Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sermon for 5/3/15: Easter V

I apologize for how late I am in posting this. My computer is still down. I hope to have it back soon. In the meantime, there will be no audio recording posted.

The Spirit Preaches the Gospel


The work of the Holy Spirit is not as well known or recognized as that of the other two persons of the Holy Trinity, Father and Son. However, that is by design, because the work of the Spirit is to bear witness, not to Himself, but to Christ. That is what the Holy Spirit does: He bears witness to what Christ has done, and then brings us to faith through that witness. Honestly, though, that is not what usually comes to mind when talk turns to the Holy Spirit. Mention the Spirit, and most think of the wild claims of Televangelists, faith healers, speaking in tongues, and "God spoke to me" talk. All of this misses the real work of the Spirit and perverts the Gospel. 
These are the marks of the Church: Baptism, Absolution, Preaching, and the Lord's Supper. These things are the work of the Holy Spirit. Everything else in the Church is really secondary to these, for these are the things that create and sustain faith; these are the things that grant forgiveness of sins, victory over death and the devil, God's grace, and Christ in all the fullness of His grace and glory. God makes Christians by water and the Word, by His gift of grace. Christian faith and life do not happen because God's ears are filled up with our words of promise; those words are untrue and uncertain. Christian faith and life comes by hearing the Word and promise of God, for those words and promises are most certainly true and unbreakable.
So, what happened to the Holy Spirit? Nothing, really. He is alive and well. As Jesus tells us in this Gospel, He is convicting us of sin, because of that stain of unbelief that still wants to live in our hearts. He is convicting us of righteousness, because even the holiest of our good works are but filthy rags. And He is convicting us of judgment because Satan has already been condemned. In all of this the Spirit preaches the Word of God into the ears of the unbelieving and the skeptical so that they, too, might receive life and faith and righteousness in Christ.
And that same Holy Spirit preaches the Gospel into your ears. "Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is (your) Lord, who has purchased and won (you) from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death." All of this, so that in His blood You are declared holy.
You don't have to be good to go to heaven. In fact, you can't be that good. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Jesus said that He came to seek and to save the lost, that is, the condemned of the world. Again, He said that those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Of the goodness and mercy of God, for the sake of the suffering, dying, and rising of the Son of God, you needn't lift a finger to inherit eternal life. It is yours as a gift of the Father in heaven, for the sake of His Son, delivered into your ears, and through your ears to your hearts, by the preaching of the Holy Spirit.
The holy Christian Church on earth is a hearing Church, not a seeing Church. It is all by way of the Word of God, preached and taught; the Word that is heard, and not by the seeing of the eyes. Preaching and Absolution are the things. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." For this reason, everything in the Church is so ordered that the Gospel is preached into the ears of those who would believe such words and promises of God, by the work of the Holy Spirit. And the very same is true of the Lord's Supper and Baptism. If you come to the altar seeking with your eyes, you see only bread and wine. But if you listen with your ears, then you know that the body and blood of Christ are there for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. If you witness a baptism only with your eyes, all you see is water. Listen with your ears, however, and you hear of the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.
The Church lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. You are not an apostle; neither am I. We did not see Jesus for ourselves. Our eyes are no good to us, only our ears. Be like Mary, the mother of our Lord, who heard the word of God by the angel Gabriel, and then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word made flesh was conceived within her. In the same way, Christ dwells in the depths of your being through the work of the Holy Spirit, who preaches Him into your ears and hearts.
Dear Christians, you have every reason to rejoice. You have been declared righteous for the sake of Christ, who went to the Father through suffering, death and resurrection. You are righteous because He absorbed your unrighteousness in the font of the Jordan River, and then put it to death on the cross. You are righteous because the Holy Spirit preaches the righteousness of Christ into your ears, and opens your ears and the eyes of your faith to His body and blood which is given to you under bread and wine, for the forgiveness of sins. You are righteous because that same Christ is now your Mediator with the Father in heaven, pleading with Him, praying to Him that He would see you now in Christ's perfect righteousness. That is what the Holy Spirit is about. That is the work He does. He takes what is Christ's and gives it to you. As the Introit today bids us: "Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations." ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA! In the name of the Farther 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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