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The Holy Spirit is not holacratic. “Say, what?!”, you may be asking.

 In today’s Wall Street Journal is an article about the clothing e-company, Zappos and their CEO Mr. Tony Hsieh (pronounced “shay”) who has instituted halocracy.  First developedin 2007, it is a ‘new’ non-management style for companys.  The word means literally:  “holos”, or “whole” and the “cracy” ending, as in democracy means “rule of the whole”.  Mr. Hsieh has removed all his company’s managers for the rule, or management by the workers.  The company keeps a display of all the ties they have cut in half because of their “no ties” policy to emphasize their core values including halocracy (cutting my tie would really tick me off!).  So now they have all sorts of “governance meetings” to work through, I guess, governing themselves  to decide how to get the work done, not some manager. This is nothing new. This is communism/socialism in another made up vocab.  Leaderless and eventually they will have a leader and it won’t be holacratic!  From the article, Mr. Hsieh is quoted:

“‘The idea is for each person to selfishly process their own tension’…’The reaction round is sacred space’  (Translation:  Each worker is entitled to his or her opinion and will get a chance to voice it during the part of the meetings when crosstalk and interruptions are forbidden.)”

Mr. Hsieh says this is “sacred”.  The reporter uses the title “The Gospel of ‘Holocracy'”.  There are 15,000 words in the ‘Holacracy’ constitution, and 8,000 in the U.S. Constitution.

No doubt, I will be reading  within the year about some congregation or church body also implementing holacracy. George Bernard Shaw said that socialism is a great idea but it leaves no free evenings. The second part he got right, and the first part he got dead wrong.

There is leading from the whole or from behind.  We are in a democracy but whose founders created the Chief Executive, the President and some historians say based upon the leadership qualities of George Washington. Yes, our nation’s founders were radical,but not that much.  They knew they needed a leader, but not a king to rule by whim, or the mob to rule by pooled ignorance.

Now, you may be asking, what does this have to do with the Holy Spirit?  The Lord leads His people through His Word of Law and Promise.  Jesus leads the way (Hebrews 12: 1-3), has led the way and will (Hebrews 13:8).  The Lord leads and calls leaders, that  is the way it works.  Note that when man invents a ‘new’ way to rule, even the language becomes convulated, as in Mr. Hsieh’s quote above. If you ever tried to read Marxist/Communist literature…well, finally, it is a real snore. Then people have to get their minds right, as in the case at Zappos, by “trainers”.  When I think of trainers I think of someone training dogs.  Jesus was ever leading in His earthly ministry. He lead the Way into Jerusalem for our salvation and in that salvation the Lord leads through His Word. He sends the Holy Spirit to lead by convicting of sin (John 16:8),and  by helping (John 14:16) and teaching us Christ ( John 14:26) and He calls pastors and ministers to shepherd the flock to the Word of God.  We are educated not trained. We need God’s Word, not men aping God’s Word into their own version of “sacred”. Only the Lord is sacred and makes us holy through faith in Christ.

This prayer is one of the post-Communion prayers in the Lutheran Service Book:

O God the Father, the fountain and source of all goodness, who in loving-kindness sent Your only-begotten Son into the flesh, we thank You that for His sake You have given us pardon and peace in this Sacrament, and we ask You not to forsake Your children but always to rule our hearts and minds by Your Holy Spirit that we may be enabled constantly to serve You through Jesus Christ and forever who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

 

The New Testament Reading for this Day in the Daily Lectionary: The Parable of the Ten Minas

11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. 12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ 14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ 15 When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. 16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ 17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ 18 And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ 19 And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ 20 Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ 22 He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ 24 And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ 25 And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ 26 ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 27 But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’”

