Posts Tagged ‘Pentecost’

Prophecy and Pentecost

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

Pentecost-B, May 20, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message


I can’t help but think that before the Holy Spirit showed up on that first Pentecost Sunday, the disciples were just plain tired.  Think of all they’d been through; they saw their Lord crucified, and then He rose from the dead.  After that, for forty days He just kept appearing and disappearing in the most unusual places.  To cap it all off, they saw Him ascend into heaven before their very eyes, but before He did, He told them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” [Acts 1:4-5] In other words, Jesus was saying, “Do nothing until you hear from me.”

So there they sat in that upper room, tired, worried, and afraid.  I can’t help but wonder what they would have done if Peter or one of the other twelve would have said, “Come on guys there’s a lot of work to do.  Quit hiding out in here; let’s go out and spread the news.”  I think they would have grumbled, and said, “But were tired.  We’ve been through a lot.  Let someone else go out.  We just don’t have it in us!”  But I don’t think that discussion ever happened because as promised, Jesus by way of the Holy Spirit showed up in a powerful way!  And that is what we are celebrating today, Jesus kept His promise and empowered the church with the presence of the Holy Ghost!   Don’t we need that power too?  Don’t we get tired also?  Sometimes, don’t we feel like we just can’t do another thing; like maybe we’ve already done and experienced enough?  

Today, God wants you to know that you need a faith lift.  

 No, I didn’t say facelift, I said faith-lift!  God wants you to know that life without faith, or life with little or weak faith is a desperate life!  That is what the Jews were feeling when God visited Ezekiel in a vision, in our Old Testament lesson.  They were desperate because they lost hope; they lost faith in their saving God.  They had been conquered and enslaved by the Babylonians for many years and their homeland of Israel and Judea was destroyed.  When they first arrived in Babylon as slaves they were humiliated in their defeat, but at least they still had the love of their God!  But after several generations of life as slaves, they began to lose their faith.  First they began to doubt God’s forgiving love for them, and then after a while they must have begun to doubt His very existence!  They felt abandoned and alone.

Do you ever feel that way?  Do you ever feel like God has forgotten you, or is punishing you?  Maybe you’ve even began to wonder if He’s even real?  If so, then let God speak to you.  Hear the story of “dem old dry bones” because Ezekiel’s vision is a prophecy that was fulfilled on Pentecost and it is our reality today.  The valley of dry bones is as real as the battle fields of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam.  It’s as real as the run-down buildings of skid row and the shattered dreams of the poor, unemployed and underemployed.  It’s as real as the crack-house, the sick house, and the poor house.  It’s as real as families broken by addiction and abuse.  It’s a vision of lost dreams and shattered lives!  

As terrible as these battlefields were and are, they pale in comparison to the vision God gave to Ezekiel.  

God told Ezekiel to speak the first message, and the bones were animated with flesh and blood, they were whole bodies, but they were still dead!  Flesh that appears alive but lacks a soul or spirit; I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like zombies!  

Do we have people like that today?  Yes!  It is everyone who thinks that they can please God by being good; by living a virtuous life.  They may think they’re alive, and they may even look alive, but the truth is they are really dead!  They are dead because they lack God’s breath of new life.  “Then God said to (Ezekiel), “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” [Ezekiel 37:9]  

This was the message of prophecy for ancient Israel during their captivity and it is God’s message for all of us today; it is prophecy fulfilled!  It is the promise of His forgiving love; a Word of forgiveness that brings restoration and peace with God through the cross and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  We first receive this Word in our baptism, and then we hear it every Sunday.  It is the gospel, the good news that assures us that through Jesus Christ we are forgiven.  Please hear it again today and become rejuvenated… alive in Christ!

It was this Word of promise, or forgiveness and restoration that brought hope to the hopeless captives in Babylon, and it is the very same message that God speaks to us who struggle to live our lives in a sinful broken world while not being of the world.  It is a Word that directs us to find our identity not in how the world sees us or treats us but in God’s work of recreation and restoration.  

When we feel alone, and think that we’ve lost our way, God’s Word reminds us that He has never left us; it reminds us that He is right there with us.  His Word takes our eyes off of our circumstances, off of our sin and the sin of others, and He redirects our gaze to the cross of Jesus and the waters of our own baptism.  In His Word, in the vision of Ezekiel and the rebirth of dry, dead bones, God shows us that our salvation, our lives and our future are all in His loving hands.  All we need do is keep turning our hearts and minds to Jesus; call out to Him for forgiveness and strength and receive the Word, His Word that promises that He will never leave nor forsake us.

So we wait.  

But what are we waiting for?  Do we wait as dry bones waiting to be given flesh and spirit?  No, that was already done for us.  Then what are we waiting for?  We are waiting to hear the gospel; the only Word that can dispel fear and bring power from heaven.  What kind of power?  How about this kind: “And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” [Acts 2:2-4]  Dear friends, this mighty power of God wasn’t given only to the early church; it is given to each of you.  You were first given that power in your baptism, and you are continuously strengthened in that same power each time you hear or read God’s Word of repentance and forgiveness.  

Why are some of you living as if you do not have that power?  Because you confuse the individual gifts with the power behind the gift!  What greater power could you need other than God’s power to overcome death?  What greater gift could there be than God’s forgiveness; His ability to recreate you and continually remove your sins, the consequence of your sins from you?  

Can you see that you lack nothing?  Can you see that when God works, when He saves He always does it in a way that is all powerful, complete, and effective?  Then why do we still feel tired, alone, and sometimes even rejected by God?  Maybe it’s because we are still waiting for God to speak!  But He has already spoken.  He spoke in your baptism; He speaks in His Supper!  In His Word He tells you that all has been completed so that you may have life abundantly.  Do you hear that?  You are not a zombie… you have life!  You have life right here in this sinful world!  But your life is to be used for a purpose.  You are to use the gifts that God has given you to go out and speak life to those who are dead in their trespasses.

