Saturday, May 18, 2019

Easter 5 Sermon

Easter 5 – May 18th and 19th, 2019 -

Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed, alleluia!
We do not know what is good for us. Or if we do know, we tend to fight against it. I, as a person, know what a good and healthy and proper diet would be – but from my simple appearance you can tell such a healthy diet is beyond my current desire or self-discipline. And every one of us in here can think of times where we fight against bad habits that we know are off, yet still do them. And even more to the point, everyone of us in here have things that we think are “good” for us, but actually are not. That is part and parcel of being a sinful human being. The first temptation was “you will be like God, knowing good and evil” - and ever since the fall we have failed utterly in our attempts to know what is good for us. Instead of listening to our own thoughts, or our hearts, or our stomachs, when push comes to shove we must listen to what God in His Word says. He knows what is good, we of ourselves so often do not.

With this in mind, we are ready to hear what Jesus says: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away.” Here again we are in the upper room on Maundy Thursday evening, and Jesus is preparing the disciples for the transition to the New Testament Church which will exist after the Ascension and until the Second Coming – the Church we ourselves are in. And the Church as we see it wasn't what the disciples wanted. They had wanted an earthly kingdom of power and might, where they would rule along side Jesus and share in His glory and have palaces and riches and respect. They wanted a kingdom like David had, or Solomon. And Jesus is telling them that this isn't going to happen – and they don't really believe Him yet. They even ask before Jesus ascends, “Lord, will You at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” The disciples didn't want the Church.

And let's be honest – often we don't like, don't want the Church that we have. We can have hopes and dreams for this congregation that don't pan out. I wish we were so full that people had to sit up front. I wish there were more LCMS Lutherans in the US, where we weren't a relatively obscure group making up less than 1 percent of the population. I wish there were more Christians at all in the US, instead of this rising tide of disdain that I see all around us. Wouldn't that be “good”? Possibly – but it is also selfish. Full pews and fuller offering plates would certainly let me have bragging rights at this week's pastor's conference – but bragging rights aren't the point, are they? Or being safely in the open majority is comfortable, and you get to enjoy positions of social power and prestige – but garnering earthly respect isn't the point of the Christian faith. You see, with all our wishes and dreams, we are tempted to over look the unimaginably wondrous good that God gives to us here and now. A good that surpasses anything we could have dreamed or coveted.

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. The Helper, the Comforter, the Paraclete. The Holy Spirit. Jesus here speaks to Pentecost, the pouring out of the Spirit which starts in Jerusalem and spreads throughout the world. The very pouring out of the Spirit that we ourselves live in and fully experience here, as the Holy Spirit is with us, having called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts of Word and Sacrament, sanctified and kept us in the true faith. Consider – that Maundy Thursday, if you wanted to be part of this “Jesus” thing, you had to follow Him around, fit in one particular crowd – or wait for Him to come around again. Fifty days later, you have Pentecost, and 3000 believe and are baptized, and they all head back to all their homes where they speak in all their various languages, and more and more people are brought by the Spirit to faith, and so on and so forth until here we are, separated by thousands of years and thousands of miles from where Jesus spoke these words in the upper room – and yet by the power of the Spirit they are spoken to us and applied to us and brought to us today.

The Holy Spirit spreads the Church throughout the world. And in that Church our LORD Jesus comes to us in His Word, in Baptism, in His Supper, to forgive us our sins. We don't have to go to Him. He comes to us. How fantastic is that! We don't have to go to Jerusalem where the Kingdom is (although a trip there would be sort of cool – but it's not necessary). We don't have to do a pilgrimage to any place and wait in long lines. No, because of the Spirit and His Church, Christ Jesus comes to us easily and conveniently and in our own language. He comes to us as often as we are gathered in His Name, as often as we eat His Supper. And if for some reason this place got too crowded – just plant another congregation – easy peasy, lemon squeezy. And if we end up having to share with others someday – alright, where the Word is proclaimed, there Christ will be present for us. And it really is to our advantage.

