The Lord And Giver Of Life
June 3, 2017
Verse: Psalm 104:29–104:30
Christ Lutheran Church
June 4, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The Lord and Giver of Life
When you turn your face they are dismayed; you take away their breath and they cease to be, and return to their dust. Then you send forth your Spirit and they are created; and you renew the face of the earth. Psalm 104:29-30
Today the church celebrates the glorious Feast of Pentecost, which is the oldest feast of the liturgical year as we know it. Older than Christmas, older even than Easter. We read of St. Paul celebrating Pentecost in Jerusalem around the year 60 AD. But we hear nothing of Easter until the second century and nothing of Christmas till the fourth.
But while Pentecost might rightly be termed the birthday of the church, the church was conceived long before; when God “created the heavens and the earth” to be his temple with the Eden the chancel, Adam its priest, and Eve the first member. And when he erected the first cross ever to be placed in a chancel. It is called “the Tree of Life” in Genesis 2:9 and God situated it at Eden’s center so that it might be the focal point of all creation, announcing the promise of the coming Christ. Even as our new crucifix which, if all goes according to schedule, will be erected by the end of summer; and will be the icon and focal point of our worship! For as St. Paul says, “We preach Christ crucified.”
Yes, God planted the “tree of life” in the Garden of Eden to be the sign and proof of his love for us. The promise that, even in those pristine days before sin polluted the world, God had already planned to redeem the world he loves and the crown of his creation – you are that crown!
Even in your fallen and rebellious state; even if you are the most worthless person of the social order – the comatose resident of a nursing home, the fetus in the womb, the conservative politician – you are dear to the Lord and Giver of life. Of greater worth than the sparrows that never sinned; that never succumbed to the temptations of the Evil One. And even in its corrupted state the “Lord and Giver of life,” will “renew the face of the earth,” and in Christ crucified “make all things new!” (Revelation 21:5)
That is what we mean when we confess each week, “I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord and Giver of life.”
As often as we confess those words we recall, recognize and rejoice in the church’s proto-liturgy found in Genesis chapter one, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
This is the birth of the original world. Chaos that was turned into order by the Lord and Giver of life, and filled with the Light of the Word of God; even our Lord Jesus Christ who is the Light of the World! Who, if any man will follow him, he will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of life. (John 8:12) A world of such distilled perfection that it bore God’s own stamp of approval, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was Very Good.” (Genesis 1:31)
But that is not the world we live in today, nor can that one be restored or recovered by human effort – however clever, confident or grandiloquent promises to the contrary might be. What was once friendly and designed to bless its inhabitants without coercion – without fracking or strip mining – after the pollution of human sin became hostile. And the warfare goes on to this day: man and woman trying to extort every drop of good from the earth; and planet trying to kill its inhabitants, and get them off its back. Literally.
But while the Good world of days past cannot be recovered by political hysteria, carbon credits, or by the sayings of Chief Seattle … on Pentecost a New Age began. The Age of the Spirit of God. The Age of the Church, from whence the renewal of all things begins.
The redemption that God planned for our salvation before sin polluted the world, and intoxicated all its inhabitants … was brought to its fulfillment when our Lord bowed his head in death. On the cross he made expiation for all that is wrong with the world. He “drained the swamp” of sin and death, and “handed over his Spirit to the world,” even as it says in John 19:30, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and bowing his head, he handed over the (Holy) Spirit.”
It is by this Spirit of Christ that earth-born sinners are born anew, and begotten from above, by water and the Spirit, in Holy Baptism: just like the heavens and the earth. It is by him that you are made a New Creation in Christ. A person in whom the old things of sin: self-worship, idolatry, lust and passion, have passed away. And all things are become blessedly new! The things you love, the things you hope for, the things your pursue: the love of God, and Christ-like service to one another beginning in your own bed, your own home, and working your way out from there.
This is the love of God for us, poured out on us by the Spirit who forgives our sins, comforts us when we are sick, gives us courage in trouble, and keeps the hope of heaven ever before us even in the darkest night.
And even if we are conceived in sin as David was, we are born anew of water and the Spirit; and so our will is no longer bound as it was under the reign of sin. Instead we are God’s people. The church. Through whom the love of God is mediated to the whole world.
And so it is with the greatest possible fulfillment this Pentecost that we ascribe all blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might to our God. To the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen.