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Private Confession: By Appointment

God Help Us

April 24, 2021 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
April 25, 2021
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Easter 4
God Help Us

This morning let us consider the Collect for the day as our text:

“Almighty God, merciful Father, since you have wakened from death the Shepherd of your sheep, grant us your Holy Spirit that when we hear the voice of our Shepherd we may know him who calls us each by name and follow where he leads; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen”

The Collect is a short prayer, employed in western worship to “collect” the thoughts of the particular Sunday; as well as to gather the minds and hearts of the Faithful into a single prayer that they can pray “with one voice” – and what a prayer it is!

The first thing we should notice about today’s Collect is the addressee. “Almighty God, merciful Father.”

Note that the church does not waste its energy seeking help where none can be found, or pin its hope on “other gods,” or mere mortals in whom there is no help. Not at all! Because Sacred Scripture says, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to trust in men; it is better to trust in the Lord than to trust in Princes.” (Ps. 118)

Instead, taught by her Lord Jesus Christ, and emboldened by his redeeming blood, and his golden teachings, the church goes straight to the font and source of all goodness; all blessing; all redemption and salvation – to God the Father Almighty who is filled with mercy for us, his people!

But who is this God?

Is it nature?

Is it “mother earth” as pagans the world over celebrated this past Thursday?

Is your dog, your god?

Or is it those kind and gentle members of the American Indian tribes who knew no warfare, bloodshed, or disease, but lived in UTOPIA until evil white Europeans invaded their land?

Or should we be praying, as some even so-called Christian religions assert, to God the Parent, or God the Mother?

None of the above!

But the God whom we liturgize is the God identified at the end of the Collect itself. He is the Blessed Holy Trinity. The One Almighty God. The One Merciful Father who we know by the love he demonstrated when he gave his One and Only Son to be our Savior, our Good Shepherd; and in whose house we will dwell forever.

Is our God simply a notion? A God created by Man to make him feel good? No! But our God has the ultimate credentials as the church proclaims at the opening of liturgy.

“Our help is in the name of the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.”

Think how big that that little line is!

There are many great builders in this world. Giants! who by their mighty minds, and by their blood, sweat, tears and risks have advanced the world in ways that people even 100 years ago could not have imagined in their wildest of dreams.

If Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX has his way – and he is enough of a giant that he just might do it – by the year 2030 we will all travel in driverless cars, powered by solar panels that never need refueling.

In connection with this he is also building a huge power grid with solar roofs on every structure and says that one day soon, the whole world will be powered by the sun; and that there will be no more need of wind, coal, oil, or nuclear power.

But consider this. If the world really is many billions of years old (which is more an article of faith than science), then it took man billions of years, working his brain and his fingers to the bone to do what God did “in the beginning” with a single utterance: “Let there be light!” And there was light!

Yes, our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

But to date none of the great minds of the world, and some of them are truly great! has created as much as a single star to God’s innumerable.

But the Collect the church prays today in a few succinct words, springs up from the depths of the earth-bound heart, pierces through the clouds, the sky the galaxy, and through however much “space” there is in “space”, and finds its way to the 7th heaven, to the throne of our God, and reaches him who is as our Collect says brimming over with power and mercy for us.

Speaking of doing all things it is our Blessed God and Father who not only created all things visible and invisible, and richly sustains them but who, when woman succumbed to the Father of lies, (or should we say the “mother of lies”); and Adam abdicated his role as pastor of the church in Eden, God did not scrap his whole creation, and start all over again.

But instead St. Paul informs us that, “In the fullness of time God sent forth his Son made of woman, made under Law, to redeem those under Law, that we might receive the full rights as sons.” (Gal. 4:4-5)

And again: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom. 5:6)

And again, “He was handed over for our trespasses, and raised again for our justification.” (Rom. 4:25).

Yes, Beloved, because Jesus lives, we too shall live. Sin has lost its power to condemn us as St. Paul writes, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1 ff)

And so in today’s Collect the church prays that her ears will be attuned to one voice, and one voice only, the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

He is the one who has received us in the still waters of baptism, who anoints our heads with the oil that is the Holy Spirit. The same Lord and God who prepares a Eucharistic table of his Flesh and Blood before us while our foes stand on the outside, looking in with jealousy and rage.

And hear what the Greek version of Psalm 23 says about his Cup that we drink at this altar. Not only that it overflows, but that it intoxicates us! It makes our hearts merry. (Ps. 104:15) It makes us giddy with gladness so that no enemy, no sin, no death, no guilt, no grave error we have EVER made can rob us of the “joy of our salvation.”

As St. John says in today’s epistle, “Beloved, if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows all things.” And so don’t worry about forgiving yourself. That is as meaningless, as it is beside the point. But rather hear, believe and receive the absolution of the Lord’s Resurrection that justifies all sinners, and gives you rest.

Because Jesus is not a hired hand, but the Lamb of God, the Owner and Brother of the sheep – he doesn’t run away when he sees the wolf coming. But he goes to war instead, with his rod and his staff, which is to say his cross and his resurrection to defeat every enemy; and to set us in the paths of righteousness. A path that he himself trod, deep and sturdy, so that those who are on it will never swerve, or lose their way. We are those people.

Where does the path lead?

First stop is Calvary which we experience in baptism, by which we are sacramentally crucified and die with Christ. And which we experience each day as we deny ourselves the fleeting pleasures of sin, and take up our cross to follow the Good Shepherd.

The final stop is when we breathe our last. When we return to the ground from which we came. When we enter the grave only to find that it is the gate to heaven.

This is our existence as Christians because God given us his Holy Spirit, who enables us the hear the voice of our Good Shepherd, and follow him where he leads. To the house of the Lord, forever. Amen.