Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!


Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Before Abraham Was I Am - May 26, 2013 - Holy Trinity Sunday - Text: John 8:48-59

Last Sunday we celebrated Pentecost Sunday and the giving of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is that person of the trinity of whom we describe as being the third person of the trinity, the Comforter, the Counselor, and the One whose work is sanctification which is the giving and strengthening of our faith. This week, before we get into the Pentecost Season and the Sundays after Pentecost, we take one Sunday to rejoice in and talk about the trinity of God as today is what we call Holy Trinity Sunday.
Interestingly enough, the Old Testament speaks about the trinity of God and in our Old Testament reading for this morning we hear of the trinity of God described as wisdom. King Solomon describes wisdom as creating the world. Of course, we understand that wisdom is most certainly God as there is and can be no true wisdom apart from or outside of God. Yes, there can be some human, sin tainted knowledge, but the Lord and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of true Wisdom. Thus, as Solomon says about Wisdom, “25Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, 26before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world” (v. 25, 26). In other words, Wisdom is God, who was there creating the world.
Further, Solomon continues speaking about Wisdom saying, “27When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30then I was beside him, like a master workman” (v. 27-30a).  In other words, the Wisdom of God established the laws of nature.
Indeed, as Solomon describes Wisdom, we know that Wisdom is God and as we see, moving into the New Testament, God in Jesus is true Wisdom, thus we know His words are true when Jesus says He is truth and when He says He is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is God. God is wisdom. Jesus is wisdom incarnate as He is God incarnate.
Moving into our text in our Gospel reading we come to a very usual scene, that is that the Jews, especially the Pharisees and teachers of the law are questioning Jesus and we see the Wisdom of God in Jesus in His answer to the Jews. Jesus answers the Jews by contrasting Himself with them. The Jews accuse Jesus of being a Samaritan and being demon possessed. The Jews despise the Samaritans because they were not pure blooded Jews as they thought themselves to be. The contrast is that Jesus loves all people and Jesus came to save all people. The Jews speak evil of others. The contrast is that Jesus speaks well of all. And the Jews seek their own glory. The contrast is that Jesus seeks the glory of God the Father.
The Jews believed that they had an eternal inheritance in heaven because of their birthright, that is that they were born of the family line of Abraham. They believed theirs was an entitlement based on genetics. They continually failed to understand that the covenant God made to save the world was not a covenant based on family line, or genetics, but was a covenant based on faith, a covenant the children of Israel constantly broke and ultimately gave up. Jesus speaks of a covenant of faith and eternal life through faith in Him.
When Jesus speaks of faith and eternal life, the Jews only see death and their claim is son-ship to God the Father through Abraham. Again, the Jews continually look for salvation in the wrong place. Now, before we proceed, let us understand that there are many in our world today and even among us who are like the children of Israel. And it is not if, but how often do we get ourselves pointed in the wrong direction, thinking perhaps that since our name is on the roles of a church that means we have eternal life. Or, thinking that if we are living as good citizens, not being bad people that we might think we have eternal life. Very much like the Jews, we get it wrong when we fail to understand that God’s covenant with us is a covenant of faith, a covenant which He makes with us and one which He confirms through His Word and Sacraments, a covenant which He delights to make with us and one of which we delight to be apart through our desire to be continually in His Word, hearing His Word in Divine Service and Bible Class, remembering our Baptism, confessing our sins and hearing His Word of Absolution and partaking of His body and blood in His Holy Supper. Indeed, there are too many among us in the Christian Church today who are no different in their lives and actions than the Jews of Jesus’ day.
The Jews continue to show their misunderstanding and their lack of knowledge and faith as they question Jesus concerning His claim of Messiahship. And so, Jesus declares His eternal presence with the words, “I AM.” The words, “I AM,” harken back to the name the Lord gave to Moses in the wilderness when Moses asked who he should tell the children of Israel sent him and the Lord said, “Tell them I AM has sent me.” Indeed, Jesus is rightfully claiming that He is “I AM,” He is truly God in human flesh.
With Jesus claim, the Jews, not believing Him, accuse Him of blasphemy and want to stone Him, but in His divinity He hides Himself and walks right through them, which you would think would be a clue of His divinity, but as usual, they just simply cannot see what Jesus so well demonstrates time and again to them, through the signs, wonders, and miracles He performs. They do not believe and cannot believe that Jesus is the Messiah, God in flesh.
What does this mean? Today on this Holy Trinity Sunday we rejoice and celebrate Jesus dual nature that is that He is truly God and truly human, as we confess in our creeds, that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. We rejoice and celebrate that as true man He lived perfectly for us in our place obeying all God’s laws and commands perfectly. We rejoice and celebrate that as true God He defeated sin, death and the devil.
On this Holy Trinity Sunday we rejoice and celebrate that Jesus is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the trinity of God. As we confessed in the Athanasian Creed we do believe in a God who is three persons in one Godhead. We confess that the One God we worship, while being a God of three persons, that the three persons of the trinity are never divided, but always united, so that were the Father is, there is the Son and the Holy Spirit; where the Son is, there is the Father and the Holy Spirit; and where the Holy Spirit is, there is the Father and the Son. We also celebrate that there will not be an eternal life in heaven test so that we have to completely and fully understand and explain this trinity of God.
On this Holy Trinity Sunday we rejoice and celebrate God in Jesus living for us, taking all our sins upon Himself, freely, of His own free will, not by compulsion or coercion so that He might suffer the price, the penalty, the cost of eternal spiritual death for us. He died for us the most cruel of deaths and yet most especially we celebrate His rising from the dead for us, thus defeating sin, death and the power of the devil.
On this Holy Trinity Sunday we rejoice and celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit who gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith. It is the work of the Holy Spirit who opens our hearts, minds and eyes to see that Jesus is who He says He is, that is that He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, even God Himself in human flesh and blood. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us faith and the faith He gives we rejoice that He gives through the outward means that He has given, His means of grace. We rejoice that as infants, through the simple earthly element of water and His Holy Word, even His name being put on us, we are given faith. Through confession and absolution we are given forgiveness of sins. Through our reading and through our hearing the preached Word, we are given and strengthened in our faith. And through our being given His body and blood, in, with and under the simple earthly elements of bread and wine, in His Holy Supper we are given and strengthened in faith. And certainly as were are given and strengthened in our faith through these very means our desire is to be active in making regular and diligent use of these means so that we might be given even more of the good gifts and blessings our Lord has to give to us.
On this Holy Trinity Sunday we rejoice and celebrate that the Holy Spirit stirs in us to confess our faith with our mouths and to confess our faith through our living lives in response of faith. Indeed, as Paul reminds us that along with creating us to love us, that God created us and redeemed us so that we might do the good works which He prepared in advance for us to do, good works which show forth the faith that He has given to us, good works which work to extend His kingdom on earth by calling others to faith, and good works which give glory to Him and Him alone.
Jesus is true God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, demonstrating His divinity by the signs, wonders and miracles He performed. Jesus is true man, born of the human woman, the virgin Mary, demonstrating His humanity in that He was locally present, was tired, hungry and wept, and died on the cross. Jesus is One with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus, true God, with the Father and the Holy Spirit at the creation of the world, took on human flesh and blood in order to fulfill God’s promise to send a Savior. He was believed in by Abraham. And He gives glory to God through His perfect life, suffering, death and resurrection. Today we celebrate the trinity of our God especially in the incarnation and the person of Jesus Christ. And most certainly as we celebrate we are moved to rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Peace - May 19, 2013 - Pentecost Sunday - Text: John 14:23-31

