Pentecost, especially in the readings this year, is a day about language. For all we depend upon it, language is something that we don’t really think much about. We let writers and preachers do that. But if we don’t have the language for something there is a question how long it can actually exist, or if we can truly experience it. That is one of the spurs for stealing words from other languages – to experience and describe experience more precisely. One of the deep lessons of Babel is that when language breaks down, that is God’s punishment. Babel is God’s Punishment, Pentecost is God’s salvation.
The Jewish Pentecost was the receiving of the law at Sinai. That is the start of our salvation. It starts to make things clear, but the law itself has no power. That is this later Pentecost, when the Spirit is poured out.
The title comes from the diagnosis of a Babel and a call to a new Pentecost.
Our concluding Hymn is my favorite Pentecost one. LSB 500, Creator Spirit, by Whose Aid. The text is an ancient chant from the 8th century that comes to us through John Dryden the English poet. It displays both a sacramental view of the world and worship. At the end of verse two: Your sacred healing message bring, to sanctify us as we sing. But the jewel of it for me is verse three in how it describes the work of the Spirit abiding in us.
Your sevenfold gifts to us supply
Help us eternal truths receive
And practice all that we believe
Give us yourself that we might see
The glory of the Trinity.
Through the working of the Spirit, through His sanctification, we receive the eternal truth which is Jesus Christ. Receiving Christ and repenting, we then seek to follow him, to put into practice the love we have been give. And we do this because of our hope in the resurrection, that we might see the Trinity face to face. Just a beautiful hymn that maintains a bit of its chant origin.
Biblical Text: John 16:23-33, Acts 16:9-15 draft 1.0
I was trying for something a little different here. In my simple reading of the text I found two themes: 1) Prayer and 2) Jesus overcomes the world. It is the juxtapostion of those two things that was interesting to me because prayer seems to be the weakest thing in the world. From a purely materialist standpoint, and we are all de facto materialists, it does nothing. Yet this is what enables us to overcome the world.
What I latched onto was a comparison to the letter. I attempted to mine an old emotional connection and reflect on changes and what has been lost. How losing personal letters makes prayer that much more difficult to understand. The core of the comparison has two points. Every letter (at least good ones) was an act of love and an invitation into that persons life. Every letter was also a plea or a promise to come, we will not always be separated. We will see each other in the flesh. Prayer is the same. It is God’s Spirit present with us, and it is the promise that we will not always be so separated.
I wish I could have carried it off better. But…
THe hymn of the day left in the recording was LSB 779 Come My Soul with Every Care. I think the hymn in its verses recognizes this movement of prayer. At first it is a law – Jesus bids us pray. Then it is petitions of a King – just big stuff. But then there is a breakthrough, the big stuff is the sin and guilt that separate. This is the gospel recognition. The fourth verse moves prayer from this real to that personal love. “Lord, thy rest to me impart, take possesion of my heart.” Your kingdom has come, let it come to me also. The final two verses capture what it points toward. “While I am a pilgrim here, :et they love my spirit cheer.” Pilgrims eventually reunite at home. But verse six is the recognition that I as a pilgrim have a duty. “Show me what is mine to do.” The prayer has started simply as law and ends as pure gospel. Because of love, because of the beloved and His presence in prayer, I seek what I should do. Not out of compulsion, but love.
This is a tough passage to preach on. In part because Jesus just repeats himself. He knows he has things to say, but it is like the only language he has is modern English. Until Pentecost, or until after the little while, none of it will really make sense to Aramaic Peter. For me it forces a meditation on sorrow and joy and the appropriate time we can expect them. When Jesus uses ‘a little while’ the immediate meaning is clear to us – after the Supper until Easter Morning. But Jesus connects ‘a little while’ to the eschatological – the time between the advents. For a little while we lament, and that little while is now. But we also have the same joy that cannot be taken away as those disciples – He’s risen. What we do not yet have is our completion, our final sanctification.
So, now, we share in the cross, or we share in nothing. We also share in the resurrection, while we groan for our new birth as true humans.
Recording notes: 1. The recording chip fell out of my suit pocket, so this is a re-recording. 2. The hymn references in the sermon is LSB 756 Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me. I’m sorry I lost the recording because this is one of those deep hymns. Gerhardt does a better job of the sermon than I do. The tune it is paired with I find touching as well. Here is another recording of it.
