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You Have The Holy Spirit! Pentecost 2017. Acts 2:1-21

Dorffmaister_Istvan-Pentecost.1725-1797Pentecost

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Acts 2:1-21

June 4, 2017

“You Have the Holy Spirit!”

 

Iesu Iuva!

 

  1. Introduction: You have the Holy Spirit!

 

A few years back I went to hear a speaker named John Kleinig, a professor from the Lutheran Church in Australia. Some of you have heard of him because he wrote a book on Christian spirituality called Grace upon Grace that I have recommended many times.

In that book, Dr. Kleinig emphasizes the gift of the Holy Spirit in teaching us to pray, etc.; how prayer, meditation are received from God rather than obligations we have to fulfill

I went up and talked to him during a break and told him about the difficulty I had in some part of living the Christian life. Maybe difficulty with being faithful in prayer.  Maybe it was difficulty in knowing how to effectively do the work that needed to be done as pastor at St. Peter.  I don’t remember. What I remember was his response: “That’s why you have been given the Holy Spirit!” he said.

It silenced me.  At first, it seemed like he was dismissing me with too easy an answer.  Of course I have been given the Holy Spirit, I thought.  But that hasn’t solved my problem.

But as I thought about it more, I realized how foolish it was to think so little of the gift of the Holy Spirit.  After all, the Holy Spirit is God.  He lives in me.  He has all wisdom and knows how to solve every problem.  He is the Lord and giver of life; He is able to create, and raise the dead.  Surely He has the power to make me holy and overcome sin.

Our Savior’s name is Jesus Christ.  The second part of His name, ”Christ”is a title that means “anointed one.”  The catechism published by our Synod says that Jesus is called “Christ”, anointed one, because he has been anointed with the Holy Spirit without limit to be our Prophet, Priest, and King. If I have received the same anointing of the Holy Spirit as Jesus did, how can I worry that I don’t have what I need to live like Jesus and participate in His work?

This Pentecost, in the 2017th year of our Lord Jesus, in the 500th year of the Reformation, I know that you at St. Peter have the same kinds of worries I spoke to Dr. Kleinig about. Today, by the power of God the Holy Spirit, I would like to remind you of the same thing Dr. Kleinig reminded me.  Don’t be afraid.  You have been given the Holy Spirit.

  1. History of Pentecost: How Peter Received Power to Speak

The reading from Acts tells us how the Holy Spirit was first given to the disciples of Jesus.  It tells us that when the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in a house.  Pentecost was one of the 3 holy days that God commanded the Jews in the Law.  It was fifty days after Passover, when Jesus had been crucified and buried.  In the Old Testament it is referred to as the Feast of Weeks or the Day of Firstfruits, because the Israelites were commanded by God to bring the firstfruits of the wheat harvest to the temple on that day.  It was also the day when they remembered how God had given the Law to Israel on Mount Sinai.  After the first Passover and God delivering the Israelites from the Egyptians through the Red Sea, Israel was led by God through the desert to Mount Sinai.  That journey took about 50 days, a little over a month and a half.

On that Pentecost after Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven forty days later, a sound came from heaven like a mighty, rushing wind and filled the house where the disciples were.  Divided tongues that looked like fire rested on each one of the disciples of Jesus, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages, each one speaking the language the Holy Spirit gave them to speak.

The record from Acts tells us that there were people in Jerusalem from all over the world who had come up for Passover.  They had made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover at the temple, and they had stayed for Pentecost. A crowd of people heard the sound and came to see what it was.  And when they arrived, they heard the disciples of Jesus declaring the marvelous works of God.  They were amazed because the disciples were by and large uneducated men from Galilee, the north of what had been Israel, and yet every person who gathered heard the disciples speaking in the language in which he had been born and raised.  So they asked, What does this mean?  There were also people there who sneered and said that the disciples were drunk with new, sweet wine, the wine that had just been made at the recent grape harvest.

Then the text says, Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words (2:14). 

