Holy Spirit, now outpoured
Pentecost Sunday, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon today is the story of Pentecost, the story that we now know is one full of power and the glory of Christ.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
1,990 years and fifty days ago, or thereabouts, Jesus rose from the dead. 40 days after that, he ascended into heaven. 10 days after that, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles with power on the day called Pentecost, and 3,000 were added to their number that day, and the next days more and more people came to faith and the ones that didn’t come to faith saw them and were in wonder.
Today is Pentecost Sunday, the day when we celebrate how the Holy Spirit came in a mighty rushing wind filling the house of the apostles with the presence of God. Today we celebrate how the Holy Spirit divided like tongues of fire among the apostles, filling them with power. Today we celebrate how the Holy Spirit gave the power to undo the curse of Babel, allowing the apostles to speak in all languages, undoing the confusion and frustration that happens when the person you’re speaking to can’t understand what you’re saying.
Today is also the first day we’ve been back in our Sanctuary since March. The first time when we can gather in this sacred space to receive the good gifts of our God.
Today ought to be a triumphant day, but it doesn’t quite live up to that.
Because not too far away from here is a family who found their dad just got called up to service again, now in the twin cities. They’re scared. They don’t know what’s going to happen. Today doesn't feel like a victory to them.
Not too far away from them is a family whose angry, angry at justice gone wrong, angry that they can’t escape a cycle that’s much larger than they are. They can’t get away; they’re caught in the middle; today doesn’t feel like a victory to them.
And not too far away from them are all kinds of people watching, waiting, anxious and fearful, wanting to do something, wanting to be part of a solution rather than a problem, sick to their stomach without any way how to know what to do, and the preacher’s up here preaching about victory. Today doesn’t feel like a victory to them.
Three powers that the Holy Spirit grants to God’s people. The ways that we would once again listen to the steady and calm voice of our Savior in the middle of the chaos that our world has always been.
First, he gives the power to receive the forgiveness of Christ. Notice who speaks on Pentecost Sunday. It’s Peter. Peter the impetuous. Peter who denied. Peter who wept bitterly. Peter who was reinstated with the words, “Peter, do you love me? Feed my sheep.”
His denial tracks with Judas’s betrayal. Jesus predicts both. Both do as Jesus predicts. Both instantly regret their actions. But when Judas despairs, Peter is forgiven.
Why? Because we don’t even have the ability to receive the forgiveness of Christ without the power of the Holy Spirit. We are helpless in every way. We are dead in our trespasses until the wind of the Holy Spirit makes us a live in Christ.
It’s Peter that speaks on Pentecost. The forgiven, the beloved, the sinner-made-saint, the denier whose Lord is faithful, and look what God does when the power of the Holy Spirit gives you the ability to receive the forgiveness of Christ; your whole life becomes a statement of who Christ is.
Second, the Holy Spirit gives the power to bridge the confusion of Babel. Way back in Genesis 11, the descendants of Noah decided to make a name for themselves and God confused their languages. From them came all the languages of the world, and all the confusion that comes with them.
Confusion. Chaos. Just one aspect to what we call sin. People cannot understand one another anymore, not without extreme measures.
But for that moment, as the apostles lifted up their voices, all the nations around them could hear and understand. There was nothing lost in translation. There was no more confusion. The curse of Babel was undone for a time.
Third, The Holy Spirit gives the power to bear the cross of Christ. Notice Peter’s opening Scripture reference. It’s Joel chapter 2, in these last days. He’s saying what Lutherans say, which is that everyone who’s lived ever since Jesus ascended into heaven has lived in the endtimes, in the last days. Things will get worse before they get better. Remember that the apostles didn’t know how their lives would end. They did not know that at the end of this speech 3,000 would be added to their numbers. Seven chapters later, they didn’t know that they would be fleeing for their lives after Stephen died. They didn’t know if they would survive. They didn’t know that St. Paul would be the greatest missionary the church had ever known. They didn’t know the amazing things that would happen to them from that time to their last days. They didn’t know the horrible things that would happen to them along the way.
