17 May 2015
Text: John 15:26-16:4
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Our Lord makes several promises in our Gospel. First, He promises the coming of the “Helper” – that is, the Holy Spirit. Then He promises that the Spirit will bear witness about Him, about Jesus. And then He promises that the disciples will bear witness about Him, about Jesus as well.
It must have been strange for the eleven apostles just after Jesus ascended, but not yet Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit would come to them in the future. It must have been confusing, a calm before the storm, not knowing what would happen, and yet having a promise from Jesus that something huge was about to happen; it must have been a strange feeling.
Perhaps this is why so many passages from the Old Testament are about waiting on the Lord, being patient, and holding fast to the promises. For when it comes to promises, we either believe them, and plan around them (even though they have not yet happened), or we take a more skeptical stance, and adopt a wait-and-see attitude before committing to anything.
Dear friends, in our modern life – in both our secular life and in our church life – this inability to commit is one of our greatest problems. Young people complain bitterly and often that they would like to be married, but the people of the opposite sex in their lives will not make a commitment.
How often we start a project and not see it through to the end! How often we join a gym or a club and then find excuses not to go! And how easy it is to be baptized and confirmed, maybe even married in the church, or perhaps serving on a board or committee – but then fall away from church attendance, from bible class, from giving regular offerings, and eventually falling away from the Christian life itself.
Church membership is not a choice. It is not based on feelings. Rather it is a commitment, and it is based on promises: promises we make at our baptisms (and the baptisms of our children), and at our confirmations. We may make additional promises if we are married in the church or if we are serving in some office. But even more important, dear friends, is our Lord’s promises to us. For this is what motivates us to commit to Him and to His bride: the gifts He promises us when we live in Him and He in us, through the Holy Spirit, through the Gospel, through the sacraments, and through communion with God and with one another.
When we consider the Lord’s promise to us of forgiveness of all of our sins, of victory over Satan and death, and of eternal life – committing to attend Divine Service and Bible class, commitment to pray and give alms, commitment to the Christian life in all that we say and do seven days a week is not a terrible burden, but rather a response of gratitude and love.
The disciples acted based on many promises from Jesus. They waited on the Lord. They followed Him and confessed His name in good times and in bad times. His Word empowered them, as Jesus told them, “to keep you from falling away.”
If you want to stay in the faith and not fall away, if you want your children to remain in the faith and not fall away, then listen to His Word, dear friends! “I have said all these things to you,” Jesus said, dear brothers and sisters, “to keep you from falling away.”
Don’t fall away because you are bored, don’t feel like coming to church, want to spend money and time elsewhere, or because you think you know everything already. Don’t tell me that you read your bible at home. Nowhere in Scripture does Jesus tell you to read your bible at home. It’s not bad to do it, of course, but not as a substitute for joining your brothers and sisters in prayer and in the Word. He tells us to gather in His name. He tells us to pray not to “my Father,” but to “our Father.” He tells us to “take eat” and “take drink” and “do this in remembrance of Me.” It is a communion, because the life of faith is lived out in community.
And, dear friends, that means service and commitment. It does not mean showing up when you feel like it. It does not mean putting a few bucks in the plate every now and then. Our Lord committed Himself to go the cross for us. Our Lord committed His Spirit to the Father. Our Lord committed to sending the Holy Spirit to us. Our Lord commits to us today in His Word and Sacrament. This promise is for you and for your children!
“I have said all these things to keep you from falling away.”
Times have changed, brothers and sisters. Once more, it costs something to be a disciple of Jesus. “They will put you out of the synagogues,” promises our Lord. “Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor Me.” We live in a society that does not know Jesus, does not know the Father, does not know the Scriptures, and doesn’t even know the basics of reality, such as what a man is, what a woman is, what vice is, and what virtue is. And we Christians have once more become “Enemies of the State” and “Enemies of the People” because we hold to the Word of God. If we want our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren to remain in this one true and saving faith, we have to remain in the faith, dear friends. We have to commit. The days of fair-weather Christianity are over. We need to allow God’s Word to have its way with us. The time is now. And we need for our children to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives by contact with Jesus: with the Word and the Sacraments, in the worship life of the church, in committing to the support, financial and otherwise, of this parish.
“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.”
Our Lord wants us in the faith because He wants us in eternity, in the new heavens and the new earth, in a renewed paradise, in our resurrected bodies, in flesh no longer held captive to sin and headed to death. He wants us because He loves us!
Dear friends, listen to our Lord’s promises! Indeed, He promises us the Holy Spirit. He promises that we will be His witnesses. He promises us His righteousness. He promises us His life that will have no end. We can indeed commit to Him, dear brothers and sisters, because He is committed to us, come what may. “I have said these things to you,” says our blessed Lord, “that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.” Thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ, whose Word is mighty and merciful! Thanks be to God! Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
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