all of this has to do with the Gospel lesson today.

We have become one with Christ, and when people look at us they see Christ.  Jesus said: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”

We’ve become one with Christ, and just as they rejected Christ and persecuted Christ they’ll do the same to us when we proclaim Christ crucified.  And yet we need not fear, for Christ is with us always.  We are one flesh with him!  Remember that Jesus said: “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.  What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”

Let your life proclaim Christ to all those around you.  Reveal him to them, proclaim him from the rooftops.  And don’t be afraid.  The one who has married you loves you with a love so great he’ll give up his life rather than let any harm come to you.

He’s married you and he has a plan for you, for all his people.  Listen to him and understand your place in the plan.  He’ll show you.  He’ll give you the abilities and the knowledge to fulfill your part in his plan; and his Holy Spirit will use those gifts to ensure you’re successful.

The Bridegroom himself will ensure that you’re equipped to acknowledge him before man, so that it may be said of you: So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.

Those words of Jesus are the proclamation of our salvation.  This is the promise of the Lord! How do we know it to be true?  Because he’s placed the knowledge of our salvation in our hearts; knowledge that is shared with his Bride, the Church, you and me.  Why?  Because the two have become one flesh.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle

Sermon for Series A Proper 6 2017 “Somebody ought to do something”

 

Old Testament Lesson  Exodus 19:2-8

Second Lesson  Romans 5:6-15

Gospel Lesson  Matthew 9:35-10:8 

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read. [Matt. 9:35-10:8]

The world is, and always has been filled with all sorts of trouble; famines of various kinds, lack of food causing widespread starvation, lack of education causing poverty and frustration that erupts in violence, lack of human rights that results in abuse and misuse of humanity.  We feel compassion for these people as we shake our heads and say, “Somebody should do something!”

Then there are the wars.  We hear about the war against terror and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan almost every day, but the Middle East isn’t the only place where there’s war.  There’s war in several of the former Soviet Socialist Republics, war in South America, war in Africa; and there’s the threat of war between North Korea and Japan, North Korea and South Korea, China and Taiwan; wars based on economics, wars based on religion, wars based on differences in socio-political point of view.  We get tired of seeing all the bloodshed and we say, “Somebody ought to do something!”

There are false religions springing up all over, and in the name of newfound spiritualism, they lead people away from Christianity; they lead people out of the church and away from Christ, teaching people to trust in themselves for their salvation.  Somebody ought to do something!

We see the chaos and the destruction.  We see the pain and suffering, the hatred and seething anger, and we slam our fists on the table and say, “Somebody ought to do something!”  The talking heads on TV all point their fingers and assign the blame for ‘nobody doing anything’ when we all know ‘somebody ought to do something.’  There’s always government to blame; in fact, we often see one part of government blaming the other parts of government for not doing anything, or not doing enough.

On a less global scale, a little closer to home, when things aren’t right, the blame gets spread around too.  Employers get blamed for not giving enough benefits, or not giving appropriate wages.  And assigning blame isn’t confined to the secular world; the officers of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod get blamed whenever we see division in our church.  The world is filled with all sorts of trouble and although somebody ought to do something, most of the time it appears that nobody does anything!

We look far and wide for someone to take action, someone to fix things, someone to make things all better.  In fact, I’d say that was the thrust of the entire presidential race last year; and we’re so divided as a nation that even now, after the election, many people are still searching for the right someone.

Of course there are several people in our government who’re quick to tell you they’re doing something with a tweet, or a sound byte; but in the end, we still hear people shout ‘somebody ought to do something’.

And so, the search goes on, as we look farther than ever before.  We look in places we never knew we could look; and we do it at the speed of light.  We don’t limit ourselves to local solutions; we look globally, using newfound sources like the Internet.  But, still we don’t find the answers we’re looking for….

We can and do look all over the world; but maybe we’re looking in the wrong places.  We think we should be looking for a genius who’ll set things straight, who’ll fix the problems of this world; but where do we look for this genius; to CEOs, to world leaders, to religious leaders, to cultural leaders?  You’ve got to be kidding me.

Do we ever consider looking to God?  Do we pray to him for deliverance from this mess?  Do we look to him with trusting expectation that our prayers will always be answered…as soon as the words leave our lips???  Or do we only trust in men?

We trust in God to care for us in spiritual things.  And when we pray ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ we do pray that he would take care of our material lives as well.    But how often do we pray for deliverance from the woes of this world?  It’s as if we don’t care about what’s happening around us as long as we’re OK.