Commentary:  The parable is prompted by the expectation that the kingdom of God would appear right then and there.  Our Lord taught this parable in between inviting Himself to Zacchaeus’ home and the Triumphal Entry.  In the former He is accused of eating with sinners.  In the latter He will die for sinners, atoning for their sins.  In the former, He is the King at the table of a sinner, in the latter, He enters as King in lowly pomp to die.  Verse 11 is clear that the crowds supposed that the glorious Kingdom was about to appear. This parable in the Lord’s response.  In the parable Jesus is the nobleman who “…went into a far country”.  The “far country” put me in mind of the famous soliloquy by Hamlet who is contemplating suicide and so death and wonders,

who would burdens bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will

Hamlet would rather bear the burdens of this life than to go to that “undiscover’d country”, from which “no traveler returns”.  Jesus from chapter 9 has been on the journey to Jerusalem for one purpose: to go into that “undiscover’d country”, not bearing His burdens, for He has no sin and so no death, but ours, to the grave.  He has returned.  And gist of the parable is that He will return again, this time from heaven, to give an accounting of what we did with His minas.  What do  the “minas”, these silver coins, signify?   The servants in the parable are clear, “…your  mina has made ten minas more…”.  Note:  it was not the servant that increased the mina, but the mina did, that is, the Lord’s utter gift of Word and Sacrament, His riches, that is, the “unsearchable riches”(Ephesians 3:8) of His grace for burdened sinners.   His grace is not to be hidden away (verse 20).  His light is not to be hidden away (St. Matthew 5:16). Those who mock and despise the nobleman, the only Noble Man ever to walk upon the earth, and His grace,  it would have been better for Sodom, Tyre and Sidon than those who reject His disciples bearing the minas of His grace! (Luke 10:12;Luke 10:  14).

Even at the Ascension, the disciples are still wondering about an eternal kingdom out of this world of sin and death (Acts 1: 6-8) .  It won’t happen, and such ‘eternal kingdoms’ have been tried again and again.  The Lord will return and in the meantime, people need to hear of so great a salvation of the Lord who died and rose, a kingdom like no other on earth!  He rules not to end life but to give His.  His  rule appears most unexpectedly: by His forgiveness as He is risen and ascended.

The riches of His grace, His Atonement, His paradise will be enlivened with the fire of the Holy Spirit.   

O God, Who vast pleased to send on Thy disciples the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, in the burning fire of Thy love, grant to Thy people to be fervent in the unity of faith; that evermore abiding in Thee, they may be found both steadfast in faith and active in work ; through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages.

Gospel Reading:  St. John 17:11b–19

You may remember some of the spy movies during the Cold War, when some American crosses over into the Soviet Union and a brusque guard commands, Let me see your papers.  Having actually experienced that back then in a Lutheran college trip to Russia and Eastern Europe in the ‘70s, I can verify that is no fiction. We saw Soviet soldiers in the middle of the night on the train into Russia literally rifling through our train seats looking for contraband, such as Bibles and Fascist literature.  For all my laissez-faire progressivism, I began to realize that we had crossed the border from freedom into slavery.  Jesus sends out His Apostles fully aware that He is sending them into slave lands.  The entirety of John 17 is the Lord’s Prayer to the Father in the Holy Spirit for His apostles.  He prays, 

 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” 

Jesus prays they be kept from the evil one, because the world is God’s good creation but  without faith, hope and love,it became the “world” and has as it’s ruler  the devil.  Jesus sends them into a world that has hated them.  Too long too many churches have wanted to be loved by world, accepted by the world, adopting their morals, life styles of the rich and famous…it is the stuff of the news and the world pats those churches on the back and says that’s nice, go sit over there.  Too long have churches wanted to hate the world and worldly people.  Jesus did not send the Apostles into the world to hate the people in it, but even to love your enemies and pray for those who persecuted you.  Jesus died for His enemies, us.  “When the devil is mocked, he sheds the blood of the mockers. When God was mocked, He shed His blood on the mockers.” (Pr. Hans Fiene).  

