Monday, June 7, 2010

Second Sunday after Pentecost

The Second Sunday after Pentecost
The Introit, Psalm 138:3,7-8 antiphon 86:16
Bror Erickson

Turn to me and be gracious to me;
Give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant.
On the day that I called, you answered me;
My strength of soul you increased.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life;
You stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your gracious hands.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your gracious hands.

I decided to be a bit unorthodox today and preach on the introit drawn from the Psalms. Custom, and I might add good custom, dictates that you preach on the gospel for Sundays, and treat other books elsewhere. This is because Christ is the center of our faith, and His words and actions then should be given the most attention. If you come to church on Sunday morning only once in your life, you ought to hear about the forgiveness of sins won for you with the death and resurrection of Christ, perhaps hear a bit about his character and personality. This custom is most especially true of the festival seasons of the church, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter which endeavor to follow the life of Christ. In the season of Pentecost the focus changes a bit to the life of the church. The on Holy Apostolic Church and the life it is living now waiting for Christ to return in glory. The focus changes, it begins to deal with our Christian lives, who we are in relation to Christ, and how we live out the hope that is in us. How we live in this world, while not being a part of it.
The only problem with the above custom of only preaching the gospel lesson on Sunday, is that especially in a congregation like ours where there aren’t week day services, it is easy for the rest of the Bible to be forgotten, and the scriptures are these with testify of Christ, and in so doing have eternal life. (John 5:39) The gospels must take precedence in the life of a congregation. Yet we dare not forget the rest of the scriptures with which God would increase the strength of your souls. And perhaps the most valuable scriptures for increasing the strength of your souls are the Psalms from which our introits come. The Psalms which also testify of Christ. The psalms through which Christ also speaks to you. The Psalms, the word of God, in which is contained law and gospel no less than in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And they can be a most refreshing word of comfort in a time of sorrow. On those days when you call, God will answer you. He may not ever whisper anything in your ear. I would be deeply suspect if he did. But he will answer you, and if there is any part of the Bible that you could randomly point in and find a word of comfort for you soul from God, it is probably the Psalms. Though to be honest there are some that can be quite graphic and sorrowful. I just guess that nine times out of ten your going to land on something akin to Psalm 23, that is a most refreshing drink of water when the flames of hell threaten to devour you.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the gracious work of your hands.

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.
You and I are here because of the gracious work of God’s hands. His purpose is fulfilled in us, whether we ever know that purpose or not. Perhaps a person reads this and begins to wonder what great scheme God is playing out, and how our part might just be that little cog in the machine that drives Churchill and Ike to victory in WWII. Perhaps we begin to think a little like Patton, who always thought he was destined for glory. (At least according to the film, where he seemed to think he was a reincarnation of all the best generals in history.) I’ve been given to those thoughts myself. Sometimes living in Utah I dream of being to Mormonism, what Gregory of Nazianzus and Athanasius were to Arianism. What Augustine was to heresy of every stripe. What Luther was to Rome. And I pray that someday someone is, if it isn’t me, that finally there is an end put to this vile heresy that surrounds us, consumes our loved ones, and devours our children as their souls are set on fire by Satan’s fiery darts and their bosoms begin to burn. Did I tell you about the Buddhist I sat next to on the plane to California this last time, who justified his irrationality with the same mystical burning bosom for which the mormon‘s justify their irrationality? Oh I hate that religion, and wish it would burn, and finally consume itself. But such grandiose thoughts need not supply the meaning behind such verses.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose in me,
Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
And it is in the steadfast love of the Lord, that our purposes are fulfilled. His purpose for you is love. It is from his steadfast love that he created you, and it is because of his steadfast love that endures forever that he redeemed you with his blood. It is with that love that he baptized you and adopted you as children, made you members of his church, and it is with that steadfast love that he wishes to sustain you in this life, and fulfill his purpose in you. God is love. And so all he does is an out flowing of love in this world.
The great generals, the great theologians that he raises up in this world to protect us from evils of body and soul, he raises up out of love for you. Because his purpose in you is fulfilled in his love for you, a love He shares for the whole world. The commandments he gives us to live by, he gives out of love. Even as he gave his son to die for the world, you and I, and all who have broken these commandments, yes He gave his son to die for the world out of love, love for those who sinned, and do sin. His purpose is filled in love.
So it is that His purpose for you is fulfilled in love, the love he gives to you in the forgiveness of sins, that loves Him because he first loved us, and loving Him, loves your neighbor who He also loves. Did I say neighbor? Yes your neighbor. But if your neighbor than even more so your family, your friends, your fellow Christians, and yes your enemies, especially when they are your family.
Oh, love has a bitter, harsh and painful side doesn’t it? They say that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. Do you know how true that is? Could there be pain and sorrow in our lives if we did not love? Of course this bitter, harsh, and painful side of love is not the result of love. It is not as if we could not love without also hating. It is not as if we could not love without ever feeling sorrow, and pain. This side of love is really nothing more than the result of love reacting to sin, the interaction of sin and love. It is sin that causes love to be painful at times, because it is sin that comes between us and that which we love. Just as that same sin comes between God, who is love, who is Holy, and that which he loves, us who are sinful, and pervert his love.
Ask yourself, in your most bitter hours, your most trying times if it was not sin that came between you and love that caused so much pain? Sin that which causes death and takes family members from us: Grandparents, parents, children, and friends. Sin that causes family members to hold on to false beliefs and shun you for sharing the same? Sin that causes a spouse to find joy in the arms of another. Sin that causes despair. Sin that makes love hurt when families are divided and broken.
And yet God’s purpose for you is fulfilled in love, in his love for you that overcomes all of this with forgiveness. So your love can only overcome the pain and sorrow with forgiveness. He forgives, because that is the only thing love can do if it wants to preserve itself and its love in the face of sin. God forgives because he is love, and he loves you. And with his forgiveness he gives you life. He gives you life. You are the gracious work of his hands that he will not forsake, for which his steadfast love endures forever. He will not forsake you. He will not take his love from you. But he continues to forgive. And for this reason he gave his son for the world, and fulfilled his purpose for him on the cross, forsaking him there that he might die for you, that his love would endure forever for you, the gracious work of his hands. And so it is there on that cross, where Christ gave his body and shed his blood out of love for you, so it is in the fruit of that life giving tree, His body and his blood, that we find love, the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, the strength of soul and the power to forgive, and in forgiving the will and reason to live, even in life most bitter moments.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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