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We Are Not Orphans – Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 29, 2011 – Christ Lutheran Church, El Cerrito, CA

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Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 29th 2011 – Christ Lutheran Church

Acts 17:22-31 Psalm 66:8-20 1 Peter 3:13-22 John 14:15-21

We’re Not Orphans

There are several promises in our Gospel lesson today and promises are Gospel. Commandments make up the law. The promises of God made to us by Jesus Christ are the Gospel. So this gospel is really Gospel, while at times the Gospel is in another lesson. For example in Advent, when you hear that if your tree does not bear fruit, John the Baptist will chop it down. That is pure law in the gospel lesson.

     What are some of the promises in this lesson? 1/ I will not leave you orphaned. That one stands out. 2/ “I am coming to you.” That Christ will come to us is a promise. 3/ Because I live, you will also live. “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.” After reading that verse, that song kept going through my head all day. 4/ Christ will raise us up from the dead on the last day, just like he raised Lazarus from the dead, even in this life for Mary and Martha. So Christ gives us the resurrection promise. When we have Jesus’ commandments and keep them, we show our love for Jesus, and Jesus promises that 5/ the Father will love us and 6/ that he will love us, and 7/ Christ promises that he will reveal himself to us. We make all these pictures of Jesus, but wouldn’t you really like to meet him and see him?

     I figure the promise that we will live is the promise of abundant life right now. But Christ also gives us the resurrection promise – that when we have heard the voice of the Good Shepherd here, then we will also hear it after we have died, and we will be raised up on the last day.

     If you have counted with me, then this small lesson has seven promises, making it overflow with Gospel, that is, the Good News of Jesus Christ, who came to us from heaven above to save us from our sin.

     Like Jesus says in this Gospel, at the well of Jacob to the Samaritan woman, who was a little like Liz Taylor, who had all those marriages – I will give you water to drink after which you will thirst no more. Jesus coming from God is a spring of living water gushing up, like Old Faithful, into eternal life.

Where there is water there is life. Where we receive the water of life from Jesus, we receive a life of love that overcomes death; not just natural, biological life, but spiritual life is what we receive on the other side of spiritual dying.

     Jesus promised that the Father would give us the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). And out of the believer’s heart, rivers of living water shall flow. John, writing this gospel, explains that Jesus said this about the Spirit, which believers in Jesus would receive.

     Perhaps as in all cycles, we could say that there are eight promises here, like when we say “eight days a week,” or eight notes in a scale, although there are really seven. Jesus promises that the Spirit of truth will be in us, and that means, Father God and Mother, Holy Spirit will raise us up to be children of God, Sons and Daughters of God, with Jesus as our big brother.

     We know young folks, whose parents have died, and we call them orphans. But some of us older folks have parents, who have died a good, long while ago. Without Jesus’ Father, becoming our Father in Heaven and without the Holy Spirit, let me say, as a Mother full of love for us, we could be as troubled as orphans, who have no role models, no grown-ups intimate with them, helping them grow and mature from day to day.

     As grown-up – physically, biologically, and naturally as we are, it does not mean we have grown up spiritually – until we realize that we have to know God and be known by God and God needs to bring us up and help us grow in the stature and maturity of Christ, day by day, so that we can bring living water to our neighbors and become the bread of life for them, and we can stop saying, “they” that they should do this or they should do that, “they, they, they” and say, “I” like Jesus does throughout this gospel. With Jesus we have to say, “I am.” I am responsible, I am a Christian, through whom Christ is bringing new hope and life and light and love into this dark and devastated world, this war-torn world, changed into rubble by tornadoes, whole towns covered with muddy river water. We have to get to work before a night could come, in which no one could work.

     Ah, Pastor, you say, this is way too great a challenge for us. It is way beyond our capability and competence. I’m just little old me, and I’m not much of a commandment-keeper or promise-keeper for that matter. Down here on earth we break promises and commandments all the time. What are you expecting?

Ah, here is the Good News. We cannot be commandment and promise keepers by our own effort or strength, as we‘ve learned in Luther’s Small Catechism. But, through the Gospel, we can’t help keeping Jesus’ commandments and keeping our promises, because Christ is really present in us, continuing to do all the signs, as the miracles are called in this Gospel, the Gospel of John.