Don’t get me wrong, we do have compassion.  We do care. It’s our compassion that makes us say, “Somebody ought to do something.”  We see that there’s a need and we want to help, we want to make a difference.  And yet, we struggle with our sinful nature.  Our sinful nature certainly isn’t compassionate.  Our sinful nature looks out for good old number one, and that’s about it.  But we do have compassion; it’s just not of ourselves.  Where do you suppose that compassion came from?

Our compassion comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Our compassion comes from the one who willingly sacrificed himself to rescue us; the one who gave up his life to fix things for us, to right all wrongs for us; the one who ended the war between us and our God, the one who ended the famine that starved our souls.  His body, his blood given up for us, given up in our place, given up to guarantee that all your sins are forgiven.

Somebody has done something.  God has sent his Son to take action, and he did.  He came to earth and became one of us to take charge and to do something about sin.  He took that sin and lifted it all off of our backs.  He placed it on himself, and then he sacrificed himself because he knew that dieing with our sins upon him was the only way to rid us of those sins for all time, the only way to make us his own, the only way to give all the glory to his Father, and to restore perfect and complete justice to the kingdom of heaven.

Somebody did do something.  Somebody, Jesus Christ himself, did it all.  It’s all been done; and there’s nothing left for you to do, nothing left that you can do.  All your sins are forgiven and you’re clothed in his righteousness; you’re able to confidently stand before God, because you’ve been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.

We’re able to announce to the world that we’re children of God, because he made us his own!  Because he did do something his Spirit gives us faith and the strength we need to remain steadfast in that faith.  We’re strengthened by his Word, strengthened every time we remember the forgiveness that’s ours in our Baptism, strengthened every time we receive his body and blood in Holy Communion.

Because somebody did something, sin no longer has any power over us, and because somebody did something, no matter what our needs, we can confidently go to our Father in prayer and know that he’ll answer that prayer and we’ll see his will done among us.

We see his will done as he sends his children out to take action, to do something.  Now that Jesus has made us his own, we’re the ones he uses to do something.  Just as he sent his apostles out into the world, just as they discovered that they were the somebody they had been looking for, now we’re that somebody.  The church is Christ’s body, his arms that hold the sick and rebuild the broken, his legs that walk to the most remote points on this earth to deliver the good news of salvation, going wherever the head of this body leads it.

And Christ is that head, the head of the church, he is the somebody who does something.  He uses his body the church, you and me, the members of his body, to do his will.  He sends us out to speak and do; speaking, witnessing, spreading the good news of salvation by Christ alone, sharing the Words of grace and love that are in his holy Word; and doing, caring for people, helping people, doing something in whatever our vocations happen to be, because doing something affirms the good news we proclaim.

The world is a mess.  Mankind got it into this mess.  Do we really think we can look to mankind to get us out of this mess?  We should look to somebody who can.  Somebody ought to do something, and He has.  He did it all; he did everything necessary, for you, for me, for all of us; he did it there … on the cross.  Amen.

A Sermon for Series A Holy Trinity 2017 “Being Good”

 

Old Testament Lesson  Genesis 1:1-2:4a

Epistle Lesson  Acts 2:14a, 22-36

Gospel Lesson  Matthew 28:16-20 

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Old Testament lesson just read.  [Gen. 1:1-2:4]

Last Sunday we watched as six young adults confessed their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior; confessing to this congregation and to the world; confessing, proclaiming, that they were not ashamed of the gospel.  As I listened to them, I realized how much I really like teaching Confirmation class.  I like making them think … hard, about why God said the things he said in the Bible.  I like showing them the depth of Scripture and the rich tapestry that is God’s inspired, inerrant word; given to us; given for us; revealed to us by his Holy Spirit.

Not everything is spelled out for us ‘word for word’ in scripture.  It’s all there, but sometimes not in such an obvious way.  Take for instance the concept of who God is.  We say God is three-in-one and one-in-three; being One God, but being three persons.  We give that concept a name.  We say our God is Triune.  But the word ‘Triune’ can’t be found anywhere in the Bible; and yet, we see the Triune God in action everywhere we look in the Bible; from beginning to end.

In the creation account we heard today, we’re given a picture of the Father creating the entire universe out of nothing.  He speaks and it is; and when he speaks the Word, it’s that Word, the Word, the Son, who does the creating.  And in the very next verse we see the Spirit of God hovering over the waters!  What clearer picture could God have given us of his Trinitarian nature?

And as we listen to the account of our Trinitarian God creating over the next six days we hear over and over again that everything God creates he declares ‘good’.  Finally, when creation is complete, we hear him say that it is very good!

What a contrast there is between this creation account in the first chapter of Genesis, and the rest of Old Testament scripture.  Just five short chapters later, everything has changed.  We’ve moved from “It is good.” to a deepening regret over ever creating man; a grieving that moves God to start over, to select a chosen few to save and to destroy not just man, but much of the creation that he delighted in.

What happened?  What changed between: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  and Genesis 6 where we hear: And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.  So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” ?

What happened??  Sin happened.  Adam had sinned and in an instant, all the world was changed.  From that moment forward, all mankind was born with a sinful nature.  A nature so intricately woven into every part of our being that even if we never had a wrong thought, or said a wrong thing, or did anything inappropriate, we would still have to admit we were sinners.

Now all the earth, all the universe was corrupted.  Death had been introduced into the world where immortality had once been. That which had been created ‘good’ was no longer good; and there was nothing anyone in creation could do to make it good again.

Not that God had stopped loving his creation; he still longed for the creation that he’d established, the pure and holy creation that he’d made, to be with him forever.  He still longed to look at his creation and say: “It is good, very good!”

Throughout the rest of Old Testament scripture, we see our Triune God, the One who created the earth, the heavens and all that’s in them, preparing his people for the time when he’d send the Redeemer; forgiving their sin and restoring the good.

We see God trying in many and various ways to cause his rebellious people to repent and to return to him; to remain true to him, to remain his and his alone.  But his people refused, turning away from what God had told them was good, and instead going their own way.  We read over and over again that: Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.  And that ‘everything’ was ‘anything’ but good.

Going our own way never creates ‘good’.  Only as we follow where the Holy Spirit leads us; as we trust in the Lord and believe in his promises, will the Spirit use us for good.

And indeed, in scripture we learn that only God is good and creates what is good.  We see that in the Old Testament lesson today, and we see it again at the Baptism of Jesus; the other place where scripture gives us a sure and certain revelation of our Triune God.  As we see Jesus baptized, we see John the Baptizer plunging God’s only begotten Son into the Jordan River, and as Jesus walks out of the river, we see the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, join him, as he lights upon him.  The heavens rip open and we hear the sound of the Father declaring, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” This is the Son who is truly good.

This is the Son who was there at the beginning, creating what was good.  The One through whom all things were made; now sent by the Father, sent willingly, sent to fulfill all the promises that our Triune God had made to his people; to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to Isaac and Jacob.  This is the one who Abraham longed to see; his descendant, the One who would be a blessing for all nations.

The Son who would take all the bad, all the evil, all the things everyone did that was right in their eyes, and place it upon himself, carrying it all the way to the cross; nailing those sins to the cross as he suffered and died there; burying those sins, never to be seen again, as he was buried in the tomb.

The Son who had the power to lay down his life and to take it up again; who rose on the third day, triumphant over sin, death, and the devil, and forty days later ascended back up into heaven to be with the Father again, so that together they might send the Holy Spirit to us; to be with us always even to the end of the age.

Now, through this God-man, Jesus, all sin is forgiven and all believers, and all creation, are made right again, new again, good again.  Now, as the Holy Spirit works faith in us, the image of God that was tarnished by our sinful nature is made pure and holy again; making us able to be called his children again, able to be with our God again … for all eternity.

No one in all of creation could ever restore this sin corrupted world and make it good again, but God sent his Son, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father; his man, his God-man, and in this man, Jesus, God declares that you, and me, and all believers; along with all of his creation is, once again, ‘very good.’

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle

A Sermon for Series A Day of Pentecost 2017 “The Great Thirst”

 

Old Testament Lesson Numbers 11:24-30

Second Lesson  Acts 2:1-21

Gospel Lesson  John 7:37-39 

Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read.  [John 7:37-39]

The Gospel reading today starts out with: On the last day of the feast, the great day.  I’m sure our Confirmands can relate to that today.  Finally, we’re done.  The last day of the feast is here, the great day.  Hours and hours of studying Luther’s Small Catechism; memorizing verses, answering pastor’s questions; it’s all done.  We’re done and the great day is here.

You don’t want to hear this, but it’s only beginning.  It is a great feast day and there is good reason for celebration, but what you’ve heard so far today are only the first few words of the Gospel lesson, just the beginning.  On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ “

Jesus waited for the last day of the feast to make his big announcement.  He waited for the last day to make his proclamation … not about the end, but about the beginning, about the future, your future.

