A myHT Fortress

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Agent Who Brings Your Hero: A Homily for Pentecost

Feast of Pentecost  
27 May 2012
St. John's, Chicago, IL

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Agent Phil Coulson is a national hero.  At least, in Marvel Comics.  But he is not in the limelight. He is not noticed by the public.  Agent Coulson is perfectly happy to do the background and behind-the-scenes work, while Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and the rest end up saving the day.  He himself admires these heroes, and would be the first to tell you not to pay attention to him, but to the Avengers.

In a similar, but infinitely greater way, the Holy Spirit is God.  Yet He is not in the limelight.  He is not noticed much.  He is perfectly happy to do the background and behind-the-scenes work in giving and strengthening and sustaining your faith, as Christ Jesus saves you.  Even though He is equal to God the Son, the Spirit would tell you not to focus your attention on Him,but on Christ alone.

Here we are.  Ten days after the Ascension.  Jesus had told the Eleven to wait in Jerusalem until He sent them the Gift that would come on this very day; the Holy Spirit Himself!  He taught them a great deal about the Spirit, as He prayed and promised them on the night before He died.  Now, it was finally coming to pass.

The children of God were receiving the Spirit of the Lord, and were prophesying, just as the Prophet Joel had foretold.  Through this gift of speaking in languages they had never studied, the Lord was taking His Gospel, and spreading it to great numbers of people, very swiftly!

The Spirit was using this Word of God to breathe new life into vast armies of dry bones, as He took those who had languished, waiting for God to act throughout the centuries.  Now, He had, and now, He resuscitated them, breathing life and immortality to them as a gift through Christ Jesus!

The Lord God provided this Feast of Pentecost in His Old Testament Church to anticipate this very day that the disciples were now experiencing.  This harvest festival was 50 days after Passover.  Now, 50 days after the ultimate Passover, the Holy Spirit was harvesting thousands in faith for the Lord.  No one could see Him or touch Him, but the Holy Spirit was and is working through God's means.

Pentecost would now be remembered for the event it had anticipated; this harvest of faithful, which the Lord reaped through the preaching of St. Peter and the others.  Yes, it was the work of the Spirit, but He does not magically work by Himself.  The Spirit gave words to Peter to preach.  And He worked through the Baptism that washed some 3,000 people into God's kingdom that day. 

There are many who would try to persuade you that the Spirit is working when you can feel it.  That somehow your heart is burning, or you have some calming peace.  Well, He may give you some reassurance like that, but He never promises it. 

What He does promise is to work through the Means of Grace.  He will work through every Baptism to deliver forgiveness, rescue, and salvation.  He will attend the preaching of Christ's Gospel, so that the Word of God is spoken clearly and work through that Law and Gospel to bring forgiveness and life.  He will be at that altar, bringing the body and blood of Christ Jesus to you, that you may eat and drink forgiveness, life, and salvation.

You fall into the same traps.  You can end up talking about the Holy Spirit as if He is your imaginary friend.  You grieve God when you look for this Spirit where He is not to be found.  And you grieve Him when you pay too much attention to the Spirit, rather than Christ!  Don't start looking for gifts that were not promised beyond the generation of the apostles.  Nothing will come of that, except perhaps, the wasting away to dry bones, while you look away from the renewing and refreshing and reviving Word.

Christ is the perfect and ultimate hero, who has rescued you, not from some alien invasion, but from yourself, and the pains of hell that you were courting.  And the Holy Spirit is the agent who brings you into contact with your divine Hero, bringing you to be rescued.  

Thanks be to God, who sends His agent to deliver Jesus to you, that you may be His, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.  Amen.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Up with Jesus: A Homily for Ascension Day

Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord
17 May 2012
Concordia University -- Chicago

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

A few years ago, Disney and Pixar released the film, Up!  In the film, Carl, a widower, sets out on an adventure to keep a promise to his beloved, late wife, Ellie.  He ties a great number of balloons to his  Victorian, until the house rises.  As he and his house ascend from the old neighborhood, and set out for his destination, the lonely widower seems to think he will feel closer to her.

Jesus, as He draws His earthly pilgrimage to a close, sets out on the ultimate adventure to keep His promise to His beloved Bride, the Church.  As He ascends from the Mount of Olives,  and sets out for His heavenly destination, Jesus goes away, in order to actually be closer with her.

There is the blessed paradox.  Jesus goes away, in order to be closer to you.  Now, He in His risen and glorified and ascended body, can keep His promise and be with you always, in His Baptism, preaching, and Holy Supper. 

As He walked this earth before His suffering and death, Jesus was in one place at a time.  He confined Himself to the normal earthly limits that we face, of just being in one location.  Now, after He is risen and ascended, His glorified body is at the right hand of the Father.  The Father is everywhere, and so is His right hand.  And Jesus promises to be wherever His Gospel is proclaimed and where His Sacraments are given. 

In the film, Carl and Ellie had admired an early 20th century adventurer and explorer. In the end, he turned out to be quite deceptive and evil.  Life can be full of Charles Muntzes, looking appealing, seeking your admiration, and promising adventure, but with hearts far from the Lord. 

Do not give in.  Do not fall for the tricks and lies of such deceivers.  Do not seek the Lord where He does not promise to be.   When you stand, gazing into heaven, looking for some bodiless, spiritualized, ghostly Jesus, you ignore Him in the very body where He promises to be located. 

