4th Sunday after Pentecost – (Proper 8) LSB #’s 590, 589,
Text – Romans 7:5
For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.
BEARING FRUIT FOR DEATH
The title is an ominous sounding phrase. The underlying text isn’t nearly as famous or well-known as Psalm 23 for example, or John 3:16. Clearly St. Paul is warning us of danger because our thoughts, words & deeds can bring about death rather than life. If we take stock of our lives honestly, there is reason for concern. Our conscience is not perfectly clear.
There are details of our lives we do not willingly share with others. And, there are details in the lives of other people that we all too willingly share. Problems & brokenness are a dime a dozen. The fact that some people make their living by giving motivational speeches says something about that state of human affairs. The human race is in trouble.
Have you heard of a particular solution that motivational speakers will highlight? I’m thinking of the idea that in order to be happy & successful you need to discover what you are passionate about & then do it! In Romans 7:5, the Word of God is sounding a warning in regards to what we are passionate about:
“For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.” We’ve seen quite a bit of law breaking across our nation this past month. Much of it was aroused by the law & those sinful passions were at work bearing fruit for death!
A police officer in Minneapolis was, at the very least, coldly indifferent to the life of another human being. According to the video, he snuffed that life out & didn’t even flinch! I’m guessing that he’s passionate about that sort of work.
In response, other people have discovered something they are passionate about. In normal times we refer to them as pyromaniacs, & they love to see things burn. There were also plenty of live videos showing people looting & rioting with passion.
According to the Word of God in Romans 7, such people are not following Jesus. Those thoughts, words & deeds are not perpetrated by those who have found life in Christ. At the Mount of Olives, Peter cut off the ear of a servant & Jesus told Peter to put away his sword. Beware of your passions! That’s what God is teaching us here through the Apostle Paul.
He is also teaching us that, because of sin, the law can only bring death. That’s why so many people in this world hate authority. When confronted with someone else who is in charge, they literally feel how powerless they are, & that makes them angry.
While the Law of God is good, & we are not, the Law does have a problem. The Law leaves us in a state of helplessness. It very accurately points out our failures & shortcomings, but offers us nothing in the way of the ability to keep the Law. The Law condemns every single human being as a failure & gives you & me not one ounce of hope for our future.
During His life on earth, Jesus had the power & the ability to keep the Law perfectly. He chose to do so on our behalf because He knew how powerless & desperate all of His creation was. Romans 8:22-23 tell us:
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
Since the culture & the government of our nation no longer accept the love & forgiveness of Jesus, all they are left with to operate is the Law. The culture today, in spite of their hatred for Christian teaching, is trying, as unbelievers always do, to live by, & to make life better through, the law. There are all kinds of new & politically correct laws that the culture wants us to keep in order to be pure. Laws like the legalization of abortion or of gay marriage are meant to be making life better for people. Yet, because of sin all that the law can do is kill. That’s true whether it is the good & holy Law of God, or the corrupt & twisted laws of mankind.
The Law kills, so Jesus came to suffer that death for us, in order to fulfill the Law. He also came to live the perfect life which would fulfill the Law. As we are alive in Christ we are then able to bear fruit for something other than death.
As Psalm 1:3 (ESV) says of the child of God, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, & its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” As children of God we do yield fruit for life rather than death even when we are not aware of it.
Yes, we still sin. That is an abomination to God, but for Christ’s sake He forgives our sins. We are washed & made clean by the blood Jesus shed on the cross. By that same blood Jesus calls us back to life every time we turn to Him. By that same blood He enables us to turn back to Him. By Jesus’ blood we are set free from bearing fruit for death. Amen.
Speak, O Lord, Your servant listens, let Your Word to me come near; newborn life & spirit give me, let each promise still my fear. Death’s dread power, its inward strife, wars against Your Word of life; fill me, Lord, with love’s strong fervor that I cling to You forever! As I pray, dear Jesus, hear me; let Your words in me take root. May Your Spirit e’er be near me that I bear abundant fruit. May I daily sing Your praise, from my heart glad anthems raise, till my highest praise is given in the endless joy of heaven. Amen. LSB 589:1, 4.
3rd Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 7) LSB #761
Text – Romans 6:12 NLT
Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.
PUTTING SIN IN CONTROL
Do you remember from the sermon last Sunday, one reason all of us struggle to repent of our sins? Repentance involves recognizing & acknowledging that we will surely die. In fact, it involves recognizing & acknowledging that you & I are already, here & now, dead! We have no life in us apart from Jesus Christ. None! Not one ounce of life.
