Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A note from Lois Watt

A note from Lois Watt (Pastor Watt’s Mother), now In Nigeria on a mission trip;
Dear family,
We got here with no problems. I was a long ride and I didn't sleep very much. It seemed as though they were always feeding us on the plane. We got on at 5:30 and so we had a meal , then we changed time so we ate breakfast at my time of 12 midnight. The Nigerian people are so friendly. Nathaniel and Teri have really made it their home. The kids are happy and have lots of friends. I am sure I will like it too. I have not gone over the Mashiah Foundation (A mission project for women with Aids) yet but Nathaniel said I should rest a week. I feel really good. All for this time. I Love you all and God bless you. Mom
-- Lois Watt.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Third Sunday after Pentecost, Mark 3:20-35, June 25, 2006

Third Sunday after Pentecost, June 25, 2006
St.  John’s Lutheran Church, Howard, South Dakota
Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat.  And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.  And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.  But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man.  Then indeed he may plunder his house.  “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him.  And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:20-35, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.
How would you like your family to think you were crazy?  That’s what’s happing here to Jesus here.  His family is saying, “He out of his mind.”  Literally, they were saying he was “beside himself.”  “He’s crazy!”  It is kind of a strange expression, isn’t it, to be beside yourself.  But it means to be so greatly excited by something that we don’t know what’s going on.  To be so totally effected by what’s happening that we are out of control, or out of our own mind.  A person who is beside himself needs help, they need someone to come and take charge of them.  Someone has to step in and take over.
That’s just what the family of Jesus wants to do.  Just like we would do if we saw a member of our own family “beside himself.”  …they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”  But how can anyone take charge of Jesus.  How can anyone control his actions, his words, or his Spirit?  There are lots of attempts to do just that.  Ways to reduce Jesus to understandable categories, and a controllable size.  There are ways that people try to make Jesus fit into what seems to make sense and what’s logical.  Here in this text Jesus’ family tries it and so do the scribes.  And later on even his disciples even give it a try telling Jesus that he must not go to Jerusalem to suffer, die and rise again.  But all attempts to “take charge” of Jesus fail.  Weather we call Jesus words into question because we think they are crazy, or by trying to discount his miracles, as the work of the devil or even as if they never happened.  The truth is that no one ever takes charge of Jesus.  Jesus, through the work of the Holy Sprit, takes charge of us.
So here in our reading we see two groups trying to take charge of Jesus.  Up to this point in Mark’s Gospel, we’ve seen a lot going on.  Mark keeps the action moving, in the first chapter we see Jesus baptized, tempted, calling his first disciples, driving out an evil spirit, and healing a myriad of people.  In chapter 2, it keeps moving.  He heals, calls more disciples, and teaches.  In Chapter 3 he commissions his called disciples.  It’s a blinding pace.  It’s a page turner, but there aren’t many pages to turn because it’s a very short book.  One thing is certain as you read.  Jesus is in charge.  He’s in control of himself and He’s in control of everything that’s going on.  Up to here, everyone seems to be going along with Jesus in charge.  No one really makes a fuss; no one tries to set a different agenda.  It’s here in our text, for the first time in the book of Mark, that people begin to react to what Jesus is doing.  They start to react by trying to take charge.  They’re afraid Jesus is going off the deep end.  They act to keep him in line.  
So far with Jesus in charge, he’s causing an uproar.  Everywhere he goes there are crowds that follow him.  And they’ve grown so large and pressing that he and his disciples could not even eat.  They’ve pressed in and around the house that they’ve come to.  When his family heard about it they were concerned about his health so they start out to the rescue.  “If he doesn’t eat he’s going to get sick!  He’s working way too hard!  He’s not thinking clearly! Someone has to do something for him.”  In everything that’s happening around Jesus they don’t understand what’s really going on.  They don’t know who Jesus really is, and why he’s really come.  Jesus family wants to be in charge of Jesus, instead of Jesus letting him be in charge.
The second group that tries to take charge of Jesus is the scribes.  They arrive brewing for a fight.  They don’t like what he’s been saying.  He’s disrupting their “congregations.”  He’s getting their members to ask questions they can’t answer.  He’s drawing their attention away from the scribes.  So they start trying to discredit Jesus. “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” (That a name for a Philistine, prince of demons).  They want to be in control.  But Jesus stays in control by pointing out how illogical their statement is.  If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. That is to say “Satan’s not going to cast out his own demons.  That would be fruitless.”  Today he might say something like, “no batter is going to pick up the ball he just hit and throw himself out at first base.”  The scribes want to control Jesus because they don’t like what he’s doing, but Jesus stays in control.  Jesus’ family wanted to take control of him because he was embarrassing them, but Jesus stays in control.  Jesus is always in control.
But, people trying to “take charge” of Jesus isn’t limited to these examples in our text.  As a matter of course we see it every day.  It seems every Easter you find Jesus on the cover of Time magazine.  It’s usually a story about how “biblical scholars” explain away Jesus’ resurrection. What these scholars are really saying is that they don’t like what the bible says about Jesus.  The don’t like what Jesus says about himself, so they have to “take charge” and show that he didn’t say them or that they didn’t happen.  It’s a classic strategy, remember the scribes? Jesus is possessed by demons! Well, these scribes of the day like the Jesus who turned the other cheek but hate the Jesus who raises the dead and claims to be God.  
Jesus puts these critics in their place and we say, “Go get ‘em Jesus!”  But we maybe we might not speak so quickly.  We try to control Jesus, too!  We are really no better than the folks who went out to “take charge” of Jesus in the crowded house.  They were worried about his health.  We are just worried.  It’s easy to worry about anything, and everything.  We worry about the economy, the corn, the weather, or children, school, church… on and on the list goes.  What worry really does is gets Jesus down to our size, where we can handle him, where we can be in charge.  Worry is not being willing to turn troubles over to God, but wanting to hang on to them ourselves.  What we forget is that Jesus bound the strong man.  Satan causes us trouble, but Jesus has already done him in.  Satan doesn’t have any power over us, unless we give it to him.  The troubles of the world don’t have any power over us unless we let them.  When we worry about our troubles, instead of handing them over to Jesus, we hand them over to Satan.  We leave the door open for him to push his foot in and use our troubles against us.  He whispers into our minds that these things are too big for our God to take care of.  He tries to convince us that if God really loved us he wouldn’t let these kinds of things happen.  He tells us that we should be able to handle things on our own.  That’s what worry does.  It puts us in charge instead of Jesus.  It’s controlling Jesus instead of letting Jesus be in control.
Besides worry, there are other ways we try to take charge of Jesus.  We don’t like the picture of the dead Jesus on the cross.  We think that it’s just a little too much.  It’s not really a good picture to share with people who don’t know him.  So we try to introduce Jesus in other ways first.  We think that if we just tone down Jesus bloody death on the cross, he’ll be more acceptable.  One way we do this is to avoid talking about Jesus on the cross.  We like to talk about Jesus as our example.  In fact, most people like Jesus as an example.  That’s because we want to be in control.  If Jesus came to be our example, that leaves us in charge.  I’m the one who has to do the work then.  I work hard to follow an example.  I get to be my own savior.  The crucified Jesus doesn’t let me do that.  Jesus Christ didn’t come to the world and take up human flesh to be our example and show us how to live.  He came to pay the price for our sin.  He came to bring us forgiveness of sin and restore our proper relationship with God.  He comes in complete control.  He does it all, and that leaves nothing for us to do.  That’s Jesus on the cross.  St. Paul says the cross is “folly.” (1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV)  It’s much easier to understand Jesus being an example.  It’s much easier to understand our responsibility to follow an example.  So we like it much better.  It put Jesus where we can control him.  But Jesus is in control.  He came and suffered death on the cross for your sin.  As long as you try to save yourself, you push your Savior out of your life.  
The worst part of controlling Jesus in this way is that so very often we speak to other people as if Jesus the example is all that matters.  We think that the cross is too bloody to be talked about.  We’d much rather talk about following Jesus than Jesus painful death on the cross.  Mostly it comes across in statements like, “all religions are the same.  The most important thing is how we live.”  In the end, there will be many very good people, people who followed Jesus example very well and cared for other people, gave to the poor, put lots of money into charity, gave their neighbors all the help they needed, visited prisoners, etc, who will suffer in hell eternally, because they didn’t trust Jesus for forgiveness of their sins.  They tried to earn forgiveness on their own.  Instead of letting Jesus be in control, they wanted to do it.  
St. Paul writes, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing,” (1 Corinthians 1:18, ESV) In other words, people think God is “beside himself” while Jesus is bleeding and dying on the cross.  One feminist scholar accuses him of cosmic child abuse.  It’s doesn’t make sense that God would save the world that way.   That “in Christ God [would] reconcil[e] the world to himself, not counting [our] trespasses against [us].” (2 Corinthians 5:19, ESV)  Just as they doubt God would work through plain water.  Or that Jesus wouldn’t be present in bread and wine.  Or that Jesus would use a plain speaking preacher to carry his forgiveness into people’s hearts.  It’s not the way we would do it if we were in charge, if we were in control.  
Being in control leaves us “beside ourselves.”  Depending on ourselves.  Working out our own salvation by our own efforts.  But our own efforts will always fail us.  We can’t keep it up perfectly.  When we fail we hang on to our guilt.  When we fall short of the mark we try to blame someone else.  When we are in control we are alone and lost.  “Beside ourselves.”
Well, Jesus family couldn’t take charge of him, the scribes couldn’t take charge of him, scholars today, can’t take charge of him, and neither can we.  We don’t have the ability or the authority.  But Jesus does have the power and authority to take charge of us!  In spite of what the Scribes said, Jesus doesn’t work through the power of Satan; he works through the power of God, the Holy Spirit, who is present in Word and Sacrament for you.  That’s the power of the same one who created everything.  God’s house isn’t divided against itself, but working together to save us through forgiveness of sins, given in that Word and Sacrament.  Jesus has actually opened God’s house up to people who believe in him.  He’s opened to forgive all sins and reclaim all lost sinners.
Jesus took charge of our sin.  He was the one who came and “first binds the strong man” to reclaim what is his.  Jesus’ life, death and resurrection take charge of our sin.  As much as we would like we can’t take charge of them.  No one says it better than Isaiah.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; We’ve tried to take charge.  But, Isaiah continues, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  (Isaiah 53:6, ESV)  Jesus says to us, “Turn over your sins to me.  I’ve taken them to the cross and to the grave.  I’ve done what you can’t do.  They don’t have to trouble you any more.  I’m in charge.”
Oh, but you don’t have to take my word for it.  If you want proof that Jesus is in charge, all you have to do is listen God’s own Words written by St. Paul.  He says the proof is in the pudding.  
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:12-28, ESV)
It’s silly for us to think that we can be in control of Jesus.  He rose from the dead.  He’s more powerful than even death.  Why do we think we can in any way be in control?
Being beside oneself must be an awful feeling.  If we could only rely on some person beside us, some friend, then we wouldn’t have to be afraid or in despair.  We do have someone to be beside us.  Jesus Christ is there, and he is more powerful than anything that faces us.  He has taken hold of us.  He has taken charge of us.  Jesus is beside us always.  Amen.  
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

On My Reading List

On My Reading List

A Theology to Live By: The Practical Luther for the Practicing Christian
Preus, Herman A
Concordia Publishing House, 2006
Price: $14.99

On My Reading List

On My Reading List

The Blessings of Weekly Communion
Wieting, Rev. Kenneth
Concordia Publishing House, 2006
Price: $23.99

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Second Sunday after Pentecost, Deuteronomy 5:12-15, June 18, 2006

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
Second Sunday after Pentecost, June 18, 2006
Main Street Living; St. John's, Howard
“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.  Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.  Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
“What do you do for a living?”
“Well, I’m a Pastor.  I’m a farmer.  I’m a teacher… I’m retired… a homemaker… a student…” How many times have you heard and answered that question.  It’s probably the most asked question whenever you meet new people.  Think about it and what it means.  Think about what we are saying to each other as we ask and answer that question…
There is some value in what we do; teachers teach… farmers produce food… homemakers raise children.  They are important tasks, that need to be done and important people take them up and do them.  And lots of us take not only our identity from our work but many of you are what you eat, in a sense.  You can always tell the farmers they’re gathered around the back of church after the rain discussing the rainfall (or lack of it).  If you’re a farmer people expect you to act a certain way, and most often you oblige.  The cap, the work boots, and piece of straw in you mouth.  
Teachers too, have identity in what they do.  Whenever we think about doing something for children we look to teachers first.  After all they know what they’re doing… Mechanics have long standing oil under there fingernails and homemakers wear aprons.  People are expected to act certain ways because of who they are… There is an identity in what we do.  You might even say who we are, is determined by what we do.
If you really want to see this principal at work in a big way spend a day in High School.  Practically nowhere is it more pronounced.  Walk through the hallways and you’ll soon identify the jocks, geeks, brains and nerds.  The kids divide pretty much by what they are good at.  There’s a structure to who’s who.  Kids who are good at sports are always at the top of the stack.  They’re the ones that everyone is sure will be successful in life.  They’re the one everyone wants to be like.  They are the ones who are valued, by the High School culture.  
What you see in our children there is exactly what we’ve taught them.  Every day we tell them, if not in words, then in actions, that people have worth because of what they do.  Sports figures are highly valued in our culture, just look at the salaries!  These people are valued highly; weather or not they are good role models.  The estimation of firefighters and policemen has risen since 9-11 but, I’ve noticed that when the state budget gets tight they’re the first positions to go.  How many of you have said the teacher’s salaries are, too low?  It is clear to see that they are not nearly as valued as others.  That’s the society we live in… people have value for what they do.  
Many of you may know who Red Green is.  It’s a show out of Canada shown on Public Television.  One of the characters is Winston Rothschild III.  He emphasizes this very point.  He’s a sewer man.  He owns Rothschild Sewage and Septic Sucking Services.  It’s funny to see him speak as if he runs a fortune 500 company, while he wears hip waders.  Everyone else knows he’s a loser because he’s just a sewer man.  It’s funny, but it’s what we really think.  
If you think you’re not really guilty, think about how you react to people you meet, when you find out their occupation.  Everybody wants to be a friend of the new doctor.  The smelly beggar that walks into church off the street is asked to leave.  You and I size up people by where they live, what car they drive, what kind of clothes they wear, and mostly what they do.  Our problem is that we place value on people for what they do.  What a selfish way to live.  Actually what we do is value people because they bring value to our own lives.  We value people because they do valuable things for us.  We value people not for who they are but for what they do.  What a sinful way to live.  
And by now you are wondering what this has to do with the third commandment: “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.” Pastor, shouldn’t you be telling us that we need to come to church?  And complaining about those who don’t bother to show up?  Shouldn’t you be giving us good reasons to study the bible or ways to stay awake during your sermons?  What does this commandment have to do with how we value people?  
Well listen again to what God says about the commandment.  
On [the Sabbath] you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do.
Who’s included?  I think it pretty well hits all the bases.  It’s everyone; even the ox and the donkey are to rest from their work.  Work hard 6 days and rest on this one!  Everyone is equal.  Everyone needs the rest.  It doesn’t say everyone except those important people whose work we can’t live without.  The Sabbath observation puts all work aside; from farming to banking, from scooping manure to serving coffee.  The work all the same in the eyes of God.  
Well that’s not really quite right.  It’s not really the work that God sees as equal.  It’s just that He doesn’t value people because of what they do.  He doesn’t value hard workers over lazy ones.  He doesn’t value farmers over migrant workers.  He doesn’t value business men over business women.  In God’s eyes people are the same.  He values them all equally.  
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28
No levels, no value based on occupation, all are one St.  Paul tells us, “one in Christ Jesus.” And that gives us the clue as to why God thinks this way.
Now listen to why God gives us the Third Commandment?  Listen again,
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.  Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.  
God rescued the People of Israel from slavery in Egypt.  They were slaves, the lowest class of people in Egypt.  Their work was considered to be to low for Egyptians to do.  They were valueless in a very wealthy society.  And God brought them out of that condition with a mighty hand.  They had value to God what they did and actually not even because of who they were, but because of what God did for them.  They were slaves, lost in their condition of no value.  But God did something about it; He gives them value by what He does for them with a mighty hand.
Now it’s hard to miss the connection here, to us.  Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:34) We were slaves to sin.  You see it everywhere in your life, not to mention how we classify people according to what they do for us; friends, neighbors, enemies, and children.  We put them all on a scale and measure them by what they do for us, or do against us.  We can’t help it, there’s something in here that does it something so very much a part of us that we can’t even change it just because we want to.  It’s sin.  Sin just shows itself in this ugly way.  It lives right there in our hearts, making us a slave to these kinds of actions.  We might be able to change our outward actions, by trying to treat everyone the same, but right there in our hearts and in the recesses of our minds we still feel the same.  Sin makes us valueless, as we try to boost our own self-esteem by standing on the heads of others.  And the thing about being a slave is that there is nothing you can do about it.  You’re a slave and a slave you’ll always be, unless someone else, gives you value and does something about it for you.  We are bound to slavery too, worthless, children of slaves in the same predicament as the people of Israel in Egyptian slavery.  
But, God gives us value by setting us free.  Just as God’s redemption gave the Children of Israel worth, God’s redemption also gives us worth.  So how much value do we have in God’s eyes.  Luther says it well in his explanation of the Third Commandment:
… not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death…
How much are we worth to God?  Look at what He did to give you value!  He shed His innocent blood, and He suffered death, even death on the cross!  How much value is that?  How much are you worth to God?
Now think about all the people you interact with every day.  Think about the people you see out there, sitting at coffee, dragging a sprayer through the field, answering the telephone and pumping gas.  Look at them the way God does.  See the value God has given them in Jesus Christ.  And think about how different your relationship with these people can be because of what God had done for that person in Jesus Christ.  Remember Jesus loved you so much that he gave his very life for you; you are priceless in His eyes.  
And finally think about this.  Most of the people in the world, and even those living around us, don’t know about how much God values them.  Still in their minds they think they have to do something to have value to God.  “If I’m a good person, if I do the best I can, God will save me.” People think that God values people like we do, but He doesn’t.  God valued the world in this way:
that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16
What are you worth?  I guess it depends on whom you ask.  That’s actually why we gather together in worship on Sundays, to observe the Sabbath day, by keeping it holy.  Through God’s Word, He continually speaks to us and tells us how much He loves us, how valuable we are to Him.  We are all washed clean of our sin through baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection.  There’s no upper class or lower class here, according to God.  It doesn’t matter if you’re unemployed, a doctor, a farmer, or even a postal worker.  God loves you and values you so much that He sent His only Son to die for you.  Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Festival of the Holy, The Apostles' Creed, June 11, 2006

Festival of the Holy Trinity, June 11, 2006
St. John’s, Howard, SD
The Apostles’ Creed
It’s Trinity Sunday and that means we’re talking about this great mystery that is difficult for us to understand. After reading together the Athanasian Creed at the beginning of the service I was tempted to just give this sermon…
The Holy Trinity: Three in one, one in three. Got it? Amen.
The real problem is that we really can’t understand what it means that God is one in three, and three in one. It’s a mystery beyond our understanding. W just don’t have anything we can compare it to. I’ve read the book 3-in-1 to the children and although it helps us to understand the Trinity a little better it’s not perfect either. God isn’t like anything we know. He’s the most unique thing in the whole universe. He’s totally outside of it all, and yet he’s everywhere in it all. How do you explain something like that so that we can understand?
Well, I’ve found, when trying to understand the things of God, it’s best to remember and talk about what we’ve been told already. That’s what it means to confess our faith. To say back to God what he has told us about himself. One good place to find what God tells us about himself is in the Apostles’ Creed. Turn to page 301 in the front of your hymnal. There you’ll find the Apostle’s creed and Martin Luther’s explanation of each article. This creed (or confession) is an important document for Christians. It’s how we’ve been confessing what we believe about the Trinity for centuries. It gathers together in one place what God tells us about himself in his Word in a form that’s easy to remember and easy to speak. So today, on Trinity Sunday, let’s do just that. It’s a good time to review. Let’s read the first article together.
The First Article - Creation
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean?
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.
First, we should notice that we confess together, and call God our Father. Father’s day is coming. The Creed reminds us that God is our Father. It’s the first way we have to get a handle on what the Trinity is. We may not understand exactly what it means that God is a Trinity, but we can understand what it means that God is our Father. Just as our earthly fathers are supposed to provide for us, we confess that we believe that our Heavenly Father provides us with everything we need: Body, soul, eyes, ears all my members, reason and senses… etc. clothing shoes, food drink… I really don’t think Luther left anything out. God has provided all these things to us, everything necessary for us to live, and work and play. I think the really important phrase here though is “and still take care of them.” God is not the kind of Father that gives and forgets. He’s the Father that gives and keeps on giving! In fact, God is the kind of Father that never stops giving. He gives everything, and then He gives more. One of my seminary professors said you can’t understand God unless you begin to speak in mathematical impossibility. God is three in one. That’s a mathematical impossibility. God gives us everything, and then He gives us more. Just think, the bed you slept in last night, the food you ate for breakfast, the pew you are sitting in right now, all gifts from a loving Father. He gives you all that and there is still more to give.  It’s impossible but that’s what He does. He gives us complete forgiveness through the all that Jesus did. We have full and complete salvation right now, and yet there is more to come as we look forward to the end of time, when God will give us even more. We have the complete forgiveness of sins, and yet God gives us even more through the Word of forgiveness spoken through the lips of your Pastor, and even more when we open our mouths and he puts forgiveness into us through the Body and Blood of Christ. We also confess that He protects us from harm and danger. God does what our earthly fathers are supposed to do and more. It is a picture we can come close to understanding.  So maybe this Trinity isn’t completely beyond our understanding after all.
What about the second article? Let’s read it.
The Second Article - Redemption
[I believe] in Jesus Christ, His-only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
What does this mean?
I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
This article is at the center of the creed and it’s also the center of our faith. It’s at the center of our faith. It’s about the second person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ. We are Christians. Christian means “Little Christ.” We are believers in Jesus, the Christ, followers of Jesus Christ. Our faith is in the life death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. That’s the big gift given to us from God, the Trinity. And right here in the creed we have the whole story about what He did for us: He was born, lived, suffered, died, raised again to life, ascended into heaven, and coming again. And Luther doesn’t waste any time when he tells us. Thru Jesus Christ, God has redeemed me a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and the power of the devil; Think of John 3:16 the most famous passage in the whole bible and part of what Jesus said to Nicodemus in the Gospel lesson for today. We could all even say it together even if we’ve never memorized a single verse of the bible I’ll be we know this one “for God so loved the world…” This is the heart of everything we confess here in this church.
Notice how it doesn’t talk about what we do, but only about what God gives to us through faith.  And because of all that He did He is my Lord.  Jesus is born of the Virgin. Jesus redeemed me.  Jesus purchased and won me from sin that lives in my heart, death that is my just reward for that sin, and Satan who uses that sin to drive me away from God. And he didn’t do it with gold or silver, as we would try to do it. It wasn’t bribery; the gift that God gives was earned.  It was purchased with His holy and precious blood. He let out his blood on the cross where nails pinned him as a payment for your sin. His willingness to die for you and me was the price that He paid. That I may be his own and live under him…  The gift that he gives through his life and death is real life: a life or righteousness, innocence and blessedness.
And there’s one more thing to talk about here. It’s the resurrection of Jesus. All of the gifts God gives through Jesus are secured through His resurrection. As the creed says just as he has risen from the dead so these things are also true for us. The resurrection is the proof of Jesus perfect life and death. The resurrection is the promise of God’s gifting us more in the future. Life here can be good with God’s gifts, but if there was nothing after death it would all come to and end. But that’s God’s addition again. He gives all there is to give, all that we have to support this body and life, and then He gives more yet; eternal life, life that goes on and on forever; a perfect life with Him every day. All that He has to give is beyond our thinking. Just as the Trinity is beyond our thinking, just as the forgiveness of sins is beyond our thinking, just as Jesus resurrection as a promise of our resurrection is beyond our thinking, so God’s giving is beyond our thinking.
That’s what the Christian faith is all about. That’s what we confess when we talk about the second person of the Trinity.
But there is still one part left. You see, after all that God has done He still does more!
Let’s look at the third article and read it:
The Third Article - Sanctification
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean?
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
Finally, we talk about the Holy Spirit, the third person in God’s Trinity, but we also about more that the Holy Spirit, too.  We talk about ourselves. Look at how Luther begins his description talking about whom we are. I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; You see, in spite of what many Christians believe (even some Lutherans!) our faith isn’t due to anything we do. It isn’t something that we have to figure out. It’s not something we have to become accept by asking Jesus into our hearts. In fact, it has nothing to do with anything we do at all. I cannot by my own reason or strength.  Luther says. That just goes against all our American pride. We want to be self sufficient. We don’t want to be dependant on anyone. That’s what makes Christianity so difficult to swallow here in the US these days. It goes against our grain. But God makes it very clear in his word, and Luther simply confesses what God has said. Faith is totally and completely a gift of God, worked out in us completely by the Holy Spirit, through Word and Sacrament. It’s God’s math again. He gives and gives and keeps on giving. We don’t deserve what He gives. We can’t earn what He gives. God is a gracious giver.
Some Christians insist that we must “accept” Jesus or “decide” to follow Him. “He has done his part and we do our part.” But we confess here in Luther’s explanation to this part of the creed that we are totally reliant on God for our salvation. When we say these words of the Creed, when we say these words that echo what Scripture tells us, we confess that we don’t meet God part way… the Holy Spirit gently calls us to faith.
These days, too, many people are focused on the Holy Spirit. They look for churches where they think they can “feel” the Spirit working. It’s a part of that idea that we’ve got to have a part to play… at least we have to feel the Spirit working. But unfortunately what they find may not be the Holy Spirit at all. You see, He’s a background player. He works behind the scenes. Just look at the list of things he does: He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.  He keeps the church with Jesus Christ.  If a church focuses on the work of the Holy Spirit they are really missing the point. His purpose is to point to Jesus. Often we think of the Spirit in the form of a dove, but I think another picture would be a hand pointing to the cross. When the Spirit is working people are looking at, and thinking about Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith… That’s a picture of the Spirit working right there. We get the work of the Spirit mixed up when we equate it with feelings. God, The Holy Spirit, works in our hearts through His Word, and Sacraments weather we feel him working our not. God, the Holy Spirit, works through the miracle of Holy Baptism even if we don’t feel clean afterward. The biggest testimony of that is when we bring infants here to the font. They don’t even know what’s happening and often cry with the water. Yet, we believe God, the Holy Spirit, gives them faith just as he promised. God, the Holy Spirit works when we hear His Word preached, when those words tell us of our sin and God’s gracious gift of forgiveness in Jesus, even if we don’t feel moved by the words that are spoken.  God, the Holy Spirit, is at work strengthening our faith through the really present Body and Blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, even if we don’t feel any different walking away from the altar than we did when we walked toward it. If our faith was dependant on our feelings, then we’d all be in trouble, because our feelings are so fickle. If our faith was based on feelings we’d never be able to say, this is most certainly true, because the only thing we can know about our feelings is that we can’t depend on them.
So if you can’t depend on your feelings to show you that the Spirit is at work, how do you know he’s at work? We look to what we can know for sure, God’s Word, God’s promises. That’s what the creed is all about confessing God’s promises that are given through His Word. You want to see the Spirit at work? You don’t have to go very far. He is working right now, right here! All you have to do is look and listen, and taste and feel where God promises to be. Right here in God’s word, right here in Holy Communion, right here in Baptism. Anytime your attention is focused on Jesus Christ crucified for your sins, any time find yourself dependant on Jesus alone, you can be sure that the Holy Spirit is at work in you. Any time you find God giving it all, and giving some more you can be sure the Holy Spirit is at work, daily and richly supplying…
So that’s the Trinity. Do I understand what it means that God is three-in-one and one-in-three? Not really. If you get it figured out let me know. It’s God’s math. The truth is that it isn’t surprising that we don’t understand it, because we are tying to describe the God who was powerful enough to create this whole universe, that we struggle to understand, and God is bigger than that. It’s OK not to understand the Trinity. What’s important for us to know is just what’s been given for us to know. What’s important is for us to confess what we’ve been given to confess about God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is how God works in our lives. The Father – Creator, preserver, provider, protector; the Son, Jesus – Savior, the Holy Spirit – Faith giver. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.