Monday, May 7, 2012

Fifth Sunday in Easter

John 16:5-15 (ESV)
But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' [6] But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. [7] Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. [8] And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: [9] concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; [10] concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; [11] concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
[12] "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. [13] When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. [14] He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. [15] All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

As the season of Easter transitions to Pentecost, there begins to be talk of the Holy Spirit, and his work. At times I am told we don’t talk enough about the Holy Spirit, don’t have enough of an emphasis on him and his work in the Lutheran Church. Well the thing about it is we Lutherans like to keep a balance in these things. So you won’t hear about him every Sunday in our sermons. You won’t see us trying to crucify him in the form of a dove. But you can be assured that he is doing his work because our emphasis is on Christ, and where Christ is preached and the sacraments administered there the Holy Spirit is doing his work, creating, kindling and sustaining faith. In the total scheme of things we as much emphasis as the New and Old Testaments do. They are the work of the Holy Spirit, but they don’t talk about the Holy Spirit much, they talk of Christ, and only tend to talk of the Holy Spirit when Christ is speaking of the Holy Spirit, because it was Christ who died for you.
See today, we have a bit of a role reversal. Rather than the Holy Spirit pointing to Christ, we have Christ talking of the Holy Spirit. He is trying to prepare his disciples for the coming tribulation, for his death and resurrection, but more importantly for that time when he will go to the Father. He is letting his disciples know ahead if time what will happen, and not to worry. At that time the Spirit of Truth will be sent. He will lead them into all truth. He will as Christ says, “glorify me”. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. And in the process of glorifying Christ, he will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness and judgment. This will be the work, not of the apostles, but of the Holy Spirit who has been promised to the disciples and will work through them.
It is important that we have these words of Christ, they were important to the disciples. The spirit of truth, the Helper, was promised specifically to them for these specific tasks. The man who would die and rise again from the dead, will not lie to his disciples. We all have the Holy Spirit. Everyone who has been baptized has received the Holy Spirit. Everyone who has been brought to faith has the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is at work wherever the Gospel is proclaimed and the Sacraments are administered. He tells us very clearly where he is to be found. Which is why it is so odd that those who speak of him most tell people to look for him elsewhere, and tend to associate him with things he doesn’t associate himself with. Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, this promise is for you and for your children, Peter says in the second chapter of Acts. But today in America you will be told by those claiming to be Christians, even claiming to believe in an inerrant word that this is impossible and you should look elsewhere for the Holy Spirit. Perhaps on a nice hike through the woods. Perhaps some quiet time meditating on what a great person you are. Others will tell you, you can’t know that you have the Holy Spirit unless you speak in tongues, or some other such foolishness. But Scripture is clear that we have the Holy Spirit when we are baptized. But scripture is also clear that not everyone has the Holy Spirit in the same way, or for the same purposes, or with the same gifts which are many and manifold.
All who are baptized receive the Holy Spirit. And there are some things the Holy Spirit does to all who receive him. He sanctifies all who receive him. That is he works faith in us, and makes us holy, sets us apart for God. As we say in the explanation. I believe I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the one true faith. Enlightened me with his gifts, yes, but different gifts to different people for different purposes, so that as the body of Christ we might all work together to bring the gospel to the nations.
People receive different gifts according to the tasks they are given in life. It is even true that at different times people are given different gifts according to the discernment of the Holy Spirit. And I don’t think it is all that healthy to dwell on what gifts one is given or not given at any point in time. Be assured the Holy Spirit has given you what you need to accomplish the work he has set before you, whatever that might be; Mother, Father, Son, Daughter, Sunday School teacher, Sunday School Student, Babysitter, Employee, Employer. So it is with the apostles.
One would be hard pressed to say that did not already have the Holy Spirit, when Jesus is speaking to them here. Jesus will give them the Holy Spirit in John 20. And again in the second chapter of Acts, the Holy spirit comes to them yet again. In fact the Christian life in as much as it is a life in which we grow in faith and love in the Holy Spirit, is a life in which we are constantly receiving the Holy Spirit anew, and one need not lose him to do so. His gifts are many and manifold, but chief among them is faith, which the disciples have in spades as they follow Jesus to his death. Sure it will be shaken. But they do believe already that he has the words of eternal life, and for this reason they follow him. And for this reason he promises them the spirit of truth. The man who would die and rise again will not lie to his disciples.
Because they have been given the Helper, the Spirit of truth to lead them into all truth, we know that in his word, in Holy Scripture we have all the truth we need. There we know that this word is not time bound, and transitional. This last week the Methodists voted to maintain with orthodox Christianity that homosexual acts are in fact sinful. This is the world we live in. It was a victory for the conservatives there. My gut says pyrrhic, that is not lasting long. It can’t. A church that thinks it can vote on such matters is doomed. A church can’t live off of resolutions at a convention. A church that thinks it can deceives itself. I suppose there are times when such a resolution can be a confession of faith over against the world. All well and fine. But then it should not be considered a victory, something about that makes me think perhaps someone forgot to remove the plank from their eye. Conviction of sin is never something to gloat over. Even as one must rejoice with angels when a sinner repents, and faith is restored. But resolutions of s convention do not bring about repentance. Only the word of God can do that. We know that the disciples were given the Spirit of Truth, we know therefore that scripture is true. Of what it speaks, be it ever against our notions of right and wrong, it is true, and the truth is not transitional. Truth is truth, ten thousand years ago, the same as it is today. Homosexual acts were sinful then as they are today, the same as any sexual relations outside of marriage whether adultery or fornication. So is it also sinful to doubt the word of God, and to nay say it. Therefore repentance is always accompanied by faith if it is true repentance. And again, always the work of the Holy Spirit through his word, who convicts us of sin, and yet points us to Christ who forgives our sins, and sanctifies us in that one true faith.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.

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