Unlike the hit AMC television series, “The Walking Dead” we aren’t going out to destroy the zombies before they destroy us, we are going out to bring them back to life.  We are sent out with the only Word that can bring them life, abundant life.  Like Ezekiel, God has empowered us with the ability to speak the breath of life into the walking dead.  And here is how it works.  The problem with zombies is they don’t know they are zombies; they think they’re alive.  So God tells us to speak His law.  We must hold up the mirror of God’s Word and show our neighbors that they are sinners; just like we are.  We must share with them that they have no future unless they simply admit to God that they are dead in their sins and are helpless in changing that reality.  This confession of reality has now prepared them to hear the prophesy of life; the breath of forgiveness that will reanimate; recreate them into God’s image.  The Word they must hear to know forgiveness and new life is simply that Jesus Christ is Lord and He has brought them forgiveness of sins and new life!  He is Lord of life and eternity.  He is the conquering Lord who through His cross has defeated not just the sin of the world but even their sin.  What’s more, Jesus is the Lord who defeated the devil; He is the Lord who protects all that are baptized from ever losing their gift of new life!

Dear friends you are tired, because you are confused.  You’ve forgotten that not only have you been saved, but you’ve been saved, given power, and a mission.  You are to continue expanding the Kingdom of God one saved sinner at a time.  And as you go out in the power of God speaking His recreating Word of forgiveness, His Christian army gets bigger and bigger, and your work load gets easier and easier as many hands make the work of the kingdom light.

So, our time of waiting is over.  Jesus has spoken, and you have been baptized and given the promise and power of the Holy Spirit.   This is our invitation to become part of Christ’ mission to seek and save the lost.  Can we do it?  No, but God will.  He has spoken.  You are forgiven, and so is the world.  Now let’s go tell someone with our own little personal touch, and someone will tell someone else, until the day when Jesus comes to take us home.  AMEN!

It All Comes Down To This

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org
Pentecost B, May 28, 2015

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It all comes down to this!  Down to what?  The coming, presence, and work of the Holy Spirit, of course!  Jesus said, “… I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.  And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

Now, I know the presence of the Holy Spirit is nothing new; His Work was essential, “In the beginning.. (when) the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  And (He empowered the Word of God when) … God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” [Genesis 1:4]

The Spirit was there with Adam and Eve as they were repelled out of Paradise, and it was the Spirit Who constantly reminded them of the Promise of restoration through the coming Champion who would destroy sin, death, and the devil, and bring humanity back to Paradise.  The Holy Spirit was with Noah and the Animals as the Ark was built and the animals were compelled to enter the Ark in peace.  The Holy Spirit was with Moses as He parted the sea and led God’s people to dry land.  It was the Spirit who filled every one of the prophets of old and the Apostles of Jesus to speak Words of hope and new life, all once again centered around the Champion who has actually fulfilled the promise of Paradise restored.  And that champion is Jesus Christ, crucified, risen, and ascended!

Now this is all “good news” but it is not the only news on this day of Pentecost.  The news of Pentecost is that not only has Christ risen, but also that He has risen for you.  And here’s the best part of that proclamation, it is empowered by the Holy Spirit to actually bring you a new life with God, and take you back to Paradise; back to a right relationship with God!

So, the Good News for each of you today, is that through the fulfilled Word of God, you have been given faith to believe in each and every promise God makes regarding your sin and Christ’s Work upon the cross to take away your sin.  You have been given faith to know this truth as a certainty.  Just as the Spirit at creation hovered over the waters to empower the Word of God to create everything out of nothing, so too He has empowered God’s promise of forgiveness and restoration and the waters of your baptism.

But here’s another truth…

Life without faith is desperate. In our Old Testament lesson, we are given a graphic demonstration of this desperation through the vision God gave to His prophet Ezekiel.  The valley of dry bones is the ultimate expression of life overstepping its limits, which is the abandonment of hope in the Creator God.

Ezekiel’s vision is the reality of our world today.  Certainly the Christian martyrs in the middle east must feel dry, desolate and alone as they die one by one through the demonic power of ISIS.  But we do not have to go that far to know the feeling of emptiness and abandonment; how must the people of Detroit feel as they think back to better days when the economy was booming and neighborhoods and business were flourishing, but now all that stands are the burn out shells of homes and businesses that once were.

The Mexican artist, Jose Guadalupe Posada created a large body of art showing persons engaged in a wide variety of daily activities, but each were depicted as skeletons.  In one drawing he depicted a soldier riding through a valley of bones full of human skulls.  What was he trying to tell us?  Was he trying to say that hope in the government above or in place of our hope in God only leads to death?

Perhaps the most terrifying aspect of Ezekiel’s vision is after the bones became skeletons, and after the skeletons were fleshed, what filled the immense valley floor? Bodies of real people who are simply dead because they lack the touch of the Holy Spirit; they lack the breath of life!  This dear saints is the ultimate tragedy… not that people die, but that they refuse to live.  The flesh without spirit, not the dry bones is the most haunting aspect of Ezekiel’s vision.  A world of zombies, the walking dead if you will who are in that state and don’t know it, or worse yet they know but they do not seem to mind.  But…

Life with faith in Christ overcomes the curse of the walking dead; it overcomes despair! Jesus declared to the world and to you personally on the day of your baptism, “I came that (you) may have life and have it abundantly.” [John 10:10]  He is the only One who can not only speak hope, but deliver it.  He not only promises a restored and renewed hope, but His Word actually gives it.

Every Word that Jesus spoke and taught was to prepare each of you for that one moment in your life when you realize that there is something great and profound missing in life, and then receive it!  When your moment of despair comes, and sometimes they come frequently like the waves on the ocean shore, when it comes it is God’s will that you recall His promises of forgiveness and restoration, which you have heard declared, read, or even sung, and then remember.  Remember what?

Remember that although through His Word you have discovered that your sin is great, deadly, and terrifying, you must also remember that all of Christ’s righteousness has been given to you completely through His Work upon the cross and the declaration of the empty tomb.

