Sunday, May 22, 2011

Easter 5 sermon for Zion, Alva

Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen.
In our Gospel text today, we hear our Lord continue His discussions in the upper room on Maundy Thursday, preparing His disciples, and us, for life in the New Testament Church. This is basically what John records for us in chapters 13-17 – our Lord telling us how things are going to work after His death, resurrection, and ascension. So, without any further ado, let us give heed to our Lord’s Words to us this day.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” First things first. To believe in God is to believe in Christ Jesus, True God and True Man. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ, you do not believe in God. Period. This is the tragedy, many around the world think they believe in God, but they don’t, because they reject and do not believe and confess that Jesus Christ is God. Let me give an example. Suppose some says to you, “Do you know Mark Rauh” and you say, “Sure I do.” And then they say, “Oh, you must know his wife Esmerlda.” Either you know two different Marks and aren’t talking about the same person, or Mark is in a whole heap of trouble. Likewise with God – our God is the Triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit. You aren’t worshiping the True God unless you are worship the Triune God. This is why Jesus says to us, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Christ Jesus is our Savior, our access to God. The only way we have a relationship with God, the only way we know who the Triune God is is because of Christ Jesus, because He is the very Word of God who reveals God, who comes down and becomes Man, who suffers and dies for us that we might have life and salvation. Christ’s death upon the cross and His resurrection is what reunites us to God – we cannot know God apart from Christ.

Again, we cannot overemphasize the centrality of Christ Jesus to the Christian faith. Our faith, our salvation isn’t about what we do. We sin. We fail. We deserve utter condemnation. But Christ Jesus is perfect and holy, and He does not fail, and He wins for us life everlasting. This, dear friends, is perhaps the quickest way to spot false teaching – do people talk more about “god”, or do they talk about Christ Jesus being our Savior from sin. Do they talk about some generic god, or Christ Jesus who is the only Way of Salvation? Do they talk about some deity, or do they point to Christ Jesus and His truth? Do they talk about how you need to live this way or that way and never talk about Christ Jesus who died and yet now lives for you – for He is the Life, your life? Do they talk about Jesus? You’ll find that a lot of the talk out there doesn’t really talk about Jesus. Yet He is the Way, the Truth, the Life. Listen to hear people speak about Jesus, and proclaim Him as the sole Savior from sin, God who has come down from heaven, become man, suffered and died and been raised again so that we have life in His Name. And if that isn’t what they preach, stop up your ears and don’t listen.

Our focus is to be upon Christ Jesus and what He does for us. This is Christ’s focus, this is what He would have us see. Listen. “In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to Myself, that where I am you may be there also.” Again, this is all about Jesus telling us what He is doing for us. He prepares a room, He comes again, He takes us to Himself, He makes us to be where He is. Jesus is your Savior, He is the one who does this. So, what exactly is Jesus talking about here? The normal answer we give right off the bat is that this is speaking to heaven. And yes, that is right. What does Christ do when He leaves that upper room, marches to Gethsemane, is arrested, and then crucified? He prepares for you a place in heaven, in the Father’s House. He wins for you forgiveness so that you will be with Him always. This is a great and wondrous thing.

However, we don’t see the whole picture if we think that Jesus is just speaking to the second coming, to some time down the road when one day we’ll make it to heaven. Some day there will be the resurrection, oh, won’t that be nice. Dear friends in Christ – do you not know that what Christ Jesus is describing is precisely what you have now. “In My Father’s house are many rooms.” What do we call this place – Who’s house is it? It’s God’s House. There’s a reason we call it that. Because this is the spot on earth where Christ Jesus has prepared a place for you – this is where He has called you to gather, to hear His Word, to receive His Supper. Indeed, what does He say – “I will come again and take you to Myself, that where I am you may be there also.” Does not Christ Jesus gather us together here around His Word? Has He not promised that where even only 2 or 3 of us are gathered in His Name He will be? And how did we begin service this morning – by calling upon the Name upon which we were baptized. Moreover – what happens here on this altar? We celebrate the Lord’s Supper – where Christ Himself is indeed with us, gives us His Body and Blood. Do you see how this is a present reality? Even the whole “there are many rooms”. I am here in God’s house right now. Around 2 hours from now, I’ll be in a different room, but I’ll still be in God’s House at service down in Lahoma. Christ Jesus, with His death and resurrection, establishes for us His Church here on earth, in which we are gathered around His Word and receive His Body and Blood all for our forgiveness – until the day when we are brought to the life of the world to come. This is what Christ Jesus does for you.

And when He does this, we get everything that there is to get with God. We get the fullness – we are bound, joined to God. We are now children of God, we dwell in His house here in this fallen, sinful world, until the day He remakes the heavens and the earth for us. This is a good thing, a wonderful thing, and great and astonishing blessing. God cares for us both now and forever. This is what our Lord is driving at in verse 12 when He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” That “greater” is a horrible translation – it really means more, more in number. This is describing the Church. Christ fed the 5000 thousand… millions today in the Church are fed Christ’s Body and Blood in the Supper. Christ spoke to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven” – millions have their sins forgiven today in the Church. Christ Jesus, who reigns seated at the hand of the Father, does all these wonders through His Church today, and that is a wondrous thing.

One final bit of our reading today that we should consider is this: “Whatever you ask in My Name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My Name, I will do it.” Now, this is one of the most misquoted, abused verses in all the Scriptures. We get people who will say, “Well, if you just say the right prayer you’ll get gold and money and power and stuff. You’ll get health and wealth.” This entire passage so far, what has Jesus been talking about? Has he mentioned money or earth power. Nope. He’s been talking about the fact that He is going to the Cross for us. He is going to the Cross to prepare for us Salvation, give us the forgiveness of sins, be with us, strengthen our faith. These blessings of faith is what Christ is promising here – all these good things, this forgiveness, this eternal life, this place in God’s House – it is yours in His Name. You have been joined to Christ at your Baptism, and His salvation is yours. The center of the Christian life is that we are those who confess our sins, that we ask God for forgiveness in the Name of Christ Jesus our Lord, and we know that we receive it to the Glory of God the Father. God is glorified chiefly in this – that He forgives you your sin. This is the reason we give God our highest praise – but chiefly are we bound to praise You for the glorious resurrection of Your Son.

But here’s the thing. The world doesn’t care at all for forgiveness. The world thinks that is worthless. The world doesn’t want to admit its sin, doesn’t want to confess it, doesn’t want to deal with it. Those people over there might be sinners, but I’m a good little person. And I want stuff – and so we’ll get book after book telling us how we can manipulate “God” into giving us stuff, as though God were some meanie who doesn’t take care of us out of His own Fatherly goodness and mercy. This is basically the same thing as the pagans did – it’s that talk about “god” but not focusing on Christ Jesus being the Savior – just being some sort of sugar daddy that you bribe with a few magic works.

But this is not who you are, dear friends. Christ Jesus, Your Lord and God, has called you here to His Father’s House. He has called you to repentance, to turn away from the greed, the selfishness of the world. He has promised you that when you confess your sins, He is faithful and just and with joy forgives you all your sin. This is His promise to you, this is what He won for you when mindful of your salvation He went to the cross – this is why He proclaims to you even this day that He is the Way for you to obtain forgiveness, that He is the Truth that sets you free from bondage to sin, that He is your Life that will see you throughout all eternity. God be glorified for this – that He has sent His Son Christ Jesus to be our Redeemer. Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen.

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