The Harvest is Plentiful but the Laborers are Few (Romans 8:1-10) - The emphasis of today's service is the Compassion and Love of God for this World, love so great that he called ministers of the Word to share his grace and mercy and foretell the coming kingdom of heaven.
The doctrine of the Trinity is not a logical exercise or a dogmatic excursion. It’s central to our salvation. The Triune God is our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. Lose this doctrine, and as the Creed says, you lose it all. A Jesus who is less than God is also less than Savior. Today we see that Christ has given his church one mission with one means, a mission and means that reflect the nature of the one true God. God sends his church out into the world so that all people would again enjoy the fellowship enjoyed between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Plenty of people have witnessed the church at its worst. Because churches are made up of sinful people, every church has its ugly moments - including ours. That’s why it’s so important for churches to remember Christ’s design for them - a design whose beauty is in its simplicity, a design that keeps the body of Christ working at its best. Today we see that Christ has poured out on his Church one Spirit to work one faith. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit’s work in the church began. From that day until the last day, the Holy Spirit points every member of the Church to Christ’s saving work for it.
Pentecost is the third great festival of the Church and has been commemorated since at least 217 A.D. The Church dresses in red to remind us of the tongues of fire that marked the Spirit’s gift and the blood of the martyrs which was the seed of the Church. This day culminates the Season of Easter when our risen Lord now empowers his people to be witnesses of the resurrection for the world.
Live in eager expectation of glory! That glory is not dimmed by earthly suffering; rather, such suffering reminds us of the glory that awaits us. First the cross; then the crown. Our light and momentary troubles cannot mute the joy of living in eager expectation of glory. The week that falls between Ascension and Pentecost is one of waiting and expectation for the promised Spirit and the promised glory.
"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord" goes the old American hymn "Battle Hymn of the Republic." The hopeful and spirited hymn by Julia Ward Howe was written at a time when God's blessing was urgently sought for the nation. So it was for the disciples just before Christ was about to ascend to heaven. "Lord," they said, "will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" But God had a greater blessing in mind. Christ's ascension means His triumph over all humankind, all nations, kingdoms, and powers. He who was crucified, died, and risen, now takes His humanity with Him to sit at God's right hand in power and majesty to return again in glory. We too, lift up our eyes in celebration: "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!"
The love of God who lives in us leads to a life of obedience. Jesus’ promise of another Counselor is a loaded one: the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to do what Jesus asks. This Sunday’s lessons teach that love for our risen Lord means obedience to his commands. Only Jesus’ promises make that possible.
I am the way, the truth, and the life. Christ’s message is so exclusive that it rejects all others. There is only one way to the Father, and that way is a person. He does not say, ‘I show you the way,’ like a second Moses, but I am the way. Nor ‘I have the truth,’ like another Elijah, but I am the truth. Not only ‘I lead unto life,’ as one of his apostles, but I am the life. The exclusivity of salvation resting in the person of Jesus Christ is a rock against which the unbelieving world crushes itself, but upon which God builds his Church. Come and See… the Only Way to Heaven.
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. The image of shepherd and sheep are certainly familiar to modern Christians, but do those concepts resonate as deeply for us as they did for the people of God 2000 years ago? On Good Shepherd Sunday we see how sharp the contrast is between true shepherds and false shepherds. All is determined by their relationship to Christ, the only gate for the sheep. Come and See our True Shepherd!
Don't confuse us with facts. Often that is the basis of our opinions and actions. We would rather hold our convictions and opinions rather than be informed by the truth that comes from the facts. If that is where life finds us, we are in good company---the company of Cleopas and his friend as they traveled to Emmaus. Their hopes and dreams had once been built on their Lord, Jesus the Christ; but now all that was crumbling because of the rumors and the lack of the facts. When the Stranger joined them, He brought their uncertainty to a halt. The Word of God still reveals the Christ to us. That Word---His Word---melts our hearts of stone and plastic and warms them with His forgiving love.
Come and See… In the face of doubt, Christ gives us proof and peace. To the doubting disciples, he gave certain proof that led to certain peace. Through his Word and sacraments, Jesus gives the same proof to all people of all time. “Peace be with you,” said our Lord. Then he sent his people forth with this message of peace based on the proof of his resurrection.
Everything starts with Easter, or ends without it. Christianity makes a claim unlike any other—either a particular man named Jesus was raised from the dead or his life (and ours) ultimately means nothing. Easter is the central historical event that establishes a central religious truth. Come and See how without this truth everything ends, but with this truth everything is just beginning!
All of human history hinges on this day. Humbling himself before the will of the Father and the blood-thirst of men, the Son of God is slaughtered. Even worse than an ignomible death, the Father must reject his own Son since he bears the sin of the world. But all this served God’s saving purpose, and so we call this Friday…Good.
Good Friday is not a “funeral” for Jesus, but an austere celebration of the Lamb and his sacrifice. The bare altar, symbolic of Christ, is the focus along with a large, rough-finished wood cross that is placed before it. The Service of Darkness developed from the early morning monastic prayer services of Matins and Lauds but has come to be used as an evening service on Good Friday. The service centers on a series of lessons, psalms, and liturgical texts that reflect on the Lord’s crucifixion and our repentance.