But the Easter cry of “He is risen” is like a iPhone without a battery, if you can not or will not reply, “Indeed, He has risen for me!”  And this is now getting at the power of the abundant life that Jesus has promised to the church, and through the church , to the world.  This is where we discover that…

Life with Christ finds empowerment through the Holy Spirit in the church for the work of witness and missions! So it all comes down to this… The day of Pentecost is a demonstration of both the love and power of God, which takes the good news of forgiveness of sins and ensures that it will be declared throughout the world.

As Peter and the disciples gathered in the upper room right after their Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, they must have felt alone and afraid.  But they knew somehow they were not abandoned; they knew that Jesus would make good on His promise to send a helper, a counselor, and protector.  And my, did he ever…

Some may say rightly that until that day when the Spirit showed up in power, Christians were just playing the part of church; they were playing around with the idea of Christ, not yet allowing the resurrected and ascended Christ to come alive in their midst.  Again, they were like an iPhone without a battery, or better yet they were like a bus without an engine.  But then something happened on the Day of Pentecost… Jesus made good on His promise; He sent the Holy Spirit.

The entire account given to us in our second reading (Acts 2:1-21) can not help but excite us and invite us into the story of the church. The imagery of the event comes alive as it glows with tongues of fire and the bewilderment of other languages. People seem to be staggering and stammering like drunken men. But when Peter speaks and the air clears, that which is testified to, is nothing other than the mighty works of God.

Dear friends, the mighty works of the Holy Spirit are still being performed today.  We witness the same power as the dreams of the old and the visions of the young people refuse to play church, but actually become and behave as church through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  And this mighty work is none other than the work of salvation; the translation of sinners into saints for “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved!”

When ever the Word is proclaimed, whether through the work of the sermon, Bible Study, personal witness, or when it is carried overseas to far way places, it is fulfilling the mission of Christ found in Matthew 28:”Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Vs. 19, 20) So Pentecost is really the birth of Missions or the empowerment of the church to fulfill Christ’s mission.

As you leave this place but not Christ’s presence, you leave reminded that you are on a mission to share the good news that sinners sins have been forgiven through the work of Christ alone. But you do not go alone; you have been empowered and you are protected by the Holy Spirit.  And as you share the good news, what will be the response that you will receive from friends, neighbors, and family?

Now we are at the very heart of sinful mankind’s response to the gospel.

Humanity’s situation without God is so desperate and their opportunities with Him are so big that almost any response seems inadequate and even a little ridiculous.  Do people fall to their knees and cry mercy or rise to their feet and cry glory; once they are converted by the Holy Spirit, do they spend a period of time in study and training or do they rise from the valley of dry bones in service to God and neighbor?

To dwell on questions like those can also be another way we play church and play with the mission of Christ.  Why not face the facts as we know them; anyone who has been struck by the Spirit of Pentecost has received the breath of life; they’ve been recreated through the waters of Holy Baptism.  In other words they have been reanimated.  And what they do next is the very same thing we do every day…

We repent! We believe and we become what God has already declared we are… Redeemed!  Repentance is the heart beat of the church.  It is the radical turning of the whole self from itself, to a right relationship with God through the cross of Jesus Christ.  To be baptized is to enter into the life and mission of the church.  To receive the Holy Spirit is to allow the Sprit to shape your life in obedient witness and service to Him who first loved us!  And yes, it may even mean making amends for past wrongs, selling or giving away what we don’t need and sharing the proceeds or other goods with the needy, sharing a common life with other Christians on days other than Sunday, worshiping daily and breaking bread in homes, the very transformation that marked the Christian community after the great day of Pentecost. [Acts 2:37-47]

SO IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS. The Holy Spirit is among us in great power, just as He was in the beginning, just as He was with Adam and Eve, just as He was with Noah, Moses, the prophets and apostles of old, and just as He was that first Pentecost Sunday.  In the past all who have made a difference within the building and growth of God’s Kingdom only did so because they were willingly being led by God’s Word and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  So it all comes down to this.  Are you willing?  I pray in Jesus name that you are… Amen!

What Makes You Come Alive?

Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost C, May 19th, 2013

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“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”  [John 14:26]

This is the answer to the how questions that we Christians so often ask of God, and it is the answer to the questions our unbelieving friends ask of us.  “How can I make it through this?”  “How can I find the strength to get up, and to go on?”  “How can you believe in an invisible God?”  The answer, of course, is that on our own, that is with out the help of God we can not, but because of the work of the Holy Spirit, we not only will make it through what ever this world and the devil throw at us, we will in fact thrive after we pass through it.  Not only do we find strength to get up and go, but we get up and go with a purpose.  Not only do we believe in what the sinful world calls an invisible God, but we also hear and follow Him everywhere He leads.

Now to this response, some may ask, “How can that be?”  And our answer is that we abide in Christ.  That is that through the work and gift of the Holy Spirit, who uses God’s Word and Sacraments to give faith, we not only believe that Jesus is with us, we abide in that truth!  This is what Jesus means in verse 23 of our Gospel reading (John 14:23–31) when He says, “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.”

Do you remember when Jesus used a vine as an illustration to describe what it means to love Him and trust Him?  He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” [John 15:5]  On the screen is a picture of a grape vine my wife has been tending to for almost 20 years.  Do you see how thick and sturdy it is?  Its roots go down deep and wide.  But that is nothing compare to its many branches that grow and thrive above the ground.  Look at this other picture now; can you see how it’s branches are growing and thriving up above?

In our children’s message, I held up a branch of that vine and asked the children if they could guess how many grapes I would get off of that branch if I took care of it.  Of course they eventually understood that I wouldn’t get anything off of it, because apart from the vine, it was dead.  They understood that eventually that branch would dry up and be thrown away.  It was hopeless… without being part of the vine.  The branch lives because it is part of the vine.  When it abides in the vine, it is as if its life song is “Glory to the vine in the highest, and peace to the branches who abide!”

