Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Breath of Life. . .

Sermon for Pentecost preached on Sunday, May 20, 2018, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

In order to survive, we need to breath. Without oxygen, our bodies can’t function. Our brain, liver, and other organs can be damaged within minutes if we don’t get enough air. Breathing is important; so important that it’s something we do automatically. We don’t have to think about breathing, we just do it. Likewise, we need breath for everlasting life, for physical everlasting life. This breath doesn’t come from our lungs and the oxygen in the air, but from the Spirit, speaking the Word of God that’s about Christ our Savior.

I.​We see the life giving power of the Spirit in the very beginning, when God made man. All other life God spoke into existence. He said “Let there be fish, and sea creatures, and birds, and land animals,” and there was. But this isn’t how God made man. God got His hands dirty when He made Adam. First, He formed him from the dust of the ground, and then He breathed the breath of life into him.

​When you look at the Hebrew, the original language of the Old Testament, the same word can be used for both breath and Spirit, ruach. Now, even though this word isn’t used for the “breath of life” that God breathed into Adam’s nostrils, it is the word that is used for the “breath” that entered the dry bones of Ezekiel, bringing them to life.

​The Lord showed Ezekiel a valley that was full of dry bones. These were the remains of an exceedingly great army that had been dead for a while. God asked Ezekiel if these bones could live, and Ezekiel, being faithful, answered that the Lord knew they could. God could raise this dead army to life. So God told Ezekiel to prophesy over the bones and say: “O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD...I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezk 37:4-6). Ezekiel spoke the word of God, and the bones came together. Sinews and muscle, skin and flesh covered these bones. Complete human bodies stood before Ezekiel...but they weren’t alive.

​Even though the men who stood before Ezekiel appeared to be alive, they weren’t. They were just skin bags filled with bones because they didn’t have the breath of life in them, they didn’t have the Spirit. Again, God told Ezekiel to prophesy, to prophesy to the breath, the Spirit, the ruach, to enter these men...and he did. The ruach came into them and they lived. They received the Spirit of God and they were alive. Likewise, you’ve received life through the breath of the Spirit.

​We confess this every time we speak the Nicene Creed. We say, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.” The Spirit is the giver of life. He’s given you life; made you alive, you who were dead in your sin and trespasses. Even though we may appear to be alive, standing with healthy bodies full of muscles and breath; walking and talking, thinking, doing the things that people who are alive do; in our sin, we’re dead. There’s no life in sin. Because of our sin, we’re just skin bags full of dry bones. There’s no life in us apart from the life the Spirit gives, apart from the life that comes through the Word of Christ and His forgiveness. This is how the Spirit brings you to life; through the proclamation of Christ.

II.​In the Upper Room, as Jesus was speaking with His disciples before His betrayal and crucifixion, He promised the sending of the Holy Spirit, the Helper. He said, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me….He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (Jn 15:26; 16:14). The Spirit bears witness to Christ. He only speaks of Christ, for life only comes through Christ.

​Jesus, the Son of God, is the only one who overcomes the sin that kills you. He alone is sinless. He alone could pay the death price of our sin. And He alone sacrificed His perfect life on the cross for you. Because Jesus hung on the cross in your place, God the Father forgives your sins. They’re washed away by the blood of Christ, no longer able to kill you with the everlasting death your sin deserves, because where there’s no sin, there’s no death. In Christ, there’s only life, and the Spirit brings you into Christ as He proclaims Him to be the Savior.

​Some people say we don’t talk about the Holy Spirit very much in our church. Our sermons focus on the Father and the Son. This is true. Christ is central to our faith. He’s the foundation of our faith. And He’s the only way to Father. And the Spirit would have it no other way. The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, isn’t concerned if our sermons aren’t about Him, because He’s all about Christ. As Jesus said, the Spirit glorifies Christ, for He is the only way of salvation. There’s only everlasting life in Jesus...and this life is a physical one.

​I wonder if we too often forget that the everlasting life that Christ won for us is going to be a physical one. I’m afraid we think that our soul is the only thing that’s important to God, that our bodies are just temporary and that our flesh is the reason for our sin. But this is completely contrary to God, for He didn’t make us as floating souls. He made us physical beings. He made a body for Adam, and He knitted our bodies together in our mother’s womb. Are bodies are important to God. They’re part of our life. This is why Christ became incarnate, to redeem our bodies.

​When Christ rose from the dead defeating death, it was a physical resurrection. When He appeared to His disciples, He physically stood before them, flesh and bone. They could touch Him. And this is how it will be for you in your everlasting life.

After the dry bones came to life through the Spirit in Ezekiel, the Lord explained that they were the people of Israel, they were God’s people. And then God spoke this promise: “Behold, I will open your grave and raise you from your graves….you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you and you shall live” (Ezk 37:12-14).

You are God’s people, the New Israel, who’ve received with faith the forgiveness that Christ won on the cross. And this is God’s promise to you. On the Last Day, when our Lord comes, He’ll raise your body from the grave, and you’ll receive the glorified body, free from sin that God has planned for you. We confess our hope in this promise when we say, “I believe...in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.”

​God gave life to Adam by breathing the breath of life into him, breathing the Spirit into him. The dry bones Ezekiel saw were given life by the breath of the Spirit. And you too receive life through the Spirit. Without Him, we’re just a skin bag of dry bones. The Holy Spirit brings you to life through the very Word of God. This Word is about Christ your Savior, and the Spirit gives you faith to believe and trust in Him for salvation. With this gift of faith you receive the gift of everlasting life, a physical everlasting life in the glory of your Lord. In Jesus name...Amen.


John Joseph Flanagan said...

Excellent sermon. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

“Behold, I will open your grave and raise you from your graves….you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you and you shall live” (Ezk 37:12-14).

“The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Matthew 27:52-53).