Month: May, 2013

Peter’s First Message

Peter’s First Message

Pastor Dan Haugen

May 26, 2013

 

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our father…

It is just shortly after Pentecost and we are in the midst of Peter’s first speech after being enlightened, so to speak, by the Holy Spirit. This is just the first of many passages in Acts that is an address from the followers of Christ to the masses. In fact, 20% of the whole book contains some kind of speech from Peter or Paul, 25% if you include Stephen. But this is the first. This is what starts everything off, and what a better way than to lay out the Gospel in all its hope and beauty.

This is a passionate speech from a passionate Apostle. It’s Peter speaking from the heart after the Pentecost outpouring. It’s the truth of the Gospel in all its simplicity. Not a lot of fluff just the important stuff.

His speech is about Jesus, 100% man and 100% God. He starts out saying, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know.” It’s all about Jesus. It’s the Good News that the world has been waiting for, for thousands of years.

Peter breaks his Gospel lesson up in parts. First verses 22-24 run through the key Gospel events, the facts that show that Jesus was who he said He was. First, Peter proclaims that Jesus was a man. He wasn’t an illusion or apparition as some would claim later. He was 100% man in the flesh.

But not just a man, He was a man accredited by God the Father by miracles. This is exciting stuff. Peter has witnessed what he speaks of. He has seen the wonders of God in His Son Jesus Christ and now the Holy Spirit is giving him the words to tell the Good News based on the credibility of someone who was there and saw all there was to see. He witnessed the things that made him go WOW! He saw the signs that pointed to a greater spiritual truth, even though it took him so long, in fact shortly before this speech, to put it all together.

He mentions the man, Jesus Christ, who died, not by the efforts of men like Judas and the Pharisees but by the will and plan of the Father.

William Barclay tells a story that in the First World War there was a young French soldier who was seriously wounded. His arm was so badly smashed that it had to be amputated. He was a magnificent specimen of young manhood, and the surgeon was grieved that he must go through life maimed. So he waited beside his bedside to tell him the bad news when he recovered consciousness. When the lad’s eyes opened, the surgeon said to him: “I am sorry to tell you that you have lost your arm.” “Sir,” said the lad, “I did not lose it; I gave it–for France.”

Jesus was not helplessly caught up in a mesh of circumstances from which he could not break free, apart from any divine power he might have called in, it is quite clear that to the end he could have turned back and saved his life. He did not lose his life; he gave it. The Cross was not thrust upon him; he willingly accepted it–for us.

Next, Peter talks of the one thing that should convince everyone who hears, he speaks of Jesus’ resurrection. “God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” This is not just a story of a man defeating death, this is a story of a new birth for all mankind, out of death into life. Because death could not hold the Savior we too have been saved from it pangs.

No one can be sure that Peter really understood it all at this point. We see from earlier stories that he had trouble at times understanding what Jesus was telling him, but at this time it didn’t matter. The Holy Spirit was moving him to say what people needed to hear. We are similar in our attempts to understand God. But the Holy Spirit works in us as well when we take the time to tell someone the good news. But now Peter knew that death couldn’t hold Him because he was truly the Son of God and God Himself.

By quoting Psalm 16, Peter is testifying that Jesus was the promised Messiah sent to save the world.

It was a Psalm that could not apply to David, after all, he died. No, this was about one greater than David. They had seen Him and they had witnessed the signs. Death could not hold Him and His body would not see corruption. His tomb is nearby but it is empty.

But Peter’s story didn’t end there. It isn’t a story of resurrection as much as it is a story of one who would ascend to sit at the right hand of the Father. He was and is who he said He was.

These are the stages of the Gospel events according to Peter and his words were filling hungry ears. He was putting it all together so that they could understand the story of the death and resurrection of the one who is the Son of God, the Messiah. While Christ lived here on earth, everything He said and did led to the cross where He was to fulfill the promise of God by dying for our sins and everything subsequent to that, rests upon this greatest act of love and is conditioned by it.

Peter was speaking as a witness. There are two conditions mentioned that give evidence to a true witness. Deut 19:5 says, “A matter must be established by the testimony or two or three witnesses.” Peter fills this qualification when He quotes both Psalms 16 and 110 and Joel 2 from the Old Testament. Jesus is the man of who the prophets have spoken. He also gave His own testimony and those of others who had followed the Messiah as he had.