In our Old Testament lesson (Genesis 11:1–9), this is the very thing that God wanted the people to understand.  After the world was destroyed by the flood, God kept for Himself faithful Noah and his family as a way to restart fallen creation.  He wanted them to continue to be faithful and go throughout the earth and multiply.  He wanted their ancestors to remember that apart from living a life centered in Him, in His glorious presence with them, they would not have life.  He wanted them by faith to be obedient to His call to repopulate the earth with a people who knew Him and loved Him.  But something terrible happened… the subsequent generations began to forget about their God.  They became full of pride and no longer wished to venture out populating the earth, so they attempted to detach themselves from God’s presence.  They no longer gathered around His Word, which told them to go.  They thought that like the branch I showed the children, they could sprout roots and live; thrive with out the God who created them.  “Glory to man in the highest, and peace to their children who build!”

But what should we expect from a branch?  Not only can they not live outside of the vine, they can’t even no what’s best for them.  And this is the very message that God communicated to them when He came down and confused their language.  Now, instead of acting as one sinful heart and mind, they would be force into an obedience that God wanted to come out of them willingly, by faith.  When God confused their language He was punishing them for acting as if they were the vine; as if they were God!  “I am the LORD,” He has told us.  “I will not give my glory to another (Isaiah 42:8).”  It is as if He is saying, “In Me only do you have life and move and have your being.” [Acts 17:28]

Has anything really changed today?  Yes, I know, man did go forth and multiply; the earth is full of people, but what kind of people?  Don’t we still, each of us deep down inside, like to have things are own way?  Don’t nations still go to war against each other because we do not abide in the God who created us?  Isn’t there an abundance of resources available controlled by a few; enough to feed, clothe, and house the worlds poorest and yet we do not share?  So what’s the answer?  Is it politics?  Is it war?  Civil unrest? Communism or socialism?  No, it is none of those things.  The answer to these problems is you… or rather you who are abiding in Christ… you who love Him because He first loved you… you who keep His Word and are loved by the Heavenly Father.

It is you and the rest of us who make up the church, who are fed and nourished by God’s own Word and Sacraments; you who have heard the message of the cross, the emblem of not just suffering and shame, but God’s love for the entire world.  It is you who are a product of God’s mighty work of rebirth through the water and His life giving and life sustaining Word, who are then equipped to allow God to do even more mighty deeds through you.  You love Jesus, because you know that through His atoning suffering and death you have been forgiven of so much.  It is you alone who can love Jesus and please God by singing “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.”

But what about those who don’t love Jesus; those who won’t abide in Him by keeping His Word?  Well that is where the mighty work of God is continued through those of us who do!  We are a branch of the vine for a reason.  We abide in Him and He has made His home in us as individuals and as a church for a purpose.  We are to share His Word with those who still want to make a name for themselves, apart from resting in God’s glory.

In our epistle reading (Acts 2:1-21), we see God’s solution to both our problem of wandering and the problems of those who will not abide, or receive and rest in His real presence in their lives; it is the Word of God and the Spirit of God that is received in that Word.

Prior to that first day of Pentecost, God’s Spirit was thought to be almost the exclusive possession of the Jews.  Through their own selfish sin of pride, they forgot once again that they were to go forth and multiply; that is they were to share God’s desire of restoration with all humankind.  But just as God acted in a mighty way at the tower of Babel, so He acted on Pentecost.  In St. Peter’s sermon, His text came from the prophet of Joel, listen: “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.”  Who does God want to save?  All sinful human flesh!  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16]

And now, witness dynamic proof, once and for all that God is serious about not sharing His glory with anyone or anything.  Witness the explanation mark upon Jesus declaration of “It is finished” before He gave His last life breath upon the cross for all sinful creation.  The Holy Spirit was in the house; like tongues of fire He appeared and He was saying that He is getting ready to make all things right.  He is going to make sure that all of those sinful branches that are disconnected from the vine understand that apart from Jesus there is no hope of life.

But the Holy Spirit is not just in the house, He’s out in the streets like a locomotive; like a tornado, tearing down strongholds, powers, and principalities, all so that God’s people can speak the gospel to their neighbors, just as Peter did!  Wouldn’t it have been a shame if the disciples never left the upper-room of that building?  Over 3000 people would not have heard the gospel Word, and would not have been returned to the vine that gives them life.

Isn’t it a shame if we refuse to go out into our community and speak gospel words of life to our neighbors who are also dying?

This morning God wants you to know that He still pours out His Spirit on all flesh; He wants His people who are separated from Him by sin to know that He still is coming to them.  We who believe in Jesus—are those whom the Spirit has called and gathered.  We are being enlightened and sanctified by God’s means for a purpose.  We are to prove to our neighbors that there is a God who loves them.  When we meet them, we are to invite them to come to the same vine that nourishes and strengthens us.  We are to invite them to come to church, even our little church and simply abide; to love Jesus who first loved them.  This morning Jesus wants us to know that through the Holy Spirit, He and the Father are targeting everyone with the same message of forgiveness.  While it is true that we may encounter closed doors, or broken branches that refuse to abide, who refuse to hear our testimony about God’s forgiving love, the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, is still going about His work and will continue to do so without pause, until the very last day.

What makes you come alive?  Abiding in the vine; being obedient to go forth and multiply.  I pray that you will remember that without being a part of Christ’s church, that is apart from His Word and Sacraments, you can do nothing, but wither and die.  But by resting in Christ, receiving His means of grace, through the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, you will not only abide, you will thrive.  I ask you then to both abide and thrive, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

What is this Living Water?

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Pentecost A, June 12, 2011
Click here for audio of this message

Why does the church set aside and remember the Pentecost experience, which is so beautifully presented in all three of our readings?  Is it done to create in all converted Christians a desire to speak in strange tongues?  Is it set aside to show that there are everyday Christians and then there are super Christians who have these miraculous gifts of the Spirit?  Maybe we remember this day to remind us how far the church has fallen from the position that God desires us to be in?  Well, the answer to all three of these questions is a resounding “No!”  The true reason for remembering the  Pentecost experience can be found in our gospel reading in Jesus own Words.  Listen: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” [Jn 7:37b, 38]  Let’s look at these Words a little closer and allow God to teach us what we are to remember  during these next 23 weeks of Pentecost; a period where we are invited to meditate on the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, in our church, and in our community!

What we learn first is that if any of us are ever to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit, we must first perceive a need for Him; we must have a thirst for His presence and His power!  How are we to be given such a thirst?  Through the power of God’s Word, specifically His Law that shows us how much we need His forgiving love!  This is a forgiveness that can never be earned or achieved through our own efforts.  So many preachers today are simply leading their congregations deeper into thirst by telling them what they need to do, in order to know happiness, peace, and success.  But telling someone what they need to do doesn’t ever give them the ability to do it!  And to this, along comes Jesus, and He comes with a teaching that is completely different; He actually does offer a way to quench their spiritual thirst; a way to now God’s loving and kind heart!  And where does He send them to find a thirst-quenching drink?  To Himself that’s where!

Jesus is telling us that all other sermons that preachers preach are simply the fancies of a sinful mind.  He is telling us that there really is no way to be right with God except by coming to Him!  Except by coming to Jesus through faith, there really is no way to bring peace to a conscience that knows it daily sins against God!  Our sinful consciences long for one thing more than anything else; they long to hear, “Your sin is forgiven!”  When we can hear these Words and believe them then and only then will our spiritual thirst be quenched! 

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.”  In these words Jesus is telling us that outside of His message of gospel peace we will not find even one single drop of comfort, comfort that can satisfy our thirst!  Outside of this invitation to come to Him and drink and rest there is only more thristing and tormenting of our terrified conscience; a conscience that is really dying of thirst! 

But what happens after we drink?  What happens after we simply receive the forgiveness of Jesus Christ?  Well Jesus says that “Whoever believes in Him, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ”  You see, because you have turned to Jesus, He assures you that as long as you keep coming to Him and His Words of life, you will have streams of living water coming out of you!  He is assuring you that because you come to Him, He will equip you to not only have your thirst quenched but to also help bring others to the same living water so that they too can be satisfied!  And now we are beginning to see the true miracle of Pentecost!  Through the Living Word of God, Jesus is promising you that not only will He satisfy your own thirst, but He will use you to help satisfy the thirst for forgiveness that others have!  And all of this is done through the Word of God, through the gospel!  The longer the gospel is preached and shared, the more effectively it goes out satisfying your thirst and the thirst of others.

How can simply sharing God’s Word and forgiveness of sins do all of this?  Because behind the Word is the power of the Holy Spirit!  When Jesus was speaking these Word’s the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet been poured out on all those who believed in Him.  Certainly the Holy Spirit was present, but His power to build the church and propel it out into a sinful world hadn’t yet been demonstrated.  But make no mistake, where God’s Word is there is also His power; but it is His power, and we must remember that He uses it when, where, and how He determines.  As Jesus spoke that day, the people whose hearts were prepared by the Holy Spirit began to experience a great quenching of their spiritual thirst!  And as we are listening this morning, our thirst for God’s forgiveness is also being quenched!  But how can this great work of quenching spiritual thirst, of forgiving sins be continued in a mighty way throughout history and across the entire face of the earth?  Only through the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  And that is the reason the great day of Pentecost is worth remembering and observing!

In our reading from Acts [2:1-21], we can make a couple of noteworthy observations.  First we see that everyone was equally filled with the Holy Spirit.  That means men, women, and children; each was equally filled and equipped for the task that was given to them.  There is no need for one to desire the gifts of the other; they were equal.  So the prayer of Moses in our Old Testament reading, that asked “that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit on them” was answered! [Numbers 11:29]   Second, we see that the Spirit gave them utterance, or maybe a better way to say this is that the Spirit gave them the Words they were to speak!  And now the real question is not how did they speak, but what did they speak! 

You see, if you let your focus be only on the fact that they were able to speak in foreign tongues, well  then you are missing the whole desire and will of God!  And what is the will and desire of God?  That all sinful men and women would repent, turn to Jesus Christ and be saved!  That all of us would come to Jesus and drink of His life giving waters!  That was the message that each one of the disciples were speaking that day and that is the message that God would have you share with your neighbors within this very community as He gives you the opportunity.  And how are you to speak and what are you to say?  Should you have some scripture memorized?  What if your nervous; what if, what if, what if!

You see, if you let your worries and fears get in the way, then you are once again taking the focus off of the giver of the gift and looking at what kind of gift you want.  Remember, God fills each of us equally.  The Spirit fills every single believer in the church and He uses every one of us according to His desire not ours.  We must simply rest in the fact that the day of Pentecost raised each of us to the same level.  Just as the Holy Spirit loosened the tongues of the disciples to praise God in the way He desired on that day, so He does for us today!  Like them, our hearts shall overflow with grace and power, and our tongues will speak of that grace and power!  Each of us have been equipped by the same Spirit to confess our faith, to pray and praise!  This is our testimony to Christ’s thirst quenching and life giving waters!

So why don’t you and I have the ability like the early disciples to speak in strange tongues?  Well I suppose it’s simply because the Holy Spirit doesn’t need us to!  Back then, He determined that great signs and wonders were needed to propel the church throughout the world, all so that everyone who was dying of spiritual thirst could be quenched!  I would say that He’s done a pretty good job of growing the church.  Can you think of a single country where Jesus has not been preached?  I can’t!  But just because the Holy Spirit has changed the external way He works, doesn’t mean that He isn’t working!

In Holy Baptism, where you received the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, you too have given the gift of faith so that you can understand the teachings of Jesus, teachings that have been handed down to you by the Apostles through the work of that same Spirit.  By the Holy Spirit, you’ve been given faith that clings to the promises of Jesus; promises, which assure you that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.  By the same Spirit you are given boldness to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the One who was crucified carrying the burden of your sins and the sins of your neighbor!  You have been given boldness to declare the He is the One who rose again, bringing you to life again with Him.  By this faith which is yours from the Holy Spirit, you receive the very body and blood of Jesus Christ-a gift that also gives you forgiveness for all of your sins and the strengthening of your faith.  This is your testimony!  This is the life giving water that Jesus gave first to you and it is the very thing He desires to give to your neighbor through you!  When each of us gathers to hear the Word and receive the sacraments we are being given the power of the Holy Spirit to go out and share these things.  And when we do this, we see the body of Christ growing; this is the true miracle of Pentecost!  It is a symphony of confession, testimony, prayer and praise that rises up to the Holy throne of Jesus Christ in every language across this sinful world.  This is the desire and will of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and it is the very mission that He has equipped you for!  May God continue to do His Pentecost work within each of our hearts by the power of His Holy Spirit, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!

