Sunday, June 13, 2021

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Trinity - Lk 14:15-24

                                                                            Trinity 2

                                                                       Lk 14:15-24



          This past weekend I was at my brother’s house in Indiana to celebrate my nephew’s high school graduation.  Like the families of many high school graduates, my brother and his wife put on an open house to celebrate the event.  And like other families who have such an event, they put effort into getting things ready.

          They had sent out invitations. They had spruced up the landscaping and repainted the railing of the porch so that the exterior of the house looked great.  They put up graduation decorations. They smoked a pig and prepared all kinds of food.  They had plenty of beverages in coolers – and note I use the plural  – since there was a cooler with soda and water, and another cooler with beer.  This is a Lutheran family, after all.  They had set up a tent outside with tables and chairs. They had done everything needed in order to make it a wonderful event.

          It was a great day attended by many people who stopped by to wish my nephew congratulations and best wishes as he prepares to attend college in the fall.  However, what would it have been like if instead, nobody had showed up?  Certainly, it’s not possible for everyone who is invited to attend.  Scheduling conflicts can always get in the way. But how would they have felt if absolutely no one came to the celebration?  Or worse yet, what if all the people who had said they would be there, decided to stay away?

          That is the scenario that Jesus describes in the parable found in our Gospel lesson this morning.  In the parable, our Lord teaches us how we should view ourselves.  He teaches us about the gracious love that we have received in him. And he warns us that we cannot take this for granted.

          Our text this morning takes place in a setting of tension and conflict. The first verse of this chapters says, “One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully.”  Now by the time we reach this point in Luke’s Gospel, we know that the Pharisees have been attacking Jesus.  These conflicts have involved meals. They have also involved matters about the Sabbath. So when Jesus goes to the house of a ruler of the Pharisees for a meal on the Sabbath, you know that there are going to be problems.

          First Jesus silences the Pharisees by raising the question about whether it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath, and then he heals a man who is there.  Next our Lord notices how everyone is trying to get the best positions at the table – those that afford the most honor.  But as the One who has brought the reign of God, Jesus teaches a very different way – a way of humility.  He tells those at the meal to take the lowest spot, so that then the host may ask them to move up. He explains this by saying, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

          Finally, after talking about humility to the guests, he then does so towards the host.  He tells him not to invite family or rich neighbors who can be expected to reciprocate with invitations.  Instead, Jesus says, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  Our Lord teaches humility to the host. He teaches the gracious mercy of the kingdom of God, and promises that it is God who will take care of things on the Last Day.

          At the beginning of our text, this reference to the resurrection of the Last Day prompts one of those attending the meal to say, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”  Now it is obvious that this individual believes that he will be in that number. He assumes that he will take part in the feast of salvation.

          This assumption is the very thing Jesus takes up in the parable. He says, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’” 

However, each of the those who had been invited began to make excuses. One said that he had bought a field and needed to go and look at it. Another said that he had bought five yoke of oxen, and needed to go examine them.  Yet another said that he had married a wife, and so he could not come.

In order to understand what is really happening here, we need to recognize two factors from the first century Palestinian setting.  First, the announcement by the servant is actually the second invitation.  All of those whom he goes to see have already been invited to the banquet, and they have already accepted the invitation. They have said they will be there. They know the day when the banquet is to take place and the general timing. The announcement by the servant is the signal that now indeed, all is ready and it is time for the banquet to start.

Second, all of these excuses are obviously bogus – they are lies.  No one bought land or animals without examining them carefully beforehand.  A wedding was a major event that would never be scheduled at the same time as a great banquet for which the invitation had been accepted. Instead, each of these individuals was choosing to reject the host.

We learn that when the master of the house heard this, he was angry.  He says at the very end of our text, “For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.” With these words, Jesus is describing the Pharisees who are there at the meal with him.  They are rejecting Jesus because he is not the Messiah they expect or want. Yet because Jesus - the incarnate Son of God - is the presence of God’s reign, they are rejecting the salvation he brings.

Rebuffed by those who had been invited, the master did something unusual – unusual at least if you are doing things in the expected ways of the world. He told the servant, “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.”  The master told the servant to bring in people you would not normally invite to a feast – the very people Jesus had just told the host that he should invite.

Yet even when this had been done, the servant reported that there was still room at the banquet. So the master said to the servant, “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.” The master sent the servant outside the city into the hinterland to bring in more people so that the banquet would be full.

Those who end up attending the banquet are the unworthy and the unwanted. They are the poor and crippled and blind and lame.  They are the ones who rank even lower than that – the rural people who don’t even live in the city. This is a description of you. There is no reason that God should want you at the great banquet – the feast of salvation.  You are unworthy.  You are sinners who reject God’s will in every possible way.  You place God second all the time because there are things you love more.  You place yourself first and your neighbor second, because you are not about to put your neighbor’s needs before your own.

 You are the spiritually poor and crippled and blind and lame.  And actually, in the setting of the parable you don’t even rate there, for those in the city are the Jews. Almost all of you are Gentiles – you are the ones at the highways and the hedges. You are the ones outside the city – the ones who were never part of God’s people in the first place.

But our Lord’s parable teaches us about the gracious love of God that we have received in Jesus Christ.  We were not worthy of being invited to the feast of salvation. Yet in his love, God sent his Son to win salvation because we are not worthy. He sent his Son because we are sinners.

          The placement of our text in Luke’s Gospel reveals this truth. At the end of chapter nine we read, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”  Our text occurs during Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem.  Just before he began his journey, in that same chapter our Lord said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

          Jesus Christ journeys to Jerusalem because you are a sinner – because you are not worthy.  Though without sin, he goes to be numbered with the transgressors.  He goes to offer himself on the cross as the sacrifice for your sin.  Our Lord died in the humiliation of the cross in order to give us forgiveness.

          Just before the parable, Jesus has said in this chapter, For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  Our Lord humbled himself to the point of death – even death on a cross – for us.  But then, God exalted him.  First, the Father raised Jesus from the dead on the third day.  Through Christ he defeated death. And then God exalted Jesus as he ascended forty days after Easter and was seated at the right hand of God. It is as the exalted Lord and Christ that Jesus poured forth the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

          Because of our Lord’s death and resurrection, we now have a place in the feast of salvation.  But the parable this morning also gives us a warning.  It was prompted by someone at the table who said: “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”  He assumed he was included. Yet the first portion of the parable is all about how those who were invited excluded themselves by rejecting the invitation.

          Jesus Christ has called you to faith through baptism the work of his Spirit.  But the life of faith is not the same thing as simply having your name on a church roster. It is something that requires us to continue to confess our sin.  It is a life in which we must continue to receive our Lord’s gifts of the Means of Grace. Only in this way can we be sustained as the forgiven people of God who are ready to confess Christ to the world in word and deed.

          Immediately after our text we read, “Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.’”  Our Lord says that we must count the cost, for if we are faithful to him and his Word, there will be a cost. 

          It’s the month of June, so unless you are color blind, you are seeing the celebration of sin all around us in rainbow colors.  Why does our whole culture embrace this movement, when only perhaps a little more than two percent of the population is homosexual?  In part it is because most people wish to support the idea that people can use sex however they want.  They don’t want deny to others that which they cherish in their own lives.

          In this world, to confess and live God’s will for sexuality and marriage will come at a cost.  Most likely it will be an escalating one as ever increasing social and institutional pressures are brought to bear.  But in Christ, God has called you out of the world to be his people – people who live according to his holy will and who speak this truth.

          To do this we need nourishment and strength. And so this morning, I am the servant who is sent to say: “Come, for everything is now ready.”  I invite you to the banquet – the Sacrament of the Altar where Jesus gives us his true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.  Here he gives you food for the new man so that you can live as his people in this world. We live in the faith as we look for his return and the feast of salvation that has no end.
















Friday, June 11, 2021

Feast of St. Barnabas, Apostle


Today is the Feast of St. Barnabas, Apostle.  Barnabas was a Jew from Cyprus and was the cousin of John Mark (Colossians 4:10).  He was responsible for bringing Paul from Tarsus (Acts 11:25-26) and the two of them worked in Antioch.  While in Antioch, Barnabas and Paul were commissioned by the Holy Spirit to go on the first missionary journey to Cyprus and Asia Minor (Acts 13:1-3).  When it came time for the second missionary journey, Paul did not want to take John Mark because he had left them and had gone home during the first journey (Acts 13:13; 15:36-41).  Paul and Barnabas parted as Barnabas took John Mark and went to Cyprus, while Paul took Silas and went to Asia Minor.  Barnabas is remembered as a tireless missionary who proclaimed Christ to the Gentiles.

Scripture reading:

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus and Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists also, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. The report of this came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.           

Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

 (Acts 11:19-30; 13:1-3 ESV) 

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, your faithful servant Barnabas sought not his own renown but gave generously of his life and substance for the encouragement of the apostles and their ministry.  Grant that we may follow his example in lives given to charity and the proclamation of the Gospel; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.



Sunday, May 30, 2021

Sermon for the Feast of the Holy Trinity - Rom 11:33-36



                                                                                    Rom 11:33-36



“God is God, and you are not.”  If you have been around Good Shepherd for any length of time, you have probably heard me say this phrase. Over the years as I have studied theology and served as a pastor, I have found that this statement summarizes an incredibly important truth. 

God is God, and you are not.  This means that most of what God chooses to do is above your pay grade.  God is the eternal and almighty Creator of all things.  He has no beginning, and he has no end.  His ways, his plans, his decisions are beyond anything that you can fathom.

Now this would be true even if you had no sin.  But add in the fact that since the Fall we have all been conceived and born as fallen, sinful people, and our chances of understanding what God is doing become completely hopeless.  Even when the Spirit has made us a new creation in Christ – when he has created the new man within us – the old Adam is still present as well.  He continues to tempt and lead us into thinking in selfish ways. 

We can’t understand God because at the end of the day our thinking revolves around ourselves.  The old Adam doesn’t want to be disciplined. He doesn’t think he needs to be crucified, and he certainly doesn’t want to be.  Perhaps the closest we can come to understanding what it is like for God to deal with us is when we are caring for a two or three year old. The child’s world revolves around him or herself.  We make decisions that are best for the child, and the child can’t possibly fathom why we are doing them, or why they are best for him or her.  Often, the child’s reaction to this is to throw a temper tantrum. As adults, we recognize how silly and foolish this is.

Our text this morning is very short.  It is also incredibly profound.  Paul writes: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

These words conclude the discussion that Paul has been engaging in from chapter nine to chapter eleven. The apostle has been considering how it is that God’s people the Jews have for the most part rejected their Messiah sent by God.  On the other hand, the Gentiles – the non-Jews – have been receiving him in faith. 

Paul says that is not merely a matter of bad luck and good luck.  Instead, it is part of God’s plan.  Immediately before our text, the apostle has written, “For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.” 

And then, Paul reveals that this is far as he can go. He can’t explain anything more about the “how” in which this works. There may be a whole range of questions we would like to raise. But there is no point because we will not be capable of understanding the answer.  In fact, the very presence of our questions indicates that we are completely incapable of understanding what God is doing.

In our text, Paul quotes two Old Testament passages.  The first, “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” comes from Isaiah chapter 40.  There Yahweh emphasizes that he is the Creator whose power and understanding renders everything and everyone as nothing.  Isaiah writes, “Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” The obvious answer is: “No one.” Instead, he is the source of all these, and as creatures we can’t begin to comprehend what he is doing.

The second quotation is from the Book of Job.  After complaining about the tragedies that have befallen him, Job finds himself confronted by Yahweh from the whirlwind as he replies: Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.” God tells Job to suck it up and answer his questions. Here too Yahweh emphasizes that he is the Creator whose actions go beyond human understanding.  And in the end Job must confess: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”

Today is the Feast of the Holy Trinity.  Now strictly, speaking, our text this morning is not talking about the triune nature of God. Instead, it makes the point that we can’t possibly understand what God is doing.  But if we can’t understand what God is doing, what hope do we have to understand who God is and what he is like? The answer is that there is no way this is going to happen. God is simply beyond us. God is God, and we are not.

So the bad news is that you are not going to be able to understand what we are about to confess in the Athanasian Creed.  You won’t be able to understand how it is that “the Father is God, the Son of is God, the Holy Spirit is God; and yet there are not three Gods, but one God.”  You won’t be able to understand how it is that “the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Holy Spirit is another. But the Godhead of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.”

We can’t explain how God is this way. But we can describe that God is this way.  And this fact reveals God’s amazing love for us. You see, we only have this knowledge because God has acted in the incarnation of the Son in order give us forgiveness, salvation and resurrection.

In the Old Testament there is a basic fact that is stated again and again: there is only one true God, Yahweh, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. There is only one God, and every other so-called god is a fake.  Now along the way there are things that make you wonder. God says, “Let us make man in our image.”  We hear about the Spirit of God, and there are statements about Wisdom that sound like far more than just personification. But these are only hints, and ultimately we are left with one sure truth in the Old Testament: there is only one God.

We know about the Holy Trinity – the triune nature of God – for one reason. We know because of God’s love and desire to forgive our sin and reconcile us to himself. Adam and Eve had brought sin into the world.  As their offspring, we were conceived and born in sin.  We were enemies of God – insisting on treating ourselves as god.

Yet God did not abandon the creatures he had made in his own image.  Instead, the Father sent the Son into the world as he was incarnate through the work of the Holy Spirit.  Paul told the Galatians, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” The Word, the Son of God, became flesh as Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.

            Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist marks the beginning of his ministry. And at that very moment we see the Holy Trinity revealed clearly for the first time.  God the Son comes up from the water.  God the Spirit descends upon him like a dove, and God the Father says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

            We see the Trinity revealed, but even in this moment we continue to find that God is God, and we are not.  God’s ways are not our ways.  The words of Isaiah spoken by the Father identify Jesus as the Servant of the Lord – the One is the suffering Servant. The sinless Son of God submits to a baptism of repentance because he is stepping into our place.  He is taking on our sin.  And he does this in order to suffer and die for us as the sacrifice that takes away our sin.

            Jesus was crucified on Good Friday. The mission of the incarnate Son of God led to the shame and humiliation of the cross. God’s great action to save us is a tortured individual crying out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” as he dies.  It’s not what we would expect.  It makes no sense when you think about things in the way of the world.

            But the cross was God’s way. St. Paul told the Corinthians:

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

            We know that Jesus Christ is the power and wisdom of God, because on the third day God raised Jesus from the dead.  On Easter God defeated death as he vindicated Jesus through his resurrection.  Before his passion, Jesus had told his disciples that after he rose they would see him in Galilee.  Matthew tells us that the eleven disciples went to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. There, yet again, they saw the risen Lord.

            On that mountain Jesus said to them: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  Jesus declared that as the risen Lord, all authority had been given to him. Because this was the case, the disciples were to go forth and makes disciples of all nations – disciples of Jesus Christ. They were to do this by baptizing and teaching.

            This baptizing was to be done “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” There is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but only one name. Through God’s action to give us forgiveness and salvation we have learned that the one God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In God’s Word we learn that each person of the Trinity is true God.  The persons of the Trinity exist in relationship to one another, and yet there is only one God. How can this be?  How does this work?  We cannot understand it, for God is God, and we are not.

            We believe and confess what goes beyond our understanding because God has called us to faith in the One through whom he has revealed his love, forgiveness, and salvation.  Through the incarnation of the Son of God, we have learned about the triune nature of God. We have this knowledge only because God the Father sent forth the Son as he was incarnate by the Holy Spirit.  We have this knowledge because Jesus Christ was in the world to die on the cross and rise from the dead for us. And so we rejoice in the salvation God has given to us.  We give thanks for God’s love and the resurrection that Jesus will give to us on the Last Day.  And, yes, knowing all of that we are glad that God is God, and we are not.   



















Sunday, May 23, 2021

Sermon for the Feast of Pentecost - Acts 2:1-21



                                                                                                Acts 2:1-21



            In his sermon on Pentecost, St. Peter told the crowd, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know-- 

this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

            It is notable that Peter doesn’t just say that they killed Jesus.  He says specifically that they crucified him. This matches the description that he uses twice in the Book of Acts when he describes how Jesus was killed “by hanging him on a tree.”

            In the Judaism of the first century there was a very simple way to determine whether a person was the Messiah sent by God.  You knew for sure that he was not the Messiah when the Romans killed him.  The Romans had killed Jesus. But it hadn’t happened in a battle that was part of an uprising.  Instead, the Romans had crucified Jesus – they had hung him on a tree.

            This was a very important point, because Deuteronomy said: “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God.”  A Jew who had died by crucifixion wasn’t just a false Messiah.  He had in fact been cursed by God.

            What had happened to Jesus was widely known.  And as people gathered in Jerusalem for the celebration of Pentecost two things would have been very apparent.  First, Jesus was clearly not the Messiah. And second, he had been cursed by God. However, this was only half true.  Jesus had indeed been cursed by God.  But this had in fact been part of God’s saving plan.  Paul told the Galatians, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” And it was as the Messiah – the Christ – that Jesus had carried out this saving work for us.

            Jesus was the crucified Messiah. The disciples knew that this was the true because God had raised Jesus from the dead.  The Messiah was expected to be the mighty and victorious One sent by God to deliver his people. God the Father had vindicated Jesus as the Messiah by raising him from the dead on Easter.

            Jesus’ disciples had spent forty day with the risen Lord. They had been with him in Jerusalem and in Galilee. They ate and drank with him. Jesus had taught them about the kingdom of God. He had also given specific instructions as he “ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’”

            Ten days earlier, Jesus had ascended into heaven. The disciples were now waiting for the Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised.  We learn in our text: “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

            John the Baptist had said about the One coming after him, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”  John had probably understood this fire to be the end time judgment of God.  But on the day of Pentecost the Spirit was poured out accompanied by the sound of a rushing wind and tongues as of fire on each of the disciples.

            The disciples began to speak in the languages of the many faithful Jews from all over the Mediterranean and Near Eastern world who had chosen to live in Jerusalem. The sound of the rushing wind and the speech of the disciples attracted a crowd who were amazed to find their own languages being spoken. But others were dismissive of the whole thing. They said the disciples were just drunk.

            Peter stood up and began to preach.  He noted first that it was too early in the day for anyone to be hammered.  Instead, what was happening was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. He said, “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.’”

            On the Day of Pentecost, God had poured forth the Holy Spirit.  This event itself was a sign that the last days had arrived. And in the sermon that Peter went on to preach, he announced that the outpouring of the Spirit was directly tied to the end time event – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

            We think of Pentecost as being all about the Holy Spirit.  And while the dramatic events of that day were caused by the Spirit, Peter’s sermon is actually all about the resurrection of Jesus. As I noted at the beginning of this sermon, Peter began by saying, “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

            However, God had raised Jesus from the dead. In fact, King David had prophesied that this would happen when we wrote in Psalm 16, For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.”  Yes, Jesus had been killed. Yes, Jesus had been crucified – hung on a tree.

            But Peter declared: This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”  God had raised Jesus. He had vindicated Jesus as the Christ. And more than that, in his ascension he had been exalted to the right hand of God.  It was in fact as the risen and exalted Lord that Jesus had poured forth the Holy Spirit. And so Peter announced: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

            Note how Peter says that they had crucified Jesus.  Certainly, not all of those listening had been involved in the decisions that killed Jesus.  Perhaps one could say that as Jews, they were responsible for what their leaders had done.      But in a more profound way they had crucified Jesus, just as you crucified Jesus.  It was your sin that caused the Father to send the incarnate Son to die on the cross.  He died, cursed by God, because of all the ways you break God’s law. He died because you put God second. He died because you lust, covet and and are jealous. He died because you harm your neighbor’s reputation through gossip.

            When those listening heard Peter they were cut to the heart, and said to him and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter declared: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The same thing is true for us.  We confess our sin and repent.  And we return in faith to our baptism for through water and the Word we receive the forgiveness won by Jesus.  Through baptism the risen and exalted Christ has given us the Spirit poured out on Pentecost.

            Before his ascension, Jesus told the disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The Holy Spirit continues to play this role in our lives.  It is the Spirit who enables us to speak about Jesus Christ to others. You are witnesses.  You know that Jesus did not just die on the cross cursed by God.  Instead, God raised Jesus from the dead as the One who has won forgiveness for us and has given us the assurance of resurrection and eternal life.

            Jesus the risen Lord, has ascended and been exalted. But that does not mean he has left us. Instead, the Holy Spirit is the presence of the risen Christ with his disciples all over the world.  The Spirit poured out on Christ’s Church now shapes and forms our life together.

            Immediately after telling us about Pentecost, Luke provides an account of the early Church’s life in Jerusalem.  He says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”  The Spirit leads us to learn the teaching of the apostles as we receive it in Scripture.  He brings us together in the fellowship of the Sacrament of the Altar.  He causes us to be fervent in prayer.

            Luke tells of how the Church members cared for one another as they sold their possessions and distributied the proceeds to all, as any had need. And he tells us that day by day they attended the temple together, broke bread in their homes, and received their food with glad and generous hearts praising God and having favor with all the people.

            The Spirit poured out by the risen and ascended Lord continues to do these things in our day.  But of course, this also means that we must see them as goals in our life as Christians, and as a congregation. The Pentecost description of the Church provides a model for what we should seek to be, even as the Holy Spirit makes it possible.

            Jesus Christ died on the cross.  Hung on a tree, he was cursed by God in our place for all of the ways we break God’s law and sin. But God did not allow his Holy One to see corruption.  Instead, on the third day he vindicated Jesus as the Messiah by raising him from the dead. More than that, he has exalted Jesus to his right hand in the ascension. 

            It is as the risen and exalted Lord that Jesus poured forth the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit carries forth Christ’s work into the world and into our lives.  He provides strength to bear witness to our Lord who died and rose again as the Savior of all.  He leads and enables us to receive Christ’s Means of Grace, to pray, and care for one another in the Church, the Body of Christ.