Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

Bones

Biblical Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Full Sermon Draft

This is possible the all time greatest preaching text. As a congregant said on the way out, it is time to fix some bones. Yes it is. And we can’t do that. But the Spirit does. And not only does he fix them, he breathes life. I’m sure I can say more, but if there is one sermon I’d let speak for itself, it is this one.

Spirit Led

Biblical Texts: Acts 10:34-48, John 15:9-17
Full Sermon Draft

The Christian Life could be described as being drug kicking and screaming towards love. While we never reach perfection here in this world, if we are blessed I do think that we can outgrow the kicking a screaming part. The natural sinner in each of us will always be there, but we can become wise to ourselves and know that his or her ways leads to misery and death. Instead we listen to the Spirit and walk where He leads. The main text for this sermon is the Acts 10 story of Cornelius and Peter which I paint as something of a NT fulfillment of the Jonah story. Peter, through the Spirit overcomes his kicking and screaming, while Jonah never does. This is the difference of Pentecost which we are fast approaching, and which Acts 10 is sometimes called the Gentile Pentecost. The sermon seeks to proclaim how God has chosen us, and how we can become wise to ourselves becoming Spirit led.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Deuteronomy 11:26-12:12 and Matthew 12:22-37

Deuteronomy 11:26-12:12
Matthew 12:22-37
The Blessing & The Curse
The guaranteed place of God
The Sin against the Holy Spirit

Wells, Brides and Bridegrooms

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Text: John 4:4-26
Full Sermon Draft

Of the images or metaphors of what Jesus has done for us I think husband or marriage is one the most different and compelling. And while it hovers over the entire biblical story, there just aren’t that many text that are most directly seen as a proclamation of the Bride and Bridegroom. In my reading this text is a biblical Romantic Comedy, and as such it is about the Bride and Bridegroom.

The structure used is something I’ve been playing around with occasionally, a limited use of the church father’s 4 level allegory. In my playing with this outline what I’ve found is that the literal level allows you establish the text and any connections to the modern day. In this case the text follows all of the Romantic Comedy beats. Knowing that it is such a genre, opens the door to the Typological level. Jesus is not just anyone but the bridegroom and the Samaritan woman is not just any woman but the type of the bride, the church. Following from the fourth beat of the Rom-Com script we find out what the protagonist (Jesus) wants to accomplish. In this case for the bride to know the gift of God and to know who offers it. That is the basis of the moral level, coming to know the Spirit and Word and Sacrament as the gifts of God or the living water, and knowing Jesus who offers them. The last level is the eschatological. In this case the end-times image is of the wedding feast of the bride and the lamb brought to its fulfillment in the New Jerusalem. At that time we won’t be arguing about the where’s and why’s of worship, because there is no temple in the New Jerusalem, because the bride and the bridegroom are together.

John has typically defeated me as a preacher. He’s too thick or maybe I should say not linear. This outline has helped me present texts from John. The other thing I’d add is that while allegory has a bad name because of some of the extreme uses of it, I don’t think it is wholly deserved. Most preacher’s outlines are just a collapsing of the four levels to usually two. Text-Application, often call puritan plain style or even just Wesley’s outline, is literal and moral levels typically. Hence it can often come across as all law or Jesus as our great example that we should follow. Law-Gospel usually ends up being literal and typological. You always get Christ, but also the problem with much of Lutheran preaching never actually having a moral point. True pentecostal preaching is usually literal and eschatological which gives it that on fire or otherworldly nature. If you respect the limits that you can’t say anything in the three upper levels not clearly established in the literal then I’ve found it to be a robust outline.

I’d invite you to take a look and give me any comments.