All of John chapter 17 is literally the Lord’s Prayer.  He prayed this in the night in which He was betrayed.  The prayer we call the Lord’s Prayer is actually the disciples’ prayer, the Church’s prayer to her ascended Lord, the head of the Church, as He taught us.  Jesus knew He was sending His apostles into the world and He knew exactly the kind of world He was sending them. He knew the stratagems of the evil one, from along time ago in a garden to a desert fasting to a garden called Gethsemane. Here in John 17, He prayed they be kept from the evil one. He taught us to pray, Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from the evil one. 

The evil one desires to blur the border between the Church and the world with our complicity.  He first did so at the border around a tree, of the knowledge of good and evil, as if the knowledge of the Lord were not enough.  He blurred it by asking, Did God say?  Eve and Adam were complicit and said, Yes to the devil’s lie as he misrepresent the truth of God’s Word. The line was blurred and sin entered the world and made the world worldly. 

Jesus sent the apostles into this dark world for the life of the world, with the light of His Word of His death and resurrection, if you forgive the sins of any they are forgive, if you retain the sins of any they are retain.  He sent them out with message of repentance and forgiveness, of washing in Holy Baptism in the Name of the Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all He has commanded and Lo, He says, I am with you always even unto the end of the age. And the devil like those Russian soldiers will rifle through your heart, telling you do not believe enough, have not done enough, and as Luther, say, I know that devil but I have a mighty Lord who died and rose and ascended for me and He is with me, even to the end. 

When a church begins to look, act and feel like the age we live in, like the world, then it is lost all over again.  When a church walks the counsel of  the wicked from the counsel of so many TV shows, blogs and magazines, such as, “follow your heart”, “you are your own best friend”, “look out for number 1”, “be all that you can be”, then its bound to fall.  When a church stands in the way of the sinners, then its way is the dead end of hell. When a church seats in the seat of the scornful denying Scriptural truth with worldly theologians then it will become fat and indolent in its conceits. When a church walks the wide and easy path, it will lead to destruction. Walking, sitting and standing then that church is on a road to nowhere.  Our delight is in His Law, in His Word, every Word of the Bible. When crossing the threshold of a church building, however religious it may look, into a building where the Word is not preached in all it’s saving purity and soundness, that church will only extend worldly darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great the darkness will be, warned our Lord. And you have beheld the light of His Word, clearly Law and Promise and the light of  the knowledge of God shining in the face of Christ.

The Lord clearly sends out the apostles with the understanding that you are going into the world, the cosmos, which is against God, in the world, but not of the world, into slave lands.    No one will say explicitly, Let me see your papers, but the world will do so implicitly:  “Are you trying to impose your morality?”  “Who do you think you are?  God almighty?!”  “Hey, I do good!”  No, we are not angels but neither are we beasts (Fr. Richard John Neuhaus), as we are the Lord’s own in Baptism. 

We have no papers to show, no certificate from Synodical headquarters that we have attained a certain level of holiness, and we are reluctant to show our good works because they are not even our own…we can only show the Cross, Jesus. Christ is our freedom to be His servants. Thomas More was King Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor.  More did not go along with his King’s lust for a divorce.  As More said,  we are “the king’s good servants, but God’s first.” And we are the king’s better servants because we are God’s first (Fr. Neuhaus). 

Jesus says, “And you will be my witnesses.”  Paul wrote of the apostles that we are Christ’s ambassadors.  Yet, ambassadors of a disputed sovereignity. Jesus sent out the Apostles to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the end of the earth, across so many borders, languages, cultures.  All three of today’s lessons are about witness and testimony. Jesus told the Apostles: You are my witnesses into the world. The Church and her people follows His outstretched arm. Ours is not to master the public but to make public the Master. Someone may be dying to hear a good word this week, tell of Christ, give your witness when asked for a defense of the hope that is in you, but do with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

The odds are stacked against the church maybe in order to show from whom comes the power of Pentecost. As a 2nd century Christian wrote a Roman official about the Christians: 

 “They reside in their respective countries, but only as aliens. They take part in everything as citizens and put up with everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their home, and every home a foreign land.” 