Today we celebrate Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promise while He was with His disciples was that after His death and resurrection, He would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that helped the disciples to put together all the pieces of what they were missing from Jesus teaching while He was with them. It was not that Jesus was missing something in His teaching, it was that they did not understand because of their own human sinfulness and failings. This morning in our text we have another word from Jesus to His disciples with His promise to send the Holy Spirit and we have a word about the work of the Holy Spirit.
Last week we heard Jesus’ words of prayer for us. Jesus prays for us that we might grow in our faith and as we heard, we grow in our faith through prayer, meditation and affliction. We grow in our faith as we have an urgency about making regular and diligent use of the means of grace, an urgency about reading our Bible, having personal and family devotions, being in Divine Service and Bible Class as often as offered. We grow in our faith as we are in prayer and communion with Jesus. And we grow in our faith through our clinging to our Lord in times of affliction. It is this urgency which flows out of our hearts as a response to the faith our Lord has first given to us, always pointing to Jesus.
It is Jesus who first loves us and He shows His love for us in the giving of His life for ours. We are raised to believe that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. David reminds us in Psalm 5:5 “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.” David reminds us that not only does God hate the sin and He even hates the sinner. So, how can this be we might ask? This is one of those great paradoxes that we have to leave in tension and live with it. God hates the sinner. Jesus loves us and gave His life for us, the sinner. God loves us only because of Jesus’ work for us, the giving of His life for ours. Jesus and God are one, so how can this be? As always, thanks be to God that there is no test and that we do not have to fully understand Him in order to have access to eternal life. And even though we might not fully understand how this works, when we remember that God does not live in time as we do, but that God sees all things at the same time, then we can begin to get an understanding that God loves us because Jesus died for us and at the same time, Jesus died for us because God loves us. Again, with the pointing to Jesus.
God is the prime mover. God created the world. Mankind brought sin into the world. God promised to send a Redeemer. God gives us, each one of us life at conception. God gives us new life through Holy Baptism and His Word. God gives us forgiveness as He gives His only Son on the cross. Jesus gives Himself. Following His resurrection and ascension, He gives us the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the Comforter, the Counselor.
Today we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit is to give faith. Jesus tells us this by saying, “26But 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” (v. 26). The Holy Spirit will and has, given the apostles and writers of Holy Scripture the Words to write so that we might have them for ourselves, that is, He has given us the inspired Word of God. It is through this Word as a means that He comes to us to give us faith. As always, we remember that God’s Word is a Word with power. God’s Word does what it says. When God speaks to us in His Word, that is what happens. When God says we are given faith, we are given faith. When He says we are forgiven, we are forgiven. Thus, the work of the Holy Spirit is to give faith.
Further, the work of the Holy Spirit is to strengthen faith. Here we are reminded of our need to make regular and diligent use of these means through which the Holy Spirit comes to give us His good gifts and blessings. Just as we would not stay away from the grocery store or the farmers market, but make regular trips so that we might have physical food to eat, so we are to make regular trips to the Lord’s Word, to His Holy Supper, and remembering His putting His name on us at Holy Baptism, that we are His, because He has claimed us. Through these means and through our making regular (and when I say regular I mean every day and every Sunday) and diligent, meaning often, use of these means the Holy Spirit strengthens us in faith and keeps us in faith.
The Holy Spirit also stirs in us, that is He motivates us to obedience and works of service. We do good works only because the Holy Spirit works good works in and through us and it is these good works which show the faith we have in our hearts. Jesus says it this way in our text, “23If 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. 24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (v. 23b-24). Our faith or lack of faith shows in our actions. But let me caution you here, let us not confuse social good works with what are truly good works in God’s eyes. Social good works are those works which flow from guilt or from a belief that God needs us to do something for Him. True good works in God’s eyes are those that, very often we do without even realizing it.
