THE 6TH SUNDAY OF EASTER AD 2023
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.  So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.  Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, "What does this babbler wish to say?" Others said, "He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities"—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.  And they took hold of him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?  For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean."  Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.  For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, 'To the unknown god.' What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.  The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,  nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,  that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,  for
" 'In him we live and move and have our being';
as even some of your own poets have said,
" 'For we are indeed his offspring.'
 Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.  The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent,  because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
1 Peter 3:13-22
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?  But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled,  but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;  yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,  in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,  because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.  Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,  even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
 "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.  In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
In my cupboard there’s a platter, not a particularly fancy platter, not even a very large one. It is old, most of the pattern is worn off of the edges, it’s been well used over many, many,years. That platter has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. Many a time over it appeared on the table loaded with cold cuts, pork chops, or roast beef. It wasn’t the fancy feast platter. It was just the every day one, but it is so special to me because it was my Oma’s platter. Every time it sits on our table, it reminds me of her and her love and care for her family, that was always so concerned that they be well fed.
Love keeps stuff. We all know it. most of us do it. When we lose someone we love, we want to hold on to something, to remind us, to somehow keep them close. I remember how when my Opa died my Oma wore his old sweater vest for years afterward. I still have one of them myself tucked away in my closet. I take it out every now and then to hold close to my face and smell and remember the man who held my hand as we walked to the Saturday market in Kitchener - the man that I loved, who was so dear to my heart. As he loved me, I loved him. Yea, love keeps stuff.
If you love me you will keep my commandments. Jesus is going on to the cross. He is going to suffer and die. He is leaving the world. And so He tells His disciples, “If you love me hold on to my stuff. If you love me keep, hold onto, cherish, observe my commandments. Do the things that I have given you to do and I will come to you, I will manifest myself to you, I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age. He promises that even though He is leaving the world He will not leave them as orphans. He will come to them. The world will no longer see Him but they will if they hold on to His stuff.
Now, here we can see beloved that Jesus’ stuff is pretty powerful stuff. My grandmother’s platter and my grandfather’s vest are things that remind me, that tie me in some small way to them, because they were their things, but these things don’t bring them to me. My grandparents aren’t present with me in these things, but Jesus says that the things that He has commanded will bring Him to the disciples. He will be present with them in them, and not only Him but the Spirit and the Father as well. The world won’t see Him, because the world will not keep His stuff. They will not hold on to what He has commanded.
If you love me you will keep my commandments. That’s what this place is all about, beloved, keeping the things of Jesus for the love of Him. Here in this place we cherish, hold on to, observe, keep, do, what Jesus has told us to do. In this place we hold on to His Word, we live the life He has given us to live, we baptize, we forgive, we eat and drink just as He told us to do. We learn to love one another so that in loving our brothers and sisters we might love Him. In this place we hold on to Jesus’ stuff and true to His Word, He does not leave us as orphans. He is with us. He pours out His Spirit on us. He brings us to the Father and He gives us life, so that as He lives we might live also.
The world, I don’t need to tell you isn’t too keen on Jesus’ stuff and so isn’t too keen on this place either. The world did all it could to snuff Jesus out after all. They dragged Him up a hillside and nailed Him to a cross. They hated Him. They hated His stuff. They wanted to remove any memory of Him from the face of the earth. They didn’t succeed of course. They couldn’t. Jesus was the Son of God after all. The world can and never will overcome Him. His is and always will be the victory. The rebellion that began in Eden is going to carry on. The world will continue to rage against the Lord, but the day will come when it will all come to an end, when the Lord will reign in victory over all.
Nonetheless you need to be on your guard, beloved. If the world can’t overcome Jesus, it does want to overcome you - at any price it wants to tear you away from the Lord. The world knows that if it can get you away from Jesus’ stuff it will get you away from Jesus. It knows that if it can lure you away from His things than its got you. It doesn’t play fair of course. It will use every underhanded dirty trick to get a hold of your heart. It’s no accident that in these days there’s more and more stuff that’s happening right at the time when Jesus’ stuff is here for His disciples. The world doesn’t have any problem stooping to any level to get you away from here. It will use good and wholesome things, good gifts from God, to try and draw you away.
Family, fun, work, play, rest and relaxation, yea, they are all good gifts from God - gifts given for our blessing, gifts to enjoy, gifts to rejoice in, but every idol after all is made from some gift that God has given us, whether its carved out of wood or stone, covered in gold, or formed out of our children or grandchildren. As a young person I felt I was closest to God out in creation, paddling my canoe on a still lake at sunset. It was good. It was beautiful, but it was not Jesus’ stuff. I could praise God in my canoe but He didn’t manifest Himself there on the water. I didn’t hear Him there. I didn’t see Him there. I relaxed. I rested, but there was no “Peace be with you there.” There was no forgiveness of sins. Life was there but not the eternal one.
“If you love me you will keep my commandments, you will hold on to my stuff,” the Old Jesus says. It’s the place where I’ll be there for you, so that you will not feel orphaned, so that you will not feel alone, so that you might know that I have truly risen, so that you might know that I am with you, so that you might know that you are forgiven, so that you might know that though you die yet shall you live. Yes, there’s a lot at stake with Jesus’ stuff, not something to fool around with, not something to take lightly, not something to easily set aside. If we hold on to other’s stuff how much more so should we hold on to Jesus’s stuff that makes Him really present, that brings us the Spirit of God and unites us to the Father? If we hold on to the stuff that comes to us through death how much more so should we hold on to the things that give us life?
Love keeps stuff, but even more importantly for poor miserable sinners like you and me love gives stuff. And when it comes to keeping Jesus’ stuff, it’s a very good thing that He has asked the Father to give us a Helper because we sure can use one. For truly we can never stand in any kind of pride that we have kept things better than others, we have no place to look down on all of those who have left Jesus’ stuff behind, whose love has grown cold and so they do not come around anymore. If it were not for the Helper we would not be here either. Without the Holy Spirit we would not hold on to anything, cherish anything, keep anything. He and He alone is the reason that we are here today to see Jesus in His gifts.
And so, beloved, as we see the world at work to turn us away, as we see our own broken hearts and how faithless they can be to Jesus, as we see how truly feeble our hold is on Him, as we think of all those that we love who are not with us today who have left behind Jesus things, our only cry can be, “Lord have mercy.” Be faithful to us dear Lord even when we are faithless to you. Be devoted to us even when we fail in our devotion to you. Be there for us … dear Lord … even when we are not there for you. Don’t ever give give up on me and those that I love, I pray you, because without you there is no hope. Love us I pray Lord that we may so learn to love you. Yes, that must be our prayer, beloved, and thanks be to God the answer comes to us today here in Jesus’ stuff. “Do not be afraid He says, I will not leave you and all those that you love who have wandered from me as orphans, behold I am here for you today, in my body and in my blood. Come to me, receive my mercy, receive my grace, receive my forgiveness, receive my life, and live even as I live. Put your trust in me for yourselves and all those who weigh heavily on your hearts and know that I will not fail you. Amen.