They didn’t know that. But this they did know: that Jesus, who once was dead, is alive. They knew that their lives were hidden with Christ on high. They knew that Jesus said, if anyone would follow me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.
So, they could walk through whatever else they needed to walk through, because their worth was not of this world.
Come today to our Lord’s Supper and taste the victory that truly matters, Christ’s victory over death. Come today and eat and drink the peace that surpasses your understanding that will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Come today and receive the strength that only your God gives, and receive it especially when your strength is running out.
The kingdom of heaven is like a family that prays not only for their father called to duty but also for all those who are protesting, praying for their souls, praying for healing, praying for help.
The kingdom of heaven is like a family praying for an end to anger, for an end to hatred, for an end to racism.
The kingdom of heaven is like a large church in a small town full of people that are often tempted toward anger, often tempted toward despair, often tempted toward anxiety and fear. They feel their emotions rising up on the inside, but in the end, they come back to the eternal truths that center their faith. The come back to the victory already won for them. They come back to Christ.
Amen and amen.
Keeping Vigil Before We Wake
Fifth in a series, “Keeping Vigil”
Daniel 12:1–3 // Luke 24:36–49 // Romans 8:18–25
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon theme is Keeping Vigil Before We Wake.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
We’ve been keeping vigil in the last few weeks. This captures the strange tension that we’ve been in, ever since the middle of Lent: we’re keeping vigil. We’re watching. We’re waiting. We’re hoping. We’re praying. Today, we are Keeping Vigil Before We Wake.
Until we put his nook away, it had been Amos Stanley’s habit to lose his nook at about 1 or 2am and cry until I would get up and look for it around his bed. First I’d shake the covers, then I’d run my hand on the edge of the bed, then I’d check the near side with the light from my watch. Then I’d move the bed and check the far side. Whenever I found it, I’d pop it back into his mouth, and he would instantly fall asleep again, and then I’d shuffle on back to bed. But, if it had been long enough, I’d be just awake enough that I couldn’t slump off to sleep, and I would lie there, awake, waiting to fall asleep, calculating how much sleep I would get, waiting before I would wake.
That kind of a feeling is a familiar one these days. You’re up, but you’re not up. You lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, wishing that you were either asleep or awake. Not necessarily wanting to do anything but still not doing what you want to be doing. In the predawn, waiting, keeping vigil before we wake.
In Luke 24, we listen in as the story of Easter Sunday keeps unfolding. These disciples, they are at the moment of waking. They are about to be woken up to the mysteries of the Scriptures revealed. They are about to see the risen Christ for exactly who he is: God himself, exalted in all of his glory, with no humiliation left, risen again. They are about to see how all of the Scriptures make this plain in a way that only God can do. They are ABOUT to see that.
But our story for today is in the curious predawn, the grey before the sun rises, the time when comprehension is coming but has not yet come.
Three confusions that we will consider as we see the disciples wake. Confusion #1, that Jesus is real. Confusion #2 that the point of the Scriptures is to speak of Jesus. Confusion #3, that Jesus both sends them and bids them wait at the same time.
Confusion #1, that Jesus is real. He was a real live human being before his death. He continued to be a real, live human being after his resurrection. They were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. But he took a piece of broiled fish, and ate it before them. Did you wonder about the fish? Oddly enough, this is an important detail because Jesus proves that he is bodily among them; he’s no spirit, no ghost; he is real; he is present.
To say it a different way, the same Jesus that was with them in the flesh as a teacher is the same Jesus who hung on the cross and died, is the same Jesus who was raised to life and stands before them now. He is in essence exactly the same as he always was: both God and man. The confusion for the disciples is that they are seeing him now in his glory, and they think that his glory strips him of his humanity. It doesn’t. Instead, his glory ful-fills his humanity. It brings his humanity up.
And it’s like that for us too. Jesus, his glory, his Gospel, doesn’t diminish our humanity; he fulfills it. When you fall headlong into discipleship in Jesus Christ, the hope you have in him fills every relationship, every interaction with the knowledge that our God is working through you to do his will for your neighbor.