All three lessons refer to prayer.  The apostles, and Mary and Jesus’ brothers between Ascension and Pentecost, next Sunday, were 9 days in prayer, praying the Psalms.  John wrote His congregation and encouraged them to pray that they will be heard. Thy Kingdom Come has  been answered when the Lord takes hold of your heart through His Word of His forgiveness crossing the border with His mercy.  But it has not been answered fully, but it will be.  Then the Gospel:  the Lord’s prayer.  But the Lord did not just pray once for the Church.  In the 1,933 year of His sitting at the right hand of the Father, If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. It is not our prayers alone but in union with the Lord’s Prayer, “interceding for us”, the ascended Lord, at the right hand of the Father which is every  where His Word and people are.   “And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

1 Corinthians 3: 16-17:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

The “you” in these verses is the second person plural, as “y’all”.  The Church is the Body of Christ filled with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:  12-13) and the Christian’s body. The word “temple” in the Greek is naos which designated the Holy of Holies.  The Temple can be destroyed by desecrating the Temple with the practice of sinning without contrition and repentence. The Corinthians were ‘hooking-up’ with prostitutes and justifying themselves that this was okay.  The ravages of sexually transmitted diseases, though not mentioned in 1 Corinthians, were known back then, and yet pales in comparison to the spiritual ravaging.  Such sin desecrates the Temple, body and soul.  The Apostle Paul is emphatic in his Gospel statement: “…you yourselves are that temple”.  We have been made sacred by the blood of Christ preached into these bodies and souls by the Holy Spirit through the Word of the Cross.  

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6)

“…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1)

Below is a quote from Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Temple of the Holy Ghost” and is a great illustration of the Scripture above.     The quote is from the beginning of the story in which a mother and her daughter go to pick-up  two younger female cousins from their convent school, Mount St. Scholastica. The girls are into boys and clothes and are quite silly.  On the car ride, in the back seat, the two cousins  keep on giggling as they keep on calling each other, “Temple One” and “Temple Two”.  When the daughter and her cousins are conversing about someone else, the Mother has finally had enough with this silliness coming from the back seat:         

                 “…she said, “That’ll be about enough out of you,” and changed the subject. She asked them why they called each other Temple One and Temple Two and this sent them off into gales of giggles. Finally they managed to explain. Sister Perpetua, the oldest nun at the Sisters of Mercy in Mayville, had given them a lecture on what to do if a young man should—here they laughed so hard they were not able to go on without going back to the beginning—on what to do if a young man should—they put their heads in their laps—on what to do if —they finally managed to shout it out—if he should “behave in an ungentlemanly manner with them in the back of an automobile.” Sister Perpetua said they were to say, “Stop sir! I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost!” and that would put an end to it. The child sat up off the floor with a blank face. She didn’t see anything so funny in this…

            Her mother didn’t laugh at what they had said. “I think you girls are pretty silly,” she said. “After all, that’s what you are—Temples of the Holy Ghost.”

The two of them looked up at her, politely concealing their giggles, but with astonished faces as if they were beginning to realize that she was made of the same stuff as Sister Perpetua.  Miss Kirby preserved her set expression and the child thought, it’s all over her head anyhow. I am a Temple of the Holy Ghost, she said to herself, and was pleased with the phrase. It made her feel as if somebody had given her a present.”

O Lord, stir up the hearts of Your faithful people to welcome and joyfully receive Your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, that He may find in us a fit dwelling place;  who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Today  is also the 7th Sunday of Easter, the Sunday always in between Ascension and Pentecost.  The Gospel reading is St. John 17:11b–19    and these verses were the basis of the sermon I wrote and preached:

 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”

