Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sermon: Wednesday of Exaudi (Easter 7) - 2018

16 May 2018

Text: John 15:26-16:4 (Ezek 36:22-28, 1 Pet 4:7-14)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!
“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away…. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”

This prophecy was to come true very quickly, as Christians became subject to persecutions: first by the Jewish authorities, then by Roman state, and later at the hands of radical Islam.  This latter persecution persists to this very day.  “Whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”

Jesus doesn’t tell us this so that we would despair, but rather so that we would rejoice at the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Our Lord also said, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”

The Helper is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth.  He is not our own spirit.  He is not an emotional shot in the arm.  He is not enthusiasm.  He is the Third Person of God, sent to us in an objective way to guide us into all the truth, and to keep us from falling away.  He inspires the Scriptures to be written, and He comes to us in Word and Sacrament.  He keeps the Church faithful, and He draws individual believers back to the Father by pointing them to the Son.  And as the Lord Jesus Christ was revealing this to the apostles, the Holy Spirit was yet to unleash His might upon the Church and the world at Pentecost.  We have the blessing of 20-20 hindsight, knowing what the coming of the Helper truly meant to them, and means to us today.

The Holy Spirit’s presence, unlike the false claims of false teachers, doesn’t mean that you will never suffer, never doubt, never struggle, never wrestle with health issues, and never endure poverty.  The Holy Spirit is not a genie in a bottle that does our bidding because we are so wonderful.  The Holy Spirit’s ministry is not to dole out mansions, yachts, and private jets to prosperity preachers on TV.

That, dear friends, is a great lie.  For what does our Lord teach us about the ministry of the Spirit?  Once more, the Lord tells us that the Spirit comes to us because we will be harassed and hounded, put out of polite society, and be dehumanized and demonized, so that even our lives and the lives of our children might be taken from us.

Doctor Luther described “the cross” as one of the marks of the Church.  Asia Bibi, who has been in prison on death row in Pakistan for her Christian faith, bears that cross; Joyce Meyer and Jesse Duplantis, false TV preachers who have gotten rich off of diabolical lies, do not bear the cross, but rather inflict that cross upon the true Church.

Dear friends, the Christian life is a warrior life.  We realize that we are under the constant attacks of the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh.  We resist, led by the Holy Spirit, armed by the Word of God, fortified by the Holy Sacraments, and fighting under the command and protection of our King, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Evil is all around us.  We are constantly being lied to: by the culture, by the state, by the once-Christian institutions of entertainment, media, and education.  Our faith is under constant assault, even here where we have not yet gotten to the point where we are allowed to be killed.  Instead, we are bullied and browbeaten to abandon our faith and just go with the flow of the culture of death and the ways and works of the devil (which we have renounced at our baptisms, as the Holy Spirit descended upon us to protect us from the evil one).

For at our Holy Baptism, the Lord sprinkled us with clean water, and we were cleansed from sin and death.  The Lord removed the heart of stone, the cold, dead mind of sin that is our heritage as sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, and He replaced that malignant heart with a heart of flesh, the pure, renewed flesh of the resurrection.  Indeed, this renewal is also the work of the Holy Spirit, and His reclamation of our bodies and souls is an ongoing project that will not end until we have been raised from the dead to eternal life, the life that will itself have no end.

St. Peter exhorts us: “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.”  In this fallen world, this culture of death, because of our stony hearts, we are out of control and we are anything but sober-minded.  But the Holy Spirit comes to us to being about a profound change, a re-orientation toward the holy: the good, the true, the beautiful; to the restoration of our true humanity, shedding off the evil shell like a serpent shedding its old skin.  The Spirit comes to us in Word and Sacrament, and blesses us, even as we grow ever closer to the Father – both in the sanctification of the conduct of our lives, and in the hallowing of the time we have left in this life.

St. Peter reiterates our Lord’s words about both persecution and the Holy Spirit: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of glory, enables us to rejoice even in the midst of persecution – which should not come to us by surprise.  “Above all,” says the apostle, “keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

Indeed, love – the love of our Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross to atone for us and for the sins of the world – “covers a multitude of sins.”  By the grace of Christ and by the ministry of the Spirit, according to the will of the Father, we live in this love that has been poured out upon us lavishly, like the water and blood that issued from His side, like the water of Holy Baptism and the blood of the Holy Supper to which the Holy Spirit draws us according to our need.

Let us take our rest in the Holy Spirit and in His gathering together of the flock of the Lord’s people, the called and the forgiven, that is, the Church.  Let us receive this love and pour out this love with equal liberality.  

And by the Spirit’s guiding, let us remember the words and promises of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we may remember that He told them to us, now, and even unto eternity.  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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