Confusion #2, that the point of the Scriptures is to speak of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “These are the words that I spoke to you while I was still with you.” He says, “I already told you all of this! And before you go and say well, Pastor, he may have told them that, but do we have it recorded for us to see? The answer is YES! Three times on the way to Jerusalem, twice in Luke 9, a third time in Luke 18.
The first time, it’s right after Peter confesses him to be the Christ and then Jesus charges them to tell no one what he says. The second time, they don’t understand and they’re too afraid to ask him about it. The third time, it says, the meaning was hidden from them. But here in Luke 24, all that was confusing, all that Jesus had taught them (and they didn’t understand), now he is teaching them to understand it.
And it’s like that for us. We learn the truths of Christianity when we are young, and we never stop relearning them. But. Relearn probably isn’t the best word. We never stop deepening them. We understand them in part, and then we understand more. Christian discipleship never stops, and we never get past the truths you learn in Sunday School; instead they just get deeper.
Confusion #3, that Christ both sends them and bids them to wait for his timing at the same time. Notice this, that we’re still on Easter Sunday. It started early with the women at the tomb. It continued with Peter and John running to the tomb. It continued further on the Road to Emmaus with Cleopas and the other disciple seeing Jesus and coming back. We’re still in the 24 hours of Sunday morning. Jesus promises them the Holy Spirit that very day, and then do you know what happens? He teaches them for 40 more days until he ascends in verse 50. They wait 10 more days until Pentecost, wondering how long they might have to wait. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit, and then he gives it 50 days later. 50 days!!!!!!
And so it is with us. Jesus doesn’t give all of his gifts at once, they unfold over a lifetime of study. We don’t understand his word all at once, but instead, in every the chapter of life, he gives special gifts of understanding, special opportunities to understand his word.
Confusion #1, that Jesus is real. Confusion #2 that the point of the Scriptures is to speak of Jesus. Confusion #3, that Jesus both sends them and bids them wait at the same time. The truth that underlies them all is the truth of the Gospel: that Jesus is the one who brings the truth of clarity, and he gives it to us in his time. Jesus is the one who fills our lives with purpose, because he has won an eternal victory over death for us. Jesus is the one that leads a little longer, a little deeper, until the day dawns.
Two thoughts in conclusion for today.
Thought #1: If the bodily presence of Jesus was peace to his disciples, then I’d invite you to be peace in your neighborhood. Jesus came in bodily among his disciples and said Peace to you. Be peace to your neighbors. Do you know their names? If not, get to know them. I know that I have a few new people who moved in that I haven’t met. If you do know them, what have you done to care for them lately? Do something tangible.
Thought #2: If the mystery of the Scripture only deepens through time, then I’d invite you to be doing what the disciples were doing for those forty days of strange after the resurrection: sitting at Jesus’s feet, coming to Bible study, deepening those truths, with your pastors. You might not understand it today, but it could be the study that God brings back to mind twenty years from now to finish what he started.
The kingdom of heaven is like a large church in a small town full of folks who are crying and rejoicing at the same time. They are crying with every time that we cannot be together as we wish, but they are rejoicing that God’s plan is bigger than a day, bigger than a season. They are crying with those who are suffering in these days, but they are rejoicing that their God has borne all suffering on the cross. They are crying out to their God when their confusion gets too great, AND they are rejoicing that God gives understanding in his time.
Amen and amen.
Keeping Vigil Although Weak
Third in a series, Keeping Vigil
Isaiah 40:25–31 // Luke 24:1–12
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon touches on the Old Testament Reading and the Gospel Reading, and we will begin with these words, “He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We are working our way through a sermon series, Keeping Vigil. We began Keeping Vigil on this mountain (That’s the language of Isaiah 25). Last week we explored Keeping Vigil As We Wait. Today, Keeping Vigil Although Weak, and we get that language from Isaiah 40. “The Lord does not faint or grow weary; He gives power to the faint. Even youths shall faint and grow weary but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”
There are at least two kinds of weariness. There’s a kind of weariness that comes because you’ve done a whole lot in a day. There’s another kind of weariness that comes from doing nothing in particular.
