Sunday, May 18, 2014

Easter 5 Sermon

Easter 5 – May 18th, 2014 – John 16:5-15

Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen.
          There are some texts that Pastors just love to preach, and then there are some that cause Pastors a bit of struggle, where there are things in the text that they just might not like, or might not be comfortable with – and this is one of those for me.  And the line that tends to… annoy me, to get my gut reaction up and against it is when Jesus says, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away.”  And note, none of this is a surprise to Jesus – He knew quite well that I and many others like me wouldn’t like this idea of His “going away”, His “ascension.”  Because there is a part of me, the part of me that craves glory and public validation, that is quite annoyed with Christ Jesus that He ascended.  I have non-believing friends, I get mocked for my beliefs, I have trials and temptations and moments of doubt – why in tarnation Jesus couldn’t you have just hung around here on earth – that would have had to told those doubters what for… that would have silenced my own fears.

          Or so my old sinful flesh likes to tell me.  But Jesus says otherwise.  It is to your advantage that I go away.  Why?  Well, consider this.  In the Garden, Adam and Eve were used to taking afternoon strolls with God – and they still fell.  God would chat with Cain – still killed Abel, still was able to baldface lie to God when God asked him where Abel was.  The Children of Israel crossed through the Red Sea, saw the pillar of Cloud lead them, the Glory of God rested upon Mt. Sinai.  Still, they made their golden calf, still they grumbled in the desert.  And you know what – even if Christ Jesus hadn’t ascended and was still wandering around Jerusalem taking selfies with tourists… we’d still be sinful men and women today, there would still be grumblings and idolatry and lying to God.  The status quo, the way things had been going, they couldn’t carry on.  Jesus needed to put a stop to it – He needed to do something different.  “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.”  Nope, it’s time for something different – it is time for the Helper, for the Holy Spirit, for the Lord and Giver of Life.  Because that was the problem – at Creation we had received life, God had breathed into our nostrils the breath of life, the Spirit came and gave life.  And then, we sinned.  Life was lost.  And so Christ comes to redeem us, to give us life – and He does that by giving us His Holy Spirit through His Word.  This is important – wherever Christ’s Word is, wherever the Word of God is proclaimed, there the Holy Spirit will be doing His work.  And what is the Holy Spirit’s job?  Jesus calls Him the Helper – the Comforter, as the older translations would put it – the “Paraclete”.  That’s a Greek word that denotes one who accompanies you, who speaks to you to give you advice, who speaks for you – in Greek your defense lawyer would be a “Paraclete”.  The one who helps you with what to say, the one who comforts you when the prosecuter is making the case against you – “Don’t worry, you’re going to be declared not guilty, this one is in the bag.”  Knowing the troubles we face in this world, the way Satan, the Accuser (which is the old fashioned term for what we would call a prosecutor today) will hound you – Christ for your own good sends you the Holy Spirit to be with you and defend you.

          Now, there is one other point to make clear before we go on – something to say so that we don’t careen off into false doctrine and craziness.  Listen and note how in the rest of this passage, the Spirit is always tied to speaking Christ’s Word, proclaiming Christ.  When we are talking about the Holy Spirit, we aren’t talking about people claiming that God zapped them and told them to buy stock in this company or build giant buildings or what have you.  The Spirit deals with the Word of God – and if you want the Spirit to be active in your life, you don’t go meditate off in a corner – you hear the Scriptures, the Word of God.  When the Spirit comes upon the Apostles on Pentecost, Peter starts His preaching by quoting the prophet Joel, by quoting the Word of God.  When the Spirit falls upon the Apostles, they write Scripture as moved by that Spirit – so that we have the Word of God whereby the Spirit works.  The Spirit works through the Word.  And here is how He does so.

          “When He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”  We get three things here, three solid, unshakable truths that the Spirit will proclaim.  This is Jesus telling us what the main points of Scripture are, what the truths that the Church will be proclaiming until He comes again.  First, the Spirit will speak “concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me.”  The Word and the Spirit proclaim this unassailable truth.  All sin, all wickedness is tied to unbelief, is tied to the first commandment – you shall have no other Gods before me.  Sin is always unbelief, is always fearing or loving or trusting something more than God – no matter how our sinful flesh tries to dance around it.  When you worry about what the mockers say more than what God has said – that’s fear trying to drop a load of unbelief at your door.  When you run off after power and wealth and pleasure – that’s love of the world trying to drop off a load of unbelief at your door.  When you worry about wealth and power and money – that’s your sinful nature twisting trust into unbelief.  And while we are in this life, until Christ returns, we are going to have to struggle with Sin – and the Holy Spirit won’t let us forget that.  He will wield the Word of God so as to show us our sin, to show us our lack, to show us our unbelief, so that like that pious man in the Gospel, we cry out, “Lord, I believe – help my unbelief!”

