Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sermon May 29, 2011

May 29, 2011
Chaplain Keith GeRue
John 16:23-33

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayer in Jesus´ Name is prayer that mirrors Gethsemane. There in the garden of betrayal, the garden of the traitorous kiss, Our Lord´s perfect prayer is so intense that He sweats blood. His Father hears His prayer and bends His Son´s will to His own. Set for the sacrifice, the angels come and minister to Him one last time until they roll away the stone three days later. Meanwhile, a stone´s throw away from that bloody prayer, the weak and sleepy disciples fail to pray. They succumb to temptation. But despite that, despite their sin, their failure, the Son´s prayer is answered. The Father´s will is done. They go free. He is arrested. They live. He dies. This is all our life, all our prayer, in Him. For He is our atoning sacrifice, the sweet aroma offered to God on our behalf, the Lamb consumed in the Father´s wrath, our holy Substitute and by Him we live and pray. How then, having given us even this, His own Son, will He not give us all things? 

That is prayer in Jesus´ Name. It is prayer that finds its voice and substance in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Prayer in Jesus´ Name prays, “Lord, have mercy” and He does. It prays, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” and He does. It prays, “Our Father . .” and He is. We do not pray in order to obtain pleasures of the flesh, earthly lusts and desires. But we pray to the God who has saved us and called us out of the present darkness. We pray like Jesus in Gethsemane that God would bend our wills to His, that He would break us free from this house of doom and the trapping flesh that drags us down. For prayer in Jesus´ Name is prayer in accord with Jesus´ Word and will. And this prayer is always heard, always answered, for whatever you ask in Jesus´ Name the Father gives.

The president of the United States, or even the lowly governor of this state, will not return your calls. You are not important to them. Despite all the propaganda about being the people´s servants, they do not behave as though they were. But even though they are not heads of state, when their children call, they answer. And so it is that we pray to our Father in heaven as children. We pray with boldness and confidence bounding up onto our Father´s lap, knowing He loves us. The Almighty, the Ruler and 3 Creator of all things, the One who is, the One who laid down His life as a ransom to serve the unfaithful and faithless rebels, the Living God, He eagerly awaits and rejoices in your prayers. He hears you. He loves to hear you, to bless you, to feed you and forgive you. He answers.

It is not only the Son, who came to serve, but also the Father who spoke from heaven in His own voice, and the Spirit who bears witness of the Son and speaks the Truth, who loves you. The inner council of the Holy Trinity is at work on your behalf. The Son is your Advocate. He rules on high at the right hand of His Father, judging all things. He has completed His mission, fulfilled His holy Office, and returned to the Father. There He advocates for you. He mediates. He points to His wounds and to your clean conscience in Him. He sends the Spirit. The Spirit also has sympathy for you in whom He makes His home. He knows you do not know what or how to pray. So He prays for you with perfect prayers, in perfect accordance with His Word and will, with unspeakable groans on your behalf. The Father hears the Spirit and the Son. He is convinced. And, yet still, there is more for He too loves you. Lowly you, whom kings and presidents dismiss, have authority given in Baptism to call Him “Father” and to pray. He hears and answers.

In Him who died and rose again we pray and have peace. He has overcome the world for us. Our prayers are answered. He delivers Himself to us in the Holy Eucharist. There in that sacred meal you know God as your Father. You are His, and what is His is yours. His Name is holy. His Name is your name. His good and gracious will is done to and for you in the eating and the drinking. His kingdom comes to you as you kneel before Him and is placed into your mouth. You have your daily bread, and you have eternal bread, the Bread of Life. Your sins are forgiven. He goes with you through the valley of the shadow of death leading you out of temptation. And at last, this deliverance will be complete. He will deliver you once and for all from the evil one who has been crushed by the Heel he bruised!

You are not alone. And soon we shall ask Him nothing. 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sermon May 22, 2011

May 22, 2011
Psalms 98, John 16:5-15
Chaplain Keith GeRue
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sing unto the Lord a new song. For He has done marvelous things.

He has given Abraham and Sarah their laughing little boy back from the dead.

He has brought His people out of captivity through the deadly waters of the Red Sea, fed them with bread they did not earn and could not make, led them in a cloud.

He has hurled a stone with killing speed out of David's sling so that Goliath, with all his strength, was defeated by a child.

He has sent the Angel Gabriel to announce the conception of the Messiah to a distantly royal, but yet peasant, virgin in Nazareth.

He has refused the plea of His Son in the Garden of Gethsemane. His will has been done. The Innocent has been Sacrificed for the guilty. The Passover Lamb's blood has been spilt upon Calvary's sacred ground, and down our throats, to shield us from the angel of death. It is finished. And it is marvelous.

And thus comes the Comforter, comforting with forgiveness won by Christ, revealing Him who died and lives, declaring to be yours what is the Father's and the Son's, proclaiming the Word of Truth to lead into the Way of Truth, the Way of Jesus, the Way of the Cross.

The right Hand of the Holy Trinity, His holy Arm hath gotten Him the victory. That holy Arm has obtained the victory by giving His life as a ransom, by being a guilt offering, by paying the due wages for your sins. The Law that you would not keep has been satisfied. The Death you should have died, has been conquered, ended. And now there is no one left to accuse you. For He who knew no sin has been counted as a sinner in your place, crucified for sins that you, not He, did commit, forsaken by the Father, sent off into the wilderness, mocked by petty, pretend kings, all that you, poor sinner, might be His own beloved and dear son in whom He is now well-pleased.

He has made this salvation, this incredibly Good News, known through His Word. Even as His Word called forth light and all creation out of nothing, so also He has called a people who were no people to be His people by His Word. A people, who had rebelled and disowned Him, who sought to steal from and overthrow Him, He has loved, restored, and claimed them. The Word of God in the water of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit has washed you. It has drowned and buried those old rebels in that borrowed tomb with the broken seal, in death's last stand, that you would also rise again with Him in glory. That, according to the Word of God which cannot lie. And therein is His salvation. It is the righteousness of Christ shown unto the heathen, who are heathen no more. Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved.

Thus we have something to make a joyful noise about, to sing about, to praise God for, not just today, but every day. We have a Savior, a Redeemer, a Shepherd, a Singer who sings before His Father the glories of your personal innocence and holiness in His scars. And that we might stand firm in this Hope, He has given us a Comforter, a Counselor, a Witness of the Truth. The same Spirit who did once brood over the chaotic waters of this world and brought them to order, lit upon our dark hearts through the water running off Jesus' back and into our font. He has made our hearts temples for Himself, reordered them, established them. For He calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith. That is Grace, not works. It is not by our will, our faith, our decisions, our intellect that figured it out and cracked the Bible code, our wisdom in discerning God's will, our determination, that saves us. They cannot. They are full of sin. But we do not worship the God who helps those who help themselves. We worship the God who helps the helpless, the God who does it for us, the God who made the decision to redeem rebellious, fallen mankind which did not want Him. And He proclaimed from the Bloody Throne of Glory: “It is finished.” For it is not by works or righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saves us. This Grace fills us with joy so that our hearts burst within us. We are forgiven, clean, pure, accepted.

And thus we sing:
We sing with Job, even in the midst of turmoil, uncertainty, and pain. In our suffering, trials, and travails we sing of the living Redeemer whom we will see with our own eyes after we have died, but are made alive.

We sing with St. Mary, “My soul doth magnify the Lord” for the unspeakable joys that are inside of us. The Messiah, Christ, the Lord, who once lived in Mary's virgin womb, now lives in us.

We sing with the lepers, the tax-collector, and the blind man on the side of the road: “Lord have mercy.”

We sing with angels, “Glory be to God on high. Holy, Holy, Holy.”

And we sing with all the Church, with all the apostles, prophets, and martyrs, with angels and archangels, with all those gone before us and those still about us in the flesh. We sing: “We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord. Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ. Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Save Thy people and bless Thine heritage.”

We cannot help but sing, for He has done marvelous things. He has given us a song. He has given us music. He has calmed the savage beast inside of us by it. That is His salvation. That is why, and what, we sing.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sermon MAy 15, 2011

John 16:16-23
May 15, 2011
Chaplain Keith GeRue
ECS 2011 

In the Name of the Father and the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

On the night when He was betrayed, on the night in which He left to His disciple the durable legacy of unity with Himself in the Sacrament of the Altar, He prepared them for His departure with the promise of return and of joy. They were puzzled by it and so Our Lord explains further and with an illustration: “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.”

He is speaking of the specific sorrow that the disciples will have at the crucifixion. But we do well to apply this to ourselves and to the sorrows we endure in this life while awaiting His imminent return. For the Church on this side of glory is very much like a woman in labor. For a woman in labor bears the brunt and consequence of the Law. Remember the curse pronounced upon Eve and her children: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”

Consider the bloody, dangerous passage, for both mother and child, of birth. The mother is in great pain, out of her mind, but clearly focused upon, and caring about nothing but, getting that baby out. So also we still bear the burden of the Law. We are forgiven, like Eve in the garden clinging to the Promise of the Messiah, but we are still waiting for consummation of our joy. It is still in the future. And the Law of the present brings pain and sorrow.

For the present is full of our transgressions. By our sins we have burnt bridges with family and friends, employers and neighbors. With a moment's foolishness or with a moment of selfish indulgence, whether that be giving in to our rage and frustration and lashing out or whether it be a quiet nurturing of our lust, greed, and malice, we've succumbed to temptation, and hurt the ones we love the most. Our words have been spiteful, sarcastic, and mean. Our service to spouse and parent, neighbor and friend, has been under duress and with great show. We have needlessly complicated our lives, caved-in, given up, ran away. We have been weak. Sometimes it is like we are two or more people at the same time. In the back of our minds we watch helplessly, ashamed of what we are doing, but not stepping out and stopping it. Repent. Turn away from your fleshly desires. Remember that this is not your home. Let the pain, the sorrow, even your victimization, focus you upon the coming joy.

For a woman in a labor, for all her trouble, is a woman uniquely focused upon the joy to come. She is not distracted by the petty things of this life. She doesn't care if the doctors, nurses, or passer-byes see her pasty legs or hear her cries, let alone whether or not her hair is mussed up or her shirt a little wrinkled. She is having a baby, and for a little while, that is all that matters. For a little while, she has sorrow, but then the baby is laid upon her and her sorrow is not only complete, but forgotten. It cannot compare to the wonder and joy of the life of her suckling little baby.

So it is also for us. This life is transitory. It seems long, but in retrospect we will see that it was brief. Our joy will be complete and no one will take it from us. Hang on. Be as focused as the mother in the delivery room. Jesus Christ did not die and rise in vain. It will end soon. And when the going gets tough, in the waning hours of darkness, in the midst of your watch, know that you will mount up on wings like eagles and soar. Soon, you will leave all this pettiness, this sweltering sin, these open sewers of false morality and half-hearted tries behind. You shall be free! No more pain, no more suffering, no more shame or regret, no more past, no more sin. You will be free of yourself. This the horizon that rises before you. God's Grace cuts the cords which bound you to this awful, dark place. The payment for your selfishness has been paid. There is no more, but the waiting. For God loves you in Jesus Christ and will bring you to Himself. In your travail, ponder this profound and simple truth, for His own reasons, from His own sovereignty, His own goodness, without any merit or worthiness in you, He loves you. He calls you by name. The inheritance of the righteous is rightfully yours, for you are His. In Christ, you are free. You are free from worrying about yourself. You need not defend yourself, look after your rights and honors, or be insulted by the stupid behavior around you. Patience is learned in the cross, for there we see that nothing else really matters. You are free from those who hurt you, from the devil's accusations, from death. Jesus Christ Himself is your Defender, your Advocate, your Friend. He never sleeps or grows faint. Let Him worry about you. For who would dare to stand against you, the King's own chaste Bride? These labor pains are not punishment. Rather, they are the proof of His love.

And while you wait, knowing that your time is coming, that nothing else matters, receive already the foretaste of that Joyous Feast to come. Be strengthened, encouraged, and refreshed for your labor. Eat His Body and drink His Blood for sustenance. Your sins are there forgiven and the Church Militant, that is you, joins its worship to the worship of the Church Triumphant, the Church at rest in glory, which has already been delivered. Here is your strength to carry on. Here is hope for the future, peace for the tired, troubled heart. Here is unity with Christ crucified and raised ,and therein, unity with the fellow confessing pilgrims on earth, diverse strangers no more, but now brothers and sisters in Him, for faith is thicker than blood. And there is unity with the confessing cloud that even now surrounds you and prays for you. This is not an epidural, a narcotic to numb you and drug you out of your mind. It is a promise of joy to come delivered now, that you would endure in confident Hope and Faith. So, Relax. Fear not. In a little while you will see Him and your joy will be complete, your travails forgotten. No one will take it from you.

In the Name of the Father and the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.