In the holy font, your baptized and ascended Lord comes to you, and washes you into salvation.  From the pulpit, Jesus locates Himself in the preaching of your pastor.  On His holy altar, Christ Jesus places His holy Body and Blood in and with the bread and wine, removing all doubt that the risen and ascended Lord is come in the flesh!  And now that He is ascended, your risen and glorified Lord makes Himself located in these many places, all at once.

Your Old Adam yearns for excitement and adventure, imagining that life should be full of grand and amazing moments like the Ascension.  But remember the truth contained in the note in Ellie's scrap book: "Thank you for the grand adventure."  Carl thought he had not given here any adventures, and was sad that life had been so ordinary.  But really,it was a marvelous adventure. 

Your life in Christ is that, and even more.  When He comes in His Word and Sacraments, it seems so ordinary, and like there is no adventure or excitement.  But the joy of your Ascended Savior is that by coming through such ordinary means, he gives you the grand adventure of forgiveness, life, and salvation, blessing you until this same Jesus that was carried up into heaven, returns and gathers His bride the Church for an eternal, holy, and grand adventure.  Amen.    

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Seven Successes of Supportive Spouses of Stylists

Work around the house
My generation does far more around the house than most men of my Father's generation.  And yet, a stylist needs her husband's increased support.  Whatever a husband can do, from laundry to vacuuming to dishes, will be a help.  If his wife comes home from a Gigi Hill party and discovers a sink full of dishes, the kids still awake and not in their pajamas, and her husband dozing on the sofa, her high from a $1000 party can crash in an instant.

Be easy-going about schedule flexibility
Some of us have jobs and roles which already require us to be flexible.  Personally, as an ordained minister, I always have been aware that my calendar can change, and I may have to balance or shift responsibilities and events.  The key here is for a husband to take his wife's Gigi Hill commitments seriously, treat her appointments, phone calls, meetings, and shows as important, and have a willingness to adjust.

Social media praise and encouragement
There are so many reasons for this.  First, if your wife is doing anything great, of course you want to share that on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever social media you use.  You want people to know that your wife is awesome!  It is ok to brag on her.
Second, the stylist wife will receive comfort and feel support from these posts.  It is a little, unspoken supplement to verbal "I love you's." 

Third, this is awesome advertising!  And it often touches people you don't even realize.  A high school or college classmate, may ask out of the blue about a bag.  Or tease about, "Maybe I should have one of those parties."  The next thing you know, it's not teasing anymore, and a whole new set of contacts is begun.

Real-life praise and encouragement
Of course, virtual praise is not enough.  Husbands need to let their wives know how proud they are of their Gigi Hill success.  She is doing something that can have a drastically profound effect on the family; worries about high school or college tuition, suddenly gone.  Debts being wiped out.  Vacations you have only dreamed of in recent years, really happening.  And the ability to "pay it forward."

A Gigi Hill wife is bringing joy to others, while being a blessing to her own family.  There is just so much to praise.

And the great thing is, none of it is false.  No hypocrisy or phoniness.  The husband is telling his wife how much he treasures her, because of who she is, and now, in addition, for being the great businesswoman and stylist that's she is.

Actually caring enough to learn the product names and be able to identify them
Some people laugh when I can tell them, "This is an Audrey in Enchanted.  That is a Rachel in Fleur de Lis."  But behind the laugh is a smile that I care enough about what my wife does, and they appreciate the support they see.

And it's not just for others.  Gigi husbands, your spouse will know and feel you are interested in what she does.  There were flash cards in our house when her stylist kit was first arriving.  While she was learning the names seriously, I was absorbing by helping her.  Of course, in a house full of bags, it is helpful when your wife asks for her Small Scarlet, and you know what she's asking for, and can actually say, "Which one?" and know the pattern names, too.

Talk and excitedly plan together
Hardly a day goes by without talking Gigi right before we drift off to sleep.  And it isn't just about selfish wish lists, oozing with greed.

Our own motive is simple, and flows from the faith held in our household: We want to give abundantly!  I want to be financially comfortable that I can approach a group of soldiers at a restaurant and pay their bill, to say "Thanks for serving."  We want to be able to support youth conferences, music and theatre at our alma mater, Concordia University, and various mission projects that we are acquainted with.  We want to give abundantly to our church, to help wipe out its debt.  And that is just the beginning of our dreaming to help others.

Granted, we are excited and enjoy the prospects of more frequent traveling, rewards like Maui, Disney vacations, etc., and my wife's addiction to Brighton jewelry and her ambition to get a lime green or hot pink Volkswagen Bug, with eye lashes on the head lights, but giving is the real key to our Gigi motivation

Always remember that you are a partner in your wife's Gigi Hill business.  Your family is invested in a fabulous opportunity to share beautiful, quality products with others, and your wife is enjoying a fun way of making life a little more comfortable for all of you.  Do whatever you can to support her.    At the very least, be sure you are always carrying her Gigi Hill business cards to pass on to others as appropriate situations arise!

Whether you were totally on board at first, or not, you are now a Gigi Hill stylist family, and that has a great impact.  Your wife is "discovering what she can do," and as her time with the business goes on, you will discover that too.  She is living and loving, and is likely a happier, more fulfilled person as she has a positive impact on others.  Live life and love her, and together, as a Gigi Hill supportive marriage, you will "discover what you can do!"