Jesus is the only answer to death. All the looting, rioting & arson that went on – it’s because people are already dead. Jesus is the only answer. The “officer involved killings” going on – they’re because human beings are already dead. Jesus is the only answer. Climate change & the unequal distribution of wealth, they’re signs of the obvious – you & I are already dead.
Jesus is the only answer. There is comfort & hope in that, but this Sunday, St. Paul, in writing to the church at Rome applies that answer & that comfort to our daily living. What do we do now that we are dead in sin & yet also alive in Christ? When we put sin in control of daily decisions trouble arises – every time, even if we don’t reap the consequences immediately.
It hasn’t gotten nearly as much coverage in the media as the looting & rioting, but there are people asking, “What is the way forward out of all this mess of racism & lawlessness & brutality?” You know the answer! You have the answer, but you are afraid to say it! You are afraid to tell people that if they do not follow Jesus, racism, lawlessness & rioting is their future!
As you heard in the sermon text, “Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires.” That is how people who follow Jesus move forward out of the mess of racism, lawlessness & brutality. They begin by acknowledging that without Christ they are dead & therefore helpless. They need their Creator’s power even to breathe, let alone to help the world move beyond its self-destructive impulses. Verse 13 makes clear that once God claims us at Baptism, we face an on-going, moment by moment tug of war – obedience or bondage, saint or sinner, new creation or old creation: “Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin.” (Romans 6:13a NLT)
Paul is urging us to actively & continually oppose a return to being enslaved to sin. Rioting, looting & burning is a perfect picture of slavery to sin. People who do so are putting sin in control of their lives. They are selling out to the Devil. Police officers who use excessive force are selling out to the Devil & putting sin in control.
People who pollute the water or the air are selling out to the Devil & putting sin in control. People who practice sexual immorality are selling out to the Devil & putting sin in control. People who kill innocent children just to make money are selling out to the Devil & putting sin in control.
Those who judge others based on their skin color are selling out to the Devil & putting sin in control. And why do people live like that? Because they are dead. Paul wants us to recognize that, acknowledge it, & then stop trying to live on our own. In order to actually live we need to surrender & repent as often as we put sin in control.
In Galatians 5, Paul speaks about nine fruits of the Spirit & one of them is self-control. It is a gift, given to us at Baptism by the Holy Spirit, & we need the Holy Spirit’s help to develop that gift. You might have a gift to make music, but you still have to develop that gift through practice & hard work, & many people do.
Many Christians develop the gift of self-control, but it doesn’t happen by accident, or by magic. Parents are given to children by God in order to be their authority until the child has learned to develop & to put into use the gift of self-control. “Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life.” (Romans 6:12-13b NLT) If that sounds like you should be willingly making sacrifices, you are correct. Later in the book of Romans Paul wrote:
“I appeal to you therefore… by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy & acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (12:1-2 ESV) Living the new life that Christ has given us is to worship our heavenly Father. We don’t worship Him to earn His favor; we do so because we already have God’s favor. In Christ, we are alive!
In Christ, we do not put sin in control, but we practice self-control. Does that look pretty? Not at all. It is warfare, because the Devil is taking this battle to the death. You may not like warfare, but it is a reality & the losers are those who refuse to acknowledge that apart from Jesus they are dead; that apart from Jesus they will never have success that lasts.
And yet, the moment we begin to look for success is the moment we get into trouble again. Spiritual success is not something we can see in this life. We don’t have the eyes for it. Our vision is far too worldly focused. The very thought of trying to see if we are spiritually successful comes from the Devil himself & is based entirely upon the law.
Our “success,” if we can call it that, rests completely in eternal life, which has been given to us by the heavenly Father. We cannot see because we are not there yet. Many of the screaming people in our culture seem to want heaven here on earth, the perfect life with no looting, no brutality, no racism, no climate change, and no unwanted children.
They are not willing to believe the reality that sin has completely & totally corrupted our world. Nothing will ever be perfect in this life & sin will never be eliminated. The best we can do still requires us to repent each day of our sin. God has mercy on sinners who repent, yet the screaming people in our culture want everyone else to be perfect or die. That’s kind of the bottom line for them. They feel superior to those who are not politically correct & they have no problem being judgmental even as they accuse Christians of being nothing but that. And certainly there are Christians who fall into that sin – each of us at one time or another.
Sodom & Gomorrah were dead in their sins. It seems clear that our nation is rapidly approaching that as well. Jesus is the only answer. Repentance is how we reconnect with Jesus whenever we go astray. It’s simply acknowledging that we are dead & then turning back to God’s Son for renewed life. Like self-control, repentance is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
It takes practice & hard work to develop that gift. It takes the power of God’s Spirit too, because on our own, none of us has the power even to repent. We do have the power to refuse that gift, however. That’s called putting sin in control. It’s an active refusal of God’s grace & mercy. It is rebellion at its heart.
Dirty cops are putting sin in control. Racists are putting sin in control. Rioters & looters & arsonists are putting sin in control. Power hungry politicians are putting sin in control, & they are on both sides of the aisle, Republican & Democrat. Jesus is the only answer. Even you & I, daily put sin in control. Thank God we have been taught to repent of our sin.
That fixes everything because it is the path to heaven. In this life we will have much trouble & sorrow. The message Jesus taught is that He has overcome this world. Those who follow Him do everything in their power to make it a better place, but we’re also realistic. This world will never be rid of sin. Jesus is the only answer.
It’s not easy to live like that. It’s not easy to wholeheartedly believe that message every day. It requires surrendering our will to Christ. God’s Spirit works that in us as well, but if you are still trying to be in control of your life the reality is you are putting sin in control! Until we reach heaven, our sinful nature will always be stronger than our saintly nature. God allows that to keep us humble, to keep us turning back to Him, again & again each hour of every day. The good news is that, although Paul knows you & I are sinners, he is not lying when he writes:
“You are now ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin & have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness & result in eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:21b-23 NLT)
Yes, both are true, we are at the same time, saints & sinners, 100% of each. Yet, Jesus has conquered sin & death. Those who trust in Him to lead shall follow in His footsteps to heaven. Amen.
Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee; let the water & the blood, from Thy riven side which flowed, be of sin the double cure: cleanse me from its guilt & power. Not the labors of my hands can fulfill Thy Law’s demands; could my zeal no respite know, could my tears forever flow, all for sin could not atone; Thou must save, & Thou alone. Amen. LSB 761:1-2.
2nd Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 6) LSB #’s 790, 571, 830
Text – Matthew 10:15
Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the Day of Judgment for the land of Sodom & Gomorrah than for that town.
SODOM & GOMORRAH
When Jesus says it is more bearable on Judgment Day for Sodom & Gomorrah than for you, what comes to mind? That is the gist of the sermon text this morning. Those are not the words we want to hear from Jesus. We’d prefer those recorded by Matthew in chapter 24: “Well done, good & faithful servant.” (24:21a ESV)
However, to hear those words first we have to receive the messengers of Jesus & hear their words. To reject those whom the heavenly Father sends to us is to reject life itself. That is a message we don’t hear often enough. Turning away from God’s Word is to reject life. It gets lost in all the confusion of sin, & of course that is the best & the only plan of the Devil.
Adam & Eve had the word of God, “…of the tree of the knowledge of good & evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17 ESV) The Word of God was very simple & very direct. There was nothing confusing or vague in its language at all. The Lord was very clear: “You shall surely die!” And that they did. And so shall you!
On the bare face of it that is an extremely uncomfortable truth to face. For the most part people just do not enjoy talking about death. Many avoid that conversation at all costs. Even most Christians do not bother with planning for their funeral. All of which is why we struggle so mightily against the idea of repentance.
Repentance involves recognizing & acknowledging that we will surely die. In fact, it involves recognizing & acknowledging that you & I are already, here & now, dead! We have no life in us apart from Jesus Christ. None! Not one ounce of life. And Jesus is the only answer to death. All the looting, rioting & arson going on – it’s because people are already dead. Jesus is the only answer. All the “officer involved killings” going on – they’re because human beings are already dead. Jesus is the only answer. Climate change & the unequal distribution of wealth, they’re just signs of the obvious, you & I are already dead. Jesus is the only answer.
Human beings cannot stop climate change anymore than we can control the weather. We are not god, & in fact we are already quite the opposite. We are already dead, & Jesus is the only answer. That is the point of shaking the dust off their feet. It was to tell the people who did not receive the disciples, or hear their words, that they were already dead!
