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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

12152013 Advent 3

Sermon Audio

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.

As a child, many of the teachers that I had in Sunday School always would teach us neat little sayings, motions and hand gestures that have stuck with me.  Even my wife has taught me some sign language that was not as common for me in my family growing up.  They include, “Yes” like knocking on a door, “I love you”, and in church one of my all time favorites was the church.  You know the one I mean.  Put your hands together, here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and here are all the people.

This simple gesture taught by countless generations of parents, grand-parents, Sunday School teachers and leaders portrays a simple truth.  When we open the doors of the church we the people gathered here are God’s people.  This morning we transition from talking about Jesus Christ and what He did for all of mankind, to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit.  Not only could we talk about the Holy Spirit and what the Spirit’s role was from creation, but the Holy Spirit also has a role here in the church.  Hence this morning I have before us, not only a small church model, but also the picture of Emmanuel Lutheran church drawn and painted by a member of the Goodland community.  And I ask one question, what is the church?

While this question percolates in your minds, let’s pull out our bulletin insert and join together and read together in unison the “What does this mean” section as a congregation.  “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.”  As we ponder the work of the Holy Spirit, let’s go to God in prayer.

Let us pray, Holy Spirit comforter of all the afflicted, as You call, us through the Word, enable us to understand Your work is to prepare us for home.  And our home is not here on earth, nor here in the visible Church, but in the invisible Church with Jesus Christ in heaven.  Help us to see our church as Your vessel of grace for all of mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel.  AMEN.

All of us have seen pictures of Emmanuel with our bell tower, educational wing, stain glass windows and beautiful vaulted ceiling.  Some have climbed to the peak inside to paint, climbed on the outside to lubricate the bell that we ring before service, tossed cans across the peak to get a cord connected for the outdoor chimes to work or others have cleaned out the gutters or helped paint the walls to help the church last longer and look more beautiful.  Others have helped place ornaments on the lawn during Advent of the Manger scene.  Sometimes the manger scene was in the direction of the park across the street and other times aimed in other more obvious directions.  There are some here gathered and from years past that helped deliver meals on wheels to those who are in need of a hot meal, even including our own members.  Each of these activities is a clear answer to the question, what is the church?

From being surrounded and supported by Word and Sacrament in these four walls all of us serve a God within our individual comfort zone.  Each of us shine in our own way, whether by building steps, reframing walls or windows, laying carpet, giving to people within the community and even to me and my family, all because we are the church.  We are the visible church here in Goodland, Kansas.  We are the direct expression of what we receive this morning, not only the Word of God, but also in the Sacraments the direct expression of the Church that Jesus Christ came and lived for and died to save on the Cross of Calvary.  Yet all of this only occurs because of what the Holy Spirit does.

You see the Holy Spirit, Third Person of the Holy Trinity has the hardest job.  Not only does He call us by name in our Baptism, He claims us in Jesus Holy name in our baptism, He reminds us when we need Grace in our lives, He gathers us together here in the church, He enlightens us and reminds us of Jesus Christ life, death and resurrection for each and every one of us.  The Holy Spirit is also our constant reminder here in the church.  If we were to look to the Altar, above the Altar is our reminder of the Holy Spirit.  That flame, reminds us of the promise that Jesus Christ made before His ascension and which we today lay claim to as part of our belief in the forgiveness of sins and our receipt of Jesus Christ precious Body and Blood around the Altar of our Lord.

But not only do we remember the Holy Spirit and the church of Emmanuel.  We need to remember we are a part of the one Church here on earth.  In recent months many of the members here at Emmanuel have spoken to me about one word that we say in the Apostle’s and Nicene Creed.  For those of us who are sticklers that one word was changed in what we read this morning in our insert.  Instead of saying “catholic” the word “Christian” was used.  In our case this morning that is what and how the material was written.  For some saying the word, ‘catholic’ is like saying a ‘four letter word’.  The argument is we are not ‘catholic’, the church across the street is and we are nothing like them.  Clearly this is something that each of us have different and varied beliefs, positions and understandings of and about and all of us defend our beliefs and personal opinions with great vigor, even at times and in ways which divide instead of unite us as a church and brothers and sisters in Christ.  The reality is, we are the Church of Jesus Christ, whether the label of Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist, Harvest or Bible Baptist.  We as the church on earth are meant to be the direct expression of grace offered by Jesus Christ and are here to represent Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of sins and how we joyfully serve Jesus Christ here in Goodland, Kansas.

The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity is here to unite us as the Church, because if we are not united behind the banner of Jesus Christ, we are divided and will fail and fall.  Not only fall victim to the wiles of the devil, but away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ we have been baptized into and are members of with our confession and our receipt of Jesus Body and Blood in the forgiveness of sins.

As we prepare for our celebration of Christ’s coming this Advent season, may we be like Michael Jordan in the ad for Gatorade.  Being the consummate athlete the exertion he always showed on the basketball floor or the baseball diamond always and continuously showed His enthusiasm, but also the sweat pouring from his body from giving it his all.  May we who gather here today exude and allow the Holy Spirit to come out in each of our lives and help each of us to gather and be the church on earth as we come together this Advent season to celebrate the coming of the Christ Child as we prepare for our celebration of Christmas.  For in celebrating Christ’s coming it is for all mankind, including all of us saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.
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