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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

June 16, 2024
By Rev. Joshua Reinke

Text: Ezekiel 17:22-24


Sermon Outline
    3.    In a foreboding context, Ezekiel delivers God’s promise of a “tender sprig” to inaugurate a wonderful new world.
    2.    To our very similar context, God promises the same “tender sprig” for the same wonderful new world.
    1.    The “tender sprig” is Jesus, and in him God graciously positions you in that wonderful new world.


In Christ, the “Tender Sprig,” You Are Living a New Life in His Wonderful New World.

 

Sermon


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


My dear beloved flock, the text for our meditation today is the Old Testament lesson of Ezekiel chapter seventeen verses twenty-two through twenty-four.


Boys and grils, I pray that you are doing well today. What do I have here? I have a plant. This plant sits in my office. I water it. I tend to it. I make sure that it has everything that it needs. In our lesson for today, the Lord says the same thing through the prophet Ezekiel. There is a young sprig that the Lord Himself tends to. That sprig is a symbol of God’s love and care. Who is that sprig? How does God use that symbol to help us today? Ponder those questions as you hear the rest of the sermon. You may go back to your seats and those who love you.


Symbols, we see them all around us. For example, Apple’s logo evokes a whole world of technology: iPhones, iPads, and computers with all the enhancements and complementary devices that attend them. Apple’s logo also denotes success and enormous wealth in view of Apple’s performance in the marketplace. It’s hard to imagine a world without Apple . . . and Samsung . . . and Dell.
Our text uses a symbol or an icon, namely, a “tender sprig” from the topmost shoots of a cedar, to communicate a whole world of meaning. To understand how it invites us to see and to enter a world more lasting and wonderful than the world of technology, it is important to consider the context. If we understand the meaning of a “tender sprig” in context, far greater anxieties will be relieved than those we experience when we lose our cell phone! 


3.
The context is very significant. The prophet Ezekiel utters these words from exile in Babylon. God had warned his people through the prophets that their continued apostasy, their continued wandering away from Him, would bring judgment. This is not a new proclamation, Amos and Hosea had warned the leaders and people of the Northern Kingdom that their idolatry and worship of Baal would result in their destruction. They warned that the holy and righteous God of Israel would not tolerate idolatry and rebellion indefinitely. The kings and the great majority of the people refused to heed these prophetic warnings. God’s promises are always fulfilled. Samaria and the Northern Kingdom were conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BC.


In the south, God had previously sent Micah and Isaiah to warn Jerusalem and Judah about the coming judgment upon their apostasy.


Now Ezekiel, along with his contemporary Jeremiah, was called to announce the certain destruction of Jerusalem. Like their predecessors, events would demonstrate that Yahweh’s word through Ezekiel and Jeremiah would come to pass.  Jerusalem, that great and historic city, where God had chosen to dwell in his temple (1 Ki 9:3), was conquered by the Babylonians in 586/7 BC.


The depth and darkness of the Southern Kingdom’s apostasy is described in 2 Kings 23—an episode during the reform of good king Josiah: “The king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the keepers of the threshold to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven” (2 Ki 23:4). The governmental and religious establishments had actually set up statues in Yahweh’s temple to practice the worship of false gods. Their idolatry was abhorrent and flagrant!


Ezekiel, with Jeremiah, proclaims God’s words of judgment and destruction.  Judgment will come upon Jerusalem (chs 4–7), upon the corrupted temple (chs 8–11), upon the political and religious leaders (chs 13–24), and upon the foreign nations (chs 25–32).


It is into this foreboding context that the Lord’s promise of the “tender sprig” is delivered by the prophet as our text for today: “Thus says the Lord God: ‘I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest” (vv 22–23).


The contrast could not be more compelling and stark! While Ezekiel’s horizon from end to end is filled with judgment and destruction upon an idolatrous city and people, this tender, tiny sprig points beyond to a new and wonderful epoch—inaugurated by a specific individual. A wonderful new world is promised and is on its way!


2.
How does this context apply to us today? Ezekiel’s promise speaks directly to us. We find ourselves in a very similar world today. Idolatry surrounds us as the elites of our culture embrace every form of immorality, sinful lifestyles, and refuse to consider God’s call for a life of contrition and repentance. The most horrific and visible sign of this idolatrous paganism is the murderous practice of abortion. The blood of millions of these innocents cries out to heaven! How similar to what was happening in Ezekiel’s day. We read that Josiah, in his effort to cleanse and to return the temple worship exclusively to Yahweh, “defiled Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech” (2 Ki 23:10).