          But the Spirit does not stop there.  [He will speak] “concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you will no longer see Me.”  This is an old fashioned bit of logic, a way of speaking that we can miss out on today.  The Holy Spirit will proclaim righteousness, justification, will proclaim that Christ Jesus has done everything needed to win you your forgiveness and declare you innocent, forgiven, righteous and just.  And how, what is the evidence that you are indeed forgiven, that Christ’s Cross and death and resurrection is enough for your forgiveness.  He has gone to the Father.  He is seated at the right hand of the Father, as we confess in the creed.  There’s no more work to be done, He’s done it all.  It is finished.  Nothing left to do.  He has all authority.  And this too is the great truth the Spirit of God proclaims through the Word in the Church.  It is finished.  You are forgiven.  Jesus has accomplished all that He came to do.  The Spirit is in charge of the Gospel – and every jot and tittle of God’s Law has been fulfilled, every I has been dotted, every T has been crossed by Christ, and you are forgiven.  Period.  That is the proclamation of the Spirit.

          And then one more thing.  [He will speak] “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”  The Church will speak about judgment, about judgment day and what is to come – but note how we are to proclaim this.  It’s not that we preach Judgment Day as in “I don’t know how it’s going to go for you.”  We preach it as Martin Luther had us sing it.  This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will – he can harm us none, he’s judged, the deed is done.  Over and against all the rantings and ravings of Satan, this truth remains – Christ.  Christ has been crucified, Christ has been raised, and you are redeemed, and there ain’t a thing Satan can do about it.  You are forgiven, and Christ shall come again, and it will all be put right, for good forever. 

          This is the truth the Spirit proclaims, this is what the Word of God teaches, this is the summation of what the Church is to proclaim.  There is sin – Christ has won you forgiveness for that sin, and He shall come again to judge – that is, He will declare you to be living, and Satan and all His host He shall finally remove to where they bother you and trouble you no more.  And this truth the Spirit will proclaim through the Word of God throughout this entire globe.  This is what the time of the New Testament is, the time of the Church, these Last Days in which we are in truly are.  Listen to how Christ wraps this all up.  “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the Truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, for He will declare to you the things that are to come.”  Again, dense language, a style that we in our dumbed down modern ways don’t use much any more.  What is Christ saying?  You, disciples – you aren’t going to understand this because I haven’t been crucified or raised yet.  But after my resurrection, I will teach you, I will open up the Scripture to you, and I will send you the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  And note – this is the Spirit of Truth – and remember, Jesus said, “I Am the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life.”  This is the Spirit of Christ that will guide you into all the Christ – all the things about Jesus and what He has done for you and for the world that you need to know.  And it’s going to be about Christ – for the Spirit isn’t making things up but is speaking in accordance with Christ’s authority – all authority on heaven and earth has been given to Me, says Christ.  And the Spirit will tell you what was to come – Christ is Crucified, is Risen, and shall come again.  Sin, righteousness, and judgment.

          “He will glorify Me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.  All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  And what does the Spirit do by the Word in the Church to this day?  Declares what is Christ’s and gives it to you.  Christ is righteous – and you have been baptized, and thus you are righteous.  Christ is Holy – and you have been baptized, and thus you are holy.  Christ has won forgiveness – and I say to you that you are forgiven.  Christ is living – and thus He says to you, take and eat, this is My Body, given for you.  Take and drink, this is My blood, shed for you.  All that belongs to Christ, all that He is, all that He won with His life and death and resurrection – He gives to you, daily and richly in His Church, by His Spirit working through the Word, whether that is the Word preached and proclaimed, whether that is the Word tied to water in Baptism, or whether it is the Word tied to Bread and Wine so that you receive Christ’s Body and Blood.  The Spirit does His job, and it is for your advantage, for now, this day, you receive all the good and love and forgiveness and holiness that Christ has won for you, and you are indeed richly forgiven and have life in His name.  Amen.  Christ is Risen!

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