Sunday, May 02, 2010

Sermon: Cantate (Easter 5)

2 May 2010 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!

God’s will for us is hard to understand. Our sinful and impulsive flesh wants God to just fix everything all at once. But in His infinite wisdom, He has His own plan about how to get us from death to life, from sin to forgiveness, from brokenness to wholeness, from corruption to perfection. And part of that plan is revealed to us anew today.

How and why God works the way He does is a great mystery. We hear anew how all three persons of the Most Blessed and Holy Trinity work in unison to bring us the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation that we ourselves neither deserve nor could hope to merit.

The Father has sent the Son into the world to be one of us, to bear our cross of pain and death, to bear our burden of sin, to lie in our place in the grave – and to rise victorious for us. But following this victory, the Son returns to the Father to rule from His right hand. The Holy Spirit is then sent to our world, to our Church, and into our hearts. He does many things – most of which are behind the scenes, not seeking glory to Himself.

And yet, the Holy Spirit “convicts the world.”

To “convict” is to find fault, to expose sin, and to justify punishment. And yet, the word “convict” does not, in this case, mean condemnation and punishment. Far from it! For our Lord Jesus Christ has come to bring us Good News and take away our shame, guilt, and reproach. The Holy Spirit’s conviction is not to condemn, but to save. For in order to be saved from our sins, we have to acknowledge them. And even the ability to discern good from evil, even the feelings of guilt we have when we sin, is the work of the Spirit, the “Helper” that our Lord speaks of.

“And when He comes,” proclaims our Lord Jesus, “He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

The Holy Spirit brings us to see and then to confess a truth that is not merely unpleasant, but a truth that is shackled to death itself, binding us like a chain to death and the grave, to punishment, to guilt, and to a destroyed communion with God. The Helper helps us to see the shape we are in, and to be able to speak the unthinkable: we are sinners deserving of death and hell.

For this Helper’s job is not to glorify us, whisper sweet nothings into our ears, and tell us how wonderful we are. Indeed, His divine work is to glorify Jesus, the only perfect One of our race. As for us, the Helper’s work and ministry is “to guide you into all the truth.”

Dear friends, this is the object of the Christian faith – to bring us into truth. The Creator of all that is good, of all that we have corrupted, reveals that which is true, and He reveals it to us by His Word. And that truth is something we don’t want to hear. In spite of this, the Holy Spirit makes sure we do hear it. He also makes sure we say it right back, that we confess this ugly truth. But the Good News is that we confess in order to be absolved, we bear the guilt of the truth of who we are, so that we might be forgiven by Him who is the way, the truth, and the life.

For not only does the Holy Spirit glorify Jesus, the one who truly forgives us and binds us to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism and in the Gospel, but He also reveals the truth to us, the truth that our Lord Jesus promises: “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

What great news this is, dear friends! And it is the truth – the glorious truth. This is the truth of the Gospel.

Though we are convicted of sin, we are forgiven. Though we are too sinful to even see our condition, the Helper shows us the truth. Though we are burdened with death, we are quickened unto life in the Spirit, by the Spirit, through the Spirit.

For the Spirit reveals truth to us, which is why St. James implores 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.” Good gifts, even perfect gifts, are showered upon us like rain from the sky. Don’t be deceived! Don’t buy into the lie that God doesn’t care about you, or that He leaves you to struggle alone and forsaken. Don’t believe the untruth that what you have is what you have earned. Nothing could be further from the Truth! For we have a loving Father, a merciful Savior, and a caring Helper – pouring gifts upon us through His Word.

And thanks to God’s Word, we can put it all into perspective. We can be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” We can indeed “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted Word.” For that Holy Word of God, implanted in us like a freshly watered seed, “is able to save your souls.” This is God’s Word, and His Word is truth!

The prophet Isaiah sums up the Christian faith, the one true faith, in a way that we can understand it; showing us the big picture of what God is doing even if the “hows” and the “whys” remain mysteries hidden from us. For we confess and pray with the blessed Isaiah: “I will give thanks to You, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that You might comfort me. Behold God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.”

The Holy Spirit has revealed the truth to us, the truth that the Father loves us, that the Son offers Himself sacrificially to save us, and that the Spirit convicts us and draws us into the mysterious life of the Holy Trinity, the life which has no end. This is the life of forgiveness and joy, a life of thanksgiving and praise, the life of singing that will last unto eternity.

“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song.” “Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.” 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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