We are called to view our world through the eyes of Ezekiel and the other prophets. God delivers his holy will and word through them. Idolatry and evil seem so powerful while the position of the faithful seems so weak. Ezekiel beheld the destruction of Jerusalem. Those who confessed Yahweh as the only true God seemed so weak and marginal. So today, Christians who uphold the claims of Sacred Scripture and confess Jesus to be the only way to God’s mercy and grace frequently appear to be without respect or standing. Many voices are even brash enough to label classic Christian morality mere bigotry. Beyond such verbal abuse, thousands of Christians have been publicly martyred in recent times, and there is less notice of this tragedy than a celebrity’s birthday or a White House press conference.


But Ezekiel leads us beyond despair and the apparently victorious context of the prevailing culture to a wonderful new world where all will know that the Lord has acted to rescue and redeem his people. His people are not as weak and powerless as it seems. And the “tender sprig” will be his agent to achieve this great reversal. God’s sure word and promise provides a climax to the chapter: “I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it” (v 24).


1.
God’s promise through Ezekiel is fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus is the “tender sprig!” from the house of David, from the stump of Jesse. In Jesus, God graciously positions you in a wonderful new world where there is a peace that the powers of this world can never provide.


It is a profound peace that places our hearts and souls at rest no matter what swirls around us. As Jesus says: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (Jn 14:27).


At the center of such peace are the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. His holy life and his atoning death have delivered us from the world of darkness and death to his wonderful new world of life now and forever in God’s Holy Absolution for our sins and his Spirit’s presence with us. Our Baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection has bestowed a narrative of our own life that is defined by him: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4).
In Christ, the “Tender Sprig,” You Are Living a New Life in His Wonderful New World.


Yes, God’s promise through Ezekiel has been fulfilled. The “tender sprig” has come.  Jesus Christ is that “tender sprig.” He has lifted up the lowly and built an “eternal house in heaven” for each of us in God’s wonderful new world.


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

Third Sunday after Pentecost

June 09, 2024
By Rev. Joshua Reinke

Video

 

Text: Genesis 3:8-15
Theme: God, it’s all your fault!


Outline:
1.    God it’s all your Fault! (You gave me this woman, you created this serpent, all your fault) Pass the blame
2.    God, you alone save us! God passes our blame onto Christ, seed of the woman, crushes head of the serpent


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


My dear beloved flock, the text for our meditation is the Old Testament Lesson from Genesis chapter three verses eight through fifteen.

 
Boys and girls, I pray that you are doing well. What happens if I go like this? Poke. Pretty soon we would start a poke war right? We would keep poking each other constantly. Eventually we would get bored. We would get annoyed with each other. Then the complaining begins. Stop it! She started it! No I did not! It is her fault! For as much fun as we had at the beginning, eventually we try to place someone else as the one who has all of the blame. We see something similar in our text for today. Who does Adam blame? Who does Eve blame? What does God do for them after they broke His one command? Ponder those questions as you hear the rest of the sermon. You may go back to your seats and those who love you.


1.    God it’s all your Fault!


You had one job. One solitary, easy job. It is so simple. Yet that one job was not done. You were not able to do even one simple thing. You failure. Have you felt like that? I am sure you have. Adam and Eve had one simple command to keep, do not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Sounds easy right? You can eat from every other tree, but not this specific one. Alas, as we know, Eve was tempted by Satan. She ate the fruit and gave some to Adam who was with her. He ate and all of the wonderous grace of Eden is undone.


This is where our text for today picks up. Adam and Eve have made clothing for themselves from fig leaves. They are afraid of every single rustle of a leave in the heat of the day, thinking that it could be the Lord coming to punish them for the transgression they have just done. For humankind the fall is not enough; its flight cannot be fast enough. This flight, Adam’s hiding away from God, we call conscience.  Adam cannot hide from God. The Lord God does come. The Hebrew word is YHWH, the personal name of God. God comes as a personal Creator to His creation to walk and talk with them as He has done before. He knows where Adam is, and yet He asks where he is. “Here is a call of anxious love. The Savior-God was moving to restore his fallen children to himself. But these words are also a call of stern justice. The Creator was demanding an answer from his rebellious creatures. “What have you done that you should be hiding?”  He calls Adam and Eve to repentance. He calls where are you? To give them an opportunity to turn back to Him in love and forgiveness. 


