Our love for Christ is the challenge of our stewardship focus in the coming weeks. It is based upon the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:8: “I want to test the sincerity of your love.” Well, today It’s Test Time, and today we hear Who is being tested: it’s a test For We Who Believe.
Sin is rampant. The godless get ahead. Deception succeeds. The believer suffers...or so it would seem. But the Word sets forth testimony to the truth of the Triune God through the Holy Spirit. For the Spirit works through the means of grace—the Gospel found in the Word and in the Sacraments—proclaiming the message of the Christ in the waters of baptism and the blood of the Lord’s Supper. This is the Spirit’s message: the Father has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
THE ATHANASIAN CREED
The Athanasian Creed is named after St. Athanasius, a staunch defender of the Christian faith in the fourth century. It was prepared to assist the Church in combating two errors that undermined Bible teaching. One error denied that God’s Son and the Holy Spirit are of one being or Godhead with the Father. The other error denied that Jesus Christ is true God and true man in one person. The Athanasian Creed continues to serve the Christian Church as a standard of the truth. It declares that whoever rejects the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of Christ is without saving faith.
Our congregation uses the Athanasian Creed once a year on Holy Trinity Sunday. However, this should not underscore the importance of such an important and necessary doctrine. Especially in modern society and culture, the message of true salvation through Christ alone is a message that continually needs to be underscored. Perhaps this Creed should even be used more often!
"I will pour out my Spirit." God’s Old Testament people celebrated the gathering of the harvest at the Festival of Weeks, or the Festival of Pentecost. In the New Testament, God sent the promised Counselor on the day we call “Pentecost,” Greek for “fifty,” because he sent the Holy Spirit fifty days after the Resurrection. This day marked the birthday of the New Testament Church and celebrates the harvest of souls won by the Son and gathered by his servants empowered by his Spirit.
Pentecost is the third great festival (Nativity, Resurrection, Pentecost) 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.
The Season of Easter draws to a close with a look at Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. Now as then, our risen and ascended Lord Jesus prays for Spirit-inspired unity between the Father and his church. With much anticipation, we look for the coming of the Holy Spirit, confidently living a new life of faith in our ascended Lord.
Forty days ago, the darkness of Lent was dispelled by the light of Easter. For forty days, the Church has cried, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!” But forty days after Jesus rose from the dead, he departed from his disciples and was enthroned in glory in heaven. From heaven he rules all things as our Lord and King. Today we celebrate the day he ascended (“went up”) to glory. But he promised not to leave his disciples alone. He promised to send them the Holy Spirit. They waited ten more days, and then on the Festival of Pentecost (“fiftieth day”) they saw Jesus’ promise made good. Next Sunday, we will celebrate that 50th day, the day of Pentecost.
There are some saints in particular whose lives on earth are so closely connected with the earthly life and ministry of Jesus that their stories are literally part of the Gospel itself. Perhaps the most obvious examples would be the apostles and evangelists. In the history of the church, including the history of our Lutheran Church, the commemorations of these saints have been observed with special distinction—always to the praise and glory of Christ Jesus and His Gospel. These days are really treated as “Feasts of Christ,” that is to say, as days when we remember, celebrate, and give thanks for the life that our Lord Jesus Christ lived for us in the flesh. For these reasons, it is appropriate to observe these “Feasts” with the Sacrament of the Altar, in which the Word-made-flesh draws close to us and gives himself to us in much the same way that he came and lived among the apostles and other disciples in the New Testament.
May 1 has been kept as the feast day of St. Philip and St. James since A.D. 561 when on that date, the supposed remains of the two saints were interred in the Church of the Apostles in Rome. But the Church celebrates these saints today not because we have a piece of their earthly bodies to worship; rather, we follow the example of Holy Scripture in remembering those whom God has called to be his own, in whom he has demonstrated his grace of forgiveness and his gift of life (cf. Hebrews 11; Matthew 26:13). Today we give thanks to God for the gift of apostles—specifically Philip and James—who served his church as leaders and missionaries.