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.









Friday, May 21, 2021

Commemoration of Constantine, Christian Ruler and Helena, Mother of Constantine


Today we remember and given thanks for Emperor Constantine, Christian Ruler and Helena, Mother of Constantine.  Constantine I served as Roman Emperor from A.D. 306 to 337. During his reign the persecution of Christians was forbidden by the Edict of Milan in 313, and ultimately the faith gained full imperial support. Constantine took an active interest in the life and teachings of the church and called the Council of Nicaea in 325 at which orthodox Christianity was defined and defended. His mother, Helena (ca. 255-329), strongly influenced Constantine. Her great interest in locating the holy sites of the Christian faith led her to become one of the first Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land. Her research led to the identification of Biblical locations in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and beyond, which are still maintained as places of worship today.

Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, through your servant Constantine, your Church flourished, and by his mother, Helena, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem became a holy place for many pilgrims.  Grant to us this same zeal for your Church and charity toward your people, that we may be fruitful in good works and steadfast in faith.  Keep us ever grateful for your abundant provision, with our eyes fixed, as Helena’s were, on the highest and greatest treasure of all, the cross of Christ; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.



Sunday, May 16, 2021

Sermon for the Seventh Sunday of Easter - Exaudi - Ez 36:22-28


                                                                                                Easter 7

                                                                                                Ez 36:22-28



            Israel didn’t choose Yahweh to be their God.  Instead, Yahweh created Israel.  It was a matter of God’s grace – his unmerited favor.  It was God who called Abraham, and promised to make him into a great nation.  It was God who worked the miracle of giving a son, Isaac, to the aged and barren Sarah.   It was God who worked through Joseph to bring Jacob and his family to the land of Egypt, where they prospered and turned into a numerous people. It was God who redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt in the Passover, and brought them through the Red Sea.

            It was Yahweh who brought Israel into the covenant with him.  As he was about to do so at Mt Sinai he said: “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

            God declared that Israel was his treasured possession.  He had not chosen Israel because they were the biggest nation.  Quite the opposite, they were a small and inconsequential people.  But God demonstrated is power and grace by choosing them as his own – by making them his treasured possession among all the peoples.

            What a blessing this was!  Only Israel had the presence of the Creator in their midst as he dwelt at the tabernacle and then the temple.  Only Israel had been given the Torah – the instructions for how they were to live in relationship to God.  What other nations could only sense in a general way through the law written on their heart, Israel had in clear statements from God.  As the apostle Paul told the Romans, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.”

            Yet along with this great blessing of being God’s people – his treasured possession – came a great responsibility.  Israel stood before the world as Yahweh’s people.  God had put his name upon them.  That’s how God had described the Aaronic Benediction, that we use at the conclusion of each service.  Through Moses, Yahweh told Aaron and his sons to speak those words to Israel, and then he explained its meaning by saying: “So you shall you put my name upon the people of Israel and I will bless them.”

            Yahweh had given Israel the Torah that told them how to live as the people who were in a covenant with him.  In many ways, all of the Torah was about the First Commandment: “You shall have no other Gods.”  If Israel lived according to the Torah and kept God’s Word, they would remain faithful to Yahweh as their only God. 

            But if they didn’t, then there were temptations to unfaithfulness all around them.  Israel lived in a world that was filled with false gods.  They lived in the midst of peoples who worshipped those gods. Yahweh warned Israel that if they intermarried with those peoples, they would be led away into idolatry.  Yahweh told Israel that if they worshipped other gods, he would bring judgment upon them and that they would be taken into exile away from the promised land.

            Israel had the Torah.  But it didn’t keep them from disobeying God. In fact their history was one in which they constantly worshipped other gods. When the northern kingdom split away after the death of King Solomon they were always involved in idolatry.  God brought judgment upon them in 721 B.C. when he used the Assyrians to conquer them and take them into exile.

            The southern kingdom of Judah should have learned the lesson from this. But they did not. In fact, things got so bad that the leaders even brought paganism into the temple itself. And so in 587 B.C. God used the Babylonians to destroy the temple in Jerusalem, and to take people into exile.

            The prophet Ezekiel was a priest who had already been taken into exile in 597 B.C. when the Babylonians took some of the middle social figures to Babylon.  Through Ezekiel, Yahweh condemns Judah’s idolatry and tells them that judgment is coming.  But then, once news that city of Jerusalem has fallen reaches Ezekiel, the rest of the book is a word of hope. Yahweh promises that he will return the people to their land, and promises blessings that go far beyond that.

            In our text, Yahweh begins by declaring that he is not going to act because of Judah.  Instead, he is going to act because of his name that they have profaned.  Ezekiel writes: “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.’”

            Judah was God’s people who bore Yahweh’s name. The way the nation had acted, and the judgment it received because of it, had profaned God’s name.  But that is not unique to Judah.  It is true of you as well.  You bear God’s name.  He placed his name upon you in Holy Baptism when he made you his own.  More than that as the baptized you are known by the title of God’s Son. He is the Christ, anointed with the Holy Spirit.  You are Christians, those who belong to Christ because he has given his Spirit to you.

            Yet, you too profane God’s name.  You do it when you place something before God – such as when Sunday morning finds you doing something else rather than being present at church in the Divine Service to receive his gifts.  You do it when you speak angry words to another person that are intended to hurt.  You do it when you ignore your neighbor’s need because it might hinder what you want to do.

            Judah had sinned.  God had punished her with exile.  But his steadfast love for her had not ceased.  And so God says in our text, “I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.”  Yahweh would show them mercy and be faithful to them. He promised to return them from exile.  But in describing this action, God went far beyond the mere return to a land.  And it is here that we see the return from exile was a type – an event in the Old Testament that pointed forward to the even greater salvation God would bring to Israel – and through Israel to all people.

            In chapter thirty four God had promised, “And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken.”  Yahweh promised that the Messiah descended from David would be their shepherd.

            And he promised more – he promised to put his Spirit within them and change them.  God says in our text, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

            God fulfilled Ezekiel’s words when he sent his Son into the world as the son of David.  Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, came to provide the answer to every way that we profane God’s name.  Anointed by the Spirit at his baptism, he took on the role of the suffering Servant who would die for our sins. He was the sacrifice, as he died on the cross, that has won forgiveness before God.

            Yet God’s action in Christ did not end there, for death could never provide the victory God intended.  And so on the third day God raised Jesus from the dead through the work of the Spirit.  Jesus is the first born from the dead. Because he has risen from the dead, you will too.

            And the power that raised Christ from the dead is already at work in you.  On Thursday we celebrated the ascension of our Lord as he was exalted to the right hand of God.  Christ promised that he would send the Spirit, and next Sunday we will celebrate how he did that on the Day of Pentecost.  It is the risen and ascended Lord who has fulfilled Ezekiel’s words.  He has put his Spirit in us to cause us to walk in God’s statutes.  He has given us a new heart.  And he has done this by sprinkling us with water that cleanses us.

            Through the water of baptism you have received forgiveness.  Your sins have been washed away.  And through that same water you have been born again by the work of the Spirit.  You are a new creation in Christ.  Paul told the Romans about baptism, “We were buried therefore with him into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

            We are able to walk in newness of life because the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us.  We are experiencing the end time promise that God made through Ezekiel.  We live in the last days – the end of the ages has come upon us because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and he has given us the Spirit.

            Now we know the Last Day has not yet arrived.  And so while we are a new creation in Christ, the old Adam still wants us to live with a heart of stone. We face the conflict against the old Adam.  And that is why we need to return daily to the water of our baptism.  By contrition and repentance we drown the old Adam. We confess our sin and through faith receive the forgiveness that God has given us in baptism. 

            And then we daily emerge and go forth from our baptism to live by the power of the Spirit.  Your baptism is the source of the Spirit’s continuing work in your life. And the Spirit then works through God’s Word to nourish and strengthen us in faith.  The Spirit uses that Word to repress the old Adam, so that the new man who is led by the Spirit can direct what we actually do.    This is why we need to be reading God’s Word.  We need to be taking in those inspired words so that the Spirit can feed us and lead us to live in the ways that are true to God’s will.  Do you want to grow in your life as a child of God?  Think about your baptism in faith every day. Read God’s Word every day.  For in this way you will find yourself cleansed of every sin and the Spirit of Christ will lead to you to walk in God’s ways, just as God promises through Ezekiel this morning.