What is Adam’s response? It is not, “I am sorry God, please forgive me and restore me back to the way things were a few moments ago.” Rather it is one of blame. The woman whom you gave to be with me.  He says God it is all your fault. If you had not made Eve, none of this would have happened. He does not even admit that he sinned when he should have told Eve not to have anything to do with that snake. He places the blame solely upon God. When Eve is asks, she says it is the snake’s fault. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate  It is not my fault. It is his. It is her fault. It is your fault God.


Has much changed? When convicted of our own sins, we follow the same pattern as old Mom Eve and Dad Adam. We pass the blame onto others just like they did. It’s not actually my fault.  It is the devil’s fault. He tempted me. He made me do it. It is the world’s fault. If the world was not so beautiful then I would not have given in. We hear it often when it comes to the actions of others as well. If she was not so attractive, nothing would have happened to her. She must have been asking for it. If he was not so rich, maybe he would have been fine. We love to blame anything or anyone, anything to take the blame away from ourselves and admit how sinful we really are. We do not want to admit that we too have fallen. We too have broken the Law of God, more than one simple rule! We have sinned in thought, word, and deed, and who do we have to blame? No one but ourselves.


2.    God, you alone save us!


God’s justice demands His action. He must do something. So, what does God do? He could just destroy everything, start over again. Yet instead He hands down curses for the snake, Eve, and Adam. 
“Adam’s and Eve’s pitiful attempts to excuse themselves didn’t deserve an answer from God and didn’t get one. Instead, God turned to the serpent and announced a curse. The serpent’s method of movement was henceforth to be changed; from now on he would crawl on his belly.


If this seems unfair, remember that God was doing this to teach the two people who were still blushing from the first sin. The snake’s unusual method of moving along the ground was to serve as a constant reminder to them and to us that this is the animal Satan used to drag down the crown of creation to his level. Crawling in the dust would also symbolize Satan’s defeat and humiliation. Adam and Eve heard the words God spoke to Satan; they were to know that although Satan had won his little victory here, he would not triumph permanently.”  


Within God’s condemning speech to Satan there is a promise given to Adam and Eve: 15 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.”    There is salvation given and it is all God’s action. It’s all His fault, His doing. “These words are spoken for the sake of Adam and Eve that they may hear this judgment and be comforted by the realization that God is the enemy of the being that inflicted so severe a wound on man. Here grace and mercy begin to shine forth in the midst of wrath which sin and disobedience aroused. Here in the midst of most serious threats the Father reveals His heart…Who points to deliverance, indeed who promises victory against the enemy that deceived and conquered human nature.”[4]


Adam and Eve were given to trust the promised Gospel of Genesis 3:15. As Luther says, “Their consolation against sin and despair was their hope for this crushing, which was to be brought about in the future through Christ…[Adam and Eve] are full of sin and death. And yet, because they hear the promise concerning the Seed who will crush the serpent’s head, they have the same hope we have, namely, that death will be taken away, that sin will be abolished, and that righteousness, life, peace, etc. will be restored. In this hope our first parents live and die, and because of this hope they are truly holy and righteous.”[5] Adam and Eve are saved from death and hell by faith in the promise of God.


They put their trust and faith into the same One that we do. One from the seed of the woman who will crush the head of the serpent. One who will undo everything that Adam and Eve have done. One who will restore Eden again forever. Who is that One? The Only-begotten Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He took on our flesh. He became one of us. He was tempted in every way, just as we were. His heel is bruised upon the cross where He suffers, bleeds, and dies for us. By His death, Jesus takes Adam’s sin, your sins, my sins, upon Himself. He suffers the full weight of our punishment, of our guilt and blame. He pays the price for them by the shedding of His holy and precious blood. Satan thinks he has won. Nothing could be further from the truth. Victorious, Jesus rises from the dead on the third day. The head of the serpent is crushed beneath Jesus’ nail scarred feet forever. As we will sing, “He can harm us none. He’s judged, the deed is done. One little word can fell him.” Ascending to the right hand of the Father, Jesus has given to you Eden restored. Everything that Satan has done, Jesus has undone and made everything new again.