Prophecy Fulfilled at Pentecost

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

“We all need a little good news once in a while,” so goes the old saying.  But if we pay attention to our Bible, and especially to this morning’s scripture readings we would say rather, “We always need good news—all of the time.”  The good news of course is the gospel, and we need to hear the Gospel all of the time because we sin daily.  Our second lesson this morning is the fulfillment of our Gospel reading where Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. [John 14:25,26]  This is the “Gospel Promise” that Jesus left the Church just before His ascension.  It is His promise he gives to you today.  It is “good news” for you, if you will only believe.

The first time God shared the gospel with us was immediately after the very first sin.  When Adam and Eve were encouraged by the devil to do the only thing God said they could not do, eat from the tree of knowledge.  When they did this, they committed the first sin.  In one bite they exchanged God’s truth and love for a lie (You will be like God.  You will become wise).  Instead of finding wisdom they found misery; instead of becoming like God they became separated from Him.  But God in His love would not let mankind suffer in this state; in His love God demonstrated His mercy by immediately proclaiming the Gospel.  Speaking directly to the devil, but for the benefit of mankind, God said: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [Gen. 3]  In these words, God promised that the savior of mankind would come as a descendant of Adam and Eve, and it was in the work of this Savior that God would restore mankind into a right relationship with Him. 

 Now, many years after this, God examined the earth and He found that evil had completely overtaken the face of the earth and according to His judgment all that was evil must be removed from the face of the earth through the means of a flood; but God was able to find one family that still wanted to walk with Him by faith; Noah and his family alone placed their faith in God’s gospel of hope; a gospel that proclaimed the coming of a Savior who would make it possible for all people to once again relate to God in love.  Once saved from the flood, Noah’s sons and their families were told to go out into the new world and spread throughout the land and repopulate it with people who like them wanted to relate to God in this spirit of repentance and hope in the coming Savior.  But, as is always the case, they soon ignored God’s command and they gathered as one people in one place.  They went no farther than Mesopotamia, an area today we would call Iraq. 

 The descendants of Ham, a son of Noah who became a powerful people and they began to oppress the other descendants of Noah.  They wanted to make a name for themselves; they wanted to rule over all others in the place of God.  They built a tower; a tower that seemed to reach up to the very heavens screaming at God, “Look at us!  Look at what we have done without you!”  Now the other descendants of Noah wanted to fit in; they did not want to be different, so they went along with this strange building project, and when they joined in, they chose the way of man over the ways of God.  Once again, mankind traded God’s truth and mercy for a lie.  They wanted to live as if God did not matter, as if He didn’t notice their sin!  But God did take notice: “And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” [Gen. 11:6] 

Their sin was like that of Adam and Eve; they wanted to be independent of God.  And like Adam and Eve, they too would be banished from their land and forced to do what God had commanded through Noah, to inhabit the earth. “Come, let us go down and there and confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.” [vs. 7-8]  Here God was saying essentially, “In their prideful condition they no longer desire to know me, they no longer realize that they need me.  I must dissolve their pride, and remind them of their need for my love and mercy.  They must again look to the coming of the promised Savior.”

In our New Testament reading (Acts 2), we see how God ensured that His message of grace, the good-news that was first proclaimed in the Garden of Eden, would be proclaimed to all people on the face of the earth.  It was the day of Pentecost, or the Jewish Harvest festival; a one day event where Jews from all over the earth were invited back to Jerusalem, to give a Thank Offering to God for His goodness in providing an abundant harvest.  There were people from all over the known world in and around the temple area; each with their own national language, yet all were Jews who fluently spoke and read Hebrew.  And then there were the apostles and disciples of Jesus, about 150 of them, including women and children.  They were gathered somewhere in a large building near the temple; something similar to our fellowship hall.  It was about 9:00 a.m., and they were seated on the floor listening to one of the Apostles (probably Peter); most likely they were trying to figure out what Jesus great commission meant to them; for these were the last words He spoke to them just before He ascended into heaven.  The disciples must have been asking the apostles questions like, “What did Jesus mean when He said he was with us even until the end of time?  He has left us to be with the Father, so how is He with us?”

Peter would not have time to formulate an answer, because out of no where, a very loud noise, like tornado approached their building, and filled the room.  It was the sound of wind, without the wind.  ILLUST: I am a witness to a tornado, and it sounds just like a very loud train is bearing down on you.  IT IS FRIGHTENING!  Now that God had their attention, He was about to remind them, in a miraculous way that Jesus ALWAYS keeps His Word!  The promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit was about to be fulfilled!  Somewhere in the center of the room appeared a large flame; I would imagine that it was similar to the burning bush that Moses saw on Mt. Sinai.  That alone must have frightened the group, but then it did something very new, God’s Holy Spirit became very personal; it divided into many parts, and the parts spread out and began to hover over each person’s head.  Now, fear was replaced with awe, as each one stood on their feet and being led by the Holy Spirit, they began to make their way outside of the building, and into the street.

They were probably in a public square somewhere near the temple because a huge crowd had gathered outside of their building, most likely because of the great sound of the wind that passed from the street into their meeting room.  Now as each disciple, being led by the Spirit of God proceeded outside, they began praising God in a new language that was foreign to them; it was a language that exactly matched the languages of the foreign Jews who gathered at the temple for Pentecost.  Each one heard something like a hymn of praise, in their own native language.  The majority of the people stood in awe.  Someone in the crowd must have known that the disciples were those who had been with Jesus; that they were simple people from Galilee that “should not” have been able to speak these languages so fluently, because the comment was made, “Aren’t all of these people who are speaking Galileans?  So, how is it that we hear, each of us in his own language?  ”  [Vs. 7, 8]

 What a wonderful demonstration of God’s miraculous power!  This was the first recorded miracle God performed after Jesus ascension into heaven, but it certainly would not be the last, in fact, the book of Acts is loaded with miracle after miracle.  God used these miracles starting with this gift of tongues to propel the church throughout the world in such a way as to ensure its growth, very much like how God used the confusion of languages to compel men and woman to spread throughout the earth.  Now God was ensuring that each and every person would hear the praise of God in their own “heart” language.  Through the gift of tongues God demonstrated that His mighty Spirit was leading His church at a time when such a witness was needed.   

Back to our story, Peter now takes his place among the disciples, and he hears some from the crowd proclaim that the disciples praising God are probably drunk!  With this word, the devil once again attempted to take the focus of attention off of the Creator and place it instead on the creature.  But God would not be silent; He could not!  At this very moment Peter’s gift of the Holy Spirit was activated—the gift of prophecy!  Filled with the Spirit, Peter recalled Jesus’ own Words: “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” [John 14:25,26]  Praise God, the Helper had come in a mighty way.  And now led by the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ real presence went out to his people from the mouth of Peter.  Peter continued God’s plan from the beginning, he preached the Gospel.

Dear friends, Peter’s sermon makes it clear that God’s Spirit will be poured out on the last days.  When are the last days?  They are now!  The last days are every day after Jesus suffered, died, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sent in his place the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who causes our hearts to respond to God’s call of repentance: “Turn away from your sin and turn towards Jesus Christ.  Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, and you will be saved.”  Yes, the last days are today.  Today, Jesus calls out to us through the Holy Spirit, to turn away from a life that has us our desires as the most important thing, and turn towards Him. And by His Holy Spirit, our hearts are moved to confess our sinfulness to Him and then turn towards Jesus as our only source of help.  Only faith in Jesus Christ, the living Word of God can transform you, renew you, and bring meaning to your life.  In vs. 17 He promises this very thing to you: “And in the last days it shall be, declares the Lord, 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.” [vs. 17]

 Dear saints, you are those sons and daughters that will prophesy and see visions.  Young people, God’s Word specifically mentions you.  There are none too young or too old to receive God’s Spirit, because that Spirit was first given to you at your Baptism.  Do you believe it?  Then live this truth and allow God’s Spirit to keep hold of it and  cherish it.  Call out to Him and He sill save you!  “To call upon the Lord’s name” means to call out to him for the forgiveness of sins and it means to believe that you have been forgiven.  To call upon His name is to call upon God’s mercy as proclaimed in His gospel; it is a gift that you neither earned nor deserved, yet it is yours!  It is the same gospel that God first proclaimed to Adam and Eve, and the one you first received at your Baptism.  And when we are changed by this gospel, the result will be that we will prophesy.  We will share the good news, the saving and blessed will of God to people everywhere.  With God as the center of your world, your vision is his vision—He uses your talents and abilities in a way that is sure to astound you.  Think of it—He will use you to impact the world, the people around you, in a way that will both glorify Him and lead others to know Him also.   

Dear friends, Jesus said to Peter and the other apostles just before his death, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. [John 14:27]  Through the work of the Holy Spirit and His means of grace, Jesus actually gives and leaves His peace to each of you this morning and for eternity.  It is this very peace that all people since the first sin of Adam and Eve have been hoping to receive; trusting in God by faith that the Messiah would come.  He has come and he suffered, died, rose, and ascended for you!  HE IS RISEN!  And all God’s people say, “HE IS RISEN INDEED!”  AMEN!

Prophecy Fulfilled at Pentecost!

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

 

INTRODUCTION: “We all need a little good news once in a while,” so goes the old saying.  But if we pay attention to our Bible, and especially to this morning’s scripture readings we would say rather, “We always need good news—all of the time.”  The good news of course is the gospel, and we need to hear the Gospel all of the time because we sin daily.  Without the gospel being central in our lives we are nothing more than a pile of dead—dry bones. Our reading from the book of Acts this morning is the fulfillment of our Gospel reading where Jesus said, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about me.”  [John 15:26]  This is the “Gospel Promise” that Jesus left the Church just before His ascension.  It is His promise that the Holy Spirit will accomplish God’s will in regards to ensuring that the gospel is preached and the gift of faith is given; the promise that a new and blessed life will come forth from dead, dry, bones.  It is His promise he gives to you today.  It is “good news” for you, if you will only believe.

 

I. The first time God shared the gospel with us was immediately after the very first sin when Adam and Eve were encouraged by the devil to do the only thing God said they could not do, eat from the tree of knowledge.  When they did this, they committed the first sin.  In one bite they exchanged God’s truth and love for a lie (You will be like God.  You will become wise).  Instead of finding wisdom they found misery; instead of becoming like God they became separated from Him.  But God in His love would not let mankind suffer in this state; in His love God demonstrated His mercy by immediately proclaiming the Gospel.  Speaking directly to the devil, but for the benefit of mankind, God said: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [Gen. 3]  In these words, God promised that the savior of mankind would come as a descendant of Adam and Eve, and it was in the work of this Savior that God would restore mankind into a right relationship with Him. 

 

Now, many years after this, God spoke of the hope of the gospel to a prophet named Ezekiel.  In our old testament reading, God showed the prophet the work of the Holy Spirit… He showed Him new life for dry bones.  He showed Him the hope of salvation for those dry and dead in their sins and trespasses, if they would but trust in God’s mercy and receive the gift of faith; faith which comes through the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

II.  In our reading from the book of Acts (Acts 2:1-21), we see how God ensured that His message of grace, the good-news that was first proclaimed in the Garden of Eden, would be proclaimed to all people on the face of the earth, just as Jesus had promised so many times.

 

In our reading, we join the disciples gathered in a large building near the Jerusalem temple.  It was about 9:00 a.m., and they were seated on the floor listening to the Apostles; they were possibly talking about the Great Commission, because those were the last words Jesus spoke to them just before He ascended into heaven.  I would imagine that their discussion probably sounded very similar to the discussions we’ve had here at Trinity; discussions like how can we fulfill Jesus command to “go” into the world and baptize and teach God’s Word.  They must have been asking the apostles questions like, “What did Jesus mean when He said he was with us even until the end of time?  He has left us to be with the Father, so how is He with us?”

