Thursday, May 16, 2013

Amen... Come!

Sermon for Easter VII c, preached Sunday, May 12, 2013.

How often don’t we encounter words on a menu that warn us: No Substitutions.  We like our freedom of choice.  We like being able to adapt and adjust things to suit us.  We bristle at the idea that there are no substitutions, no choices or changes allowed.  So it comes as no surprise that want a God who honors our choices.  That is what makes the commandments so onerous – no substitutions, choices, or changes.  It is what it says.  Ours is not a God of choices but of consequences.
    When we pray “Come, Lord Jesus” we receive not only the Lord and His promises but the Spirit who comes in the name of the Lord, who gives us faith to trust in what He promises.  When we pray for the Spirit, the Spirit teaches us to seek and pray “Come, Lord Jesus.”  God offers us not faces and choices of access, but salvation through His Son and the Spirit who imparts knowledge and trust in Jesus Christ. 
    So when we pray, we are not praying for our options but for the Lord, for His gifts, and for His will.  Every pray we pray in the Name of Jesus is a prayer that prays “Thy will be done.”  We do not give God options and choices.  What the cross has taught us and the Spirit has led us to believe is that no substitutions is a good thing.  That God’s will is not something to be feared, but good, gracious, and loving.  To pray is to pray for the will of God to be done in us, among us, and through us.  This is how the Spirit teaches us to pray and this is what it means to pray in Jesus’ name.  Not choices but confidence in God’s gracious will.
    The Spirit and the Church cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus!”  It is the prayer of the faithful in times of courage and in times of weakness, in times of great expectation and in times of great fear.  Faith has confidence in God’s good and gracious will.  When we pray in Jesus’ name, it is this good and gracious will for which we pray.  The Spirit who teaches us to pray this way, teaches us that His will is good and gracious.
    Those who hear the Word of the Lord and by the Spirit believe that Word, do not approach God in fear of His will but precisely because we have confidence in His prudential and gracious will.  We cry to God not for options we can chose but because God has chosen to give us His Son and to give us His Kingdom and we are confident He gives us all things in Christ.  As hungry cry out for food and thirsty for water, so do the prayers of God’s people cry out for one thing.  God’s gracious will.
    That will has consequences for us and our lives.  The holiness that we were clothed with in baptism becomes our delight.  The new way of the Kingdom becomes our joyful path.  The yesterdays that once consumed us give way to the tomorrow we did not know we had.  The work of the Spirit is to teach us Christ, teach us confidence in Christ, and lead us to joy in Christ.  Christ comes with the Spirit who gives us faith.
    Christ cannot be born again in flesh and blood as He was in Bethlehem.  But He is born in bread and wine of the Holy Communion, in the water of baptism, and in the living voice of His Word.  Christ does not repeat what He has done on the cross but He comes to repeatedly bestow on us and in us the gifts He won by His death and resurrection.
    He comes not to transform today into heaven but to lead us through this day to the eternal life and heavenly glory He has prepared for us.  He keeps us in His grace so that we are holy and blameless, fully ready and prepared for Him when He comes again in His glory.  And we encounter Him and His grace, His gifts and His Spirit, in the Word and Sacraments. Just like we do not eat once or breath in once but continually are nourished with food and continually breath in air, so do we as God’s people continually pray “Come, Lord Jesus” and continually receive and rejoice in Lord who comes to us in the means of grace.
    The Spirit whom Christ sends is not some new and different God but the Spirit of Christ and of His resurrection.  The Spirit does not give us new revelation or different revelation but reveals Christ to us.  He opens our hearts to receive the Christ who shows us the Father and imparts to us the Kingdom of God in the Word and Sacraments.  That is why we wait upon the Lord.  We have confidence in God’s good and gracious will.  The cross has shown us what it means for Him to love us, the resurrection has proven to us we have a future worthy of our trust, and so in life and in death our hope and comfort is the same – God’s gracious and saving will.
    As a child I learned to pray at meals “Come, Lord Jesus be our guest...”  Maybe you did also.  But the prayer can be misunderstood.  We do not pray for the Lord to be our guests subject to our terms.  We acknowledge that we are always His guests.  He is the Giver.  We receive from His goodness.  That is enough.  We live in confidence of this and so we are not afraid to pray, not afraid of what His answer will be, and not afraid of the future.  So the Church and all Christians cry out, Amen!  Come, Lord Jesus!


Unknown said...

Dear Rev. Peters: You write, “When we pray “Come, Lord Jesus” we receive not only the Lord and His promises but the Spirit who comes in the name of the Lord, who gives us faith to trust in what He promises. When we pray for the Spirit, the Spirit teaches us to seek and pray “Come, Lord Jesus.” God offers us not faces and choices of access, but salvation through His Son and the Spirit who imparts knowledge and trust in Jesus Christ.”