It hasn’t gotten nearly as much coverage in the media as all the looting & rioting has, but there are people asking, “What is the way forward out of all this mess of racism & lawlessness & brutality?” You know the answer! You have the answer, but you are afraid to say it! You are afraid to tell people that if they do not follow Jesus, racism, lawlessness & rioting is your future!
What we see happening across our nation, because it’s the majority of what our news system is portraying, is a tiny little glimpse of hell. And what bothers you most when seeing it is that you have the answer & you are afraid to speak it! You are afraid that people will laugh at you, or refuse to receive you, or refuse to hear your words! “Jesus is the only answer.”
That’s the whole point He is making in the 10th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew! Where Jesus’ disciples go, & where the words of God are heard, there there is life! If you refuse to receive them, or their words, you will remain dead for all of eternity. With all the unrest & division across our nation people are wondering if the United States are in decline.
There’s no reason to wonder! The answer is clear. These United States of America are already dead! Our nation is done. It is finished. Even now, you & I should be, so to speak, shaking the dust off our feet. The people of this once great land are already dead & someone needs to tell them about it. That our nation is dead is why there is police brutality. That we’re dead is why there is racism. That we’re dead is why people are looting & rioting & burning. Those are not the actions of people who are alive in Jesus Christ!
“And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the Day of Judgment for the land of Sodom & Gomorrah than for that town.” That town, today, used to be called the United States of America. They are no more! Jesus is the only answer.
The rich & famous certainly have no idea how to solve this. Even as they ‘sympathize’ with the idea of defunding the police, what do they have surrounding them at all times – private security! Our politicians have no idea how to solve this. They are only fanning the flames for their political gain, & none of them are refusing the security which our government provides.
The “free” press that is so necessary to a government for the people & by the people is now nothing but a propaganda machine for Satan himself. It is filled with half truths & lies throughout. And what does all that tell you? You got it! As a nation & as a people, we are already dead. Jesus & Jesus alone brings the reign of God. All else is damnation.
No one can reject Jesus Christ with impunity. No one can declare independence from Him & have life. That’s because Jesus is the beginning of the new creation, the one that will never be marred by any of the divisions created by sin. Jesus is the cornerstone upon which that creation is being built.
The current creation reeks of death & brokenness because it has alienated itself from its sinless & loving Creator. In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out the Twelve as missionaries to announce & actually bestow the reversal of death & brokenness. Those who reject the peace of Christ are also rejecting the life without sin that heaven will bring. By shaking the dust off their feet, the disciples are not causing those people to be damned, they are actually warning them of the deadly road they have chosen for themselves. Jesus is now sending you & me out to the world to share the Word of God with them that they might have peace in their heart & soul.
If they reject God’s peace it will be worse for them than for Sodom & Gomorrah on the Day of Judgment. Those cities were vaporized in an instant. Hell will last forever. It is the great mystery of the ages that anyone would reject life. What that rejection reveals, however, is the completely perverse nature of sin. Heaven will have none of it.
Every day of your life should begin with the sobering thought & acknowledgment that in this life you are already dead except for the blood of Jesus. Then, & only after that beginning each new day, can you ever begin to live. There is no other reality upon which to base your life. Any other reality is only more death.
Jesus is not instructing His disciples to shake the dust off their feet out of a sense of superiority or righteousness, but out of profound sadness for those who have rejected His words & thus chosen condemnation. Shaking the dust off their feet was not an act of Judgment. It was simply an act of warning from which any person can be saved through repentance.
It is Yahweh’s great desire that everyone should be saved from sin. He Himself has paid the price of our rebellion. He’s offered us a way out of the confusion of sin & death that we have brought upon ourselves. All we need to do is to acknowledge that we are already dead & then turn to Him for life. God has sent His Spirit to accomplish that work of love in you. Amen.
God loved the world so that He gave His only Son the lost to save, that all who would in Him believe should everlasting life receive. Christ Jesus is the ground, Who was made flesh & suffered death; all then who trust in Him alone are built on this chief cornerstone. God would not have the sinner die; His Son with saving grace is nigh; His Spirit in the Word declares how we in Christ are heaven’s heirs. If you are sick, if death is near, this truth your troubled heart can cheer: Christ Jesus save your soul from death; that is the firmest ground of faith. Amen. LSB 571:1-3, 5.
Holy Trinity Sunday – A LSB #’s 979, 578, 801
Text – Genesis 1:9
Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, & let the dry land appear.” And it was so.
THEN GOD SAID… AND IT WAS SO
What is your ‘go to’ when it’s time to unwind & relax? A fair number of people will drink a beer. Others go for a walk out in nature. Working around the yard or the garden is good for some. Playing golf & other sports help other people wind down. For me, when I’m too exhausted for any physical activity, yet still need to unwind, I listen to music.
It helped me to cope with life on a submarine. It encouraged me to keep plodding through the trials & struggles of seminary. It got me through the several years of loneliness I spent serving as a pastor in North Dakota. In music I find peace & rest for my heart & my soul.
During the time of the reading from the book of Genesis, God’s creation is still a perfect place, without sin or any of the corruption that it brings. There’s no rioting or looting, no murder & no brutality. The Words of God coming from it are like a song that’s being carried on the wind from a very far place. It is a world that you & I have never known.
The report about God’s creation is the truth & nothing but the truth, with no spin or bias applied whatsoever. And in spite of the corruption in our hearts, the saintly nature God created in us recognizes the opening notes & longs to hear the song in full. Shepherds once heard the prelude to that song when “out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” (Luke 2:8)
And when the trumpet sounds as Jesus returns to His creation to recreate all of it, in all of its beauty, then you & I will hear the song of Jesus’ words. We will hear them in person, & it will be the most beautiful song we have ever heard. Unlike now, where the Word of God is spoken & people are allowed to disobey, then our hearts will not have an ounce of disobedience in them. The Word of God will never be corrupted again in our hearing nor in our speaking. For eternity it will be as it was in Genesis 1 & 2, “Then God said… & it was so!” We look forward to that beautiful music with longing.
Yet, for now, our corrupted hearts & ears only hear the Words of God like a song that’s being carried on the wind from a very far place. In a similar way, St. Paul wrote of that in regard to our vision, when he stated, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then ace to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully...” (1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV)
Knowing of that perfection to come helps us to keep going in the utter imperfection of our lives now. And it also gives hope, not simply for eternity in heaven. It gives us hope for the trials & the tribulations of now, because though our eyes & ears see & hear evil on every hand, the Word of God is still working out His perfect will in spite of our rebellion & sin.
“Then God said… & it was so!” applies just as much today as it did in the 1st creation & as it will during the 2nd. It’s just that for now, we cannot see & we cannot hear the totality of what our Lord is doing right before our very eyes. Take Good Friday as an example. Everyone who was there thought that the ministry of Jesus was over, finished, done!
No one suspected, even though Jesus told them in advance, that the will of God was being done through the crucifixion of God. Yet, “Then God said… & it was so!”
Or, how about the long past trials & struggles of your lives? Most of us are willing to admit that we can look back now & see the good that our Lord brought out of them. “Then God said… & it was so!” While they’re happening, however, no one wants to hear that our trials & suffering are part of the heavenly Father’s plan, but the Holy Spirit assures us that they are.
He inspired St. Paul to write: “And we know that God works all things together for good to those who love God…” (Romans 8:28 NASB) If we don’t believe that the Holy Trinity can overcome the effects of sin then there is no point in believing in God at all. Human beings have proven billions of times over that the human race is not capable of overthrowing the power of sin. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about science or engineering or urban renewal, all human solutions fail to address the core issue. We cannot cure someone who is dead!
Ecclesiastes tells us in chapter 3 that “God has made everything beautiful in its time!” (3:11a) Do you know what that it is? It’s just another way of expressing, “Then God said… & it was so!” And all of it was very good, until rebellion brought death into creation. The 1st emotion Adam & Eve expressed was fear. Their 1st reaction was to run & hide.
Because of His love for them, the Holy Trinity went after Adam & Eve, not to punish, but to rescue. As Yahweh had created everything in the universe from nothing, He could now create a renewed relationship with Adam & Eve where nothing existed after their fall into sin. “Then God said & it was so.” They could once again be His children if they simply believed His Word.
Here in Michigan, we’ve been going through the season of spring. One of the places I see God’s beauty is in the initial sprout of the garden plants & flowers as they 1st poke through the soil & reach out toward the sun! There is beauty in that evidence of God’s design & plan. Those plants do not grow by random chance or accident.
In verse 11 of the reading from Genesis, Moses wrote: “Then God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, & fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.’ And it was so.” Those ancient Words of God are still powerful & effective even today.