You’ve come to Jesus and drank in the water he offers.  You have rivers of living water flowing from your heart, right now!  Oh, how I’ve longed for water; and living water would’ve been even more than I could’ve imagined.  To look at me now, you’d probably never guess that at one time I was an avid runner.  I was one of those guys who live to run, not run to live.  And, Patricia and I ran in a lot of races; 5K’s, 10K’s half marathons, even a marathon in 1999.

Probably the single most important thing we learned about running, in all kinds of weather; but especially in hot, sunny weather, was to stay hydrated.  We always ran with bottles of water in our hands, even when water stations were promised all along the track.

That really came in handy on the Kole Kole Pass Half Marathon; a thirteen and a half mile race that started on the rainy, shaded side of a mountain pass in Hawaii and ended in the shadeless, scorching sun.  In the Kole Kole half marathon, half of your run is up to the top of the pass, and then down the other side.  The run up is in the shade.  The run down is in the full sun.  You run surrounded by cacti and yucca.

After a long dark winter and a cold wet spring, most of us would welcome the sun; but when you’re in the seventh or eighth mile of a thirteen and a half mile race, with the sun beating down on you and your mouth feels like cotton because it’s so parched, you wish you were still running in the shade.

Normally there’d be plenty of water stations along the way, but on the day we ran this race, there’d been a gross miscommunication, and none of the water tankers showed up.  We were some of the few who had water, and there were some really hurting people out there, people who could’ve literally been dying of thirst.  We found ourselves sharing the little water we had with some of these people in need; and as I read Jesus’ words in the gospel lesson today, that whole experience came flooding back.

Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” So often, when we thirst, what we drink is meant to satisfy our personal thirst alone.  We may share what we have with people who’re desperate, but more often we hold on to our own; afraid we’ll run out, afraid we’ll be lacking ourselves.

Other times we see those desperately thirsting, but their desperation makes us stand back, afraid to get too close to these outcasts from society, and so again we keep our water to ourselves.  We drink in what we receive, but we don’t pour out what our thirsting neighbors need.

Even in spiritual needs, we often live lives focused on ourselves or at best focused on those closest to us.  We worship together because we need the fellowship, not because we’re eager to give it away.  We study God’s word to strengthen our own faith.  We drink in his word for personal gain, not to prepare ourselves to pour out what we’ve learned as we teach others about Christ.  Without Christ running ahead of us, leading us, no matter how much we drink in, our thirst always returns, and we drink in only for ourselves.

But, when Christ sends his Holy Spirit, and he works in us through his word, we receive the living water only he can give; and his living water not only satisfies our thirst, it changes us forever; changing us from takers to givers.  The more we drink in his living water, the more we become the source of living water; rivers of living water, as the Holy Spirit uses our lives to satisfy the great thirst of those he surrounds us with in our lives.  That’s what we celebrate today.

We celebrate that the Holy Spirit has entered your hearts, and we remember that he’s entered our hearts; dwelling there, with the living water that quenches our thirst and keeps us alive in Christ; so alive, so filled with life, that it bursts out of us in streams of living water, rivers of living water, that flow to those who have a great thirst for salvation, but don’t know where to get their thirst quenched.

This is not the end of the feast.  It’s the beginning of the miracle the Spirit performs in your lives, and in our lives: he pours living water into us through his holy Word, and out of us comes rivers of that self same water, living water cascading out of our hearts and satisfying the thirst for salvation that those around us have.  In our lives, in our vocations as Christians, the Spirit uses us to show Christ to those around us, quenching their thirst as the Spirit pours out his water of life through his holy Word.

First he creates faith in us so that we believe and live, and then he multiplies this living water within us so that it becomes a spring of life for others as the good news is spread.  Good news that salvation has come in God’s own Son, Jesus Christ; good news that our days of thirsting are over.

Christ spoke the words we heard today to encourage the people of Israel, to encourage a people whose thirst was great; thirst for the restoration of their nation, Israel, thirst for relief from hunger and sickness and oppression, thirst for refreshment and comfort from the world.

But, Christ offered them much more than they could ever imagine; and he does the same for you and me.  He offers never ending comfort and refreshment, never ending peace, the peace of God, his never ending forgiveness.  He offers living water that brings eternal restoration for all who believe.

And so, in Christ, we’re able to run the race of life, even though the race is long.  At times the race of life is easy and we run downhill in shade … but other times it seems like the up hill grind will never end, and the sun and the heat beats us down.  We thirst!  We thirst for restoration with our God.  We thirst for his forgiveness.

Jesus gives us the living water we need; he gives us his forgiveness; he gives us the way of life.  Jesus gives his Spirit to you; a Spirit that’s alive; a Spirit that makes all in whom he dwells alive.  He gives living water … rivers of living water … bubbling, flowing, gushing from your heart.  Not just on the last day of the feast; not just on that one great day, but every day for the rest of your lives.

Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle

A Sermon for Series A Seventh Sunday of Easter 2017 “Closeness versus oneness”

 

First Lesson  Acts 1:12-26

Second Lesson  1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11

Gospel Lesson  John 17:1-11

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read.  [John 17:1-11]

Sometimes I think we go a little overboard with our concern over ‘public’ privacy.  You know, like when you go to the pharmacy to have a prescription filled and there are all these signs: ‘Please wait behind this line to ensure other customer’s privacy’. Or: ‘We cannot guarantee audible privacy here.’

But, other times I wish people were a little more concerned about their own privacy; those times when you’re put in one of those situations where you just couldn’t help but hear what was going on nearby.  You didn’t intend to listen in, but either the voices were just the right pitch, or they were just a little too loud, and you heard things you didn’t want to hear, things too intimate for those outside the conversation to listen in on.

You didn’t intend to be part of the conversation, but now you are, and whether you overheard complaints, frustrations, maybe even cries for help, you’re left in a tough situation.  What do you do with an inadvertent invasion into someone’s assumed privacy that really isn’t there?  Do you offer help and expose the fact that you overheard the conversation?  Do you let it go and hope that things take care of themselves?

We can’t assume that just because we’re ‘close by’ the other people will understand or accept our invasion of their privacy.  We can’t assume that just because we heard a portion of their conversation that we understand them intimately.  Do we even know if these people themselves are one or are they just close?  When our closeness puts us in situations like this, it becomes painfully obvious that closeness just isn’t the same as oneness.  Oneness implies a whole other level of understanding and acceptance.

We get close, we’d like to think we even become one with one another, at least some others; husband, wife, family members, maybe even others; but our sin prevents us from truly being one with one another.  Sin builds dividing walls between us; walls of doubt and suspicion, walls of distrust, and in some cases even walls we put up to protect ourselves from getting too emotionally involved.  Sin uses our concern for self to stop closeness from becoming oneness.

Although those in the world deal with each other in closeness, Christ always deals with oneness.  He tells us that he and the Father are one; not just close, but one; not just sharing a common goal, but being of one will, with one way every step of the way, with one path that brings eternal life for all believers.

That one path led to Christ’s incarnation; it led to him becoming one of us.  That path included miracles, healings, and all sorts of signs that he was the true Son of God, and yet that same path led to rejection even by his closest friends.  That path led Christ to a criminal’s death on the cross, a death that came despite his innocence, a death that truly belonged to you and me.

The forgiveness of all our sins comes uniquely and completely from the oneness of Jesus Christ; oneness he has with his Father and oneness he has with us.  Because he is true man, truly one with us, he was able to take our place and die for us; because he is true God, truly one with God, he was able to bear the sins of all mankind and offer himself as an acceptable sacrifice for those sins to his heavenly Father.  In oneness, not closeness, Christ is our salvation.

Even though he knew our sins, our trials, and our temptations, he chose us and made us one with himself.  He did it all.  By his death and resurrection all our sins are forgiven.  By sending us his Holy Spirit our faith is created.  By burying us with himself in our baptism, by sharing with us his own body and blood in Holy Communion, we’re made one with him.  We share in the oneness of Christ; and in that same oneness we share oneness with one another.

Now that we’re one with Christ we no longer deal with closeness; through him we deal with oneness.  We deal with our fellow believers in oneness, both believers here and those who’ve gone before us into heaven.  When we worship together, it’s in oneness, not closeness.  When we receive the Lord’s body and blood, it’s in oneness, not closeness.  When we go about our lives serving God in our vocations, each and every day, it’s in oneness … with God … not closeness.

That’s why we’re invited to listen in on this intimate conversation in the gospel lesson today.  Unlike accidental overhearing, unlike eavesdropping, we were meant to listen in on this conversation.  The Holy Spirit inspired John to write this conversation down, so that we’d understand the intimacy, the oneness that exists between God the Father and his Son.

It’s through the working of his Spirit in his holy Word that God reveals the oneness, the intimacy, but also the mystery that is our Triune God.  In Jesus’ prayer, this intimate conversation between our Savior and his heavenly Father, we come to know the love the Father has for the Son and the love the Son has for the Father, a love that’s always been, a love and oneness that’s eternal.