This reminded me of  The Letter to Diognetus.   Diognetus, was  a pagan of high social or political rank and the author was a Christian and not named. It seems that this unnamed Christian was asked to give a defense of the Christian faith and Church to a Roman nobleman. We are in the world, yet not of the world. As the eastern Orthodox begin their Liturgy:  “Blessed is the kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.”  It says to me that by His grace we have been “transferred” (Colossians 1: 12-14) into His Kingdom in the midst of the world and in Christ, we pray for the Holy Spirit for the life of the world in the preaching of Christ.  This late 2nd Century letter is a clear defense of the faith and this letter is becoming more relevant in the 21st century day by day, yet it is also a word of encouragement for the Church today besieged within and without.:

“Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind by either country, speech, or customs;  the fact is, they nowhere settle in cities of their own; they use no peculiar language; they cultivate no eccentric mode of life. Certainly, this creed of theirs is no discovery due to some fancy or speculation of inquisitive men;  nor do they, as some do, champion a doctrine of human origin. Yet while they dwell in both Greek and non-Greek cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and conform to the customs of the country in dress, food, and mode of life in general, the whole tenor of their way of living stamps it as worthy of admiration and admittedly extraordinary.  They reside in their respective countries, but only as aliens. They take part in everything as citizens and put up with everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their home, and every home a foreign land.  They marry like all others and beget children; but they do not expose their offspring.  Their (food) they spread for all, but not their bed. They find themselves in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their days on earth, but hold citizenship in heaven.  They obey the established laws, but in their private lives they rise above the laws. They love all men, but are persecuted by all. They are unknown,  yet are condemned; they are put to death, but it is life that they receive.  They are poor, and enrich many;  destitute of everything, they abound in everything.  They are dishonored, and in their dishonor find their glory. They are calumniated, and are vindicated.  They are reviled, and they bless;  they are insulted and render honor.  Doing good, they are penalized as evildoers; when penalized, they rejoice because they are quickened into life.

O King of glory, Lord of hosts, uplifted in trumph far above all heavens, leave us not without consolation but send us the Spirit of truth whom You promised from the Father;  for You live and reign with Him and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

‘And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?

New Testament Reading: Luke 18:1-17

The Parable of the Persistent Widow

‘And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3  And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary! ‘For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, ‘yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”‘ ‘And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. ‘And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 11 tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will find faith on earth?”

“…everything has been heard, even though one does not know what has been heard. Even when Christ asked for His life, He was heard.  But the flesh does not recognize how the hearing takes place. Therefore every prayer is heard, and whatever we ask for happens, even though we do not recognize in what ways it happens… God sometimes hurls us into greater evils in order that He may put an end to the evils. And thus He has heard our prayer.” (Luther)

O Lord, almighty and everlasting God, You have commanded us to pray and have promised to hear us. Mercifully grant that Your Holy Spirit may direct and govern our hearts in all things that we may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of  Your name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Within the Novena

The Acts of the Apostles 1:  …they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. 13 And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers,(emphasis my own)

In the Roman Catholic Church, a “novena” is any designated 9 day period of prayers for “special intentions”. “Novena” is a Latin cognate of the number 9 from the number of the days of prayers  from the Ascension Day to Pentecost:  nine days.  The Apostles, the women, Jesus’ brothers and the Mother of Jesus “…with one accord devoting themselves to prayer”.  “Novena” describes this special period prayer before the 3rd great Feast Day of the Church, Pentecost, the first two being Christmas and Easter.  Christmas centers on God the Father sending His only-begotten Son to be born of Mary and fathered by Joseph.  Easter centers on God the Son.  Pentecost on the Holy Spirit poured out onto the Church in her mission to follow the Savior’s outstretched arm as His witnesses, “…  in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1: 8b)  In, with and under the Name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit the Church lives and points to Christ.

We are within the novena before Pentecost.  The world needs, “…light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).   We need to pray for Christ’s Bride the Church.  The Lord sent out the Apostles into the world. He full well knew what they would be against.  He sent them out into the world but not to be of the world nor “out of this world”, so that the world hear the saving Word. He sends the Church to pray, so let us say…

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son, that by His coming we may be enabled to serve You with pure minds;  through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her,
And for her life He died.

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