Because we are people of the Word, and the Help that the Helper gives, the Comfort from the Comforter is the Word of God proclaimed. Jesus says, “And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” The Spirit will see to it that the Word of God is proclaimed throughout the whole world – that's what that “convict” means. We think of a convicting primarily as assigning a punishment, but here it really means to speak with conviction and with authority. Over and against all the thoughts and ideas that vie for power in the world, the Word of God goes forth and the Spirit proclaims the truth. And that is the truth that we are to listen to and listen for. This is the truth you are to expect from me whenever I preach, and if I do not preach it, you ought to be all over me like white on rice. Jesus here lays out the standard for what is to be preached in His Church.

The Spirit will convict “concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me.” Part of the job of the Spirit in His Church will be to proclaim God's law, showing forth our sin. Sin, at it's root, is disbelieving God. It is ignoring what He has said, what He has called good, and instead substituting our own desires in its place. And the Holy Spirit will always call that out. You will hear your own sin, and even sins you happen to like and enjoy, called out in this place. That's what the Spirit does. And we live in a day and age where we don't like calling sin sin. It's not “nice”. Oh well. We listen to the Word of God and what God says is right, and that's where we stand, even against ourselves. It's not a matter of “we're good and they are bad” as so many want to take it – it's we all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. The law is given to stop every mouth, stop every excuse – and when you are trying to justify your own sin, whatever shape that sin takes, whether it is something bizarre or something trendy or just something petty, the Spirit will use the Word to tell you to stop with your jibber-jabbery defense and instead admit that you are wrong. And we need that – not just those bad people out there – we do, because we don't know what is good apart from God.

But, the Church is not merely a place where God tells us off. In fact, it's primary purpose is this. The Spirit will speak concerning “righteousness, because I go to the Father and you will see Me no longer.” Well, what in tarnation that does that mean? When Jesus speaks of “righteousness” He is referring to the fact that He is righteous and good, and that His righteousness is shown by going to the Cross and taking up your sin – including all that stuff that the Spirit just called you on – and destroying it, and in its place giving you all His righteousness and holiness and love and mercy. He has done it all – it is finished. He has gone to the Father, ascended victorious with nothing left to be done for your salvation. And thus the job of the Church is to proclaim that Christ Jesus has accomplished salvation, that all righteousness is found in Him. That sins are forgiven in Him and by Him. These first two are what we Lutherans like to call “Law and Gospel” for short – the Law which shows to us our sin, the Gospel which gives us our Savior and His forgiveness. And these two things must be constantly preached and proclaimed – the Law to silence our own plans, the Gospel to give and include us in the plan of salvation.

But what of the third? Concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. We don't know what is good. We don't know what good results look like. We hear this preaching of Law and Gospel – and then, well... we don't have power and might on the earth. We don't have riches. In fact, we don't even get to defeat all our enemies, and there are still wicked people out there and oh no, what are we going to do? The Spirit's answer – nothing. You don't have to judge or defeat or destroy anyone in this life. God will take care of it. In fact, He has – Jesus's death and resurrection defeated Satan, and Satan is judged already. We are just waiting it out until the second coming, and in the mean time the Spirit goes forth in the Word calling sinners to repentance and giving them Christ's forgiveness. If someone should believe – wonderful. If not – well, we just keep preaching and singing and praying and receiving Christ's body and blood – we just keep on living as the baptized and leave any comeuppances to come in God's hands. We don't even need to fret about how many do or don't believe, or how wicked the world is, or any of the things we so often fear. In Christ, we have the victory now. This world's prince may still scowl fierce as he will – but the Spirit will remind us over and over that in Christ our victory has been won and that the true Kingdom, the eternal Kingdom of Christ and the life everlasting, is ours.

And that's what the Spirit does. He makes us see that Jesus has actually won our victory over sin and death and the world, and even over our own selfishness and misplaced dreams. He will use the Word and pull us away from these things, and give us Jesus - “for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.” The Spirit gives you the things of Jesus that you need – or as we learned it in the Small Catechism – In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. And because the Spirit has come, this Christian Church is spread throughout the world, and yet even we here in this place receive all the fullness thereof and lack nothing – for God is good, and Jesus has died and risen, and His Spirit gives us all things. This is what is truly good for us. Amen. Christ is Risen – He is risen indeed, alleluia!

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