We see our place in this plan as we hear Jesus say that the Father gave us to the Son to be his own so that we might know the truth and in knowing the truth become heirs of eternal life.  We see the protection that’s ours as our Savior asks his Father to watch over us and defend us as we continue our sojourn in this life.  In the intimate conversation between Jesus and his Father we hear the plan that God has had since before the beginning of time, to bring glory to himself through the redeeming, glorifying, work of his Son.

Through his Word and Sacraments the plan for our salvation is made clear, and God gives us oneness of hope, oneness of joy, oneness of desire to do his will.  This is the oneness that encourages us to go forth proclaiming the good news to friends and neighbors, so that through the working of the Holy Spirit those who still deal in closeness can become those who deal in oneness; a oneness in which God’s kingdom continues to grow among us.

This is what the Church is commanded to do, to challenge closeness and welcome sinners who are brought into oneness with us.  This is what “go and baptize all nations” means.  This is what “love your enemies” means.  We pray for them, we forgive them and we welcome them into the kingdom, a kingdom that deals only in oneness.

We’re of that kingdom, God’s kingdom.  We live in the world, but we’re not of the world.  And so we deal with oneness, even as the world around us deals with closeness.  The world clothes its closeness in words like respect, friendship, tolerance, brotherhood, sisterhood, words that sound like oneness; but in the end only describe closeness.

Only God has oneness.  Only God can give oneness; because oneness is a mystery, a fellowship that’s so unique that it’s beyond description, just like our God.  That’s what he offers to you and me as we hear Jesus pray:  Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle

A Sermon for Series A 6th Sunday of Easter 2017 “Another like the Other”

 

First Lesson  Acts 17:16-31

Second Lesson  1 Peter 3:13-22

Gospel Lesson  John 14:15-21

Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read.  [John 14:15-21]

It’s been a couple weeks since I announced that I’m retiring.  Seeing the Pastor leave, while we’re still looking for a Principal; it can be unnerving.  And why shouldn’t we be concerned?  What’ll happen to Peace Lutheran Church and School?  Has God abandoned us?  Of course not.  I’ve always told you that Scripture holds the answer to our questions.

In the lesson today, Jesus is speaking to his disciples during his last supper with them.  He tells his disciples that they’ll be OK, even though he’s about to be taken from them and crucified.  Imagine the shock; Jesus says he’s going and they don’t know where.  He says they’ll be OK, but he’s going away to a place where they can’t follow.  They thought he’d come to be a worldly king, the King of Israel; and now he says he’s returning to his Father.

But, Jesus tells them not to worry because his Father in heaven will send another Helper to take his place. I’m sure that went over great.  These were Jesus’ disciples, not some other Helper’s disciples.  Will this other Helper be someone they can easily accept?  How could anyone ever hope to replace Jesus?  And how would they recognize him?  How will they know it’s really him and not an imposter?

Isn’t that what we want to know?  How will we know?  Will we feel it in our hearts? If that’s the case, how will we know we’re following the Holy Spirit and not just having a bad case of indigestion?  How’ll we know we’re doing the right thing?  How’ll we know God’s will and how’ll we know we’re really following it?

That’s the question we’re left with as we read the passage today.  Jesus says the Father will give us another Helper; but just what does that mean?  It could mean the Father will give us another Jesus; or it could mean he’ll give us something completely different.  It all depends on that word ‘another’.  With our good old English language it’s hard to tell.  If I ask you, “Would you like another sandwich?” I could mean, “Do you like the first one and want another just like it?” or I could mean, “Do you want to try something different; another kind of sandwich?”

But in Greek it’s crystal clear.  The Greeks have two different words for another; allov which means ‘another of the same kind’ and `eterov which means ‘another different one’; and in Greek the word Jesus uses is allov.  Jesus says the Father will give us another like the other.

Just as the Father and the Son are one, the Holy Spirit is another Helper like the One the disciples already have.  Jesus and the Spirit are the same; not ‘one and the same,’ but identical in that they have the same qualities about them.

Just as Jesus is our Helper and Advocate, so the Holy Spirit is our Helper and Advocate.  Just as Jesus is called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, so the same can be said of the Holy Spirit; and that’s good news for us.

In four more days, we celebrate the day when our Lord and Savior ascended into heaven, disappearing from our sight as he returned to his throne in glory.  But, we need his good counsel.  We need his powerful, protective hands guarding us from evil; even from the evil of our own sinful nature.  We need him guiding us, leading us, because without him, in our sinfulness, we know that the very things we ought not to do are the things we will do, and the things we should do are the very things we refuse to do.

And yet, he had to return to his Father’s side.  His work was complete.  His journey here on earth had come to an end, and it was his Father’s will that he be seated at his right hand, in the throne of glory that rightfully belonged to him.