This is the third and last sermon on the “Bread of Life Discourse” in John 6. The typical and easiest way to understand the entire discourse where Jesus says we must eat his flesh and drink his blood is as a reference to the Lord’s Supper. That isn’t wrong, but we do have to ignore that fact that when Jesus said it the crowds who heard it had no recourse to the sacrament. What this sermon attempts to do is proclaim the gospel from this most perplexing text with the sacrament not as first resource but as an gift that embodies for all time the truth.
What I latch onto is Jesus’ embellishment of eating the flesh and blood as the gateway or image of Christ abiding or indwelling in us. Just as the Father dwells in Christ or Christ as the perfect icon of the Father, by eating Christ he dwells in us. Creation has always been about building a dwelling place or a temple for God. In Christ we have the perfect temple, and we are made the living stones as God dwells in us. As Christ is the icon of God, we become the body of Christ and icon of a sort (although that might be a little strong this side of the New Jerusalem). That flesh and spirit incarnation is always a scandal to the world which wants to keep them separate.
Yet as Peter says – these are the words of eternal life. The second part of the gospel explored is Peter sequence where we believe first and then come to know. We must eat first – take Christ into us – to know. The body and blood of Christ give us a sure foundation. We can know because he is the bread that has come down. If we keep it outside of us, we can’t know. Belief comes first and it is belief from the heart.
A one worshipper said, “I felt like I went to church today”. It was Trinity Sunday so we confessed the faith with the Athanasian creed. We had a baptism at the start or service, and we celebrated holy communion. The recording trims most of that stuff, but it is that stuff which the sermon points toward. What this sermon attempts to do is two fold: a) it outlines potential mistakes in how we think about worship and b) it points to the primacy of worship in the Christian life.
The fact is that we were made to worship. Everyone worships. Religious and non-religious. And true worship is seated in the Soul. Situating it in the body or the mind leads to serious problems. The sermon examines those problems and points at the salvation from them. True worship is a gift of God through the Spirit. To worship rightly one must be born of water and the Spirit. True worship, instead of draining us, feeds us. And when our worship is rightly ordered, our lives are on the path to being rightly ordered directed at resurrection.
On the Sunday we celebrated Ascension Day (actual Ascension Day was Thursday) we had a mission Sunday. This seems fitting because the last words of Jesus at His Ascension were that we, his disciples, would be His witnesses. We would also be clothed with power from on high, the promise of the Holy Spirit fulfilled 10 short days later on Pentecost. For this reason we invited Scarlett Aeckerle, the executive director of LINC-Rochester which is the local Lutheran mission society for the city of Rochester, to come speak. So, my little homily served a couple of purposes. The first was a mission charge. Don’t fall in the ditch of being mute or the opposite ditch of distorting the witness of the sake of “effectiveness”. The power is the Spirit’s. We get to take part. The second was to introduce Scarlett. So, you’ll hear me and then Scarlett.
Scarlett brought visuals, so at the end she moves away from the mike. I’ve amplified it in line with the rest and think it sounds ok, but if the background sounds a little louder, that is why.
The text is concerned with a couple of items. First it is concerned with the literal physical resurrection – “touch and see!” Second it is concerned about how those not part of that first generation of apostles can be sure of that experience. Jesus supplies the answer in the written word and the witness of the apostles. That witness of the apostles becomes word and sacrament, forgiveness of sins and what we know as the new testament. We share those with those first apostles. We also share the Holy Spirit, the “Power from on High”, that testifies to the truth of Word and Sacrament.
The moral question of Easter is that we have heard these things. We know the story. We have experienced the witness that Jesus says is good. Are we changed by that? The reactions of the disciples in the text give us three levels of reaction. Startled and frightened thinking it a ghost. Just a ghost in the machine. Joy and marvel at the announcement but still disbelieving I’m spiritual, but I’m not sure about being a disciple. Minds open to the scriptures and we are the witnesses of these things. Has Easter changed you?
That might be a scary thought, are we ever sure we are changed? Good news it is not us there either. We have been clothed with power from on high. The Spirit who spoke by the prophets still ensures that everything written is fulfilled including the salvation of the saints.
The collection of texts assigned for today stuck me this week as wanting to talk about preaching. Jesus confronts himself with a question, what is the chief purpose of his ministry? And his answer set the paradigm of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is not one that is advanced as the kingdoms of this world. Instead it is preached; it is proclaimed.
So, this sermon is a basic statement of the power and purpose of preaching. And the source of all preaching which is never the preacher, but the one who commands the message.