     Imagine that! When you read through the Gospel, there are seven signs and wonders. Jesus’ 1/ turning water into wine: this was the first of his signs…and his disciples believed in him. 2/ healing an official’s son, who was a great distance away. 3/ helping that poor blind, lame, and paralyzed fellow lying there for 38 years beside the Pool of Bethesda, with everyone elbowing him out of the way all that time. Jesus healed him by stirring up the living water of the Holy Spirit and sending him on his way. 4/ then healing the man who was born blind, by sending him to wash in the Pool of Siloam, which means “sent.” That puts a song in my heart. What about yours? “This one thing I know. This one thing I know. Once I was blind but now I see. This one thing I know.” 5/ Jesus’ feeding the five thousand with two fish and five loaves of bread, like manna from heaven. The sixth sign: Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead, and 7/ because Jesus was no orphan, as he said, “the Father dwells in me and does these heavenly works,” Jesus is raised up from the dead and leaves empty the old, musty tomb, after we lifted him up on the cross.

     “Because the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never end; they are new every morning – great is thy faithfulness” (say the Lamentations of Jeremiah 3:22-23) and Oh Lord, you are greatly to be praised for raising Jesus!

Jeremiah continues, “God is our portion, saith my soul, and therefore I will hope in him” (24).

     In no way are we orphans. God is our portion and the way Jesus is in the Father and we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us, because of the Holy Spirit, we have a marvelous relationship that far surpasses that of a mother and father and whatever an upbringing they can give to a child. In my case, I usually say, when my parents got to me, their upbringing ran out. Ah, but here we’re not talking about our natural parents, because many of them have been natural disasters, as bad as tornadoes and Mississippi floods – well, they weren’t that bad. I just had expectations they could never have fulfilled. What we are really talking about here is actually being inside the loving relationship of the Blessed Holy Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In our mutual in-dwelling, we become whole in order to be sent on God’s mission, and as John says, those “whom God sends, speak the Word of God, for he gives the spirit without measure” (3:34).

     Wow! Are you beginning to grasp the Gospel promises and how they can carry you in your life before God into the love of your neighbor? Back in the sixties – hold it. I’m now in my sixties – we used to say: “That blows my mind!” We usually now say, “That blows me away!” Do you know that the Spirit of truth that Jesus and the Father sends us (filioque) is compared to the wind? So we are “blowin’ in the wind” – the wind of the Holy Spirit, who fills us with new life, love, and light, new thoughts, and drops us into a particular time and place of God’s own choosing, wherever God wants us to speak God’s Word, that word which accomplishes the good things, the signs and wonders, which are the saving work of God here among us.

     After the Vacations Church School and Day Camp Leadership training in Cincinnati, I remember that two of us hitch-hiked back to the seminary and we couldn’t stop witnessing. I was even playing my trumpet in their car! My good friend in Brooklyn, Pastor Dick Miller, while some pastors were moving a piano, played it in back of the pick-up truck, while they were stuck in traffic, I think it was on Flatbush Avenue!

     When we are in God’s Word and when we are being sent by God, then we are like a leaf blowin’ in the wind. We say, “Whatever your will, O Lord, here I am, send me.” Like in Acts, God places Philip right where Christ wants an Ethiopian to understand the Prophet Isaiah and become baptized. Then the Spirit took Philip and put him down right in another place with God’s Word on his lips for lost and hopeless people there.

     In the story about when Jesus was walking on water and they tried to get him into the boat, suddenly they were right at their destination spirited out of the storm and onto the shore that they were sailing for. Receiving Jesus in, makes the Spirit put you right where you are going, where God wants you to be.

     When I was traveling in India, it was a day before Christmas and I had gotten really tired of all the religiosity of the Hindus. Idolatry is pretty much part of their common, popular religion. It really started turning me off, and I prayed to God that I might spend Christmas among Christians. Well, I knew of Mother Theresa in Calcutta, but she was perhaps five or six hundred miles away. So I prayed that I might spend Christmas with her. There did not seem to be much of a chance of getting there by the next day. Marvelously, every bus, train, train, and bus connection worked and I was in the Howrah train station in Calcutta early Christmas morning. I walked into the Mother-House of the Sisters of Charity and she was coming down the stairs to start her Christmas program. I walked in the door and she was coming down the stairs! She told me to bring my bag-pack to my YMCA room and meet her at the service for the dying and destitute behind the Caligula Temple.

