Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sermon: Cantate (Easter 5)

10 May 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 16:5-15 (Isa 12:1-6, Jas 1:16-21)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

One of the hallmarks of our sinful flesh is our impatience.

The reason we are so impatient is because of our weak faith. When we are given a promise of a great reward in the future, we don’t want to wait. A lot can happen between now and then. Besides, we have plans now, not then. Like the prodigal son, we want our inheritance now. In fact, we would rather owe interest and have the unearned cash in hand now than wait for some time in the future to have what we want.

We know the promises of our Lord. He has pledged to us eternal life, communion with God, reunion with all of our loved ones, a restored and resurrected body, a joy that no-one can ever take from us, a life without pain and sorrow, riches upon riches beyond measure, a restored paradise untouched by death, and a new heaven and new earth. The Lord promises us a perfect life. It has indeed been bought and paid for by His perfect life, laid down upon the cross, and taken up again in the tomb He left behind.

And here we are in the fifth week of the ongoing Easter celebration, the 40 days of basking in the resurrection of our victorious Lord and in the promise of resurrection He brings to us. This week is known as Cantate: Latin for “sing!” We are so filled with the joy of this promise that we are called upon to sing.

And yet, this promise is still not enough for us.

Rather than eager to sing, we are quick to complain and slow to hear. We are angry. We fall for the filthiness of this fallen world and its rampant wickedness. We despise meekness and spurn the implanted Word of God – even when that Word is the very promise of the risen Christ to save our souls.

And yet, our Lord Jesus doesn’t abandon us the way we abandoned Him. No indeed! He promised the disciples (and us) that He would send a “Helper,” the “Spirit of Truth” who will come to us, guide us into truth, and even give us the words to speak when we ourselves have no idea what to say.

And our Lord repeats His promise: all that is the Father’s is His, and all that is His is ours!

But by definition, promises are not fulfilled immediately. That’s why they are promises. They are fulfilled at some point in the future. And the fulfillment of the promise is only as good as the word of the one making the promise. And this is where faith comes in.

Do we have faith in Jesus, or do we think He is lying? Do we confess Jesus as God, or do we simply think of Him as a mortal man without the power to deliver on His promise. Do we acknowledge Jesus as our Redeemer and Savior, or do we see Him as a judge and scold? Do we give thanks to Jesus as a giver of gifts, or do we begrudge Him as One who ought to mind His own business and leave us alone to do as we please?

It is only in light of faith that we can see a fallen world and yet envision a future world that will be perfect. It is only through the eyes of faith that we can see and confess ourselves to be “sinful and unclean” in “thought, word, and deed,” and yet comprehend ourselves as saints, as “delighting in [God’s] will” and “walking in [His] ways to the glory of [His] name.” It is only according to faith that we can hear the promise of a crucified criminal and yet perceive them as the very creative Word of the One “who was in the beginning with God,” the one who “is God,” and “by whom all things were made.” And it is through faith alone that we behold a wafer of bread and a cup of wine, and according to faith in the promise, proclaim with St. Thomas the former doubter: “My Lord and My God!” as we eat and drink the true body and blood of the One who not only makes promises, but delivers them.

Seven centuries before the promise of the prophets was fulfilled by the One True God born into flesh and blood, we were given the same promise of eternal life and joy by the prophet Isaiah. For through the holy prophet, God promises: “You will say in that day: ‘I will give thanks to You, O Lord, for though You were angry with me, Your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.’”

Though our ingratitude shocks us, shames us, and may even make us question our faith – look at the sure word of God: “You will say in that day…” It is a promise that is yet to be fulfilled. But it is a promise made by God. It will be fulfilled!

For “God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.”

And notice, though this promise is for the future, it is spoken in the past tense. For with God, a future promise is as sure and certain as a past event. For He is truly the One “who was, who is, and who is to come.”

This is how it is that even in our fallen state, our woefully sinful condition, and with our weak faith that drives us to impatience, we can still hold fast the promise and sing with King David: “Sing to the Lord a new song!” For “His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory” and “He has remembered His mercy.” And in light of the promise of what is to come, we can proclaim with Isaiah: “Sing praises to the Lord, for He has done gloriously…. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

And though He has ascended into Heaven, giving us the Holy Spirit to guide us and give us words to speak, our Blessed Lord is still with us in a mystical way according to His promise that is fulfilled in our very midst by His Word: “This is My body…. This is My blood… for the forgiveness of sins.”

So, even when we are tempted to impatience, even when our sinful flesh nudges us to demand our inheritance this very moment, let us pray for patience, dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

For as St. James exhorts us: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation of shadow due to change. Of his own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”

That, dear friends, is a promise made by the only One who can make good on that promise. And that promise is for you! It will be fulfilled in the Lord’s time, and meanwhile, even in this time of waiting, we have much to sing about. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

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