Again and again in Acts, this testimony as witnesses in repeated: Act 2:32  “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.”   Act 3:15  “…and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.”   Act 5:32  “And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

Act 10:39  “And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree,”

Peter knew exactly what he was doing by sighting multiple witnesses. He was saying that all He was telling them was true, and if it is true, you had better listen. He wanted to make sure they did not underestimate the Good News he was telling them. He was assuring them that this was not some made up story or a fictional account of fictional events because it is anchored in Scripture and history. This is a testimony that would stand up in any Jewish court. JESUS DIED AND ROSE AGAIN AND SITS AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD!!!

The Gospel he was proclaiming was not only about what Jesus had done but also about the promises that God had fulfilled and what he offers as a result.

When the people realize what they have done by killing the author of life, when they understand how they had rejected God’s will by rejecting God’s Son and even God Himself, they are in anguish. Scripture tells us they were, “cut to the heart.” “Brothers what shall we do?” and Peter answers with the Gospel conditions and then mentions the Gospel promises.

Jesus promises two things to those who respond, forgiveness and the gift of the Spirit, to wipe out the past and make His people new in Christ.

A group of Moravian missionaries once decided to take the message of God to the Eskimos. One of their struggles in teaching the Eskimos was that they could not find a word in the Eskimo language for forgiveness. Finally, they had to compound a phrase to use in the place of forgiveness. This compound phrase turned out to be issumagijoujungnainermik. It’s a challenging assembly of letters, but the expression has a beautiful connotation for those who understand that it means “not being able to think about it anymore.

The promise of God is that for those who repent and are baptized in the name of His only Son Jesus Christ, their sins would not stand against them. It’s the same promise He gives us today. Upon our repentance he will not think about our sins anymore.

The second gift that Peter speaks of is the gift of the Spirit which would set all God’s children free. A local service man had gone to the local toilets as it was time to lock them up. As he was preparing to do so, in came two bikers fully clad in leathers, helmets etc. He waited for them to come out…waited and waited to the point of embarrassment. Eventually went inside to check on them but they’d gone! The two people who had left in suits earlier were them… they had got changed!

In other words- the gospel promises what people are REALLY looking for (inside… not superficially) a change!  A change to give them freedom from guilt, defilement, judgment, self-centeredness. A new creation. Death to the old self and freedom to be the persons God made us to be. With the gift of the Spirit we receive the gift of true freedom and change.   Many people think that the promises were only meant for specific people, maybe the 12 or the elite but Peter makes it clear that these gifts were meant for all people. The freedom and change that God promises is for all people, young and old, Jew and Gentile and all who respond to God’s call as the people did on this day.

But there are conditions. God does not give His gifts unconditionally. There are still the conditions of repentance and faith which must be shown in who we are and what we do. There is the condition of Baptism where we become a part of God’s community. The Gospel demands from us a radical turning from sin towards Christ. God is not looking for people who simply nod the head and say the right words, but for people who will bow the knee in repentance. Not a repentance of remorse or bad feelings about oneself, or one of show but a repentance of true understanding of what that repentance promises in return. Three men were in a jungle when they were approached by a hungry lion. One runs away but the lion stays with the other two. One spends his time changing into running shoes and lighter clothes. “You’ll never be able to outrun that lion” the other says. “Oh, I’m not trying to run faster than him, I’m trying to run faster than you.”

It’s about recognizing what wins the race. We have all missed the mark and have faced the lion from time to time. The one who wins is the one who understands that there are conditions, a turning away from the old self into the new life lived in according to God’s will and not our own.

This is Trinity Sunday and in these verses we can see how the whole of God works to bring us to faith. We see how God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are truly one in goal, to bring His people to the truth. The Gospel demands a radical change, so radical in fact, that we could never do it on our own. But praise be to God that He loves us enough to help us bring about that change with His every essence. May God continue His good work in us so we might have the passion of Peter to proclaim the Good News to all people.  Amen

 

 

 

The Spirits Role

The Spirits Role

Pastor Dan Haugen

May 19, 2013

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who with the Holy Spirit are three in one. I used to start my sermons like most pastors saying, “Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” until someone came to me and asked why I and others made no mention of the Holy Spirit. There really is no good reason, I guess that’s just a very Lutheran thing to do. In the Lutheran church we have no problem preaching about God or His Son Jesus Christ, but rarely in my history with the Lutheran church can I really remember focusing on the Holy Spirit other than at this time of Pentecost. That is the reason I have chosen to include Him in my introduction ever since. Back when I was growing up in North Dakota, we always referred to the Holy Spirit as the Holy Ghost. Maybe that’s why some of us have a history of shying away from the third person of the Trinity, because he’s spooky somehow. What is it about the Holy Spirit that makes some people squirm in our seats? Do we find comfort in the Apostle’s Creed when we say that we believe in the Holy Spirit? Do we believe the Holy Spirit is intended for us or is it some optional essence of Pentecost that was given to those other kinds of churches more then to us Lutherans? Do we truly believe the Holy Spirit is the third person of the trinity, equal with the Father and the Son, or do we believe he is some lesser being – one we aren’t to sure we want in our life – one we’re afraid of because to really believe would mean we would lose control of our lives somehow and that’s just something we don’t want to give up – We believe, but if we ignore then he might go away and leave us alone. In our text this morning in verse 26 it reads, “But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance everything all that I have said to you.” Doesn’t that sound like someone we would want to know? Someone who might teach us all things and remind us of Jesus’ teachings? Yet we often tend to shy away.

Martin Luther said, “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, even as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

I think we tend to shy away because it means that loss of control. We often here about surrendering our lives to Christ and most of us know that means trusting in the Holy Spirit to lead us. Most of us know that it is the Holy Spirit who works within us to lead us into paths in God’s name, but that’s kind of a scary proposition when you haven’t walked in those paths before.

When I first started doing sermons at Zion Lutheran as a Deacon in Idaho, the one thing I heard people say about that church that had a profound impact on me was that there was a feeling of emptiness among the people. There was something missing. In looking back, and after growing with that church, I believe it was because no one was inviting the Holy Spirit in. Things at the church were filled with stress and emotion leaving little room for much else. By the time I left 3 ½ years later, there was a very different atmosphere and with it a very different congregation. People were smiling again, because they had been touched as a congregation by the Holy Spirit whom they had come to trust.

The Holy Spirit works in the lives of those who place their trust in Him. At this church and in our individual lives we are learning that. Through our bible studies and worship services we have taken time to talk about the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and we have started the process of surrendering not only the work of this church but our individual lives to him. Jesus himself likened the work of the Holy Spirit as being like wind. We can’t see wind, but we know wind by its effects. The human eye can’t perceive air molecules as they move at high speed, but we can certainly see a tree that’s been uprooted by a high wind. In a similar way, we can’t see the Holy Spirit since he is a non-physical person, but we can know him by his effects on our lives.

Jesus made this clear when he said that the Spirit both dwells with us and will be in us. Talk about loving faithfulness! The Spirit has been with us much longer than we ever knew. Before we knew Jesus or even thought about spiritual things, the Spirit had been calling out to us, drawing us to Jesus. This is not a relationship we can create on our own.

That’s why Martin Luther states this in his catechism – let’s here his words again: I believe I cannot by my own thinking or choosing 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 one truth faith.” The Holy Spirit sought us out and made his home within us. He did this through the gospel: the message of salvation in Christ. The Holy Spirit is the one responsible for our faith in Jesus Christ. He’s also responsible for keeping that faith alive and allowing us to live for Christ. It might sound a bit unsettling for Jesus to say, “if you love me, you will obey what I command”, but those words need not frighten us. It would be scary to think that our obedience to Jesus was based on our own merits or worthiness, but it’s not. We can’t even believe in Jesus Christ on our own, let alone obey him. A man in Washington bought a new car with a voice-warning system. … At first he was amused to hear the soft female voice gently remind him that his seat belt wasn’t fastened. … Edwin affectionately called this voice the “little woman.” He soon discovered his little woman was programmed to warn him about his gasoline. “Your fuel level is low,” she said one time in her sweet voice. Edwin nodded his head and thanked her. He figured he still had enough to go another fifty miles, so he kept on driving. But a few minutes later, her voice interrupted again with the same warning. And so it went over and over. Although he knew it was the same recording, Edwin thought her voice sounded harsher each time. Finally, he stopped his car and crawled under the dashboard. After a quick search, he found the appropriate wires and gave them a good yank. So much for the little woman! He was still smiling to himself a few miles later when his car began sputtering and coughing. He ran out of gas! Somewhere inside the dashboard, Edwin was sure he could hear the little woman laughing. People like Edwin learn before long that the little voice inside, although ignored or even disconnected, often tells them exactly what they need to know.

And this is what the helper was sent for. The Holy Spirit leads us to obey God, by reminding us of his faithful promises. The Spirit uses Word and Sacrament to remind us that we have a faithful God who loves us so much that he died for our sins and rose again so that we might live with him eternally. That message of love leads us to trust, listen, and obey but many actually become annoyed with the voice and do all they can to give the wires a good yank.

It’s all because the Holy Spirit keeps whispering the words of the Gospel in our ears. Have you ever been driving in the car, when suddenly an old familiar song came on the radio – one you hadn’t heard in years – and it made you smile? Why is that?

When we don’t hear the word’s of those old familiar songs for a long time, we fill our minds with other things and forget them.

There’s the possibility for that to happen to our faith. We fill our minds with other things and we forget the word’s of the Gospel. So many other songs come along and compete for our attention: songs of worry and fear, of lust and greed, and they fill our hearts leading us to forget that Christ promises to be with us.

Christ keeps his promise of unshakeable love by continuing to send the Holy Spirit to whisper the lyrics of the Gospel song in our ears. He reminds us that we are God’s children for Jesus’ sake. At baptism, the Holy Spirit whispered, “You are mine. You are cleansed in the blood of Christ.” In Holy Communion our Lord says, “Take and eat; take and drink. Receive what I have given to you.”

The Holy Spirit leads us to know that the gifts of hope, forgiveness, life and salvation are ours. Our Lord promises it. When you come to worship, go to Bible study, or have a family devotion, the Holy Spirit continues to whisper the mystery of God’s love into your ears. He reminds you that the Bible was written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ and by believing you may have life in his name.

Weekend retreats and seminars are nice. They provide a “shot in the arm”, rejuvenating a person’s outlook on life. In fact, it’s good to get away and focus on the simpler things once in a while.

The Holy Spirit does that for us everyday. Each day he reminds us of the simpler things of faith: forgiveness, salvation, and the hope of heaven.

In our time together, we, as a church, have a large task ahead of us. As we grow together, our ministry will evolve and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us. I believe we have a great thing going here at Redeemer and I have made a commitment to stay. I have confidence that all will go well and that everything will fall into place because God has given us His promise. He promises to take care of those who are faithful to him and he also promises to uplift us through the work of the Holy Spirit. He will protect this church and make it prosper as long as we are faithful to him and we continue to preach His word. He will make us a mighty church if we will have faith in Him and in nothing else.

But if we get sidetracked, if the words of a different song start to take us away from the Gospel, then we will not survive. If the songs of anger or spitefulness or greed or fear overtake the words of the Gospel then we have no one but ourselves to blame if the church falls on hard times.

The Holy Spirit works in our lives to bring us back to God when we have gone astray. He reminds us of the commitment we made when we were confirmed, when we were married, when we commune and when we worship Him.

If you’re one who has not decided to surrender yourself to Christ and let the Holy Spirit direct your ways, I ask you to make that your next step. Giving into the Holy Spirit is not a loss of freedom, it is the definition of freedom. Giving in to the Holy Spirit doesn’t limit you it empowers you.

Without the Holy Spirit dwelling within us we have an emptiness inside us that needs to be filled. Many people decide to fill this emptiness with things of the world whether it be drugs, alcohol, money, partying, or even things like overeating or overworking.

I invite you to let this space within you be filled with the Holy Spirit, GOD IN YOU. Invite Him into your heart and start living a life in and through Him. Find out what real freedom and joy can feel like.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT be with you all. Amen.