Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sermon: Rogate (Easter 6) – 2017

21 May 2017

Text: John 16:23-33 (Numbers 21:4-9, Jas 1:22-27)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

“I have said these things to you in figures of speech.  The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.”

Sometimes, it’s best to beat around the bush.  We sometimes soften bad news by using softer language.  We sometimes avoid things not appropriate for children by using figurative language.  Sometimes, our audience may not be ready to hear everything we would like to tell them, so we start small, and work our way toward full disclosure.

Jesus often spoke in “figures of speech” – often in parables.  And some people would “get it,” and others would be puzzled.  Our Lord’s revelation of Himself wasn’t spoken to the disciples all at once.  He spoke in parables, performed miracles, and preached on the prophetic Scriptures that referred to Him.  He gradually revealed more and more about Himself and the divine plan. 

At first, the only ones who seemed to know the whole truth about Him were the demons, who confessed that Jesus is the “Son of the Most High” – and Jesus silenced them.  It wasn’t yet time for everyone to be told everything.  Learning about Jesus was a process.

And so, some people would get frustrated and leave, while others were willing to leave absolutely everything behind to follow Him.

In His three years of ministry, Jesus would reveal various truths about who He is and what He is doing in our world.  And Jesus did indeed speak in figures of speech.  But when they saw Him die on the cross, and when they saw Him rise again – there was no more need for figures of speech.  For they saw the revelation of who He is and what He does for us: the Lamb of God who came into the world to die in our place, to grant us forgiveness of sins, and to bring us to everlasting life.  For the lamb was just a figure pointing to the reality of the sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross.  And the Passover was just a figure pointing to the reality of the true flesh and blood of the Son of God being given to us to consume and receive, holy things for holy people, so that the angel of death would indeed pass over the tent of our flesh once and for all!

It was at the cross where Jesus truly revealed the Father – for Jesus is the very icon of the self-sacrificing, limitless love that is God in the flesh. 

But even before His passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus begins to fill in the missing pieces of our understanding of who He is: “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God.  I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world, and going to the Father.”

Here we see the plain truth, with no beating around the bush.  Jesus speaks plainly.  For our Lord came from the Father into the world, “of the Father’s love begotten,” and He did so because the Father loves us.  For we love the Son, the image of the Father, who has come to save us.  And so in Christ, the Lord answers our prayer.  And our greatest prayer of all, dear friends, is “Lord, have mercy!”  For apart from that divine mercy, we are left with nothing other than sin and death and hell.  But in Christ, in the love of the Father, in the One who is going to the cross and ascending to the Father, in Him, our greatest enemy is vanquished: death itself.

I was recently challenged by a young person as to what our church does.  I told her that we raise the dead.  For we baptize, and preach, and absolve, and commune.  Jesus comes to us where and how He has promised to do so, and He does so plainly without figurative language: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…; Take, eat, take drink…; Father, forgive them.”  And as St. Paul teaches us, “We were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united in a resurrection like His.” 

“Ah, now You are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech!” we can say with the original disciples in response to the Word of God.  Jesus has come to raise us from death by forgiving our sins. 

For Jesus speaks plainly through the Word.  And so “we know that [He knows] all things.”  We do not need to question Him. And we believe that He came from God.

For just as the children of Israel saw the figure of the bronze serpent on the pole, that moved them from death to life, so now in Christ, there is no figure, but rather the Man Jesus lifted upon the cross, so that all who look to Him “shall live.”

Indeed, dear friends, in Christ, we do not need to beat around the bush.  We are given forgiveness, life, and salvation as a free gift, and we are called to live holy lives, even as James speaks plainly and without figurative language, “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  For in doing, that is, in living and following and being shaped by the plain-spoken Word of God, we are “blessed in our doing.”

Dear brothers and sisters, the plainspoken truth is this: Jesus has died to give you everlasting life as a gift, and having received that gift, you are freed up to have religion that is “pure and undefiled before God, the Father” – a religion that not only hears, but does, – a religion that, without figures of speech but speaking plainly – raises the dead!  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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