And the Holy Spirit gives us peace. The peace that the Holy Spirit gives is not simply an earthly peace, it is not a peace of a quiet day or a quiet evening with all the kids out of the house or in bed asleep. No, the peace that the Holy Spirit gives is a peace that passes all understanding, it is that peace Jesus won for us on the cross. It is the peace of knowing our sins are forgiven and that we have eternal life with Him in heaven.
Jesus is accused of a lot of things in our world. He is accused especially by those who fail to read and listen to His Word. Jesus is accused of not claiming to be God; of not claiming to be the Messiah; of not being anything more than a mere human being who was a good man and a good teacher. The fact of the matter is, if you read His Word, Jesus made sure that we would see that He is God and the Messiah. He always made His promises before fulfilling them, so that we would know that what He says is true. He made a promise to send the Holy Spirit. And He did send the Holy Spirit.
Again, He made sure we knew it was going to happen before it happened so that we might believe it when it did happen. He promised that He would take care of our sins. He promised that He would suffer and die on the cross. He promised that He would rise again. And all these things that He promised came about just as He had promised. This is what He meant when He explained, “29And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.” (v. 29).
We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with suggestions that we are to do something and here I am speaking mostly in spiritual terms. Listen to the preachers of the so called successful churches, those churches that have given in to the sociological suggestions of how the church should be, modeled after our entertainment world. There are those which would have us believe that we can be the people God’s wants us to be, when in reality our sinful nature keeps us from being right before God. There are those who would challenge us to be about living a life of purpose. We are asked to make a decision for Jesus; to commit our lives to Him, to make Him Lord of our lives, and so forth. What all these suggestions boil down to is that the world tells us we are to actively work for our salvation, in other words, they all point us to ourselves.
The challenges is always, were is the focus? When we focus in on ourselves, all we find is our sinful nature rearing up its ugly head. We try, but we fail. We simply cannot be the people God would have us to be, or for that matter, the people the world would have us to be. Left to ourselves and our own devices, we would be eternally lost. Thanks be to God, thanks be to Jesus for sending the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit moves me to respond in faith. Thus, we turn the focus where it needs to be, where it will give us the greatest comfort and peace. We turn the focus back to Jesus.
Because Jesus loves me He died for me. He died for me so that I might not suffer eternal spiritual death, but so that I might have eternal life. He did this, not because I am deserving, but because of His great love for me. A love that comes from the fact that His death alone makes me lovable. And here again we get back to that paradox of earlier.
Because He loves me Jesus sends the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to us to work and strengthen faith in us and to give us peace. Certainly we have some peace of mind, that is, some earthly peace, but even more important, the Holy Spirit gives us true spiritual peace, the peace of knowing that our sins are forgiven and that we have eternal life.
Because Jesus loves me, by the work and power of the Holy Spirit I am obedient to Him and I do works of service for Him. Notice how important our focus is and where it is. Our focus is always on Christ, always on God, always on our triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We human beings are fickle and we can and we do get it wrong. We get it wrong when we depend on our emotions. We get it wrong when we think we can save ourselves or for that matter, when we think we can do anything ourselves. We get it right, however, when we focus on our Lord. Jesus gets it right. He always has gotten it right and He always will get it right. He is never wrong, thus we are never wrong when we put our focus on Him, and on Him alone.
Just how important is this focus? Our lives depend on it. Do you remember as a child, out on the playground, usually two children would be chosen to be captains and to pick teams. Do you remember when your best friend was picking and you wanted so bad to be on their team. As a matter of fact, you actually chose in your heart to be on their team. Unfortunately, the other captain picked you. So, it really did not matter who you chose, only who chose you. In the same way, it does not matter if we choose Jesus, or if we think we are choosing Him. What matters is that He has chosen us and He has. At our Baptism He shows His choosing us by putting His name on us. Notice, the focus is not on me, but on Him. I could get it wrong, but He always gets it right. How eternally safe and secure I am, knowing that God has done everything for me. And now, He continues to send me His Holy Spirit to work in me so that I might do those things that bring glory to Him. Certainly we rejoice and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Jesus Prays for Us - May 12, 2013 - (Mother’s Day) - Seventh Sunday of Easter - Text: John 17:20-26