Pentecost, or Shavuot, is around the corner – for me a very difficult time, because all sorts of things are said and written about the Holy Spirit that are simply not true. One thing that is hardly ever mentioned is that He is God, a Person, the third member of the Most Blessed and Holy Trinity. We receive Him in Baptism, one time until the end of our lives (unless we commit the sin against the Holy Spirit, but that is another discussion). You cannot have more of Him, or less of Him. He is a Person, not some elixir that we can get more of whenever we feel down. He dwells in every child of God fully; He is totally absent from those outside of the Kingdom.

The scriptural verse most often referred to in order to support the notion of “multiple infusions” of the Holy Spirit is Luke 11:13, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" The problem with this verse is that different manuscripts show the following variant readings:
πνευμα αγιον (Holy Spirit) – 75, א, B, C, K, W, X, Δ, Π, Ψ, f1, f13, 28
πνευμα αγαθον (a good spirit) – L 1230 1253 1646, ℓ 4, ℓ 12, ℓ 15, ℓ 19, ℓ 69, ℓ 185, ℓ 211
δοματα αγαθα (good gifts)– Θ, ℓ 32m

The parallel passage in Matthew 7:11, which, without a doubt describes the same event and the same saying of our Lord uses the last of the above variants, “good gifts”, and there are no variants for the Matthew passage.

There is not a single passage in the New Testament that states or implies that we should pray to receive the Holy Spirit or “more of Him”. Any English texts that seem to do so fail the test, without the shadow of a doubt, when subjected to analysis of the Greek grammar. Since He is God, we who are God’s should pray to Him, not for Him. To pray for Him is to make God a liar when God claims, through His Apostles, that He has come to dwell in us in the Person of the Holy Spirit.

What happened at Pentecost remains true to this day: Acts 2: 38, Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call."

And further, Romans 8:9, “But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Pastor Peters said...

I am amazed at how fixated you are on this. In 33 years as a Pastor no one, not professor or person in the pew, has addressed this topic with me. The tenacity and stridency with which you make your point indicates that this is a big issue for you.

I would simply say that the piety of the Church has prayed this way from the earliest of days. Faith is like breathing. You breathe not once but continually the same thing, not to deny the power of the one breath. Honestly, I guess I do not get the issue. The Eastern Church in particular has a piety of praying for the Spirit even within the same Divine Liturgy over and over again.

If you are looking for specific texts for me to cite, I have none to say pray again and often for the Spirit. But I cannot find one single text which says explicitly to baptize infants or women, for that matter, yet the Church has done so from the beginning without hesitation.

Am I to conclude that I and I alone am wrong on this or are you pointing to others as having erred on the subject of praying for the Spirit and His gifts more than once.

Unknown said...

The word count limitations require me to post this response in two sections.

Dear Rev. Peters: I am genuinely grateful for your response; it is extremely frustrating to write the same thing over and over again and not to receive any response at all.

I don’t know if the term “fixated” describes what I feel about this topic. It carries the implication of psychopathology, and I hope this is not the case. I think that what you are saying about your seminary professors and laypeople is absolutely right. As to why; that is beyond me. I am sure that you are aware of the problems inherent in the ad hominem, ad populum, and ad tempore arguments.

Your reference to the Eastern Church carries particular meaning for me. In my younger days, as I grew up in a Russian Orthodox family, every once in a while a discussion about the faith would take place with a priest. It became an axiom of mine that when the priest started a sentence with, “It is as if …” everything after that was to be treated with suspicion, because the priest had no direct answers but had to resort to allegory.

When you write, “I would simply say that the piety of the Church has prayed this way from the earliest of days,” I am certain that you believe this to be true, but do you have any evidence for that. I cannot find anything in the early Church Fathers about praying for the Spirit. Here are a couple of citations, which would argue against praying for the Spirit, by virtue of the concept of “being either empty or full.”

Basil the Great, The Work of the Holy Spirit.

“Simple in himself, the Spirit is manifold in his mighty works. The whole of his being is present to each individual; the whole of his being is present everywhere. Though shared in by many, he remains unchanged; his self-giving is no loss to himself. Like the sunshine, which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over land and sea, and yet is enjoyed by each person as though it were for him alone, so the Spirit pours forth his grace in full measure, sufficient for all, and yet is present as though exclusively to everyone who can receive him. To all creatures that share in him he gives a delight limited only by their own nature, not by his ability to give.”

Irenaeus on the work of the Holy Spirit:

“Know thou that every man is either empty or full. For if he has not the Holy Spirit, he has no knowledge of the Creator; he has not received Jesus Christ the Life; he knows not the Father who is in heaven; if he does not live after the dictates of reason, after the heavenly law, he is not a sober-minded person, nor does he act uprightly: such an one is empty. If, on the other hand, he receives God, who says, “I will dwell with them, and walk in them, and I will be their God,” such an one is not empty, but full.”

I know that there are what are considered “ancient prayers” dating back as far as the 13th century, including this most famous one, which is often repeated in Lutheran churches on Pentecost, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your love.” But no trace of it can be found in the early Church Fathers; it is the product of an apostate church, not long before the Lutheran Reformation.
Continued in next posting.

Unknown said...

Continued from previous posting.
Our Lord spoke of the Holy Spirit a number of times, but because we do not look for the Holy Spirit in His sayings, we fail to recognize Him. One such instance is, John 4: 13, “Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life." If you “will never be thirsty” then you need not ask for more water. If you think I am misinterpreting this saying, here is what He says just a few chapters later, John 7: 37 On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, "Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.' " 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

Do you think I am making this argument only to prove that I am right about a particular doctrine? My concern is for the Church, for the proclamation of the pure Gospel, and for the faith of the children of God. If we believe that the Holy Spirit flits in and out of us, we do not have the continuous assurance of our salvation, which our Lord wants us to have. If we are not sure that God dwells in us, then we can have no certainty about truly being children of God. If we pray for the Holy Spirit in spite of God’s clear word that He already dwells in us, then we say that we do not believe God’s clear word. If our people spend their time praying for things God does not want them to pray for, they will become frustrated in their faith, because it will be clear to them that their prayer has not been answered.

Our gracious Father gave us the saving Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He did not give us a list of do-s and don’t-s to go with it. He works through the “spiritual discernment” (1 Cor. 2:15), by which He trusts us differentiate between right and wrong. To know that God has chosen to dwell in His children in the Person of the Holy Spirit is a source of inestimable joy.

I have read numerous of your posts in which you ask what needs to be done to invigorate the Church. I am convinced, based on the words of our Lord and His Apostles, that people who are assured of their salvation are more vigorous in the exercise of their faith than those who are constantly asking “what more must I do?” A proper understanding of the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit is, in my opinion, part of the solution.

Finally, to your question about “being the only one who is wrong”. No, pretty well everyone in the LCMS is on the same page with you. So how do you think I feel? I don’t have any seminary professors to fall back on and the people I go to church with couldn’t care less about the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. But every once in a while I see a flash of light! One such is Hermann Sasse’s “On the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit”. “If indeed the doctrine of the Holy Spirit has lost its citizenship (Heimatrecht) in church and congregation, then it cannot be long before the reality of the Holy Spirit is also lost to us, just as Christ ceases to be present when He is not truly taught, when His Gospel and sacraments are falsified.” Interestingly enough, Sasse is uncharacteristically vague about the solution to the problem. But at least he recognizes that it exists.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Pastor Peters said...

I am out of the office and will comment on this more fully later... fixated has no psychopathology to it; just simply that this is one of the most regular of your comments when you comment.

When I said that the early church prayed this way I meant actual prayers and the Divine Liturgy. I do not have reference with me but I am certain I can pull some up.

I have not commented in the past because I am still mulling over the matter. I have not ignored you or your point. I am just mulling it over.

More to come...

Unknown said...

Dear Rev. Peters: Thank you for your response. I know that you don’t need things like this to fill your spare time, but I do believe it is important enough. My earliest comment on this subject on your blog goes go back to 1 March 2010.

Just one small point. When you write, “praying for the Spirit and His gifts more than once” this may mislead some people to think that the Spirit and the gifts are one and the same thing. I do not object, in fact I encourage people to pray for the gifts of the Spirit.

But even in that there is some hesitation. When you will pray this Sunday, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of Your love,” aside from the fact that I believe the Holy Spirit is given once for all time, the “kindling” part reminds me of the response of our Lord to the mother of James and John, Matthew 20:22, “But Jesus answered, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" I know we all want to be heroes for Jesus, but there is some indication that the Holy Spirit decides what gifts to give to each one of us. 1 Cor. 12:7 “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.”

I wait patiently and eagerly for the results of your mulling.

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it is a greater awareness of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we need, and for which we pray. I have heard and read similar discussions concerning being drawn "closer to God." If one acknowledges that in Baptism one is drawn into the very life of the Trinity, how does one pray to be closer to God than that, except for the grace to acknowledge what God has already done?