Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pentecost

If last Sunday was Ascension Sunday that means that this Sunday is Pentecost. So, we will, once again, set aside our journey through Romans in order to take a little time to reflect on another event in the history of redemption. Pentecost is the next to last act in Jesus’ work to redeem this world. The last act will be His return.

The Ascension is a big deal because Jesus now intercedes for us at the Father’s right hand. Okay. So, why is Pentecost a big deal? One popular notion among some Christians these days is that Pentecost is when the Spirit finally shows up. It is the advent of the Spirit who has come to create the Church. Well, that can’t be right. For one thing, the Spirit was actually quite busy before Pentecost. It was the Spirit who, in the beginning of creation, hovered over the face of the waters. When it was time to build the Tabernacle in the desert, it was the Spirit who gave Bezalel the ability to do some very beautiful work. The Spirit blessed David as king, which is why he prayed, ‘Take not Your Holy Spirit from me’. The Spirit filled John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, to speak words of prophecy. It was the Spirit who anointed Jesus for ministry at His baptism. And let’s not forget that the Spirit was working through Moses and the others to inspire the first part of the Bible. So, I think that we’d be way off in thinking that Pentecost is the time when Spirit finally shows up.

And when the Spirit makes an appearance on Pentecost, what does He do? Well, He doesn’t create the Church. Consider those who lived before Pentecost, people like Abraham and David. Weren’t they saints like us? They believed the Gospel as it was revealed to them, in things like the sacrifices. They were believers. So, what shall we call them as a group? Referring to the saints of Moses’ day, Stephen calls them ‘the church in the wilderness’. The Spirit didn’t start the Church. The people of God, the saints, the Church, existed way before that Pentecost recorded in Acts.

Well, we still haven’t answered our question. Why is Pentecost a big deal? What did the Spirit do on that day in the first century? Listen to what Jesus said to His apostles.

A Prayer

Holy Spirit,

We come to You, the third person of the glorious Trinity, the one who is truly God and worthy of all praise and worship, but also the one who is all too often neglected and forgotten. Who You are and what You do is too hidden from our eyes. And yet, as we come to understand the Gospel better we find ourselves seeing more clearly how important You really are.

You are the one who has made the blessings of the Gospel ours. You are the one who convicted us of sin so that we would repent. You are the one who granted us faith so that we would believe. It is only because of these gracious ministrations of Yours that we have come to Jesus. If this is all that You ever did for us, we would be greatly indebted to You, greatly indebted.

 But those things are only the beginning of Your work in us. You are also the one who united us to the body of Jesus, His Church, marking us out in our baptism. You gave us abilities that we could use in this Church to encourage the saints and to attract unbelievers to Jesus. You still point out our sins so that we would repent and become holy. You comfort us as we deal with the evils of this age. You encourage us when we want to give up. You illumine the Scriptures so that we can come to know reality as it actually is. You guide us through this life. And You do all these things not from some faraway place. You live within us.

There is so much about who You are and what You do that we still don't understand. So, we ask that You would continue to teach us. Teach us about the awesome power that You have to bring about tremendous change. Use it to change our lives. And then, use us to change other lives. Use us as You see fit to bring in the kingdom that will completely transform this creation. We look forward to the age to come when we will be able to grow more and more and more in our understanding and appreciation of who You are and what You do, things that will evoke our praise for You, forever. Amen

Friday, May 18, 2018

For Sunday

Reading of the Law of God
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5.14-15

Confession of Sin
Our Father, we know the teaching of the Scriptures and do sincerely confess that Jesus is Lord over our lives. But we too often find ourselves living for ourselves. We too often look to our own desires and goals in order to decide what we will do. In times like these we fail to submit to Jesus’ gracious lordship over our lives. We ask that you would forgive us this sin. We ask that, more and more, we would gladly submit to Jesus’ lordship and in this way experience a fullness of life that will bring honor to You. Amen.

Declaration of Pardon
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John 1. 29

The Lord enrich you with his grace, and nourish you with his blessing; the Lord defend you in trouble and keep you from all evil; the Lord accept your prayers, and absolve you from your offences, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Saviour.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Uttermost, Intercession, Drawing Near

If today were Christmas Eve there would be a certain something in the air, a bit of anticipation. The same would be true if today were Easter, though maybe not quite as strong. But that's about all the notice that many Christians these days give to the church calendar. But what is the birth of Jesus and His resurrection without what happened on Good Friday, at Jesus' ascension into heaven and on Pentecost? Leave out any of these other events and you're ignoring something that the Father sent Jesus to accomplish. You’re leaving out a key part of the Gospel. There is no coming of the Spirit without Jesus ascending to the right hand of the Father. And there would be no ascension without a resurrection. But there would be no resurrection without an atoning death. And there would be no death if there had never been a birth. The work of Jesus is all of these things. So, while it is obvious to celebrate Christmas and Easter, it should also be obvious to celebrate Good Friday, Ascension Sunday and Pentecost. We need to celebrate all of what Jesus has come to do as our Savior.

Now, I said all of that because today is Ascension Sunday. So, we're going to take a break from our journey through Romans to spend a little time considering something that we confess quite regularly: 'He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty…' We’re going to look at the ascension of Jesus to heaven.

A Prayer

Father,
You are such a good father to us. You understand who we are and what we need. And You are always there for us. This is what makes life possible for us.

Father, we live in a world that is filled with issues, problems, questions, troubles. We are reminded daily, it seems, about dangers to our health, financial pitfalls, job insecurities. And one of these days we're going to die.

It is no surprise that so many around us become anxious and seek relief from these things in one foolish way or another.

Father, behind all of this stands Satan with his schemes, tempting us so that we would become anxious also. And sad to say, there are too many times when he fools us and that is exactly what we do.

But there really is no reason for us to do that. You are our Father. You care about us. You care for us. You invite us to cast all that concerns us - all the issues, problems, questions and troubles - to cast them all on You. You are ready, willing and very eager to carry them all for us, to protect us in all of this. You really are a good father. There is no reason for us to worry.

So, first, Father, we want to thank You. You could be like the gods of so many others. These gods demand and deceive, but they do not help. They do not care. And that’s because they are either some disguised demon or they are just not real. But that's not You. You care, and You help. We can see that, and we are grateful.

But we also need to admit our guilt. There are too many times that we either look to some phony god or give in to the temptation and become anxious and worry about it all, as if doing that could do any good. There are too many times that we simply do not believe You. We do not believe that You care. We humbly ask that You would forgive us our foolishness. Thank You that Jesus has come so that we can be forgiven these evil sins of ours.

Help us, Father, to believe You, to believe that You care. Grant us the grace that we need to do that, especially when it comes to areas of our lives where we are so used to not believing You. Help us, Father.  

We ask for changed lives not for our sake alone. We do benefit when You bless us in these sorts of ways. But we know that the ultimate goal is not our welfare. The ultimate goal is You. The ultimate goal is revealing the beauty of who You are to all of creation.
So, teach us to entrust ourselves more consistently to You so that our lives will display that beauty to a world that is so very used to ugliness. Change us, Father, so that we can display the Gospel of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Comment on a Hymn

'All Creatures of Our God and King'

Isn't this hymn a little over the top? Asking 'rushing wind' and 'clouds that sail along' to praise God? Can they do that? Does asking for that actually make any sense? Evidently so. Consider some Scripture.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalms 19:1
…the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:7
Nature praises God by doing what comes naturally. And I suspect that is what's also supposed to happen with humanity. But sin gets in the way. However, we saints have been rescued from that sin. So, with a little effort we too can praise God. And that's what our hymn writer calls us to.


All creatures of our God and king
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!

Refrain
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!

Refrain

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.

Refrain

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!

Refrain

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!

Refrain