Even after sin, the earth is still fulfilling God’s promise, & obeying His Words. It’s true; there are thorns & thistles & mosquitoes to make our work far less pleasant, & the crops are far less bountiful, yet the Father in heaven still provides. As the 4th petition of the Lord’s Prayer is explained: “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this & to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” (Martin Luther’s Small Catechism) “Then God said… & it was so!”
It is a refrain that echoes throughout the Creation narrative. Ten different times we hear the words, “God said,” & ten different times what God said came to be. Because of sin we only hear it like a song that’s being carried on the wind from a very far place. Yet, because of the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts we are drawn to hear more of that beautiful love song.
Jesus highlights that desire & longing as He speaks in the Gospel of John at the 10th chapter: “My sheep hear my voice, & I know them, & they follow me.” (10:27 ESV)
God’s song tells us how the world should be. Our struggles & trials tell us a different story – one of sin & death, one of sorrow & tears. Those who do not follow Jesus believe only in the story of sorrow & tears. They have no hope for God’s mercy & love. Without God’s love & mercy we could never survive the disconnect between those two different versions of reality.
God does not deny the story of our sorrows & tears. Neither does He tell us to be strong & just ignore the story. In fact He joined that story in the person of His Son, who took on human flesh so He could suffer & die the death we deserved for our rebellion. It is harmful to deny that story, so as Lutherans we confess it in every worship service, with words such as these:
“I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto [God] all my sins & iniquities with which I have ever offended You…” (LSB p. 213) You & I are able to confess that story freely & openly only because of the great love of the Creator God for us. Confessing our sins is an integral part of turning back to Him, & back to His never ending love for all His children.
Then, on behalf of, & in the stead of the Lord Jesus Christ, & by His command, children of God rejoice in being able to declare that all your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. In the absolution – “Then God said… & it was so!” – Our sins are gone. That itself is part of the creation of the new heaven & the new earth that is to come. Hearing those cleansing words of forgiveness is like hearing a song that’s being carried on the wind from a very far place.
As we close, listen once more to the opening words of that song: “At the first God made the heaven & the earth. And the earth was waste & without form; & it was dark on the face of the deep: & the Spirit of God was moving on the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: & there was light. And God, looking on the light, saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:1-4a)
I pray that you hear beauty in those words, & that come the Last Day, you will be there to see the new heaven & the new earth. Until then, the Son of God & Lord of the universe promises that through thick & thin, through sorrow & joy, He will be with you always, to the end of the age. Amen.
Thy strong word did cleave the darkness; at Thy speaking it was done. For created light we thank Thee, while Thine ordered seasons run. Thy strong word bespeaks us righteous; bright with Thine own holiness, glorious now; we press toward glory, & our lives our hopes confess. Give us lips to sing Thy glory, tongues Thy mercy to proclaim, throats that shout the hope the fills us, mouths to speak Thy holy name. Alleluia, alleluia! May the light which Thou dost send fill our songs with alleluias, alleluias without end! Amen. LSB 578:1, 2, 5.
Day of Pentecost – A LSB #856
Text – Acts 2:13
But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
FILLED WITH NEW WINE
The Gospel of Mark says, “One time Jesus entered a house, & the crowds began to gather again. Soon He & His disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. When His family heard what was happening, they tried to take Him away. ‘He’s out of His mind,’ they said.” (3:20-21 NLT)
The family of Jesus thought He had lost His mind. Have you lost yours? That’s what the unbelievers were saying about the children of God on the feast of Pentecost: “They are filled with new wine!” That’s how the works of God look to unbelievers, but we have to confess that there are many times we think the same. 1 Corinthians 1 says to us,
“For the foolishness of God is wiser than men… But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.” (V. 25 & 27 ESV) All of us are familiar with that red-faced feeling when shame has washed over us. At the cross, Jesus took that upon Himself as He hung there, naked, for the mockers & all those who would scorn Him from their petty little hearts.
Maybe it was recognition of your own pettiness that brought you that feeling of shame. The Son of God suffered & died a brutal death on the cross & we nitpick over the failures & faults of those we love & of those we don’t. There’s plenty of failure to point out too, across our nation right now, as the rioting goes on, along with the unjust killing of a helpless man.
Failure is everywhere & there is only one true solution to it, but sinful beings just love to point out failure & who’s to blame. That is anything but the solution. The devil is not on the side of the police & he’s not on the side of innocent civilians. The devil is not on the side of white people, nor is he on the side of black people. Satan is not on the side of the Democrats & he is not on the side of Republicans. He comes only to steal, to kill & to destroy. What have we seen way too much of in the news this past week? Stealing, killing & destruction has been all over the news. Doesn’t that tell you something about where Lucifer is working? The only side the devil is on is his own. He is the ultimate selfish & self-centered creature. He provokes the worst in each & every human being regardless of skin color or political affiliation.
Satan is the enemy that we should be united against, because all of God’s creation matters. The devil is not just trying to destroy certain groups of people. He’s working to destroy everything that our heavenly Father created. Screaming & yelling profanities at other human beings, no matter how righteous the screamers think they are, is simply doing Satan’s work.
Revenge, taken out on other human beings, does not pay for a single crime, not even for the killing of a helpless human being. All of us need our Lord’s death on the cross to pay for our sins. Only the Son of God Himself dying on Mt. Calvary can pay for the death of George Floyd. Whether he was a believer or an unbeliever, George was still God’s child, God’s creation.
And while the officers involved should be tried & brought to justice, that will not bring George’s life back. Only believing in Jesus can do that. If George did, then his soul is already in heaven, alive & with his Creator. If you tried preaching that to the rioters right now, in the best case scenario they’d probably assume you are drunk – maybe even filled with new wine.
And still, even the rioters are not whom we should be united against. All those involved should be tried & brought to justice, but it will not restore businesses that were destroyed or the jobs that were lost with them. As St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:
“…we do not wrestle against flesh & blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (6:12 ESV) Seeing the horror of a helpless man being killed, live on video, how do we wrestle against the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers & spiritual forces of evil? Well, the answer is laughable. It’s the kind of suggestion that makes you think someone must be filled with new wine. They have to be drunk & out of their mind. “…it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21 ESV) In light of all that’s transpired in the past week that seems pretty weak, doesn’t it?
Understandably, for the death of a helpless man, some of the protesters want blood. And God, knowing better, instead of giving them the worthless blood of a sinful human being, gives them the innocent blood of His holy Son who was without sin. The blood of Jesus does actually pay for all the racist sins & all the injustices, of any kind, the world has ever seen.
That is not easy to accept or to believe. That’s why no unbeliever ever prays for Jesus to come into his heart. God must take the initiative & 1st come to us. Once Yahweh has created faith within, then & only then, is a sinful human being able to ask Jesus to draw near. As the reading from Acts 2 draws to a close, God had been busy creating faith, & it says,
“So those who received his word were baptized, & there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41 ESV) Pentecost celebrated the 1st harvest & if that was a good one, it promised an even greater harvest in the fall. As we remember & celebrate the miracle which occurred at Pentecost we need to understand the symbolism God is using.
Yahweh is restoring the unity of all people that were once scattered across the globe after the debacle at the Tower of Babel. As we hear the names of the many nations, realize that Pentecost is a foretaste of the true end to all racism:
“Parthians & Medes, Elamites & residents of Mesopotamia, Judea & Cappadocia, Pontus & Asia, Phrygia & Pamphylia, Egypt & the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews & converts to Judaism, Cretans & Arabians…” (Acts 2:9-11)
The arc from Parthia through Mesopotamia is the “Old (Testament) World;” the rest of the list (through verse 10) describes the “Mediterranean basin,” the “New (Testament) World” with Rome as its outermost part. “Jews and proselytes,” i.e., lifelong believers and converts, are religious not ethnic or national categories. Are “Cretans and Arabians” simply place/people names, or might they constitute a merism of seafarers and nomads? In any event, the “whole world” has converged in Jerusalem, and is hearing “the mighty works of God” (2:11, ESV).
Pentecost is the reversal of the Babel exiling. It reverses the scattering and gathers in the Temple. At the heart of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit launches the new Temple of the Lord, His holy Church.
Sermon hymn about the calling of the 12 to new things.
It’s sort of what you hear in the media today, Christians living out their faith must be filled with new wine. They’re drunk! They’re crazy! They’re fools. Peter goes along with the gibe of drunkenness, but quickly corrects the misunderstanding. He quotes Joel 2:28–32, though not verbatim. Of significance is that the apostle eschatologizes the prophetic utterance. God announces, in Joel, that he will pour out his Spirit “after this”, after he restores the “grain & wine & oil” (Jl 2:19) that locust & drought had destroyed; there is no explicit eschatological value. However, under the influence of the poured-out Spirit, Peter perceives the promise in salvation-historical perspective. “The kingdom of God,” “the day of the LORD,” “the last days,” are now but also, still, not yet. It is gospel that God pours out, has poured out, his Spirit on all flesh, because this too signifies that God has come to his people—the people he made for himself in creation. We who believe in Jesus – the Spirit has called & gathered, is enlightening & sanctifying, and will keep.
Peter preached & through the Spirit life came to be! And unbelievers, those without the Spirit, ridiculed it, “These people are filled with new wine.”
To be forgiven before God through Baptism into Christ and to be for the poor who need us is not our human project but the generous work of the Holy Spirit in the world.
The coming of the Holy Spirit is the last great act of God before the last & final day of the world.
1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.
Marshall: Pentecost is the NT name for the Feast of Weeks, when the wheat harvest was celebrated by a one-day festival during which special sacrifices were offered (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:15-21; Deut. 16:9-12).
On this special Pentecost the Lord was preparing a great harvest of souls for his people.
2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated & came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.
Bruce: Verses 5-8: From the far-flung lands where the Jews of the dispersion lived, great numbers had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Weeks.
6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7 Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8 Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9 Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11 (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs--we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!"
This catalogue is symbolic of the universal preaching of the Gospel which was to come.
Acts 2:12 Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?"
The real miracle was the giving of the Holy Spirit. These people saw the result of this giving.
Acts 2:13 Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine."
Bengel: Mocking begins with ridicule, then it proceeds to questioning, 4:7, then to threats 4:17, then to imprisonment, 5:18, then to stripes, 5:40, and then to murder, 7:58.
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice & addressed the crowd: "Fellow Jews & all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. 15 These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
"No" means "quite to the contrary." What greater contrast could there be than drunkenness and the fulfillment of a prophecy? It reminds one of Isaiah 5:20: "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil." (NASB) Jesus' enemies often called good evil. They said He cast out demons with Satan's power. They implied sinful motives when He ate with publicans and sinners.
17 'In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons & daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
This prophecy is found at Joel 2:28-32.
Bengel: All the days of the NT are last days; and these last days are now far advanced.
Luther: Thus now, as concerning this passage of the prophet, prophesying, visions, dreams are all one thing, namely the knowledge of God through Christ, which the Holy Spirit kindles and makes to burn through the Word of the Gospel. This causes believers to teach the Word, undertake great things for Jesus and to have the Gospel as the center of all they do, think or say.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 20 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
"Signs" are the clear warnings of God which dare not be disregarded. "In the heaven above" & "on earth below" denote the fact that no part of God's creation is exempt from these wonders & signs. We cannot escape them by moving to a different climate, to an island or to a culture which is simpler than ours. The same phenomenon is mentioned at Matthew 24:29. No one really knows what it is like to have the sun turned into darkness and moon into blood. Eclipses are, of course, a taste of this. The believer will know when it happens. Our text calls it "great and glorious."
Acts 2:21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'"
The salvation of the believer is just as certain as is the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, which has gone on for nearly 2,000 years. Once God speaks, He will not take the word back. To call on the name of the Lord is the OT way of saying "believing in the Lord Jesus."
In this prophecy of Joel the day of Pentecost and the Day of the Lord, the last day, are viewed together. There is an interval, of course, between the two. But, as Stoeckhardt says, the out-pouring of the Holy Ghost is the final great act of God before the Great Day of the Lord.
Acts 2:9-21 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt & the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11both Jews & proselytes, Cretans & Arabians – we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12And all were amazed & perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice & addressed them, “Men of Judea & all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, & give ear to my words. 15For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17‘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;
18even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”
John 7:37-39 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (instead of death & rioting & destruction)
O Christ, who led the Twelve among the desolate & broke as bread of life for all Your love compassionate: Lead us along the ways where hope has nearly died & help us climb the lonely hills where love is crucified. O Christ, who sent the Twelve on roads they’d never trod to serve, to suffer, teach, proclaim the nearer reign of God: Send us on ways where faith transcends timidity, where love informs & hope sustains both life & ministry. O Christ, the apostles’ Lord, the martyrs’ strength & song, the crucified & risen King to whom the saints belong: Though generations pass, our tribute still we bring, our hymns a sacrifice of praise, our lives an offering. Amen. LSB 856:3-5.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet