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 17, 2020
The Gift of the Spirit of Truth - May 17, 2020 - Sixth Sunday of Easter - Text: John 14:15-21
Last week Jesus told His disciples, and us, that He was going away, to heaven, to prepare, to get ready a place in heaven for them, and for us. This week our text is the continuation of Jesus’ words to His disciples. This week Jesus comforts and encourages His disciples by promising to send them the Holy Spirit. Of course, we are looking back and we know how these events played out. We know that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, which we will celebrate in two Sundays. In defense of the disciples, they had not yet experienced this Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit, so they were still puzzled about all these things of which Jesus was speaking. They were going through time one day at a time, looking forward to the fulfillment of these things about which Jesus spoke and trying to understand.
In our text, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Jesus’ words remind us that what we think reflects what is in our hearts. What do we think? Is our mind on the things for which we are praying, or does our mind wonder while we pray? Is the Lord’s Prayer something we mindlessly rattle off, or do we think about the words, making sure we have forgiven others as we ask God to forgive us? Is our mind on the sermon, or on the Bible reading, or does our mind wonder? Are we thinking about the sporting event which will be on TV when we get home? Are we thinking about dinner which is in the oven? Do we always think the best about other people and explain everything in the best way possible or do we always want to hear the worst possible gossip and rumors? What we think reflects what is in our heart.
It is not just what we think, but also what we say that reflects what is in our hearts as well. Your Mom was right when she told you, “if you cannot say anything nice then do not say anything at all.” Are we always there, ready with a kind and encouraging word, or are we always there, ready to kick a person when they are down, by what we say? Jesus reminds us that out of the heart come the evils that are inside of us.
But not just what we think and just what we say, reflects what is in our hearts, what we do also reflects what is in our hearts. What we do is motivated by our thoughts and our words. What do our actions say about what is in our heart? Are we always ready to stop and lend a hand? Are we ready to volunteer to serve or do we simply wait to be asked or not serve at all? The point is, if we think about it, and if we admit it, we are all sinful human beings. Our sin begins in our hearts, it makes it to our lips and it shows itself in our actions.
Let us try another one. Did your parents every tell you or simply imply, or do you tell or imply to your own children something like this: “Do as I say, not as I do.” In other words, do not look at my actions, even if they do not match what I say, instead, do what I tell you. That mantra does not sound like what Jesus is telling us in our text. Thankfully Jesus reminds us, “I have already done everything for you.”
Jesus’ words remind us that what He thought reflected what was in His heart. Jesus was always thinking about others, about us, about how He could love us, about what He could do for us, about how He could help us, about how He could save us. Jesus always thought about others. Remember His words from the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
And what Jesus said reflected what was in His heart. Again, on the cross, Jesus, in the midst of His suffering, thought of His mother as He gave His mother to John and John to His mother so that they might care for one another. Jesus told the thief on the cross, “today you will be with Me in paradise.” On the cross Jesus said, “It is finished!” He had completed the payment for the sins of the world, for your sins and for my sins.
And what Jesus did reflected what was in His heart. Jesus went about doing good, healing, raising from the dead, teaching, preaching, casting out demons and the like. Again, the point is that Jesus has already done everything for us, everything we cannot do, He did, and He did it perfectly. Jesus lived perfectly for us, showing us by His actions, by His words, and by His thoughts that He is the sinless Son of God who came into our world to save us.
Now I would like to take a moment to speak to the sinners of the congregation and then I would like to speak to the faithful. And by the way, in case if you have forgotten, remember as Dr. Luther always reminds us, we are at the same time sinner and saint, hint, hint. So, if you are not a sinner you can tune me out for a bit, I will tell you when I get to the saint part. First, to the sinners of the congregation I say: Repent! Take seriously the words that we confess almost every Sunday morning, “we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against [God] in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved [God] with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We justly deserve [God’s] present and eternal punishment.” Do not just recite these words as if they mean nothing, take the time to repent of your specific sins, sins in thought, word, and deed.
We are sinful human beings. We sin by doing the things we should not be doing, those are the sins we call sins of commission. But more often than not, as Christians, we commit sins of not doing what we should be doing, those are called sins of omission. So I say, repent of the sins you have committed, but also of your sins of omission. Repent of neglecting to help and be of service to God as well as to others. Repent of failing to be in God’s Word regularly, every day and every week. Repent of not letting your faith show through in your thoughts, words and actions.
And repent of not taking God seriously. Repent of thinking that God is not always the answer, that God will not always provide, that God is something less than all powerful, all knowing, all seeing, all loving, everywhere present, that He is anything less than God. You have not because you ask not and you have not because you pray without believing. My word to the sinners of this congregation are that you should repent.
As you hear those words to repent, I pray that as each and every one of us heard them I hope that we are not thinking, “you tell them pastor,” because the person sitting next to you is thinking the same thing. At the same time, I also hope we hear the words of Jesus, “your sins are forgiven, go out and sin no more.” Your sins are forgiven. We daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness and our Lord daily forgives us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
And now, to the faithful of this congregation I say: Keep the faith, but do not just keep it, give it away as you have been, by thought, word and deed. Keep the faith. Continue to be in God’s Word. In season and out of season, come to be given the gifts that God has to give, the gifts of faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Come to be given the gifts where and how He gives them. Come to the spiritual supermarket of God’s Word, to church, to divine service and be given His gifts in the ways that He has to give them, through the means of grace, confession and absolution, the Word and the Sacraments. Come, confess your sins and hear His most beautiful words of absolution, “your sins are forgiven.” Come and hear His Word read and proclaimed. Take time to remember your baptism and how at your baptism God chose you, He put His name on you, He made you His child, He wrote your name in the book of life. And come to the Lord’s Table. Come partake of His true body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.
This morning our Lord urges us to keep the faith and to remember that we are not alone. God is with us. Just as He promised His disciples in our text, so His promise is to us, that He will continue to send the Holy Spirit who will be with us in doing the work which God has for us to do. God has blessed this congregation through over 120 years in this place and He promises that He will always be with us that He will never leave us nor will He forsake us. Even in our unfaithfulness, even in our doubt, God never goes back on His promises. God is faithful.
Our three texts for today show how this works itself out in our lives and in our world. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, which He did on Pentecost. In the first lesson from Acts, Paul shows the power and working of the Holy Spirit, first in the fact that he, a Christian killer, was redeemed by Jesus and given the opportunity to be a witness for Him and he did as we hear him in the lesson for this morning, boldly proclaiming the message of salvation to the “religious” men of Athens, who were not Christian. Peter, in his epistle (letter) reminds us that we should be like Paul, that is, by the power of the Holy Spirit we should “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” And how do we prepare to always be prepared, by making regular and diligent use of the means of grace. By our daily reading the Word, by having family and personal devotions, by weekly being in divine service and Bible class. As we make regular and diligent use of these means of grace, the Holy Spirit is able to use this learning in order to work in us the words we might need to give an answer for the faith and hope we have.
And so I leave you with Jesus’ words to His disciple and His word to you, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.” Let me assure you, Jesus has kept His promise. We do have the Holy Spirit, the Counselor, the Spirit of truth in this place. And He will continue to work in us and in our lives. And it is He who stirs in us to rejoice and say, to Him be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.