Today is an important social day, that is today is the day we celebrate Mother’s Day and God’s gifts of mothers. So, as we begin this morning let me say, Happy Mother’s Day to all our Mothers and may the Lord bless you as you are indeed a blessing to your children and to our Lord in your vocation as a mother.
On Thursday of this past week we celebrated the fortieth day of Easter which was Ascension Day. I pray no one missed that day of celebration. Ascension day is the day we celebrate Jesus ascension back into heaven, the place from which He had descended in order to redeem the world, us included. You may have noticed then, that beginning this morning and until Christmas and our celebration of Jesus’ birth, except on Baptism Sundays, the Christ candle will no longer be lit.
As we get to our text, I want to remind you, brothers and sister in Christ, that I pray for you. Every morning I begin my day by bringing to the Lord any special requests which you have brought to my attention, the people listed in our bulletin for whom we have been asked to pray, and every morning I pray for one segment of the congregation, so that you can be sure that at least once or twice, sometimes even three times a month, I pray for you specifically by name, again, more often if you have expressed a particular prayer request to me. As I pray for you, so I continue to solicit your prayers on my behalf.
The context of our text for this morning is prayer, specifically, Jesus is praying. At the beginning of chapter seventeen He is praying for Himself, then He prays for His disciples and now, here in our text He prays for all believers, namely, He prays for us.
Jesus prays for us, that we may be one with each other, with Him and with the Heavenly Father. In other words, Jesus is praying for our faith, because it is only through faith that we have a part in His Kingdom and are a part of Him. Jesus is also praying for our message, the witness we make, as He says, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word” (v. 20).
So, Jesus’ prayer is that we might live our faith. How we live our lives is the message of our faith. As the cliche says, “our actions betray us.” We cannot separate our actions from our faith, because it is our faith which moves us to act. We are called by God, to faith, to be different from the rest of the world. We are called to bear witness of the faith that is in us through our lives, that is through our actions, as well as through the words with which we speak to each other and to others. So Jesus’ prayer is that we might boldly live differently, and so differently, so much so that the world notices. And the world will notice. Will Willimon, campus pastor at Duke University, tells of the story of a young college student who came to him for counseling. The student was a member of a fraternity and at one meeting he was confronted by the group because they caught him going to church. Their accusation was that he was no different from them. He partied as much as they did. What right did he have to think he was better than them by going to church? His observation was that the world does notice.
Thus, Jesus is praying that the world might see our faith and that the result will be that they too will come to faith in Him, in other words, that the world might be saved. Jesus’ concern is for us as well as for all people. It is Jesus’ will that all people are saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Jesus does not want anyone to be lost, even though He knows that there will be many who reject Him, as John expressed in the words from his vision in Revelation, that there are those who are outside the kingdom of God. Jesus knows that there will be those who do not want to be different from the rest of the world.
Jesus prays that we might know the love of the Father for us. The Father’s love is such and is so much that He did not spare His only Son, but gave Him up for us all. We are sinful human beings. David reminds us that we are shapen in iniquity and we were conceived in sin. In and of ourselves we are deserving of eternal spiritual death, that is the wage, the cost, the price for our sin, eternal spiritual death and that is what we deserve. Thanks be to God the Father for His great love for us, so much that He did not spare His only Son, but gave Him up for us on the cross.
And so, Jesus prays that we might know the love He has for us. He did not go to the cross against His will, but freely, of His own free will and because of His great love for us. He went to the cross and suffered the eternal spiritual death penalty, the wage, the cost, the price for our sins. He did not shy away, but freely acknowledged His relationship with us and that it was for us that He was giving His life.
And Jesus prays that we might see Him in all His glory, in other words that we might be saved. Jesus knows the struggles we have in this world. He knows and understands, because He has suffered the temptations and even greater temptations than we suffer. He knows the temptation to live “en cognito,” in other words, He knows the temptation to just blend in with the rest of the world and He knows how much of our faith we must compromise in order to do so. And so, Jesus prays for us.