I first went into the wrong door and found myself stepping around the huge statue of a god, with people swaying, and chanting inside very thick incense. I said, “This can’t be it.”

So I went outside and walked around the temple and there was her chapel where she had gathered up a group of the dying and destitute from the streets of Calcutta – just to give them a friendly face to die under. And you know what? They didn’t die, because that friendly face and the love of Christ made new life well up inside them and rejuvenate them. And later I thought. I know I took transportation, but I had been spirited right where God wanted me to be, to witness the wonderful things that the Holy Spirit could do through Mother Theresa.

     Let me warn you, however: when we are raised, when we get an up-bringing, from the Heavenly Father to become children of God, it means undergoing our own passion story. We have to carry our own particular cross and we know they are going to nail us on it! There I go saying “they” again. “I too was at the cross.” The late William Sloan Coffin, the Pastor of the Riverside Church in Manhattan used to say, and he asked himself, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” and answered, “Yes, indeed, with hammer and nails in hand!”

But when you are going through hard times for the sake of Christ, you say, “The only way through it is through it.” And we used to say, “My Momma never said it was going to be like this!” It gets very painful growing and maturing into our Christhood for others.

     But remember the last promise in our Gospel lesson, which is overflowing with Gospel for today. Christ is going to reveal himself to us – the beautiful Savior! As the Psalm says, “When we awake, we’ll be satisfied gazing at his likeness (17:15), because like a flower to the sun, we will rise up beholding the face of God, in the streaming glory of God’s new day! Amen.

 The Prayer of the Day and Lessons:

Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 29th 2011

Prayer of the Day

 Almighty and ever-living God, you hold together all things in heaven and on earth. In your great mercy receive the prayers of all your children, and give to all the world the Spirit of your truth and peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 First Reading: Acts 17:22-31

 In Athens, Paul faces the challenge of proclaiming the gospel to Greeks who know nothing of either Jewish or Christian tradition. He proclaims that the “unknown god” whom they worship is the true Lord of heaven and earth who will judge the world with justice through Jesus, whom God has raised from the dead.

22Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way.  23For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.  24The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things.  26From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live,  27so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him — though indeed he is not far from each one of us.  28For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said,

     ‘For we too are his offspring.’

  29Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.  30While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Psalm: Psalm 66:8-20 (read responsively)

8Bless our God, you peoples;

    let the sound of praise be heard.

9Our God has kept us among the living

    and has not allowed our feet to slip.  

10For you, O God, have tested us;

    you have tried us just as silver is tried.

11You brought us into the net;

    you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.

12You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water,

    but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.

13I will enter your house with burnt offerings

    and will pay you my vows—

14those that I promised with my lips

    and spoke with my mouth when I  was in trouble.

15I will offer you burnt offerings of fatlings with the smoke of rams;

    I will give you oxen and goats. 

16Come and listen, all you | who believe,

    and I will tell you what God has  done for me.

17I called out to God with my mouth,

    and praised the Lord  with my tongue.

18If I had cherished evil in my heart,

    the Lord would  not have heard me;

19but in truth God has heard me

    and has attended to the sound of my prayer.

20Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer,

    nor withheld unfailing love from me.  

Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:13-22

 Christians have a zeal for doing what is right in God’s eyes no matter what the circumstances because in baptism we are saved and made alive. Thus our Christian beliefs and behavior are to be a matter of public record just as our baptism is.

13Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?

      14But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame.  17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil.

      18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.  21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you — not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

 Gospel Acclamation

The assembly stands to welcome the gospel.

 Those | who | love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them,*and we will come to them and make our | home | with | them. (John 14:6)

 Gospel: John 14:15-21

 In final words to his disciples on the night of his arrest, Jesus encourages obedience to his commandments and speaks of the Spirit, who will be with them forever.

15If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.  17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

      18I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.  19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.  20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.  21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

The gospel of the Lord!

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Written by peterkrey

May 29, 2011 at 4:09 am

Posted in Selected Sermons

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