Con: God it is all your fault! In a way it is. It is not His fault that you give into your own sinful flesh, the sinful world, and the temptations of Satan. That’s fully your fault, but thanks be that He is rich in grace and mercy. He alone has given us the forgiveness of our sins, the salvation of our souls, and life with Him forever purely by His love and almighty power, promised all the way back in the Garden that you may have Eden restored once again.

 

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen. 
 

Second Sunday after Pentecost

June 09, 2024
By Rev. Joshua Reinke

Video

 

Text: Deuteronomy 5:12-15

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


My dear beloved flock, the text for our meditation today is the Old Testament lesson of Deuteronomy chapter five verses twelve through fifteen.


Boys and Girls, I pray that you are doing well today. Do you look forward to a new day when you wake up in the morning? Every day seems to have its own personality. Fats Domino sang a song called “Blue Monday.” Monday is back-to-work or back-to-school day—back to the grind. Wednesday is called “hump day,” getting over the hump moving towards the weekend. We all know the phrase “Thank goodness it’s Friday!”


What about this day—Sunday, the day of worship, the day we gather together as God’s people? What kind of day is this? What personality, what purpose, does our Sunday observance have? Our readings center on the Sabbath, that time God commanded be kept as special day of worship. What is the Sabbath now? Why and how do we keep the Sabbath? Ponder these questions as you hear the rest of the sermon. You may go back to your seats and those who love you.

 

I.    Is the Sabbath a workday?


The Pharisees thought so in today’s Gospel. They imagined the Sabbath was a day to work. It was a day for them to keep rules and observances by which God would accept them as holy. All 613 Laws. From things like learning who God is and worshiping Him, reading the Shema at morning and night, not to wear garments made of wool and linen mixed together, not to gather grapes that had fallen to the ground, and many more. Because they viewed the Sabbath as a day of work, a day to keep the Law, they were offended when Jesus’ disciples did not seem to keep those rules.


How easily do we slip into this attitude? Church and worship are seen as something that we do. We imagine our prayers, church attendance, offerings, service in the church are what make us “good Christian people.” We could not be more wrong. This is religious pride, a sin! That is what Paul calls works-righteousness, looking to our own actions as what makes us good people. Saying, see look at me, look how good I have been. God condemns all our efforts to keep the Sabbath holy by our religious activities.


This attitude poisons our relationship with God. It turns the Sabbath into a workday. It makes God our boss and us the “employees.” Worship becomes our work to appease him. Salvation becomes our “paycheck,” of which we can never quite earn enough.

 

II.    The Sabbath is a “day of rest and gladness”!


So what is the Sabbath if it is not a work day? Our hymn today is not titled “O Day of Work and Labor.” It is a day of rest and gladness! The Sabbath is a day of rest. “Rest” means to stop working. The Hebrew for Sabbath means “cessation,” “to stop.” The Sabbath is a concrete symbol that God’s saving grace is what deems human life rather than any or all work. The sabbath is set to provide the reality of freedom, celebration, and rest for everyone, especially for those who might not easily find it. Those who have been slaves and have been freed by the power and grace of God can never treat slaves in the same way they were treated. 


God wanted to give us a rest from work so that He could do the giving. That is why we call it a Divine Service, God serves us with His wonderous gifts. A time to gather in worship. A time to stop and enjoy the gifts God gives.
Illustration: At lunchtime a farmer’s wife calls to her husband and farmhands, “Dinner is ready.” What does her husband and farmhands have to do? They must stop working to receive the food and drink prepared for them.
God commanded the Israelites to observe this day of rest. The people rest remembering the Lord’s mighty acts of salvation. The Lord showed His mighty and outstretched arm by rescuing the Israelites from the bondage in Egypt. Under their Egyptians overlords the Israelites had no day of rest. Now, the Lord commands them to keep a day of rest to remember. To “remember” was to hear God’s Word, the proclamation of his accomplishing salvation for them. The true core of keeping the Sabbath consisted of gladly hearing God’s Word and learning it.


Illustration: See what Luther writes concerning the meaning of the Third Commandment. We should fear and love God, and not despise preaching and His word, but deem it holy, and gladly hear and learn it.  We come to church and keep the Sabbath to hear God’s Word and to receive God’s gifts. God’s command to worship is not his ordering us around as our boss; it is the commandment of the One who with a mighty arm. An arm He deigned to stretch on the cross for our salvation. A mighty arm that won salvation, and rescues us from sin and death. He is the gracious and merciful Giver who bestows this salvation through his Word.
Our part is to gladly hear and learn it—to believe that our sins are forgiven, that Christ has died for us.