Daily Lectionary Podcast – Genesis 1:1-19 and Mark 1:1-13

Genesis 1:1-19

Mark 1:1-13

Testing vs. Temptation, By the Power of the Spirit

I don’t mention it in the podcast, but the Ash Wednesday hymn, Savior When in Dust to Thee (LSB 419), (which by the way is one of the few false steps in the hymnal replacing the tune Spanish Chant which we stubbornly refuse to leave with the unpronounceable and not at all memorable tune Aberystwyth) but back to the point that him is a great example of the things enabled by the Spirit.  The words of the hymn are a litany of sorts (another feature of Ash Wednesday), by thy helpless infant years, by thy life of want and tears, etc….  That litany is the very thing that was enabled by the Spirit.  Jesus’ saving work is the work of God.  The Father’s will, Jesus’ work and the Spirit’s power.

The Vocabulary of the Spirit

David Brooks gets it, at least from a secular point, and in a way (especially if you look at the comments from the clueless multitude of Times readers) that is terribly sad. In this essay, he preaches half of my sermon this week much better than I could. The problem, as Babel told us, is not the system. The problem is the individual human heart. As Brooks talks about, the individual no longer resonated to words like fortitude and courage. Aquinas and virtue theologians would put those as the cornerstone of the virtues. If you don’t have fortitude, the others will fall as well. When you no longer build virtue, you resort to the law to force something like virtue. Hence,

Meanwhile, usage of words associated with the ability to deliver, like “discipline” and “dependability” rose over the century, as did the usage of words associated with fairness. The Kesebirs point out that these sorts of virtues are most relevant to economic production and exchange.

The law is always quid pro quo; it is a market. And it is always inadequate to the task. If the law can’t convict you of sin (second use, mirror) and move you toward virtue in the gospel (3rd use, rule) the best it can do is be a curb (first use or civil use). Hence,

The atomization and demoralization of society have led to certain forms of social breakdown, which government has tried to address, sometimes successfully and often impotently.

That is the result of turning away from the call of the Holy Spirit. The only solution is the recovery of the vocabulary of the Spirit. A re-moralization is not about the law, although it has a role. It starts with repentance. And repentance doesn’t come about until the old Adam is dead, until we no longer want to keep our life but are willing to lose it for the gospel. And that might be why David Brooks can be so melancholy. Walking that necessary path is going to hurt. Our Polis, our politics, is not about virtue but about mere technique. Which technique do you want – delay and deny (liberal) or time to pay the piper (conservative)? A more wise Polis would be talking about prudence, patience, fortitude and temperance along with faith, hope and charity. But those require belief in something beyond the market. A belief we no longer have the Spirit for. “Take not you Holy Spirit from me (Psalm 51:11)…”

From Babel to the New Jerusalem

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Biblical Text: Genesis 11:1-9
Full Sermon Draft

How does the Spirit work? That might be a question that leads to a just-so-story. But just-so-stories don’t give the Bible, and its author the Holy Spirit, enough credit. Such stories can be manipulative. If you are taking Babel as a just-so-story, the real purpose is to say “know your place”. It would be the Biblical Icarus, and God would be the capricious Zeus. But that is not the story told at Babel and Pentecost.

The story told is of a God who saves us from the worst of ourselves. The story told is of a Spirit that takes the wounds of sin an glorifies them. No longer are all the languages a reminder of how sin turns us inward, but they are a testament to the width of the love of God. The new creation comes not through compelling force or manipulative story, but through an invite to the heart. God’s will is done, the New Jerusalem is built, one heart (one stone heart turned to flesh) at a time.

Sanctified Freedom or how finance is a great school of the law


Biblical Text: John 17:11-19
Full Text – note, I deviated more from this text than I typically do.

Here is the question you need to ask yourself – are we bound creatures needing freedom, or largely free creatures needing strict guidelines?

How you answer that question will determine how you hear (or don’t hear) the gospel.

The stories come from the papers and the world of finance. The bottom line, the fact that everything can be reduced to a number and measured, and the relentless pressure to turn in a specific number drive home the lessons of the law and how we are all bound to unobtainable expectations. Only in Christ by the power of the Spirit are we free to produce real fruit.