But, Christ had promised to be with us always, and we need Christ with us always; every day.  And, in fact, he’s kept his promise.  He’s with us every day in his Spirit, his Holy Spirit.  God the Father’s sent us another like the other; One who helps us.  Christ helped us by taking our sins upon himself and making them his own.  He paid for our sins, with his life; and with his life, he restored the justice that had been stolen from his Father in the garden.

But, this forgiveness, won for all mankind, is of no benefit to you unless you believe.  Unless you believe that God’s own Son came down from heaven and became true man for the sole purpose of forgiving your sins and covering you in his righteousness so that God the Father sees you as pure and holy … even though you’re still a sinner; unless you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, the forgiveness he earned for you has no benefit for you.

But, in our sinfulness, there’s no way for us to believe.  Our sinful nature sees no need to believe.  No, for us to believe, we need help.  We need a Helper, another Helper; one that’s true God like Christ; one that’s another like the other; one whose mission it is to reveal the one he’s so much like; one who speaks of Christ as he opens our hearts and minds with the faith we need to believe.

That’s why Jesus’ promise that the Father would send ‘another’ is so important to us.  Without the ‘other’ we’d remain blind to the truth, ignorant of the truth.  Without the ‘other,’ even though Christ accomplished his Father’s will in full, we’d still be dead in our sins.  Without the ‘other’ we’d have no way to believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord, or come to him; not by our own reason or strength, not by our sincerest devotion and desire, not by anything that we could possibly do.

But God did send the ‘other’; the One who calls us through the Gospel, enlightens us with his gift of faith, sanctifying us, making us holy by delivering the forgiveness already won for us by our first Helper, Jesus Christ.

Now we have Helpers on two fronts: One who’s in heaven interceding for us with the Father; reminding him of the forgiveness already accomplished for us in the sacrifice of his own precious body and blood.  And One here on earth; gathering, enlightening, protecting and defending us against all evil each day of our lives.  This One, like the other One, daily and richly forgives our sins and the sins of all believers.

So, the Holy Spirit, this ‘other Helper,’ isn’t really someone new; someone different from Jesus.  There’s Unity in the Trinity, and so we know him and recognize him, as he comes to us, calling to us through God’s holy Word; that we might know Jesus and recognize him.

Just as we confess: the Father and the Son are one.  The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father.  The Son came to be our Helper and when he rose back into heaven to be with the Father, he sent his Holy Spirit, another Helper, another like the other; another who continually witnesses to the other, to Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior, for all time, forever.

The whole three persons are coeternal with each other and coequal, so that in all things, the Trinity in Unity and the Unity in Trinity is worshiped.  Through the study of God’s Word; through partaking in his sacrament; through the means of grace by which we receive the forgiveness of our sins; we can be certain of our salvation no matter who the pastor is; no matter who the principal is.  God is following the plan he’s had since before the beginning of time; a plan that includes you and me.  He hasn’t abandoned us.  Whether it’s the Son or ‘another like the other,’ he’s with us always; just as he promised.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle

A Sermon for Series A 5th Sunday of Easter 2017 “Our Heart”

 

First Lesson  Acts 6:1-9; 7:2a, 51-60

Second Lesson  1 Peter 2:2-10

Gospel Lesson  John 14:1-14 

Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the gospel lesson just read.  [John 14:1-14]

You’ll often hear me say we’re one in Christ, all part of his body, the Church.  When I say that, it means a whole lot more than simply membership.  The body of Christ is a living organism.  It moves and grows.  It fights and suffers; and it stands firm in the truth.  Since it’s one body, not many bodies, it moves in one direction, and every component of this body should contribute to its movement in the same direction.

Yes, we’re all uniquely made by our Creator; with unique talents and abilities.  Yes, each of those unique abilities is needed within the one body to make it function in accordance with God’s will.  Our unique qualities are valued and important.

But, just as God created us with a uniqueness that’s essential and necessary; so he expects us, as one body, to share in our like-mindedness.  This is not just some theory of mine; it comes straight from scripture.  It comes from the gospel lesson today; but we don’t see it because in their effort to make the text read clearly in English, the translators inadvertently covered it up.

Let’s look at that first line again.  Let not your hearts be troubled.  We know that the word ‘your’ can be singular or plural depending on whether you are addressing a person or a group of persons.  In Greek that distinction is much clearer.  The Greeks have a separate word for your in the singular and a separate word for your in the plural; and so we can tell quite clearly that Jesus was addressing all the disciples because, in this verse, your is plural.

On the other hand, the word we read as hearts is actually singular in the Greek.  If the translators translated ‘Let not your heart be troubled’; we’d all assume Jesus was only talking to one individual, so the translators wrote ‘Let not your hearts be troubled’ so that we’d understand that Jesus was talking to all the disciples.  But, in doing this we miss a very important point.

Jesus said to all his disciples together, “Let not your heart be troubled.” because although they were many, he expected them to be of one heart; and he expected this because they were his disciples and in Christ they would all be of one heart.

Even though they were each unique parts of his body, Christ expected them to be of one and the same heart.  This is what it means to be a Christian, a follower of Christ; that your will and his will are the same.  Your heart and his heart are the same.

We’re born and raised to see ourselves as unique and different from everyone else; and we revel in our individuality.  We don’t want to be like the rest of the crowd.  We take great steps to develop our own unique character and demeanor.  We find ways to stand out, even from our peers.  Oh, we want to fit in, but we do it in ways that make us unique and identifiable.

We live in a society that tells us that being unique is the pattern for success.  We’re told to rise above the rest.  We’re told to be better than the rest; and that’ll bring us success.  That’ll bring us the fruits of success, as we accumulate bigger and better stuff than our friends and neighbors.

We’re encouraged to value our own individual rights, rights that are ours because of our uniqueness, over and above the rights of the community.  We know in our hearts we’re wrong, and so, to convince ourselves, we tell ourselves that protecting individual rights protects the community’s rights.  And, this valuing of individuality goes beyond protecting individual rights.  We value and look up to those who lift themselves up by the bootstraps, those who may walk on the backs of others along the way, but in the end become rich and famous; and we look down on those who choose to serve.

Our society looks down on those staying home with their children, taking the time to raise them and show them the value of sacrificing for others.  Volunteers are often seen as lacking personal motivation, foolishly wasting time helping those who can never repay them.  Their choice to serve others instead of themselves is seen as a lack of ambition and drive to fend for themselves.  Or maybe we see what they’re doing isn’t important unless they get paid for doing it.

It’s no wonder that the world sees Christians as foolish.  It’s no wonder why they question how we can proclaim that salvation comes from one who gave up his throne in glory to serve; one who gave up his life to save his enemies.  We follow the One who taught us to pray for us, not me; to give us daily bread, to forgive us, to lead us, to deliver us.

He gave himself to the world; forgiving the sins of all mankind, not just those who’d follow him; giving eternal life to all who believe, not just those who properly used the unique talents he gave them, producing enough fruit to make them worthy; giving his body and blood to strengthen those believers and uniting them with himself and each other, revealing his will to them, giving them a likeness of heart that sets them apart as the one, united, body of Christ.

Only in Christ is there union, and true like-mindedness.  In Christ we have true fellowship; not membership, not just connectedness, but oneness of purpose, oneness of desire, oneness of will giving over our personal will to the will of Christ; because being in Christ, his will is our will, his heart is our heart.

Because we’re in Christ, we follow and he leads.  Our uniqueness that’s so necessary, so important, is subservient to his will.  His goal is our goal. Our role in the body is to follow his direction in support of all the others in the body.  That’s what it means to follow him in unity and fellowship.  Even our desires become his desires, so that in our lives his will, not our will is done.

Only God ‘our Creator’ has the knowledge, the power, the understanding to take so many uniquely minded spirits and give them like-mindedness while maintaining the uniqueness of their essential talents, for the good of all … even for the good of our enemies.  Only God ‘our Savior’ has the love necessary to unite so diverse a group of souls; and only by sharing his love do we show our like-mindedness to be true and genuine, not a façade, but an honest caring given over in community.  Only God ‘our Sanctifier’ has the ability to change our self-minded uniqueness into servant minded unity.

It’s God’s will that we be of one heart; and only by believing in him is this possible.  Believing in him, there’s nothing that can shake us, nothing that can destroy us.  We have peace; the peace only God can give.  We have all that we need; the daily bread essential for this life and the bread of life so needful for eternal life.

Through Holy Communion, we share in his body and blood; our Lord giving us the fruit of his redeeming love – the forgiveness of our sins.  Forgiveness that enlivens us to give of ourselves with all we have and all we are, with our flesh and blood, to our neighbors in need.  And so we pray after receiving the Sacrament, that God would strengthen us in faith toward him and in fervent love toward one another.

Through him we’re of one heart, following the One who is the only way, truth, and life.  We’re united in him.  We’re one in him.  We have his peace; and because with one heart we believe in God, and with one heart we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, our ‘heart’ is not troubled.

Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle