Monday, May 25, 2015

It's always been Pentecost w/confirmation [St. John 14:23-31]

Jesus speaks to you all today saying that in order for the world to know that He loves the Father, He must speak His Word, send the Comforter, give us Peace, go away, and tell us all ahead of time. Thus the Father commands Jesus and thusly does Jesus act.

And when has this changed? This promise has been handed down since the beginning of time. At the Easter Vigil, we recount all the deed the Lord has done since Creation, to work salvation out for you.

Pentecost is no different. You may think that today is a Christian novelty; some pagan festival that was taken over by the power-hungry Church, in order to make more money and gain more control.

Pentecost is a divine institution and, before the Tongues of Fire incident, it was already a holy day in the same way Good Friday and Easter were also already holy days. They were all religious holy days of resting and feasting, marked pointedly by purification and redemption by God.

Troy and Amy will act out this reminder for us, confessing that it is only in the purification of their baptism that the Holy Spirit has given them the words to speak and the right spirit to believe those words, as St. Peter reminds us, “Repent and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call.”(Acts 2:38-39)

Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks was the second major festival of the Israelite liturgical calendar. The “feast of Weeks” is more exactly the feast of seven weeks, for beginning on the day after Passover (Good Friday), the Israelites counted forty-nine days, then commenced the celebration of the feast of Weeks on the following day (Lev 23:15-16; Deut 16:9-10).

Because it fell on the fiftieth day after Passover, Weeks was also called “Pentecost”, that is, “fiftieth” (e.g., Acts 2:1; 20:16; 1 Cor 16:8). It is an agricultural festival, in which believers presented to the Lord two loaves of bread, made from fine flour, and baked with leaven, as the first-fruits of the wheat harvest. In addition to the grain offering, they offered one bull, two rams, seven lambs, along with a sin offering of a male goat, and two male lambs for a peace offering (Lev 23:15-19; Num 28:26-31). Since the first sheaf of the barley harvest was presented to YHWH on the day after Passover (Lev 23:11), and the first sheaf of the wheat harvest was offered fifty days later (23:15), Passover and Pentecost marked the beginning and end of the grain harvest.

The Israelites also celebrated the Jubilee Year during the fiftieth year following every “seven Sabbaths of years” or forty-nine years (Lev 25:8-55; 27:16-25; Num 36:4). During this year, any ancestral land that Israelites families had sold was given back to them. Also, any Israelite who, induced by poverty, had sold himself (or been sold) into slavery to a fellow Israelite regained his liberty.

Not only the people, but the land itself was “freed” from being worked, for no planting or sowing, harvesting or reaping took place during the fiftieth year. Like every seventh year, the jubilee year was a great Sabbath or rest for the people of YHWH and the land that belonged to him.

Therefore, because of the Jubilee Year, the number fifty is closely associated with the remission of debts, emancipation of slaves, and rest within God’s protective care. Like the festival held every fifty years, so the festival held every year on the fiftieth day proclaimed the following:
(1) God had freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt;
(2) He had fulfilled his promise to give them the Holy Land, and;
(3) He provided rest for them from their labors.

Dear Christians, you now celebrate this Pentecost fully completed and fulfilled in Christ. Our own 50 days of Easter celebrating is symbolic of Israel being released from sinful Egypt to offer their own first-fruits in the holy land, promised by the Lord. The days between the Resurrection of Jesus and the giving of the first-fruits of the Holy Ghost directly correspond to what the Lord was doing in the OT.

These first-fruits, then, were what you used to offer. Now, that you have been baptized into the true Body of Christ, God offers His first-fruits to you. On this New Pentecost, Jesus places His Spirit on the baptized believer pledging that the whole person, body and soul, belongs to Him. These will then be present in you until the day of full harvest.

The Gospel has been preached to you and the fire of the Lord has descended upon this place. Where Jesus appeared in thick smoke of a furnace, giving the Law, He still appears in the fire of suffering God’s wrath in our place, on the cross. Instead of the fire consuming us, Christ has sent His fiery Spirit through water and the Word to proclaim this salvation.

For where the Law was placed on us because of our sin and where Pentecost used to be a celebration of this first covenant; the new covenant, prophesied by St. Jeremiah and established by Jesus at the Last Supper (Lk. 22:20) fulfills the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms in Himself.

Now is the time of Jubilee, where Jesus gives freedom from bondage, the gift of the holy land, and rest from labor. The Father, Who sends the Spirit, Who anoints Jesus to work these deeds is the same Spirit who came upon the apostles at Pentecost to preach freedom from sin, the gift of the kingdom of God, and rest in the atoning work of Jesus Christ. And is the same Spirit that is given to you in Baptism.

Baptism into Jesus Christ is a washing into the ongoing Jubilee of grace. The debt of sin is forgiven. Man is restored to the image of God. Those in bondage to death are emancipated. All this the Spirit gives to “you and your children and [to] all who are far away,”; all who are united with Jesus via the washing of water with the word of God.

As with Passover, so also with Pentecost, the Lord ordained this festival to be celebrated as a foreshadowing of what he was yet to accomplish for his people. The final “Amen” in the liturgy of the Feast of Weeks would not be sounded until that momentous day in Jerusalem when the Spirit came in wind and fire to announce the new covenant of grace to every nation under heaven.

Because Jesus proved His love for the Father by continuing and completing all these Festivals, the Church sees fit to continue the celebration of this OT festival, only now in its perfected, messianic form.

So yet today, in Christian churches around the world, fifty days after Easter, the faithful gather not to offer first-fruits to God, but to receive the first-fruits of the Spirit—and with that gift, all the blessings of him who perfected the law for us, emancipated us, and made us citizens of the kingdom of God.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Spirit's Song [Cantate; St. John 16:5-15]

Jesus speaks to us today, saying,
“He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

The Holy Ghost’s job is to tell of Jesus. If the Holy Ghost is speaking, He is speaking of Jesus. If the Holy Ghost is working, He is pointing to Jesus. Thus, when it comes to anything that happens, in the Church, especially singing, we know what is going on and what is supposed to go on.

Just what IS supposed to go on? What does it mean that the Church is a singing Church?

There are those who think singing is of the devil. Maybe because there is too much baggage that goes with singing. In today’s modern, enlightened world, we have songs about one thing: lust.

Songs today are about lust; the lust of a woman, sure, but also the lust for money, the lust for drinking, smoking, doing drugs, or even hurting people. There are also songs about the lust for the good old days, for partying, for just being left alone, and there are even songs about the lust for family.

So now we have this feel-good, catchy music that turns our wants and desires into idols. Effectively, music is all about us. It is about our wants, our desires, and our feelings. We are our own idols and this is evident by the fact that we have favorite types of music and that we listen to music we like.

How many times a day do you think to yourself, “I need to listen to music that is good for me”? If we ever turn to music, it is always with a selfish heart: what will get me through this, what will get me through this day, or what will appeal to me.

Music is very subjective and is why it is a multi-billion dollar industry. Because it is a buffet-style restaurant in which you only go and return to whatever you choose and maybe, all the while, despising the other choices.

Music and melody also carry meaning. You can’t tell me that a fast beat and loud noises induce a low heart rate. Certain melodies are used in certain situations. This is why, in our lifetimes, Jazz was so taboo.

So what is the Church to do? It would be impossible to borrow from culture and not drag the baggage along with it. It is also impossible to create a new genre of music, although it is tempting.

The Church does what it has always done. Singing originated in the Church. I say that there is nothing to sing about except God and His promises to men. In fact, each and every song may just be a tribute or a longing to just such a truth from God.

So the Church creates song and what does she sing about? Jesus tells us. The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth and all truth is nothing but Jesus, because the Holy Spirit will take what is Jesus’ and give it to you.

Well, everything is Jesus’ so your musical history dates back to the dawn of time. The songs you sing today, yes are dated earlier than that, but they carry with them the same Spirit that created the world, for nothing is sung in Church, if it is not from the Holy Spirit.

Even Jesus sings. What do you think went on at the Temple or all those synagogues He visited: dreary readings and discussions?

Repent. The temptation to please ourselves with our own songs is too great. The appeal of saturating the Church with our preferences and styles, at the expense of the Gospel is overpowering.

Jesus sings. Through the minor prophet, Zephaniah (3:17; Hebrew), Jesus says, “[The Lord] will rejoice over you all with singing as in a day of feasting”

The Lord sings. The Lord sings Church songs. The Lord rejoices by singing and He sings at His Divine Service. He creates the Service as a location in time and space for you to commune with Him; physically and spiritually.

This all for your benefit. Jesus sings and will not allow anything else except songs about Him, His glory, and how it is given to you. Jesus will not sing about anything except His sacrifice upon the cross and your baptism into His suffering, death, and resurrection.

When was the last time you really read a hymn or paid attention to the words? If you can’t sing, speak the words, for in them you find Jesus. You find and hear about Jesus dying, rising again, and singing about you!

The Church has always been full of songs proclaiming the Gospel. They are not just for inducing emotion, though they may. They are not just set to personal preference, though you may enjoy them. Their only purpose is to proclaim the faith that you might believe.

When you sing the Gloria in Excelsis, you are singing exactly what the angels are singing in heaven right now. When you sing the Sanctus (Holy holy holy) you are singing yet another song of heaven. You do not sing alone and you do not have to make up the words. Jesus gives you more than enough to sing and pray by.

Thus, they are sung sermons and even prayers. Try praying a hymn once, I bet you’ll love it. They are not just quotes from the Bible, they are Christ-centered. They declare that Jesus convicts us of sin, but forgives it all; that Jesus is righteous, ascending to the Father, yet gives us His righteousness that we too, might also ascend; that Jesus has been judged in your place so that you would not be judged.

Sure, the heavens declare the glory of God, but the Word declares His Son. Even in hymns, the Gospel is proclaimed. Faith desires pure doctrine and pure hymns, if only for their value in being the words of the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit only takes of Jesus.