Change in the church is always a contentious issue. But even Jesus assumed that it would happen. And the book of Acts gives an example of a significant change. What these biblical texts give us is a Spirit Led pattern. This sermon takes Jesus’ words as the basis and Acts as the enaction of those words. Peter’s “ordered argument” is meaningful. It is not that revelation or vision and experience are meaningless. They are quite meaningful and Peter includes both as part of his argument. But his real argument is “remembering the Word of God.” This sermon looks at Peter’s Spirit led example and encourages us to examine our own changing in the same light.
The recording is of the full tenebrae service. The sermon is by parts between the readings. The theme would be the dual apocalypse or revelation of the cross. The first is what the passion says about us, the second is what it says about God. And the day ends with the challenge, waiting for the Day of the Lord.
The creeds are the definition of the faith. They are the Faith which is believed. The Athanasian Creed, of the three great ones of the Western Church, is a masterful presentation of what we know. All of it can be tied to revelation, but the creeds presentation moves from those things which might be available to gently assisted reason to the more concrete revealed reality. The creed uses the names Father, Son and Spirit, but it starts out more philosophical with what might be call the attributes of God, shared by the Godhead in unity. The Christian Faith attributes these to the God of the Bible, but honestly many of these things are the god of classical theism. The second part of the creed moves into deeper revelation. It confesses and instructs how that God has revealed himself in three persons and how those persons are unique. The uniqueness that it wishes to establish is not hierarchy, but an order: Father Is, Son begotten, Spirit proceeding. The last part of this creed confesses the most concrete, but also the most controversial part of Christianity – the incarnation. In 40 verses it is an inexhaustible source of contemplation.
This sermon merely scratches the surface. It is more a Trinity Sunday encouragement to turn away from the confusion of our age and once again take up the solid definitions which are the gifts of ages of the church past.
Today was All Saints (observed) on the church calendar. In Lutheran circles All Saints is not a celebration of some spiritual elite but the celebration of the church in all its dimensions – the church militant, the church at rest, and the longed for church triumphant. Given special notice are those who have entered rest in the past year of the congregation’s life. Because of this juxtaposition of those of us still struggling and those at rest, as well as its position toward the end of the church year, it opens itself to a meditation on our now and not yet existence. Now we are children of God; not yet do we fully know what that means. That is John’s writing. We see the Love of God, but every time we see it, it is met with challenge. Satan challenges it, the world refuses to see it, and even our own weary flesh can challenge what has been revealed to us. God loves us. When Christ appears, we will be like him in glory, in that resurrection body. We know this because we’ve seen it, or have accepted the witness of the apostles. That is what we know by faith and by hope. And because we hope, we live into that not-yet reality now. “We purify ourselves as he is pure.” No, we will not always be successful. But blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Ever felt that everything was going to crap? That something you had invested all your hopes in was coming up snake-eyes? That moment in the ministry of Jesus is what this sermon is about. That moment is the Word of the Cross. That is what I hoped this preaches.
The text is Jesus’ words “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”. As a church we spend a good deal of time on way and truth but comparatively little on life. What this sermon does is examine the modern problem with experiencing the life (materialism), look at the ways we might get shaken however briefly out of our materialist slumbers, and then it proclaims how god – the life – goes beyond that god knowable to reason and reveals himself as Father and Son (and Spirit). The revelation of Jesus forecloses some conceptions of God and assures us of our place in The Life.
The Lord’s Prayer in Luke has a different context and a different emphasis than it does in Mathew. Even though our liturgical prayer comes from Mathew, the context of the liturgy before Communion, is more like Luke. The focus of the prayer itself is the petition “give us each day our daily bread”. But the context of the prayer focuses on revealing just who it is we are praying to – Father.
This sermon is a little shorter than normal. The introduction addresses the reason. The events of the week highlight the first part on our daily bread and just how much “I need thee every hour”. The second portion is pure Gospel. Unlike us who are evil, the Father is holy. And that is what Jesus came to reveal – just who we are praying to.
Sometimes data visualizations just get it. The word tree above gets its. We are in the middle of lent which is a penitential season, a season for repentance. Now there are some really good questions that we might ask about that. What is repentance? What does it include? How do we do it? Why? Who?
This text is at its core about answering those questions.
Why? Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Because the assumptions that we have been taught by the world are not what the Word of God tells us. Hear the Word.
What does that Word assume? No one is good. The word itself accuses us (the law), but that same word is our salvation (gospel).
What does repentance include? A change of assumptions from the world’s to the Word’s. A fruitful living according to the Word.
Where do I go to understand fruit? Look it up in the Word.
It has been a rough week at the Parson’s household. This is at best an unfinished set of ideas. The only thing I can say in its favor is the invitation to see. In the gospel of John, believing is seeing. What you believe is how you see things. The wedding at Cana is Eucharistic, having to do with the Lord’s supper, it is an invitation to see the reality of Jesus and the Kingdom in, with and under the staples of life – water, bread and wine. As we say after the institution, “welcome to the table of the Lord”. Cana is John’s invitation – the first of the signs – to see the omega, the telos, of where this is heading. The world is a comedy; it ends in a wedding with plenty of choice wine. More than enough. Filled to the rim.
The textual basis for this sermon is one long sentence. The English translations break it up because that is good English. But what it does is miss the catechism like effect as the clauses build up. The core sentence is short and clear – God be Praised. The rest of the text reads like Paul starts asking questions and answering them in phrases and clauses attached to that simple sentence.
Which God? The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. A Very specific one. One that you know.
Why praise? Because he has already blessed or praised us with EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING.
What are these blessings? You were chosen to be Holy and Unblemished before the foundation. And not just that but you have been adopted into the family of God. You are part of the Royal ruling family.
How was this done (after all I don’t think I did anything)? You didn’t. It was through and in and because of Christ. First by his blood. Redeemed by the blood. Second you have been enlightened with the wisdom and insight of his grace to know the mystery.
What is the mystery? The cross primarily, but also the resurrection and the ascension (i.e. the Lordship). These things which have been hidden in plain sight.
How do I know this? You have been sealed with the Spirit which is the down payment. Outside of the revelation of Christ and the illumination of the Spirit the mystery would remain. But you have it right now.
Why has He done this? For the Praise of the glory of his grace. We are that praise. Our lives, our walks, our confessions and our worship. God be praised.