Picture what our Sunday worship is. Not us giving to God but God giving all of His wonderous gifts of everlasting life, salvation, over and over, again and again anew every single Sunday. How do we react? I remember two sets of feelings toward certain days when I was young. Sunday evenings I dreaded going back to school the next day. I had to study, get up early, behave, and work. That was the Pharisees’ picture of the Sabbath, but it is not ours. The focus and foundation of worship is not our work and our doing. Our Sabbath is more like another feeling, a very different feeling, I used to have. I remember the marvelous anticipation and excitement of going to Grandma’s for Christmas—gifts and food and celebration and family. That is closer to what our worship is. The focus and foundation are God’s work, salvation, and giving. We come as poor beggars to receive His wonderous undeserved gifts.


Conclusion: Every day seems to have its own personality. This is the Lord’s Day, the day He gives and forgives and stretches out his mighty arm to put his mercy through his Holy Word in your heart and hands. Every day has its own personality; this is a day of rest and gladness. We rest and let God give to us. We are filled with gladness because He is kind and merciful. Let us keep the Sabbath in joy and rejoicing. Let us gladly hear God’s Word, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it.


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard, and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

Feast of the Holy Trinity

May 26, 2024
By Rev. Joshua Reinke

Text: Isaiah 6:1-8


Outline
A Vast Difference bridged by almighty mercy
1.    A vast gulf separates us and God
2.    In His Holiness God provides the means of sanctification, Coal/JC! God is almighty in His mercy
3.    Whatever God is going to do, be a part of it. Just asks who will go, Isaiah says here am I

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


My dear beloved flock, the text for our meditation today is the Old Testament lesson of Isaiah chapter six verses one through eight.


Boys and girls, I pray that you are doing well today. Have you ever looked in a mirror? I am sure you have. You look in a mirror to see yourself. Do you think God looks in a mirror? What does God look like? Does He have a big beard, a big flowing robe? What color is His skin? Isaiah in our text for today saw the glory of God in all of His splendor. Isaiah was scared. He was super afraid because no one can see God and live. Yet, God showed Isaiah grace and mercy. How does God show Isaiah mercy? How does God show us grace and mercy today? Ponder those questions as you hear the rest of the sermon. You may go back to your seats and those who love you.


1.    A vast gulf separates us and God


Isaiah has a vision of the Lord that shakes him to his very core. He “saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.”  Isaiah sees Christ sitting upon the throne, ruling and reigning over everything in all of His splendor and glory as the Almighty King forever and ever. That would be frightening enough, yet Isaih sees even more. “2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: 
        “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; 
        the whole earth is full of his glory!” 
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.” 

 

 Isaiah sees the Seraphim, the burning ones, crying in unending praise to the Lord, proclaiming His eternal holiness.  They hide their faces, unworthy of looking at the Lord. They hide their feet, ready at a moment’s notice to do His will, whatever it may be.


What Is Isaiah’s reaction? One of sheer panic and terror because of the vast gulf that separates him from God. In the face of God’s presence, in the midst of His almighty holiness, Isaiah realized he was subject to judgment. He was unclean. When seen next to the purity of God’s holiness, the impurity of human sin is all the more evident. The prophet’s has unclean lips, his attitudes and actions as well as his words, for a person’s words reflect his thinking and relate to his actions. Interestingly Isaiah identified with his people who also were sinful (a people of unclean lips).  


Has much changed? We likewise stand in the presence of God ever single Sunday. We are face to face with His holiness. And we? We are anything but holy. As we confess every Sunday, we are sinners in thought, word, and deed. We are deserving of present and everlasting punishment, both now and forever because of our sins. Our sins of anger. Our sins of unclean thoughts. Our sins of words spoken in anger or frustration. Our sins of trying to put ourselves, the world, or our possessions in the place of God. We confess with Isaiah woe is me!

 

2.    In His Holiness God provides the means of sanctification! God is almighty in His mercy


In the midst of Isaiah’s terror. “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.”  One of the Seraphim. Remember, one who is hiding his face from God, so how does he know where he is going? Where exactly is he going to put the coal? Flies towards Isaiah with a burning coal in his hand. Where exactly is he going to put the coal?  Isaiah is thinking ‘Okay, this is it. I am a dead man. I have seen the Lord face to face, something even the angels in heaven who serve Him do not do! I am entirely unholy and unworthy. This is how I am going to die. I am going to be burned to a crisp by an angel with a coal.”