As we hear this text for today we know that Jesus’ will is that we might not lose faith. Jesus knows and understands the trials and struggles we face each and every day, the challenges to our faith. Jesus’ prayer is for us to be strengthened in our faith. And how are we strengthened in faith? Luther suggests that we grow in faith through prayer, meditation and affliction. Thus we see the importance of being in the Word, that is, reading our Bibles and being in Divine Service and Bible Class. We see the importance of being in prayer and we see the importance of turning to Jesus during times of trial, tribulation and struggles in our lives. Also, please understand that affliction is not God’s will. Affliction comes from our living on this side of the fall into sin and the fact that our world is tainted with sin. Jesus uses this affliction for the best for us, that is He uses our times of trial, tribulation and struggles to strengthen us in faith.
Not only is Jesus’ will that we are strengthened in our faith, His will is that we might live our faith and thus share our faith. Jesus does not want us to “keep the faith,” at least not in the sense of keeping it to ourselves. He wants us to give it away. He wants us to live our lives in such a way that we show forth the faith that is in our hearts. Remember the old song, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
Jesus will is that we might have eternal life with Him, as He states, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (v. 24).
So what?, we might ask. Well, the “so what?” is this, Jesus loves us and He has shown His love for us in the giving of His life, freely, of His own will, for us, suffering the wage, the cost, the price for sin which we should have suffered. The “so what?” is what is our response to all that He has done for us and all that He continues to do for us?
By the power of the Holy Spirit, working through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, we are moved to have an urgency about our own faith. This urgency includes a constant working to strengthen our own faith. In other words, we know this urgency through our desire to read God’s Word on our own, to have personal and family devotions, to attend Divine Service and Bible study as often as offered, and certainly to pray without ceasing, in other words to, as often as possible be in prayer to our Lord. And as the Holy Spirit is working this urgency in us, the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh will be working to distract us and keep us from making regular and diligent use of these means of grace. The devil, the world and our own sinful flesh will work to keep us so involved in our troubles and problems, working to convince us that we need to get our social lives together before we concern ourselves with our spiritual lives. Which is opposite of what we need to do, because it is only as we get our spiritual lives together that we can get the rest of our lives together.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, working through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, we are moved to have an urgency about the faith of others and even about the salvation of the world. We are concerned about the faith and salvation of other people, especially our close friends and family. We want to make sure that they know Jesus as their Savior. We want to make sure that they will be in heaven to share eternal life with us. Thus we have an urgency about us that we are about living and sharing our faith with them, through our actions as well as through our words. And here again, as the Holy Spirit works in us this urgency about the faith of others, so the devil, the world and our own sinful nature will work to distract us from bearing witness of our faith to others. The devil, the world and our own sinful flesh would work to keep us occupied with our own problems, cares and concerns so that we do not have time for bearing witness to others.
Simply stated, the devil would have us not participate in the things of God, working to strengthen our own faith, working to share our faith with others, family and friends, and working to make a witness to the world. And the Holy Spirit works to motivate us to make regular and diligent use of His means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments so that we might grow and be kept in faith until Christ comes again, so that we might reach out to our family and friends and so that we might work in cooperation with others to spread the Gospel to the world. So, we continue to see the old battle rage within each of us between the devil, the world and our sinful flesh and the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God that Jesus has already won the war for us. Jesus has defeated sin, death and the devil for us and we are His. We have forgiveness, life and salvation. Next week we will celebrate His sending of the Holy Spirit and His giving us His authority to speak His Word to others and His promise that He will be with us to give us the very words to speak.
Perhaps you have never thought about it, but whenever we pray “Thy Kingdom Come,” in the Lord’s Prayer, we are praying for God’s Kingdom to be spread throughout the world, in other words, that we do spread the message of salvation to all people, so that all people might have the opportunity to hear the good news and be saved. We are also praying for the end of the world, that Jesus would come and bring us to His Kingdom in heaven, where we will sit at the Lord’s table in perfect fellowship with Him and with each other, eating of the eternal manna and drinking of the river of pleasure for eternity.  My prayer for each one of you, every day, is that you are ready. My prayer is that Jesus will come quickly to take us from this vale of tears to be with Himself in heaven for eternity where we may gather around His throne with all the saints and boldly proclaim, to Him be the glory. So, as John says, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Amen.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Jesus Has Overcome the World - May 6, 2013 - Sixth Sunday of Easter - Text: John 16:23-33

Perhaps you have heard the words, “You have not because you ask not.” Those words are actually written in the book of James, yet it is almost as if Jesus was wanting to express those very words to His disciples in our text for today, but they were not quite ready, not quite at the point where they might understand and take action. Perhaps you have been told by one of your more “evangelical,” or “pious,” “churchy” friends, that you have not because you ask not. Perhaps there is some truth in this statement and maybe, just maybe we have not because we do not ask and we do not ask because we are afraid of what might happen. Remember, be careful what you pray for, you just might get it.

In our text for today, Jesus is on the verge of His trek to the cross. He has been speaking to His disciples about the events which are about to take place including the sending of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has been with these disciples for some three years, traveling with them, living with them, teaching them, and teaching them as He taught the crowds. Many times Jesus would teach using parables, you know those earthly stories with heavenly meanings. Sometimes Jesus would speak plainly, other times not so plainly.

Jesus has been living with these disciples and teaching them. He has been doing signs, wonders and miracles in their presence. Our Gospel writer John makes much of these signs and wonders Jesus has been performing. These signs and wonders are what point to the divinity of Jesus, that is that He is truly God in human flesh. Who else but God could heal people, still the seas, cast out demons, feed five thousand, and raise people from the dead. Who else can forgive sins and prove sins have been forgiven by having a quadriplegic get up and walk. Yet, not only did the Pharisees and teachers of the law not get it, not only did many of the people who listened to and witnessed Jesus not get it, even Jesus own disciples did not always understand. Certainly as we have doubts and misunderstandings in our own lives, we are in good company.

Yet, now, as Jesus is about to go to the cross, He is speaking plainly to His disciples. He is not speaking in parables, He is not simply demonstrating what He wants them to get, He is speaking plainly, as a matter of fact they confessed and “29said, ‘Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God’” (v. 29, 30). Yes, it seems as if the disciples may finally have gotten it.

Jesus teaches His disciples through word and action. And Jesus encourages them to pray. Before Jesus was with His disciples, the Children of Israel, the disciples included, prayed through a mediator. It was the priest who entered the temple to offer atonement for the people. After Jesus’ resurrection, even at His death, we witnessed the curtain in the temple be ripped in two from top to bottom as Jesus opened the way for all to come directly to God the Father.

As Jesus prepares to go to the cross and prepares His disciples for His suffering and death, He promises the sending of the Holy Spirit. Although the Holy Spirit is most certainly present where Jesus is, and although the Holy Spirit has most certainly been with and has been working in the lives of these disciples, the full extent of the power and work of the Holy Spirit will not be seen until after Jesus resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.

On the day of Pentecost and the sending of the Holy Spirit, then the Holy Spirit will bring understanding, then the Holy Spirit will exercise His full power and do His work of giving and strengthening faith.

As Jesus is speaking plainly to the disciple and as the Holy Spirit is working in the hearts and minds of His disciples, their response was that they now understand, at least they thought they knew and understood what Jesus was and is saying.
Jesus’ speaks encouragement to His disciples. He tells them of His soon to come about suffering, death and resurrection. He tells them that they will all scatter leaving Him alone. Of course we know this happened when Jesus went to the cross, but Jesus’ words here point not only to His crucifixion, but even more to after His resurrection when the disciples will be scattered, yet, Jesus will not be alone because He will be with God the Father.

It is Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit which is to bring comfort to these disciples. Up until now these disciples have been with Jesus and have been pretty much protected by Him. At the point of His suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus will not be with them every day to protect them and then they will have struggles. Indeed, life is difficult at times and no where does God ever promise that life will be easy and even for Christians there is no guarantee of a struggle free life.

Jesus tells of tribulation, tribulation which has been around since the fall into sin; tribulation which will follow until the day of judgement; tribulation which will especially follow Christians as the world continually degenerates until God has had enough. As a matter of fact, the very fact that one is a Christian will bring tribulations because the world, the sinful, sin infested world which thrives on sin, idolatry and paganism cannot stand the exclusive claims of Christ and His Church. The reason the Christian Church is so hated by the rest of the world is because of Christ’s claim that there is only one way to eternal life and that only one way is through faith in Jesus alone. So, not only does a Christian struggle with the normal struggles and tribulations of the world, he also struggles with the tribulations of being persecuted as a Christian.

Of course there is hope for the Christian. Jesus declares He has overcome the world. Jesus is true God as we have seen time and again, as demonstrated by the signs, wonders and miracles He performed. As true God He gave up the glory that was His in heaven, not because He had to but because He wanted to, because of His great love for us, His creation, His children. Jesus gave up the glory of heaven in order to take on human flesh and blood in order to live for us, perfect and holy in our place. Jesus suffered the struggles of this world and greater struggles than we will ever face. Jesus suffered tribulation worse than we will ever suffer. And Jesus overcame the world. Jesus defeated Satan and his temptations. Jesus lived perfectly, never disobeying any of God’s command. Jesus fulfilled all God’s promises perfectly, for us. What we could not nor can do, Jesus did, for us, in our place. And then, after living for us, He took our sins upon Himself, our sins of commission, doing the things we should not be doing and our sins of omission, not doing the things we should be doing. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden, eternal spiritual death and God’s demand is that we are to be perfect. Since we have failed, since we cannot be perfect, Jesus who was perfect, who knew no sin, took our sins upon Himself in order to pay the price for our sins. And He did. He suffered hell for us on the cross because of His great love for us.

Jesus is speaking with His disciples and us, before He goes to the cross. He knows what is ahead and that is why He is speaking to His disciples and to us. He is encouraging, not only His disciples, but also us in our own lives, in our struggles and tribulations. He encourages us, especially in times of struggles and tribulations to pray.
And so we do pray. We pray because God tells us to pray. And yet, unlike the children of Israel, we do not pray through a mediator, we pray directly to God. And even while we pray directly to God, we do have a mediator, our brother, Jesus. Remember, death and the grave had no power over Jesus. He rose victorious over death and the grave. He rose and showed Himself alive for forty days after Easter, the time of the church year we are currently celebrating. He rose and then on the  fortieth day after Easter He ascended to the place from which He had descended so that now He is seated at the right hand of the Father where He is watching over us, ruling over us and most especially interceding, praying for us.
We pray because God commands we pray. We pray because God promises to answer our prayer. Of course, we understand that God’s promise to answer our prayers does not necessarily mean that He will always answer yes. Sometimes God says no, because He knows that we are asking for something He knows is not good for us. And we rejoice when He answers no. Sometimes God’s answer to us is to wait, because the time is simply not right. And we rejoice when God answers wait. And sometimes, according to God’s good and gracious will, He does answer yes.
Finally, as a response of faith, we share the good news because the Holy Spirit helps us. There are too many in our world who do not know Jesus, or simply do not take Him seriously. As a response of faith, because of all our gracious and loving God has done for us and given to us, we respond by living lives of faith. We respond by making regular and diligent use of His means of grace, being filled to the point of overflowing and spilling our faith on to others. We respond by always being ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus came into the world to overcome the world which He did through His life, suffering, death and resurrection. Jesus speaks words of comfort to His disciples reflecting the events about to take place. Just as He sent the Holy Spirit to give them all knowledge and understanding of the events so that as they face the tribulations of the world in all confidence in their faith in Jesus who has overcome the world, so He continues to send the Holy Spirit to give, strengthen and keep us in faith so that we might, with all boldness and confidence come to Him in prayer and go out into the world bearing witness of our faith. As always we get it right when we point to Jesus. Jesus does all and gives all and we are done to and given to and we rejoice as He even stirs and moves in us to respond in faith, even saying, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.