Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sermon for 5/12/13--Seventh Sunday of Easter

No audio this week. Recording error. Sorry!

Faithful Witnesses

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

The disciples knew they were standing in the presence of the Son of God. Though they did not understand everything, they believed that He had the words of eternal life. They had been with Him almost from the beginning. They had walked with Him and had seen and heard much. The sick had been healed, the blind made to see, the deaf to hear, and even the dead to rise. Sinners had come to Him to hear His words of forgiveness and to have their feet set on the way of righteousness. Now they were to be bearers of His glad tidings of salvation to the world. He was placing tremendous confidence in them! As the scene in this text takes place they had not yet seen His cross and resurrection, but those, too, were coming in short order.

Jesus did not leave His disciples in darkness. He prepared them for what was to follow. He told them, “They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” Witness to faith in Jesus Christ invites persecution and affliction. The disciples faced this. If you have not yet, your time is coming. Just consider the words of the Book of Revelation, words spoken about the Church on earth: “These are the ones who come out of great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Jesus knew the confusion that continued to trouble the hearts of His disciples. The promise He now gave them must have gladdened their hearts. “When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father…He will testify of Me.” Whatever was to meet them on their way, their hearts would always be able to rejoice that Jesus was their Savior. We cannot measure how much this means to the Church’s witness today.

Ours is an age of spiritual skepticism and do-it-yourself religion. God’s means of grace need to be brought front and center. The significance of Baptism needs to be lifted up. Through Holy Baptism we are born into a new life, brought into the life of Christ Himself, and made partakers of eternal life. How often our stumbling witness must fall back upon the grace of our Baptism, upon those promises of God that never fail. He who believes and is baptized shall see the Lord’s salvation. The comfort and strength of our Baptism will give us courage to move forward even in the face of death.

The significance of the Lord’s Supper needs to be lifted up as well. In the body and blood of the Savior we are partakers of His death which cleanses us from all sin. The Holy Spirit does His blessed work therein, strengthening our faith, giving weight to the witness we bear to the world. But St. Paul also tells us that in our eating and drinking of the body and blood of our Savior we are proclaiming Christ’s death until He returns. Though it may seem ordinary, let us never underestimate the significance of what is taking place when the faithful of the Lord gather around His Table, not only for their own sake, but for the sake of the world, as well.

For our witness to be clear and faithful, powerful and unafraid, faith must be anchored in the Word of God. The Word of God is the fountain of life from which our souls must continually be nourished. It is the source of our strength. It permeates and gives power to every faithful effort we make. It is the Word of God that reveals to us the way to eternal life. It reveals the love of our heavenly Father in Jesus Christ. The Word of God condemns sin, but it also leads us to the foot of the cross where the one sacrifice for sin was made. The power of the Word of God projects itself beyond the confession of our lips into a life that is lived to the glory of God and for the blessing of our neighbor. The Word of God reveals to us the blessing of prayer. In our helplessness we may go to Jesus and ask for the Spirit of Truth, who bears witness to Him and gives power and grace to the words of witness we speak.

By our side stands the Son of God. Though He is ascended to glory, He remains with us always, even to the ends of the earth, as He told His disciples. And even as in years gone by He has stood by the host of Christians who have borne faithful witness to Him, our Lord now stands with you, even amidst persecution and affliction and death—and it will be so even to the end of the world. 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.

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