7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”   Isaiah’s sins atoned for. The live coal symbolizes the total significance of the altar from which it came; that the penalty of sin was paid by a substitute offered in the sinner’s place. The symbol, applied to Isaiah’s lips assures him of personal forgiveness. 


In His almighty Holiness, God provides a means of forgiveness, a means of purification for sin and sinners. For Isaiah, it was the burning coal that touched his lips. “See this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away, your sin atoned for.”


What is our means of forgiveness? For us men and for our salvation, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, leaves His throne, enters into His creation in order to purify it by the shedding of His own blood. He suffers, bleeds, dies, and rises from the dead so that we might have the forgiveness of every single one of our sins. Like Isaiah, we are deserving of everlasting destruction. Yet what does the almighty God do? He is almighty in showing His great mercy. He gives you His very Word and Holy Spirit who creates faith for you to believe. He gives you here in the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist. Jesus says This is my body. This is my blood. Given and shed for you. “See this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away, your sin atoned for.”

 

4.    Whatever God is going to do, be a part of it. Just asks who will go, Isaiah says here am I


What is our reply to this great mercy of God? We are used by Him as a part of His divine plan to carry His message to the world. Isaiah heard God calling who will go for us? Instantly he replies, Here am I send me. Only later does Isaiah find out exactly what all that calling entails, as well as all of the hardships that go with it. 


We do not always know what God has called us to do, nor all of the hardships that wait for us. We know that God is calling us as Christians to do the good works He has prepared beforehand for us to do. Though His Holy Spirit, we reply to the grace and mercy that He has given us through His Son, Jesus Christ, by doing the works He has called and given us to do. We live out our lives helping others, resisting our sinful nature, rejoicing in the wonderous gifts that God has given to us. In joy and thanksgiving for the mercy and grace God has shown to us, we tell everyone that they too do not need to despair over their sins. The almighty God has provided the means of salvation for you, and for them. Salvation given by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for us.


Thanks be to God that He is almighty. That He shows to us unmerited grace and mercy. 


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

Amen.
 

Feast of Pentecost

May 19, 2024
By Rev. Joshua Reinke

Text: Ezekiel 37:1-17


Sermon Outline
The Holy Spirit Works through Preaching to Bring Restoration.
    I.    The Spirit comes through preaching.
    II.    The Spirit brings restoration.


Sermon


Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


My dear beloved flock, the text for our meditation today is the Old Testament lesson of Ezekiel chapter thirty-seven verses one through fourteen.


Boys and girls, I pray that you are doing well today. Do you know what is under your skin and muscles, a whole bunch of bones that we call skeletons. What would you do if you saw a valley full of skeletons? The Old Testament text read to us on Pentecost is quite odd. What do dry bones have to do with the Holy Spirit? The key words in this text are spirit and prophesy. The word Spirit we will have a bit of fun with. Prophesy—well, that too. Okay, maybe not fun, but prophesy in our context means preaching. From those dry bones, we’re going to see how The Holy Spirit Works through Preaching to Bring Restoration. You may go back to your seats and those who love you. 
I.


First, how the Spirit comes through preaching.


Ezekiel has a problem in today’s text, and it is that big pile of bones. “There were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry” (v 2). Is what he was seeing real? At the very least, these bones were at one-point real living people—moms and dads, grandpas and grandmas, sons, and daughters. People with real stories, real triumphs, and real sorrows. It would seem as though all of that brought to nothing. Death is the great equalizer, no matter how we may try to avoid it. And that is real. The valley was full of dry, bleached white bones.


Now, this text has wordplay that is lost on us who speak English. Wordplay, games with words. Games are fun, right? The word Spirit, רוּחַ, ruach, in Hebrew occurs ten times in these fourteen verses. However, it is only translated as “Spirit” twice. The other times it is translated as “breath” or “wind.” For the sake of teaching, as I read this text to you, every time I come across the Hebrew word רוּחַ, I will read it as “Spirit.”
The Lord’s solution for Ezekiel problem is for him to preach to these bones. “Prophesy,” preach. We read verses 4–7: “Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause [Spirit] to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put [Spirit] in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.” It is through prophecy, that is, the preaching of God’s Word, that the dry bones are put back together, with sinews and flesh.


You are gathered together here in this place on Pentecost, waiting for the Spirit of God to touch your life. The dry bones are all around us. Those bones made dry and brittle by the sorrows of this life, the sins that warp us, and the years wearing on us. “Then [God] said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off”’ ” (v 11). We are the dry bones.


The Lord’s advice to Ezekiel is the same as to us today. “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord” (v 4). We believe, teach, and confess, “To obtain such faith God instituted the office of preaching, giving the gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel” (AC V, Kolb-Wengert, 1–2).
How do you solve the aches and weariness of life? The dryness of trying to run this crazy race in this world. Keep on showing up to church to hear God’s Word. Bring your kids, even if they do not seem to be listening. If you do not get the sermon, listen to it again on YouTube or Facebook. Check out our website and download the sermon manuscript. Call the pastor and ask what he meant if you do not understand a certain segment of it. Why? Because the Spirit comes through preaching.


We see this same thing in the reading from the Book of Acts, the Feast of Pentecost. Once the Spirit comes with the sound of the rushing wind, the flames of fire, all those foreign languages, almost immediately Peter gets up and addresses the crowd. He preaches. He preaches to the dry bones of those who have not yet come to faith in Jesus.


II.


But why care about the Spirit? Look again at the amazing things happening in our Old Testament text. The coming of the Spirit brings restoration.


The message of Christianity is that God sent his Son, Jesus, to this earth to live a perfect life and redeem us. The world is broken. It is lost in sin and hopelessness. We die, we become frail and brittle like these dry bones, but Christ has died for our sins, and he rose again on the third day. Jesus Christ came to redeem the world, and his death and resurrection is a sneak peek as to what will happen to us. Jesus came to redeem the world, and we see what the redeemed creation looks like in the perfect, sinless, resurrected Son of Man.


But we care about the Holy Spirit because if Jesus Christ is the blueprint for restored creation, the Holy Spirit is the builder. The Holy Spirit is the one who delivers that life, that perfection, and that restoration. We see this play out in our Old Testament text, verses 8 through 10: “And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on [those bones], and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no [Spirit] in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the [Spirit]; prophesy, son of man, and say to the [Spirit], Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four [Spirit], O [Spirit], and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’ So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the [Spirit] came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.”


Likewise, the Lord promises in verses 12 through 14: “Therefore prophesy, and say to them, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”


We are now living in the fulfillment of this promise. The Lord God has placed his Spirit in us, and we are living. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the hearts of believers, so that we may be restored from dry bones to living, breathing creatures. That is, those who have been restored and made alive in Christ.


I am sure that you have friends who are on the fence about joining a church, or maybe they’re part of a church but they’re only nominally involved—only participating every once in a while. I think the devil tempts us to believe that being involved with the Church—participating in fellowship, worshiping here each week, attending Bible studies, doing family devotions in our homes—the devil tempts us to believe that these things will turn us from living creatures into dry bones. He says, ‘What is more boring than your local church?’


That is the temptation of young people. Even some adults! A Saturday night party, a weekend camping trip, Sunday morning brunch, Netflix, all of these are more entertaining and, in the eyes of the world, more fulfilling than what goes on here on Sunday and throughout the week.


But the Spirit is in the restoration business. Ezekiel must preach twice to the bones for them to become living again. So for us as well; it takes lifelong applications of the preached Word and Sacraments to have the Spirit work in us to restore us and finally put that meat back on our bones, so to speak. The result will eventually be that the Spirit raises us from our tombs; we will be dry bones no longer.


And so, we find that as the Spirit keeps on presenting this preached message of Jesus dying and rising for us, we are restored little by little every day. We find that our lives are restored bit by bit. Those relationships we thought we might lose are deepened as we grow closer to family—not only as biological family, but also as brothers and sisters in Christ. The hours we spend in prayer and study of God’s Word are given back to us as the Spirit is able to multiply our time and help redirect our priorities to the most needful things. The Spirit uses the preached Word to come to us and breathe into us new life. The final product being a life that has meaning, and a life that’s worth living.


“O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord” (v 4). Celebrate the Holy Spirit, the great restorer, who restored those dry bones, who enlivened the disciples at Pentecost, and is here present even now, making all things new. 
 

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard, and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen!