Pentecost 12A 2017
Fr. Dale Matson
My homily is based on a portion of our Epistle lesson from Romans Chapter 11 and our Psalm.
"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how inscrutable His ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to Him
that He might be repaid?” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” (33-36)
This group of verses is referred to as a Doxology. A Doxology is a song of praise.
I am reminded of Martin Luther’s teaching regarding the first article of the Apostle’s Creed in his Small Catechism.
The First Article: Creation
'I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.'
"What does this mean? I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.”
Every Sunday we say or sing several Doxologies. At the beginning of our service we sing or say the Great Doxology, the "Gloria in excelsis Deo" which is Latin for Glory to God in the highest. In our bulletin we shorten the title to the “Gloria”. The hymn begins with the words that the angels sang when the birth of Christ was announced to shepherds in Luke 2:14.
In our Psalm today we hear, “I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart; * before the gods I will sing your praise. I will bow down toward Your holy temple and praise Your Name, * because of your love and faithfulness; For You have glorified Your Name *and Your word above all things. When I called, You answered me; *You increased my strength within me. All the kings of the earth will praise You, O LORD, * when they have heard the words of Your mouth."
At the end of our Psalm today and every Sunday we say another Doxology, the Gloria Patri. “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.”
We sing a Doxology every Sunday before the liturgy of the altar. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him all ye heavenly hosts praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
In the Great Thanksgiving portion of our liturgy we have another Doxology. We sing the Sanctus (latin for Holy) before the prayer of consecration. This “unending hymn” is perhaps one of the most enduring, ancient songs of praise and combines verses from Scripture. (See Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8, Matthew 21:9, Psalm 118:26.)
There are doxologies throughout the New Testament. Here are more examples.
Eph. 3:20-21 – “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
1 Tim. 6:15b-16 – “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”
Jude 24-25 – “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
Rev. 5:12, 13 – “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing! …To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
To thank and praise God takes the focus off us. It means that we are giving God the credit for what we have done and who we are. God provides the motivation, the will and the strength for our good works done in faith.
It is not just our selfish pride that causes us to place ourselves on the throne at the center of our universe. It can also be sickness, pain and depression. When our thoughts are ruled by our emotions, we no longer have the Mind of Christ.
Steve Martin the comedian once said that you couldn’t play the banjo and be unhappy or angry at the same time. It is also true of praise and thanks to God. When we thank and praise God, we are only responding in obedience to God and demonstrating our love for God. We are not just God’s children. We are His subjects in His Kingdom, the Kingdom of God.
So what is this praise and thanksgiving about in our church and in our province? I will state that God the Holy Spirit moved afresh on the mainline churches in the early 1960s. The late Dennis Bennett an Episcopal priest was one of the early leaders in the Neo-Pentecostal movement also better known as the Charismatic Movement. Today in our ACNA, we have a blend of Evangelical, Charismatic and Anglo-Catholic members. Our late Bishop, John David Schofield considered himself to be a mix of all three.
Probably the last place one would expect a fresh infilling of God the Holy Spirit was the liturgical churches yet, the Anglican/Episcopal, Lutheran and later, the Roman Catholic Churches were some of the first churches to experience a contemporary renewal. This Neo-Pentecostal renewal began in the early 1960’s and remains evident in those same churches today. The Charismatic renewal has had less impact on the reformed churches like the Baptists and I believe this is possibly related to their dispensational approach to Scripture. They believe that God acted differently and more powerfully in the early church.
I was a Missouri Lutheran in the mid 1980’s and was struck with the wording of a lesser-known creed accepted by those churches. The Creed of St. Athanasius (Quicunque Vult) was recited only once a year in our congregation on Trinity Sunday. The following passage in particular resonated with me and I read it over several times. “And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other; none is greater, or less than another; But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal.” I had been thinking a lot lately about God the Holy Spirit and why Jesus seemed to be the only focus of my brothers and sisters in our congregation. I believe most of my brothers and sisters in our congregation were mature Christians filled with the “Fruits of the Spirit” but they were into living out Luther’s second couplet in his explanation of the Creed. They focused on Serving and Obeying God but less so the Thanking and Praising part of Luther’s first couplet. Most would acknowledge the “Gifts of the Spirit” but none sought out those gifts. I believe they were afraid to let go and let God. Most thought of parishioners having “Talents” but not supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.
I heard that Pastor Erwin Prange from Minnesota would be preaching at Pastor Ferd Barr’s church near Milwaukee. Pastor Barr was the only Lutheran Church Missouri Synod pastor who boldly dared to be Charismatic in Milwaukee, the heart of the LCMS. Reverend Prange spoke about Baptism of the Holy Spirit and his experiences as a Charismatic pastor and with a deliverance ministry as a consultant to a local psychiatric hospital. When psychiatrists would have a patient they were unable to treat, they would call in pastor Prange as an exorcist. I also read one of his books, A Time To Grow. I was seeking this experience within my faith tradition guided by Scripture and trustworthy leaders yet there was some apprehension. Here is an irony about Charismatics. If you are a Charismatic, you are also an Evangelical. You believe in the truth and preeminence of Scripture. When Scripture advocates seeking the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, in obedience you seek the Gifts. At the same time there was pressure from others not to seek the Gifts of the Spirit. A local Baptist pastor told me, “Speaking in tongues is of Satan.” Fr. Bennett was required to step down as rector of his church.
I had a cautious yet irresistible desire for this “second blessing” and privately studied Scripture with many examples of both water and Holy Spirit baptism. I wanted a deeper relationship with God the Holy Spirit and knew in my heart that it would not be a false path. After all, the LCMS was not a dispensational church and didn’t God give good gifts to those that asked? (Luke 11:13, Matt. 7:11).
As a member of a home bible study mostly populated by Roman Catholics, I asked to be prayed over for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I trusted those around me and stepped out in faith that God would provide. Following the prayer, I simply said two words. I did not know what the words meant but repeated them in my head phonetically. I had a Young’s Analytical Concordance at home and looked them up. I had said “Zebina (acquired) Shekinah (God’s glorious presence). I had spoken in faith the words Zebina Shekinah and did not know at the time that they meant that I had experienced God’s glorious presence. It was the beginning of a private prayer tongue that I have used for over 25 years.
My friend and spiritual advisor Morton Kelsey once told me that ecumenism was the heart of the Charismatic experience. I think it rather ironic that Fr. Kelsey wrote a book on speaking in tongues but confessed to me that he had never been blessed with the gift of tongues himself in an hour interview I conducted with him.
The Charismatic movement was not just ecumenical. In short, the Charismatics invoked (invited) the Holy Spirit back into the church. It was a fresh infilling with a contagious zeal. Praise and thanksgiving were a big part of the worship services with supplemental songbooks that included contemporary hymns. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were manifested. The Word of God was confirmed with signs following (Mark 16:20).
I believe the ACNA, in her outreach to other denominations is very much influenced by the Charismatic elements within our province.
I must end on a note that is an unfortunate reality for Charismatics. There was a great deal of misunderstanding and divisiveness associated with the Charismatic renewal. The Charismatic movement was ecumenical since the Holy Spirit is a God of Unity but the human side of it was at times divisive and literally split congregations in two. I primarily blame the Charismatics for giving the appearance that they were a special class of Christians. If only, the fruits of the Holy Spirit had also been manifested. We should have memorized 1 Cor. 13 before we preached 1 Cor. 12.
Luther’s exhortation to “Thank and Praise” and “Serve and Obey” are wonderful godly guidelines for all Christians. I believe it was the Charismatic movement empowered by God the Holy Spirit of the early 1960s that put the Thanks and Praise afresh into the contemporary church. However, spiritual renewal is often rediscovering what we already have. Our liturgy is full of thanks and praise.
As St. John states in Revelation (7:12) “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” And amen.