There is something for us there.  See how Peter speaks: Let this be known to you; give ear to my words.  Peter speaks like he has authority over this crowd! Where does Peter get this bold speech?  Did Peter speak that way fifty days ago, when some serving girls asked him if he was one of Jesus’ disciples?  No.  He was afraid.  He swore an oath that he did not know Jesus.  Now he speaks to the crowd like a man who has authority, and is confident that he should be heard.

And notice: Peter was standing with the eleven.  Before he denied that he knew Jesus.  He didn’t stand with the disciples of Jesus.  When he thought his life was in danger, he denied being one of Jesus’ disciples.  He didn’t stand with the other disciples.

But now St. Peter stands with them, and speaks for them.  He tells the crowd that no one is drunk, but that this is what was prophesied long ago by the prophet Joel.  God promised that in the last days He would pour out from His Spirit on all flesh.  In the days of old, only the prophets were given the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit enabled them to proclaim God’s Word: to prophesy.  Sometimes the Holy Spirit gave visions and dreams to the prophets.  But in the last days, God foretold that He would pour out His Spirit on all His servants: male, female, young, middle aged, old.

That is what is happening now, Peter tells them.  And he goes on to tell them why: because Jesus had been crucified for our sins, raised from the dead, and seated at God’s right hand to reign.  You crucified Him, Peter said.  But everyone who believes in Him, calls on Him, will be saved and will receive the Holy Spirit.

  1. The Holy Spirit Gives Knowledge of Christ

What we see learn from this is this: the Holy Spirit makes us new people.  He gives the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. And He makes us, who are naturally weak and selfish, like Peter was, different beings: bold, faithful, courageous.  He gives us the power to speak and proclaim Jesus to others.

You’ve all been in a room that was stuffy, damp, or moldy, and someone said, Let’s let some air in here!  They opened windows, and fresh air came into the room.  You could breathe; the room became more liveable.  That is something like what God did at Pentecost with the disciples; but the air, the mighty rushing wind, was His Holy Spirit.  “Wind” could also be translated “breath”.    God’s breath breathed into the disciples with power, vehemently.

And what does breath do?  Breath gives life.  In the beginning, when God created Adam, He breathed into His nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.  Through the Holy Spirit God breathes His life into us. Without His breath we do not have life before God.  We live physically, but spiritually we are dead.  We don’t know God.  Our attempts to serve Him only drive us farther from Him. But He breathes on us in the Gospel, and we believe that Jesus our God, who died for our sins and took them away. The breath of God that makes us alive to Him by faith also renews our minds, hearts, and bodies.  We start to have confidence in God’s Word.  We start to fear God instead of human beings.  We start to have joy in the face of suffering.  We start to rely on God instead of our own strength.  We start to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Breath also does something else.  Breathing in gives us life. Breathing out is how we talk.  God’s breath, His Spirit within us, enables us to speak His Word.  It enables us to do what Peter could not do fifty days ago: confess faith in Jesus, even when we might have to suffer or lose something to do so.  The Holy Spirit also gives us wisdom and skill to speak the truth about Jesus to our neighbors for their salvation.

On Friday, the group that is working on revitalizing our congregation’s outreach with the Gospel met. One of the things we talked about was how we have a small percentage of the congregation that engages in the work of the church.  And someone said, I think what keeps a lot of people from volunteering is the fear that they aren’t really qualified. I think that is true.  People have also said that about other things.  Some people don’t come to bible class because they are afraid that they won’t know enough and will look foolish.  They are intimidated.  And I think nearly all of us worry that if we try to tell our neighbors about Jesus, tell them the Gospel, we might not say it the right way. We might say it in a way that offends people.  Or we might be challenged and will not be able to answer their questions.

Brothers and sisters, I promise you: if you are a Christian, you are qualified to speak and to serve in the Church. You have been given the Holy Spirit.  You had your personal Pentecost when you were baptized.  The Holy Spirit will speak through you and work through you to benefit the church and your neighbors.  And the Holy Spirit, Jesus says, leads us into the truth and reminds us of what He has said; the Holy Spirit teaches us to speak Jesus’ words and not our own.

  1. The Holy Spirit is Received through Keeping Jesus’ Word

One thing remains to be said, about how we receive the Holy Spirit.

You notice what the disciples did to receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  They didn’t do anything. God simply poured out His Spirit upon them.

The Holy Spirit, God in us, is not a prize that is earned.  He is given freely as a gift, the greatest gift that can be given.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells us more about how the Holy Spirit is given.  If anyone loves Me, He will keep My Word, and my Father will love Him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (Jn. 14:23)

The Holy Spirit is given in and through the Word of Jesus; and He remains where Jesus’ word is received and kept by faith.  When you hear a sermon that proclaims Jesus alone as our Savior, His blood alone as our righteousness, the free gift of the forgiveness of sins through Jesus, the Holy Spirit is both offering the gift of Jesus’ death for your sins, and the gift of Himself.

So whenever we hear preaching that is faithful to all that Jesus said to the apostles, that is the Holy Spirit, the breath of God.  Whenever we receive the Lord’s Supper, when it is celebrated according to His institution, we are receiving the Holy Spirit along with the body and blood of our Lord.  Whenever we are absolved, forgiven, according to Jesus’ command, by His authority, the breath of God is rushing upon us, letting the breath of God into our bodies and souls, rooms that are naturally closed, foul and corrupted.

But we are not given the Holy Spirit all at once. It’s a gift that God gives as He wills. Jesus says that as parents know how to give good gifts to their children, even more the Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.

But we need to ask for the Holy Spirit, and receive from Him.  Neglecting to do that means we try to get by on our own power as we carry out the work God has called us to.

We need to keep His Word.  That means: learn it, and go on learning it.  Read the Bible.  Learn the teachings of Jesus, not only in a 20 minute sermon once a week, but also making sure we know what we were taught when we were confirmed, that we not only stay where we were when we were fourteen, but that we grow to maturity in God’s teaching, asking God to make it alive in our hearts by His Spirit.

That is why Christians often lack the Spirit’s power and wisdom.  We try to improve our lives or reform the Church or build the church by our own wisdom and strength.  That is so hard, and it doesn’t work.  The Holy Spirit enables the church to live and to confess and to speak and to believe in Jesus, of Jesus.  We wear ourselves out trying to do what the Holy Spirit alone can do.

That’s what Luther supposedly said about the Reformation; he said, we didn’t do anything.  The Holy Spirit did it all.  We just preached, wrote, and drank good Wittenberg beer.  The Spirit worked through His Word and reformed the Church.

Oh, may God grant us to be able to say this!  That God would teach us to be like children at Christmas, eager to receive the gifts given by our Father!  That we would see the chief task of our Church to be to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit through hearing, reading, and learning the Word of our Lord!

May the Holy Spirit also teach us to focus on receiving Him through God’s Word and Sacraments; to receive the good news of Christ.  Then our speaking and working will not be in vain, because He will be speaking and working in us.

Amen.

The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria

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Luther On Spirits and Communication with the Dead: Epiphany Sermon

December 28, 2012 Leave a comment

luther cranach248. But what does this Gospel teach? In the first place, these wise men did not inquire after the chief priests and do not ask: Where is Annas or Caiaphas, or how did this or that man live? But they ask: Where is the newborn king of the Jews? Yes, Christ permits them, as a warning to us, to go astray and to seek him in Jerusalem in the holy city among the priests, the learned and the royalty. He is not found in the holy place nor in the holy customs. Nor did they receive as an answer any human opinions, but only what the Scriptures say about Christ, which alone are to be sought among the holy people and in holy places.

49. Sufficient examples are here given to show us that disregarding all human works, teachings, comments and life we should be mindful only of the clear Scriptures, and as to the life and teachings of the saints preserve the right not to rake or snatch up everything that they teach or live, but rather to sit in judgment on these things and accept with discretion only that which is compatible with the Scriptures. But what is their own, without Scripture proof, we should consider as human inventions and avoid, as St. Paul teaches: Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 1 Thess. 5, 21. Moses has also indicated this, Levit. 11, 3, Deut. 14, 6, where he describes clean and unclean beasts, that all animals which are not cloven footed and ruminant are unclean. These are the men who are not cloven footed, who spend their lives carelessly, rake up whatever comes before them and follow it. But the clean animals are those men who by the spirit act with discretion in all external things and doctrines. Whatever they see harmonizing with the Scriptures they keep, but whatever is without Scriptural foundation and mere human inventions they dismiss, no matter how great and famous the saints who taught it may be. For no saint has been so perfect as to be free from flesh and blood, or the continued struggle with flesh and blood, so that it is scarcely possible that all their teachings and works were spiritually perfect and are to be accepted as examples. Human nature and reason often concurred in their work, and these are not to be trusted at all. Hence Moses commands us to be cloven footed and Paul to discern the spirits and not to accept all the works and doings of men.

 

52. They then meddled even with the work of the devil and followed the example of the souls or spirits appearing and praying for help and believed everything that these spirits said without fear or hesitation. Thus the mass, i. e. the Lord’s Supper, has been so abused by saying mass for souls in purgatory and by the selling of indulgences, that the whole world by shedding tears of blood day and night could not bewail it sufficiently. Thus the devil has permitted himself to be conjured and constrained to reveal the truth and has turned our faith and sacrament into play and mockery to his own liking. All this is the result and reward of our overcuriousness, which has not been satisfied with the Scriptures of God and has made our true and faithful God and Father a fool and clown, who pretends to teach us by his Word and yet does not care to teach us that which we ought and necessarily need to know. For this reason he serves us right in permitting us to become the devil’s pupils, inasmuch as we despised his school.

 

53. But you say: Should we then deny that wandering spirits go astray and seek for help? Answer: Let wander who will, you listen to what God commands. If you hold all these spirits in suspicion, you are not sinning; but if you hold some of them to be genuine and honest, you are already in danger of erring. And why? Because God does not want you to seek and learn the truth from the dead. He himself wants to be your living and all sufficient teacher. To his Word you should cling. He knows best what to tell you about the living and the dead, for he knows all things. But whatever he does not want to tell you, you should not desire to know, and give him the honor to believe that he knows what is not necessary, profitable nor good for you to know.

 

54. Therefore you should freely and unhesitatingly cast all such ghostly apparitions to the winds and not be afraid of them; they will then leave you in peace. And should it seem, that perhaps in your house you hear a hobgoblin or rumbling spirit, then make no ado about it, but be assured that it can not be a good spirit come from God. Make the sign of the cross and firmly hold to your faith. Has he been sent by God to chastise you, like Job, then be ready to endure it willingly, but should it be the spirit’s own sport, then defy him by strong faith and joyfully depend on God’s Word. Depend upon it he will not attack that. However, I hold that none of these hobgoblins are ordained of God to molest us, but it is their own mischief to terrify the people, because they have no longer any power to harm. If they had any power to harm, they would surely not engage in much racketing, but do their evil work before you could be aware who had done it. But if a good spirit were to visit you, it would not occur with such noise and frivolity. Do this and manifest strong faith and you will find that such a spirit is not of God, and will cease its work. If you have not such faith, then he will have easy work, for then God’s Word which alone he fears is not with you.

 

55. The words of the Scriptures upon which you should boldly rely are Luke 16, 29, where Abraham said to Dives in hell, who desired the departed Lazarus to be sent to his brothers living on earth, but Abraham refusing to do this, said: ”They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them.” From these words it is plain that God will not have us taught by the dead, but have us abide in his Word. Therefore, no matter how and where a spirit comes to you, do not ask whether he be good or evil, but bravely, quickly and defiantly cast into his teeth the words: ”they have Moses and the prophets,” and he will soon understand what you mean. Is it a good spirit, he will only love you the more for adhering so gladly and firmly to the Word of your God. Is it an evil spirit, as are all those that are noisy, he will soon bid you adieu. Again, another word of God is spoken by Moses in Deut. 18, 11: ”When thou art come into the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found with thee any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through fire, one that useth divination, one that practiceth augury, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a consulter with a familiar spirit, or a wizard, or a necromancer.” Here, you are told that it is an abomination in the sight of God to consult the dead or the spirits, and it is strictly forbidden. To this word of Moses Abraham looked when he did not permit Lazarus to come back to the earth. You can also use this passage against these spirits, saying: ”Thou shalt not consult the dead, saith the Lord.”

 

56. God has insisted on this so firmly, that there is no example recorded in the Scriptures, where the saints have ever consulted the dead about anything. And this is the third argument that you can use against these spirits: No one ever heard or read of an example in the Scriptures as to such spirits and their work, hence the whole must be condemned and avoided as of the devil.

 

57. From this we may easily learn, that the coming up of Samuel was an apparition, 1 Sam. 28, 13, inasmuch as it is altogether contrary to this commandment of God. It is therefore not to be assumed that the real prophet Samuel came up by the power of the witch of En-dor. But that the Scriptures are silent on this point, not telling us whether it was the real or false Samuel, is because they demand of everybody to remember well that through Moses God forbade to consult the dead. And he never revokes his Word, as Job says and Balaam also, Num. 23, 19. How can the witch have any power over the saints, who are resting in God’s hands?

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“Your Bloody Wounds Repair Me.” Hymn.

September 7, 2012 1 comment

 

Bartholomaeus Ringwaldt 1532-1599

Stärk mich mit deinem Freudengeist,

heil mich mit deinen Wunden,

wasch mich mit deinem Todesschweiß

in meiner letzten Stunden,

und nimm mich einst, wann dirs gefällt

im wahren Glauben aus der Welt

zu deinen Auserwählten.

 

Your joyful Spirit give me strength,

Your bloody wounds repair me,

And let Your soothing sweat of death

In my last hour prepare me.

And take me, when it please you well,

In true faith from this tearful vale

To dwell among Your chosen.

 

 

I found this hymn in German in the Gebets-Schatz.  It did not cite an author, but it turns out that it is the last verse of Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut (Lord Jesus Christ, O Highest Good) by Bartholomäus Ringwaldt.  The hymn I’m most familiar with from Ringwaldt is “The Day is Surely Drawing Near” which is about the Last Judgment. 

 

Above you have Ringwaldt’s words, with my translation. I have not found many other translations of Ringwaldt’s hymn.  I found a couple on hymnary.org.  Maybe there are some elsewhere. 

 

Below are some older English translations of the last stanza.  The first is from an early 20th c. United Brethren Hymnal; the second from “A Hymn and Prayer Book for the use of such Lutheran Churches as use the English Language,” published in New York state in 1795.  Both of them can be found on www.hymnary.org.  I’ve noticed that the German hymns tend to be much more graphic and visceral, asking to be connected to the physical ugliness and suffering of Christ’s passion. 

 

For those who have suffered spiritually, the desire to be made whole by Christ’s bloody wounds and washed in His death’s sweat is not gruesome or morbid.  If you have tasted death or hell, you are not comforted by attempts to avoid them by appealing to Jesus’ majesty.  You know that there is no avoiding the attacks of hell and the terror of judgment.  Then you are comforted not by pretending like they don’t exist or won’t come to you as long as you’re a good boy, but by the promise that Jesus’ wounds have enveloped ours, that His Spirit is our Spirit, that He sweat the sweat of death for us, and our death is caught up in His.  The death of Jesus does not allow us to escape our own cross and death.  But when we sweat the sweat of death we know that we will not awaken in the eternal fire, but among the chosen in heaven.  That is promised by Jesus’ passion, which the Gospel proclaims is for us.

 

I don’t know whether it is just that English speakers have always been too polite to use the visceral German language exemplified by this hymn, or whether there are some older translations that mirror it in English.  But you can see clearly here how the earlier English translations kind of “clean up” the hymn.  Part of that can be attributed to the attempt to reference the English translation of Isaiah 53.  But still it’s odd to me.  It seems to me that the whole strength of this hymn is in the visceral and intimate connection of the Christian’s death to the death of Jesus.  It’s the same thing that made “In Christi Wunden Schlaf ich ein” (I fall asleep in Jesus’ wounds)  so powerful, moving, and comforting.

