Sunday, April 28, 2013

Easter 5 Sermon

Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) – Amen +
          There are times when I think, “You know, it would have been just wonderful if Jesus had just stayed on earth and ruled as an earthly king.”  There are times I wish I could see mighty miracles and wish I could pull fish out of the sea at Christ’s command – where I wish all the things I see in the gospel were happening right now in the same way that they were then.  If only Jesus were here running the show, living in a great big house in Jerusalem, then everything would be so much better – certainly better than wars and violence and storms and all the things that go on in this life.

          Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send Him to you.  And when I start thinking that way, God through His Word reminds me that I can be flat out dumb sometimes.  Okay, it would probably be more scriptural sounding to say that God reminds me that my ways are not His ways, and where was I when He laid the foundations of the earth.  Same basic thing.  Sometimes we look at this world here, and we see how messed up and nasty it is, and we think if only Jesus were here running around on earth, everyone would place nicely.  We forget that they didn’t play nicely while Jesus was in the middle of His earthly ministry.  John the Baptist, Jesus’ own cousin, gets beheaded while Jesus is around – well, I mean, they even put Jesus to death.  Now, Jesus could have brought about the end right after His resurrection– except none of us would have been around yet, so again, we ought to be thankful for His plan.

          It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  Jesus has something better planned for us.  Jesus knows the end of all things isn’t here yet – so He does something for our benefit.  He ascends to the Right Hand of God – exercises all authority on heaven and on earth – for our benefit.  And even more than that, He has sent the Helper, the Holy Spirit.  God has sent us His Spirit, so that through the Word by the Spirit we might have faith.
          When we get to thinking how nice it would be if Jesus had hung out after the resurrection for longer than 40 days, we end up forgetting what the main thing Jesus came to do was.  Jesus didn’t come to make everyone play nice.  He didn’t come to keep everyone in line.  Jesus didn’t come to make this world a better place – there’s a time and place for that – eternity and the life of the world to come.  We aren’t there yet.  No, for us here and now, Jesus came to win forgiveness for our sins.  That’s what we need here and now, that’s what we need for our lives out there in the world – we need faith that clings to Christ Jesus alone.  And so the Son sends us the Spirit.

          This is third article of the creed stuff – I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him.  That faith that I need – it’s not of my doing.  I can’t do it myself.  Even if Jesus were standing up in front of me I by my own strength couldn’t believe in Him or His forgiveness – for we walk by faith, not by sight.  No, for faith and forgiveness, I need help from outside myself.  But the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified me and kept me in the true faith.  That’s quite the Helper there, isn’t it?  And note how the Helper does this.  How does the Holy Spirit work?  Do you just walk along and then the Spirit zap – pow! – and then you know stuff?  A little bird sits on your shoulder, a dove even, and starts whispering things in your ear?  Jesus tells us that all that the Spirit hears He will declare – All that comes from Christ, comes from the Word – the Spirit will make clear.  The Spirit is tied to the Word – the Spirit is tied to Scripture, the Spirit is tied to Water and the Word, the Spirit is tied to the Supper, and He makes these things plain and understandable to us – He shows us Christ therein and by that Word grants and builds up our faith.  Or as the Catechism put it, He has called me by the Gospel.

          Christ Jesus tells even tells us how the Holy Spirit will use that Word, what He will do with it.  And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.  We’ve got three things there, so let’s go through them.  First, convicting the world concerning sin.  Concerning sin, because they do not believe me.  Sometimes I think that we forget one simple thing.  All sin, every sin, boils down to unbelief.  Every sin hits the first commandment.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  What does this mean?  We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  Every sin breaks that.  Every sin.  When Eve sins in the garden – it’s because she doesn’t believe God.  Did God really say – well, I suppose He said it but I don’t care – that’s unbelief.  David commits adultery with Bathsheba and kills Uriah, he knew better – that’s unbelief.  God tells Jonah to go to Ninevah and Jonah hops a boat the opposite direction – that’s unbelief.  And the same Word concerning sin the Spirit applies to you.  God warns us that we ought to be gentle and kind to one another, and yet we rage and show anger – that’s unbelief, just like Eve’s.  God tells us it is better to give than receive, and we take and take from our neighbor – that’s unbelief, just like David’s.  God tells us to go one way and we do the exact opposite – that’s unbelief, just like Jonah’s.  And when we fall into unbelief and folly, what does God’s Spirit do?  The Spirit doesn’t mollycoddle us, He doesn’t say, “Oh, that’s alright, you just do what you feel is right.” No, He convicts us concerning sin – He walks up to us and smacks us with the 2x4 of the Law.  What are you doing?  Stop that!