For example, the first kind of weariness is what you get when you end up with 35,000 steps on your fitness device. The second kind of weariness is the kind that keeps you up the day before your surgery. The first kind of weariness is when you get off of a 36-hour workday raising barns, or you finish a 24-hr. rollerskating challenge. The second kind of weariness is like, well, let me tell you a story.
The second kind of weariness is what you get when you’re a first-time father-to-be. Do any of you remember that? It’s the weariness of being vigilant. Every time your dear wife has contractions, you’re there with the stopwatch (and if you’re me, you’re falling asleep between contractions). Every time I’d go up to preach or begin service, I told Rev. Big Dog, “I’m going to have my phone out and if my wife texts, you got the sermon right?” Every time I’d go running, I would order my route so that I could come back and check on Laura, and I always knew when I was furthest away from her. It’s a weariness of being alert. It’s a weariness of keeping vigil. It’s the weariness that wears out endurance.
Today we consider especially the second kind of weariness. Hyper-vigilance. Living on a knife’s edge. After the adrenaline runs out, you just get tired. You get to your limit. You find, you’re just done.
This is point number one of our sermon today. You have limits. Your strength will fail. Have you ever been there before? Your strength fails in such a way that even easy tasks become difficult. After a particularly draining day, my 4 year old asks me again where his shoes are, and I find out that I don’t have the patience to help him work through how he can find it.
I’ve been there. In my world, it’s called compassion fatigue, thinking, “I don’t know how to help this person anymore.” “I can’t see how this could end well.” “I just can’t care anymore.” “I am not enough.” Have you ever thought that?
The law of this sermon boils down to simply this: you are not enough. You have limits, whatever they may be. You will meet failure, however you try.
But here’s the curious thing about the Christian faith. We can acknowledge that, that our strength is at its end, and we can keep on going. Why? Because we don’t rely on our own strength anymore.
Hear the words of Isaiah again. “The Lord is the everlasting God, Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” Hear those words for what they’re saying. Our God created all things and he has no bounds. He has no limits; he has no end to his strength. He is the maker of heaven and earth and instead of lasting just for a time, he is everlasting. Instead of time-bound, he is eternal. He is the only God who made heaven and earth.
And then it gets more interesting. Because, the one who is the creator reveals himself to be our redeemer. You see, none of this would matter if the creator weren’t also the Redeemer. It’d be like a Foodshelf that said, “We’ve got all the food you’ll ever need but you can’t have any.” That doesn’t help you.
The Almighty God who makes heaven and earth uses all of his might (think about that—he uses all of his boundless might) to redeem the whole world in his Holy One, Jesus. The Almighty, boundless, eternal, everlasting God is the God who chooses to have boundless mercy and steadfast love and miraculous forgiveness.
He does this in the cross. Jesus died to do what we could not do. Jesus wins for us in his weakness what we could not gain in our strength. Jesus does by the plan of God what is beyond us so that we might receive forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation.
We don’t rely on our own strength anymore. We pray things like, Lord, my patience is running out. But I know that these children are even more yours than they are mine, so give me your patience in these days. We pray, Lord, I need a peace that passes my understanding, because I don’t even understand what’s happening. So if my situation is beyond my understanding, I need a peace that reaches farther still. We pray, Lord, I need you to renew my strength, because I’m faint, I’m weary, and only you can lift me up.
Consider our Gospel reading. The women and the twelve, they aren’t going to be doing anything on their own. And yet, the revelation of their God comes upon them. The God who created everything uses all of his might to redeem all things, and then, and then, starts to work through them. They are opened up to a new perspective, one where the Jesus that they thought was defeated has in fact conquered death, not only for himself, but moreover for them and for the sake of the whole world.
St. Paul says it like this, at the end of 2 Corinthians, in this paradoxical little statement that fits so perfectly for those who are at the end of their limit: “But he (that’s Jesus) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Keeping vigil although weak. We don’t rely on our own strength but on the strength of our God. We know with Paul that when we are weak, then we are strong. We know with the disciples that Jesus brings all of the might of the creator into his redemption.
Three thoughts in summary. Three thoughts about what your Christian faith can do to you.
1. Christian faith is honest. Your faith is stubborn to see things like they are, not to hide behind falsehoods or white lies but to see things as they are, to see things in light of eternal truths.
