Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sermon -- 6th Sunday of Easter (May 10, 2015)

JOHN 14:23-29

Pastor:            Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
Cong:              He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

In the name + of Jesus.

     There are few things more miserable than being lonely.  We all have an intense desire to be loved or to belong.  Some will give into their better senses in order to achieve this acceptance.  Girls are seduced by boyfriends.  Boys will do things both illegal and immoral just to keep their buddies.  Almost anything is better than being lonely or a cast away.  It is important for our young people to know that, when they enter high school and especially when they go off to college, living like a Christian can make you feel awfully alone.  Temptations to forsake the faith for the sake of being accepted will be persistent.  You will need the prayers and support of these people in this congregation.  You will need to find a faithful Lutheran church near your campus so that you can lean on the support of the Christians in your home away from home.  Most importantly, you will need Jesus.
     The disciples on Maundy Thursday knew that they needed Jesus, too.  For three years, that was not a problem.  He was with them, continually praying for them, protecting them, and preaching to them.  But that was about to change.  Jesus stated, You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’” (John 14:28)  I think it is likely that the disciples only heard the words, “I am going away.”  They were grieved.  Their Messiah was going to depart.  They probably felt that he was abandoning them.  They were about to feel very much alone. 
     What was even more strange was to hear Jesus say, “If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28)  The disciples should be glad that Jesus was leaving them?  And while it is good for Jesus that he his going to the Father, what about us?  How is this good for us?  The disciples did not understand that, either.
     Though Jesus was about to die, he would be raised from the dead.  After Jesus rose from the dead, he would also ascend to heaven.  It was never Jesus’ plan to stay on earth forever or to establish a worldly kingdom here.  But that does not mean he abandons his disciples or his Church.  Instead, the Lord promises he will make his home with you.
     Now, in order for the Lord to make his home with you, he has to drive out sin.  That which is holy and that which is sinful cannot dwell together, any more than darkness and light can co-exist together.  The Lord cannot make himself at home with you as long as your sins are at home with you.  He calls you to repent.  But your repentance and sorrow over your sins will not take them away.  Judas Iscariot deeply regretted betraying Jesus into the hands of his enemies, but that did not bring him forgiveness.  It did not bring him any peace.  Consumed by guilt and regret, Judas went away by himself and hanged himself.
     Even in our sinful condition, the Lord does not abandon us.  He comes to us and gives us a word of peace.  He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  (John 14:27)  Jesus’ peace is not so fickle that it will be withdrawn when we mess up.  On the contrary, it is precisely because we still mess up that Jesus delivers such a tremendous peace.  You can probably think of times when a friend no longer wanted anything to do with you because you had sinned against him or her.  Perhaps it was a lie.  Perhaps it was gossip.  Perhaps it was not even that you sinned against them, but pointed out their sins to them so that they would repent.  Then your friend no longer had any use for you.  That friendship was only as strong as one infraction.  It was fickle.  God’s peace is not like that.  Though he does not excuse sins, he will forgive them.  Jesus does not abandon you because you are still a sinner.  Rather, he remains your Savior because you are still a sinner.  The Lord makes his home with you.
     Jesus’ peace is not fragile either.  It is not broken by a dysfunctional family.  It is not shattered by insults.  It is not even marred by death.  The peace that Jesus gives you comes from his work for you.  Therefore, it is indestructible.  He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:25)  As sure as his death and resurrection are, that is how sure your forgiveness and salvation are.  Your guilt is never greater than Jesus’ mercy.  As surely as Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, that is how sure your resurrection and eternal life are.  Not even your death separates you from the love of Jesus.  And that is why it was good that Jesus returned to the Father.  He lives and reigns, forever interceding for you.  He sends his Holy Spirit to you, giving him as a deposit for eternal life.  Far from abandoning you, the Lord makes his home with you. 
     This is why you love Jesus, and this is why you delight in hearing his word.  It is also why you need to hear his word.  The world has not gotten any better.  People are still fickle—they may abandon you when friendship is no longer convenient.  The world’s promises are all fragile.  All the things which are supposed to bring you happiness can be swept away in a moment’s notice.  All the plans you had get thrown out.  But Jesus does not give to you as the world gives.  The Lord makes his home with you so that his gifts—forgiveness, salvation, mercy, the resurrection to eternal life—always remain with you.
     The Lord makes his home with you.  And it is important for you to understand how he does that.  Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)  Jesus works through his word.  Whether that word is preached or added to the sacraments, that is where Jesus is at work.  That is where he sends his Holy Spirit to you.  That is why it is important to keep his word, that is, to guard and cherish it as the greatest treasure you have—for it is!  It is good for you to hear the word preached, to read the word in your homes and with your families, and to meditate on what God has to say.  Then you will not be led astray by people who preach a worldly feel-good message which promises that you will be happy now.  If your peace comes through what makes you happy now, you will find yourself on a relentless pursuit of the next fetish.  Peace will be fickle and fragile since happiness can be destroyed so quickly. 
     The Lord does not grant his peace to you in any other place than his word.  There, you will find divine promises that cannot fail.  There, you will learn the evils which are to be despised and avoided and the good which is to be loved and performed.  There, you will find a Triune God who delights in you, who promises to dwell with you, and who will never forsake you even if the whole world turns against you.  The world and its passions are going to perish, but the word of God stands forever.
     The Lord makes his home with you.  He will never forsake you.  He has even gathered you together with fellow Christians who delight in God’s word with you.  Jesus has united you with a body of believers who encourage you and remind you that you are never truly alone.  We all join together to receive God’s mercy and peace in his word and sacraments.  We all get to pray for one another and support one another in a world that offers no real peace and cannot keep any of its promises.  But Jesus does not give to us as the world gives.  His peace is continual.  His presence is constant.  He remains our Immanuel, God with us, so that we will finally make our home in his heavenly glory.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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