And End and What a beginning…

Texts: 1 Kings 22:29-45 and 2 Kings 1:2-17

The history books have this snarky line – “Now the rest of the acts of [King’s Name], and his might that he showed, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel/Judah.” At the death of each king that line appears. (If anyone is a Lord of the Rings fan you hear the echo in the Return of the King when Gandalf overdubs the guy jumping off the cliff -“And so was the reign of elsinore, Steward of Gondor”.) The biblical Chronicler, set against his time and place is unique. In no other documents would you get a King being made to look like the fool. If you want Pravda – go read the other Chronicles – aren’t all of the exploits recorded? But here, we have recorded the Word. And you can hear some of the playfulness of the Holy Spirit. Are not all those great exploits written elsewhere? Go read them if you want. Of course today and probably not long after each king died those exploits were lost, but the Word remains. These things are recorded for your instruction – said with snark.
And Ahab killed in battle and his end pictured as the remains of his life blood washed out of the more valuable Chariot and given to the dogs gives way to his son who falls through the floor of his palace. But within that is part of the story of Elijah. Elijah was just a blunt guy. After falling through the floor, Ahab son sends people to Baalzebub – a Philistine God – at Ekron to discern if he will live. Elijah meets them on the road and asks – “It is because there is no God in Israel?” The answer is of course no – it is because we don’t like that God of Israel’s answers. For Ahab’s son the answer is you’re a goner. But for us isn’t it the same. We can send messengers to this Baal or that Baal – our work or our sports team or our house – won’t you keep me safe? To which we always get a positive reply…until we don’t.
Ahab’s son doesn’t like the message and sends a captain and 50 soldiers to take care of Elijah the messenger. Some fire gets in the way. It also gets in the way of the second cohort. That third captain though is a little brighter. This one can see who is the bigger dog in this fight. Instead of “taking care of Elijah” he and his men become Elijah’s bodyguard. And Elijah delivers the same message in person. As long as we think we are the kings or that the Baals will save us that is the message. The message of the biblical chronicler is exposing the lie, stripping down the kings. And that is the message of the law. It strips us down until we are able to say – where should I go, you have the words of eternal life – until we can enter the Kingdom not as kings but as children.

The edge of the cliff

Text: Hebrews 6:1-12

Hebrews is not a book for the lighthearted or the new Christian. Its argument is the centrality and sufficiency of Jesus Christ and it assumes a large background of knowledge about the OT and How God interacted with his people. The ultimate purpose as I’ve read it is to argue apathetic or stagnating Christians to a fuller living of the faith. Our text quickly reviews just what the writer takes as basics of the Christian faith: 1) Repentance, 2) Faith, 3) Baptism (i.e. ablutions), 4) Laying on of hands (ministry?), 5) resurrection of the dead and 6) eternal judgement. When you think about those things, they can all be intellectualized or made point in time events. A person can give assent to them (i.e. express belief in them) without attempting to live out that belief.

The background to the next portion is Israel on the verge of the promised land. They send out 12 spies. These are people who witnessed the Exodus and who stood at Mt. Sinai. They expressed belief in God and took part in the ritual life of the community, yet when they came back from spying out the land, they did not live out what God intended. (Numbers 13 – 14) And the punishment was death in the desert. Not a single person of that generation would enter the Promised land. The writer of the Hebrews says be careful that you do not receive the same fate. If you have been to the promised land, tasted the heavenly gift (forgiveness of sins), and turned away, there is no restoration.

This does not speak of sin and repentance, but the sin against the Holy Spirit – calling God a liar in his promises. Just how far can one go in apostasy before committing that sin? We don’t want to know. If you walk up to a cliff, do you want to find out where that tipping point is that throws you over it? Instead son’t be sluggish,”but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” Press on in the faith. Live and grow in the faith. Don’t map out that cliff edge.