2. Christian faith allows us to see our own limits. It lets us be honest about how we fail, where we fall short, and when we are not enough.
3. Christian faith rests on the strength of our God. In acknowledging all of that, it frees us to do what God calls us to, through his Word.
Amen and amen.
Funeral sermon for Beverly Kitzmann
Psalm 23 // Joshua 24:14–15 // 1 John 3:1–3 // John 14:1–7
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text for today is the declaration of Joshua as the Lord opened up the Promised Land to him and to the people of Israel, “For me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” Our text thus far.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Beverly was one of an army of kind and sweet church ladies that make a church house into a church home. She was one of many ladies who, at the end of her days, all that is left for us was that kindness and that sweetness. Beverly is a dear, dear soul, who blessed not only her church family but also her husband (as Proverbs 31 says, a fine wife is worth more than rubies – you know that, Frank), she blessed her children. She blessed her grandchildren.
Today, once again, we consider how much of a privilege it is that we get to lead our families in the fear of the Lord, how much of a privilege it is to be raising children and grandchildren and great grandchildren in the faith. Today, once again, we consider how sweet it is to be children ourselves, not only of our parents, but of our heavenly Father.
First, hear the words of Joshua 24, Joshua speaking to the children of Israel, “For me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” Joshua says these words at the end of his life, after he has done all that the Lord commanded him to do for the children of Israel, shepherding them through the most change and travel that they would see in the next five hundred years. He was there disappointed with them as they were on the step of the Promised Land and turned back, forty years in the desert. He was there with the children of Israel as they were tempted and tested and tried. He was there to lead them as they leaned on the faithfulness of their God and conquered the Promised Land.
And here, at the end of his life, he speaks for himself and his household, that they would be holding fast to the teachings of the Lord, not only in his generation, but that that kind of a faith would be passed down to the next and the next and the next.
When I look at my two boys, I see all sorts of character traits and mannerisms I’ve passed down, some good and some not so good. On the one hand, the not-so-good. Every time my boys get too goofy (and it usually ends in someone getting hit and crying), every time I think, Lord God, is this what my parents had to deal with? Is this what I was like? Or, on the other hand, the good. Like my dad, I almost always thank my wife for the delicious food she cooked. Like my parents and grandparents, my family says the common table prayer together, we pray before bed, we read our Bible together, we go to church together.
No doubt, in these days, you see the touch of your mom and grandma everywhere. The look she would give, the care she would have, the kindness in her speech, these are gifts, extraordinary gifts passed down from generation to generation. These are gifts, extraordinary gifts, ones where we can say, with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we are marked with kindness, a kindness that we saw in our grandma. As for me and my house, we are marked with gentleness and thoughtfulness, the kind that we saw in mom.
Second, we consider how Beverly herself was a child, not only of her parents but of her Heavenly Father. Hear the words of 1 John 3 again: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.”
It was her habit, through years and decades and a lifetime, to gather to the Sanctuary. It was Bev’s habit to be receiving the words of the Invocation, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and knowing that those were the words spoken over her in her baptism, those were the words that made her a child of her father in heaven, and in those words, “God his children ne’er forsaketh.”
It was her habit to speak the words of the confession of sins, confessing what she had done and what she had left undone, and hearing the sweetest thing ever said, forgiveness of her God
And in these last months, it was her habit to sit quietly on her couch as the pastor came by the house, as Frank held her hand, as they celebrated something that is totally out of this world, as they celebrated together the Lord’s Supper.
For in the Lord’s Supper, she looked forward. It is a foretaste of the eternal feast. In the bread and wine which are Christ’s body and blood, her heavenly Father scooped her up into his mighty arms, to bear her home. In the eating and the drinking, she was remembering the sole purpose of her God’s love, that she was coming home to see the mansion prepared for her in the presence of her God, for he is the way, the truth, and the life.
“Though he giveth or he taketh, God His children ne’er forsaketh; His the loving purpose solely, To preserve them pure and holy.”
May Beverly Joanne Kitzmann rest in peace. Amen and amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther