Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sermon -- 6th Sunday of Easter (May 26, 2019)

JOHN 14:23-29


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

In the name + of Jesus.

     In preparing his apostles for life after his ascension into heaven, Jesus had a lot to say.  St. John dedicated five chapters of his Gospel to record what Jesus taught his disciples on the night he was betrayed.  After Jesus' departure, the disciples would understandably feel at a loss without Jesus there to personally instruct, correct, admonish, and encourage his people.  What's more, Jesus was going to entrust the apostles with that task.  They would not feel up to it.  Jesus is the Son of God, the Word made flesh, and the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  The apostles were not.  Often times, they did not grasp what Jesus was saying.  What hope did they have of being the teachers of the Church?  And then for us—what confidence do we have that they got it right?
     Jesus has answered those questions and alleviates our fears.  He told the disciples: “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25-26)  Jesus gives peace you can be sure of.
     First of all, we must recognize who Jesus spoke these words to.  He addressed them to his apostles.  He has not told every Christian that he will pour his Holy Spirit directly into us to reveal special things just for us.  Nor does the Holy Spirit give each of us our own personal Gospel to believe.  All that Jesus says he intends for all to hear and believe.  It has become trendy for people to claim, “I am opposed to organized religion; but I am spiritual.”  Spiritual people tend to craft their own truths, as if they have a connection to the Holy Spirit apart from the Bible.  Their faith is more in their own thoughts, feelings, and dreams than in anything else.  They are so filled with their own spirituality that they assume their opinions are God's opinions and their feelings are God's will.
     This produces a great sense of ego and importance—that your thoughts are God's thoughts.  But consider this: How do you know your thoughts are God's thoughts?  What is the source of your confidence?  How can you be sure that you have peace with God?  You might assume it.  You may even insist that you feel it deep down inside you.  You may feel so enlightened and enamored with how deep your thoughts are.  But if this is what makes you spiritual, then know that this is from a different spirit than the Holy Spirit.  In fact, this is rebellion.  This is not approaching God's word with humility.  It is not relying on God's word at all.  Those who claim to be spiritual exalt themselves and stand in judgment over God and his word.  In other words, it is idolatry of oneself.  The Holy Spirit does not give you words which apply uniquely to you.  The Holy Spirit has been given by Jesus to reveal in the Scriptures what is God's word for all people of every age.
     The Lord comes to you in no other way than through his word.  That is the word Jesus gave to his apostles.  Jesus told them, “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.” (John 14:25)  Jesus' words are supreme.  Only faith in Jesus' words save and give life.  If you are going to believe in Jesus' words, then you must know and be sure of what Jesus said.  Therefore, Jesus continued: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)  Once again, Jesus does not put it upon you to determine what is truth.  Jesus assigned his apostles the task of teaching and preaching his words.  The apostles put Jesus' words in writing for future generations to hear, to know, and to believe.  Jesus gave his Holy Spirit to them so that did not have to work from faulty memories or get creative in their story-telling.  The Holy Spirit reminded them of the very words of Jesus and guided them to write the very words of God for your life and salvation.  What was true for them is true for you.  What stood firm then still stands firm now.  This is why Jesus gives peace you can be sure of. 
     Jesus said: “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 gives peace you can be sure of, and only Jesus gives such peace.  The world is neither reliable nor honest.  The world only gives to you when it can get something out of you.  If you are rich, famous, or productive, the world deems you valuable.  In fact, it gushes over you and regards you as an authority on matters you don't even know about.  But when you become nameless, poor, or your skills diminish, the world casts you aside.  If you have nothing to give, the world tells you that you no longer have value or worth.  It tells you that you are a drain on society.  This is not what Jesus thinks of you at all.
     The Lord Jesus came into this world not to get something out of you, but to give up everything for you.  He came to establish peace between you and God.  You and I have every reason to fear God.  Our sin has destroyed peace with God.  We confess this every week: “I have done what is evil and I have failed to do what is good.  For this I deserve your punishment, both now and in eternity.”  This is an honest assessment of what we deserve for serving our own sinful desires rather than God's commands.  Whether you consider yourself spiritual or not, we have all turned from God's ways to our own.  This is both idolatry and rebellion.  That cannot be ignored.  And it wasn't.  Instead, Jesus took into himself all of our sins and wickedness, and he endured the wrath of God in our place.  The Father unloaded the full curse on his Son and poured out all his fiery wrath at the cross.  Jesus diverted God's wrath from you to himself.  You, on the other hand, are forgiven.  Jesus did not do this to get something out of us, but to bring us into his kingdom.  There is peace between God and man.  God's favor rests upon you.  So, “let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) 
     Jesus gives you peace you can be sure of.  You don't have to guess or hope or presume to know where you stand with God.  Jesus has given words for you to take to heart so that you will not be left with doubt.  You do not have to try to make yourself all spiritual, as if good vibes and warm fuzzies prove anything.  Instead, you have the very words of God, given by the Holy Spirit through the apostles.  Jesus declared: “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:25-26)  And what Jesus said, the apostles have written for us.  In this way, Jesus gives peace you can be sure of.
     Therefore, life in the Church right after Jesus' ascension is the same now.  The word is just as true.  The Holy Spirit comes through that same word.  Jesus delivers his peace through that word.  While we do not have the flesh and blood Jesus preaching to us, we do have the words of our Lord recorded to teach us, to enlighten us, to encourage us, to comfort us, and to correct us.  The Church continues to rally around these words, just as Jesus said his people would do.  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)  We cling to these words so that we will be sure of the peace Jesus delivers to us.  For, we still commit sins.  We still fall into temptation.  We still need to confess our sins.  And for all of this, Jesus does not disown or dismiss us.  Jesus' word declares that God's peace still rests upon us.  The blood of Jesus still cleanses us.  The Holy Spirit still dwells in us.  The Father still calls us his beloved children.  We are still heirs of heaven.
     Jesus gives us peace we can be sure of.  He delivers it in his words.  We rally to hear them, study them, ponder them, and take them to heart because by them, Jesus gives us life and salvation.  They are the focal point of our worship, the foundation of our life, and the assurance of eternal glory.  Through them, God has come to make his home with us so that, when our time on earth ends, we will have a home with our Lord forever.  This is not fantasy; it is Jesus' promise.  This is the peace we can be sure of.

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

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