Sunday, June 05, 2011

Sermon for 6/5/11--Exaudi: The Seventh Sunday of Easter (LSB 1-year)

I was in the practice of posting my sermon as soon as it was written and edited. Now that I'm recording the service, I can also post a link to the audio file. So that I do not post the same sermon twice, I'll be waiting until the sermon is recorded before I post. CLICK HERE for the audio of this sermon.  (Someone let me know if it turned out okay.)

(The audio will likely be deleted once I run out of online storage space to make room for what will be more recent sermons.)

The Time Is Coming
John 15:26-16:4

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Today is the Seventh Sunday of Easter, the Sunday After the Ascension of Our Lord. This is a day of transition for the Church. This past week we commemorated the ascension of Jesus. Next Sunday we celebrate the sending of the Holy Spirit. But this Sunday is a transition in the Church calendar. Today the Church finds itself in that time between—that time when Jesus was no longer with the disciples in the way He had been with them to that point, but before the promised sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

The disciples would not be in that transition period very long. Ten days after the Ascension, the disciples would be gathered in one place, and the Holy Spirit came upon them, even as Jesus had promised them. But even then, things would not be the same for the disciples. The disciples would now be living by faith in Jesus rather than with Jesus before their eyes, and this would require a different way of living. After all, when He was with them and teaching them, He was the one who took all the heat. Nobody really paid all that much attention to the disciples. Jesus was the one with the big target painted on Him. The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the High Priest all wanted Jesus on a spit in the temple court, dying for the blasphemy of claiming that He was the very Son of God. But the disciples were just the little fish; they wanted the whale.

But in their eyes, they had hit the target; they had slain the whale. In truth, Jesus had risen from the dead and had ascended into heaven. Either way, Jesus was out of their reach. But with the disciples set to take up His cause, they would be next on the list. And that’s what Jesus was preparing them for in our Gospel reading. They’d be kicked out of the synagogue. They’d become targets, and the people aiming for those targets would do so in the name of God. The perversion could go no farther than to murder God’s children in the name of God as an act of worship. Their idea of God and what He would desire of them was so distorted because they didn’t recognize God.

These things I am telling you, that you won’t be caught unawares,” He told them. They were to share with the world everything Jesus shared with them; and He promised to send the Spirit upon them from the Father so that, even knowing what was to come, they would know the truth of that message and continue to share that message, even to the point of death. “The time is coming,” He said. And as the Acts of the Apostles tells us, the time came. It all happened exactly as Jesus said it would. Each of the apostles would face ridicule and persecution; and with the exception of the Apostle John, eventually each of them would be put to death.

Unlike the disciples, we do not face the same kind of transition period between the departure of Jesus and the sending of the Holy Spirit. Instead, we live in the time which Jesus foretold. The world doesn’t know God. It doesn’t understand the Christians who do know God. What the world does not understand, it fears; and what the it fears, it kills. The time has come. The time has come when you will be made to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. The time has come when clinging to God’s Word will cause some who call themselves Christians to try to remove you from the Church. The time has come when people will seek to persecute you for living according to God’s Word. The time is coming. Faithful pastors are driven from the pulpits they have been called to serve precisely for preaching faithfully. The time is coming and has come when some will even seek to kill you for your faith. Some people consider Christians to be extremists and terrorist threats. Take that to the next step: how long will it be before Christians are locked away or even put to death for belonging to a congregation that preaches Christ? The time is coming. How can we persevere?

That, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is the crux of the matter. Too often, we do not persevere. Too often we find ourselves wilting under the pressure. We look to the heavens, throw up our hands and cry out, “Why, Lord?” Too often we look at the Word of Truth and seek to hedge our bet. “Sure, I believe in Jesus, yeah . . . but I don’t think I need to be part of the Church to worship Him.” “Yes, the Bible is the Word of God . . . but that doesn’t mean God can control what I do with my body.” Too often we look at our various roles in life—parent or child, citizen, worker, or whatever it may be—and we see these as hardships rather than vocations from God. We stumble in our selfishness, unprepared for the trials that come.

This is why it’s so important that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit. The spirit helps you and gives you comfort that goes from today throughout all eternity. After all, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. This Spirit descended upon you in the waters of Holy Baptism, and He continues to come to you in the Word and in the Holy Supper, giving you that comfort, that aid, and hope for eternity. How can this be? Simply put, the Holy Spirit points you to and gives you Jesus. In the midst of sufferings and trials, sorrows and persecutions, you receive Jesus. Your problems are more than can be solved by reading self-help books or by living a morally upright life. You need a Savior. You need Jesus, and that’s exactly what the Spirit gives you.

The comfort, peace and life which Jesus gives you, things you receive by the work of the Holy Spirit, mean that the struggles you endure, the frustrations you feel, and the persecutions you face as Christians will pass away. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “I consider that the sufferings of this present age are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Christ is in you and you are in Christ, and this means that these tribulations you face on earth will not endure for you. Even if you suffer persecution unto death for the sake of your faith, this will not be the end for you. Heaven awaits you. Jesus has ascended, going before you to prepare a place for you; and He sent the Spirit so that you will be comforted and have the faith to endure.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, today we rejoice in two things. First, we rejoice that Jesus ascended into heaven. And second, we rejoice that He did not leave us to fend for ourselves, but instead sent His Holy Spirit to comfort us and give us peace. We are not alone. Christ is still present with you; and the Holy Spirit has come to you so that you believe, even though you cannot see. Thanks be to God! For even though the time is coming and, indeed, has come, by God’s grace you will endure. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

1 comment:

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