 

I suspect that it’s just that until recently such imagery was considered impolite or obscene in American/English society.  It may be too that there was some anti-Catholicism involved; Rome has a devotion to the wounds and suffering of Christ that seems grotesque to American tastes.  It may be that the same spirit that moved Lutherans to get rid of their crucifixes in the United States moved them to eliminate the blood and sweat and wounds from their hymns.

 

See for yourself:

 

Thy joyful Spirit give me pow’r

Thy stripes heal my diseases

Apply Thy blood in my last hour

To save me, dearest Jesus!

Then to Thy promis’d rest me bring

That with the ransom’d I may sing

Thy praise above forever.

 

Thy joyful Spirit strengthen me

Thy wounds heal my diseases

Thy blood in my last agony

Apply in that great crisis.

And take me to Thy promis’d rest

Where I may sing with all the blest

Thine everlasting praises.

 

And here’s mine again for comparison:

 

Your joyful Spirit give me strength,

Your bloody wounds repair me,

And let Your soothing sweat of death

In my last hour prepare me.

And take me, when it please you well,

In true faith from this tearful vale

To dwell among Your chosen.

 

 

http://www.hymnary.org/person/Ringwaldt_B?tab=texts
Full Name: Ringwaldt, Bartholomaüs, 1532-1599
Birth Year: 1532
Death Year: 1599

Bartholomew Ringwaldt was born at Frankfort-on-the-Oder, in 1530, and was a Lutheran pastor at Langfield, in Prussia, where he died, 1598. His hymns resemble Luther’s in their simplicity and power. Several of them were written to comfort himself and others in the sufferings they endured from famine, pestilence, fire and floods. In 1581, he published “Hymns for the Sundays and Festivals of the whole Year.” –Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A. 1872.

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Ringwaldt, Bartholomäus (Ringwalt, Ringwald), was born Nov. 28, 1532, at Frankfurt a. Oder. He was ordained in 1557, and was pastor of two parishes before he settled in 1566 as pastor of Langfeld (or Langenfeld), near Sonnenburg, Brandenburg. He was still there in 1597, but seems to have died there in 1599, or at least not later than 1600…

Ringwaldt exercised a considerable influence on his contemporaries as a poet of the people, as well as by his hymns properly so called. He was a true German patriot, a staunch Lutheran, and a man who was quite ready to face the consequences of his plain speaking. His style is as a rule clear and good, though his rhymes are often enough halting; and he possessed considerable powers of observation and description…

As a hymnwriter Ringwaldt was also of considerable importance. He was one of the most prolific hymn-writers of the 16th century….

Those of Ringwaldt’s hymns which have passed into English are:— i. Es ist gewisslich an derZeit. Second Advent. The anonymous original of this hymn is one of Zwey schöne Lieder, printed separately circa 1565, and thence in Wackernagel, iv. p. 344. W. von Maltzahn, in his Bücherschatz, 1875, No. 616, p. 93, cites it as in an undated Nürnberg broadsheet, circa 1556. Wackernagel also gives along with the original the revised form in Ringwaldt’s Handbüchlin, 1586. Both forms are also in the Unverfälschter Liedersegen, 1851, No. 746, in 7 stanzas of 7 lines. It is based on the “Dies Irae,” but can hardly be called a version of it. The original has a picturesqueness and force which are greatly lost in Ringwaldt’s revision. It was much used in Germany during the Thirty Years’ War, when in these distressful times men often thought the Last Day was at hand…

… iv. Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut, Du Brunnquell der Genaden. Lent. One of the finest of German penitential hymns. Wackernagel, iv. p. 1028, gives it, in 8 st. of 7 1., from Ringwaldt’s Christliche Warnung, 1588, where it is entitled “A fine hymn [of supplication] for the forgiveness of sins.”

–John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)

 

https://deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/in-christi-wunden-schlaf-ich-ein-i-fall-asleep-in-jesus-wounds/

http://cyberbrethren.com/2009/11/14/singing-the-gospel-lutheran-hymns-and-the-success-of-the-reformation/

 

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