Now, we all know what this is – we’ve been trained as Lutherans to recognize this.  This is God showing us our sin with His Law.  And when we need it, which is often, the Spirit has no compunction about tanning our hides with the Law.  That’s one thing He does., but not the only thing.  The Spirit also speaks concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you will see me no longer.  Righteousness.  Doing that which is righteous.  The Holy Spirit speaks to that.  Now note this – when Jesus mentioned sin – He talked about people – the topic moved to people. Concerning sin, because they. . .  When Jesus mentions Righteousness though, the topic moves to Jesus.  Concerning Righteousness, because I go to the Father.  The Holy Spirit comes and talks about Righteousness.  Do you wish to know Righteousness, o sinner – then let’s talk about Jesus.  Who redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom.  That is righteousness. That God Himself is righteous, perfect, that He gives His own righteousness to us – that He sheds His blood upon the Cross and blots out that sin that the Holy Spirit had just brought up.  We know what this is – this is the Gospel.  And that is indeed the job of the Spirit – to point to Christ – to point to Christ and show what He has done for you.  In fact, that’s how you can know where the Church is, that’s how you can tell where the Holy Spirit is – not by how loud people are, or by clapping or barking or speaking gibber-jabber.  Is Christ and what He has done for you being pointed to above all things?  If so – the Holy Spirit is there.  Luther says that even a child can tell you where the Church is, where the Spirit is active – it’s where the Gospel is preached and where the Sacraments are rightly administered.  If Christ Crucified is proclaimed, if people are baptized for forgiveness, if the supper is placed upon the tongues of sinners needing forgiveness – there the Spirit is calling, gathering, enlightening and sanctifying the Church.  The Spirit points to Christ.  We know what this is – the Gospel.  The Spirit calls us by the Gospel.

And then there is the third thing – concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.  Well pastor – maybe you messed up.  You’ve got the two, Law and Gospel – but Jesus puts a third here.  Well, let’s look at Judgment.  What does Judgment do – when we speak of Judgment day – is that Law or Gospel?  I guess that depends now, doesn’t it?  For the unbeliever, for the one who continually rejects and ignores the Spirit’s proclamation of Law and Gospel, Christ’s return, Judgment day will indeed be the day of wrath, the day of mourning.  It is the day where the Spirit shows the finality of sin.  Go now into the fire that does not die.  Wow.  Now, for the believer, for those who have heard and believed the Law and the Gospel, what will Judgment day be?  See the nail marks in Christ’s hands?  You’ve already been judged in Christ; He did away with your sin.  Judgment day for the Christian is simply the confirmation that indeed, Christ’s righteousness has been applied to you, that the judgment is in and that you have been declared righteous and innocent for Christ’s sake.  And so the Holy Spirit speaks concerning Judgment – to let us know that this is real.  The Spirit speaks concerning judgment, because for the Christian in this life, we see terror and strife and pain and toil, and it can lead us to doubt.  The Spirit speaks concerning judgment – the ruler of this world is judged.  All that the world can throw at you can’t change the fact that Christ has died for you.  Or as Luther sings it, “This world’s prince my still, scowl fierce as he will. He can harm us none, He’s judged; the deed is done; one little word can fell him.”

 This is what the Spirit does – when we fall into error, He speaks of sin to show us our error and teaches us not to trust in our own works.  Then He speaks to us sweet Gospel, shows us Christ and all that He has done for us – and by this Word of the Gospel He creates in us faith, that we might cling to the Son in all things.  And when our days on this earth become long, when we look around and see wickedness and evil, and we get to wondering – the Spirit does speak of the judgment, to remind us that these things on earth do not last, that these sorrows we now face do not endure – but rather the final judgment awaits, the judgment where you, O Christian, will be declared innocent on account of Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection for your sake.  I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  And again,All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He [that is, the Spirit] will take what is mine and declare it to you. Once again, Jesus knows what He is doing, and once again, what Jesus is doing is for our benefit.  All thanks be to Christ Jesus our resurrected Lord, that in all things He shows us Love and Mercy, that He gives us all that He has through His Word, and that He sends us His Spirit so that by the power of the Spirit we may hear the Word and believe, and believing have life in Christ’s Name.  Christ is Risen – He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia, Amen.

1 comment:

Steve Martin said...

Great sermon.

"All sin is unbelief"

Exactly. That is why we must hear the Word and receive the Word as a matter of life and death.

Until we do then it is nothing but religious noise...or principles for living...or tidbits about God.

Thanks, Rev.

Spot on.