 

Peter would not have time to formulate an answer, because out of no where, a very loud noise, like a tornado approached their building, and filled the room.  It was the sound of wind, without the wind itself.  ILLUST: I am a witness to a tornado, and it sounds just like a very loud train is bearing down on you.  IT IS FRIGHTENING!  Now that God had their attention, He was about to remind them, in a miraculous way that Jesus ALWAYS keeps His Word!  The promise of the Holy Spirit was about to be fulfilled!  Somewhere in the center of the room appeared a large flame; I would imagine that it was similar to the burning bush that Moses saw on Mt. Sinai.  That alone must have frightened the group, but then it did something very new, God’s Holy Spirit became very personal; it divided into many parts, and the parts spread out and began to hover over each person’s head.  Now, fear was replaced with awe, as each one led by the Holy Spirit rose and made their way outside of the building, and into the street.

 

They were probably in a public square somewhere near the temple because a huge crowd had gathered outside of their building, most likely because they heard the great sound of a mighty wind gushing into that meeting room.  Now as each disciple, being led by the Spirit of God proceeded outside, they began praising God in a new language that was foreign to them; it was a language that exactly matched the languages of the foreign Jews who were gathered at the temple for Pentecost.  Each one heard something like our liturgical hymn of praise, in their own native language: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth.  Lord God, Heavenly king almighty God and Father.  We worship you.  We give you praise.  We thank you for your glory.”  Now the majority of the people stood in awe, but someone in the crowd must have known that the disciples were “simple” people who had been with Jesus, because the comment was made, “Aren’t all of these people who are speaking Galileans?  So, how is it that we hear them praising God in our own language?”  [Acts 2:7, 8, 11]

 

What a wonderful demonstration of God’s miraculous power!  This was the first recorded miracle God performed after Jesus ascension into heaven, but it certainly would not be the last, in fact, the book of Acts is loaded with miracle after miracle.  God used these miracles starting with this gift of tongues to propel the church throughout the world in such a way as to ensure its growth, very much like how God used the confusion of languages to compel men and woman to spread throughout the earth.  Now God was ensuring that each and every person would hear His praises in their own “heart” language.  Through the gift of tongues the Holy Spirit was leading His church at a time when such a witness was sorely needed.  Because of this, we would call this use of the gift of tongues strategic and temporary, because it’s use diminished once the church grew so large and fast that its very existence and power was proof that the Spirit’s eternal presence was within it. 

 

Back to our story, Peter now takes his place among the disciples, and he hears some from the crowd proclaim that the disciples praising God are probably drunk!  With this word, the devil once again attempted to take the focus of attention off of the Creator and place it instead on the creature.  But God would not be silent; He could not!  Now,  filled with the Spirit, Peter recalled Jesus’ own Words: “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” [John 14:25,26]  And remember he did, and then some!  Praise God, the Helper had come in a mighty way.  And now led by the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ real presence through His Word went out to his people from the mouth of Peter.  Peter continued God’s plan from the beginning, he preached the Gospel.

 

III.  Dear friends, Peter’s sermon makes it clear that God’s Spirit will be poured out on the last days.  When are the last days?  They are now!  The last days are every day after Jesus suffered, died, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and sent in his place the Comforter, the Helper, the Holy Spirit; it is He who causes our hearts to respond to God’s call of repentance through His Word: “Turn away from your sin and turn towards Jesus Christ.  Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is your Lord and Savior, and you will be saved.”  But what are our sins?  They are anything that places God as second place in our life, and anything which offends or harms our neighbor.   Dear saints, in vs. 8-10 of our Gospel reading Jesus says, “(The Holy Spirit) will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father.”  Dear Friends, Jesus is speaking to us—none of us can believe in Him on our own.  Without the Helper we stand convicted as sinners… convicted of the capital offense of unbelief in Jesus Christ as our Savior.   The last days are today.  Today, Jesus calls out to us through the same Holy Spirit, to believe in Him unto eternal life!  To believe in Jesus is to be saved from sin, to have all of our sins forgiven… and to not believe in Jesus is to remain in sin, to die forever as nothing more than a pile of dead bones!  But praise God, for by His Holy Spirit, our hearts are continually moved to confess our sinfulness to Him and then trust in Jesus Christ as our only source of peace with God.  Friends, it is faith in Jesus Christ alone that will strengthen you with God’s love and power.  Only faith in God’s Word can transform you, renew you, and bring meaning to your life. 

 

CONCLUSION: Dear saints, you are those sons and daughters that will prophesy and see visions.  Young people, God’s Word specifically mentions you.  There are none too young or too old to receive God’s Spirit, because that Spirit was first given to you at your Baptism.  Do you believe it?  Then live this truth and allow God’s Spirit through His Word to keep your heart centered in it.  Call out to Him and trust He has saved you just as His Word promises!  “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” [vs. 21]  “To call upon the Lord’s name” means to call out to him for the forgiveness of all of your sins.  To call upon the Lord’s name means that you follow the Spirit’s leading and call out to Him for strength so that you will not fall into unbelief.  To call upon His name is to call upon God’s kind heart as proclaimed in His gospel!  It is the same gospel that God first proclaimed to Adam and Eve, and the one you first received at your Baptism.  It is the same gospel that assures us this morning that when we come to His Holy table to eat His body and drink His Blood we receive forgiveness of sins.  And as we are changed by this gospel, the result will be that we will prophesy.  We will share the good news, the saving and blessed will of God to people everywhere.  We can not help but witness to His love and mercy because it is His Spirit acting within us! 

 

But what about the visions we will see?  What is this vision that God gives?  It is the vision of a dying world.  It is God’s vision of seeing this world saved and transformed by the gospel message that says that through faith in Jesus there is new life for dead bones.  Dear friends, the Holy Spirit is present in this dying world through you!  As you go out into the world and live your life you take with you God’s love and grace.  Filled with His Word and empowered by faith, you are His breath of life for dry, dead bones.  Now go in peace and follow the Lord!  In Jesus name…AMEN!