Sunday, May 18, 2014
Homily for Cantate - The Fifth Sunday of Easter (Easter 5)
John 16:5-15; James 1:16-21; Isaiah 12:1-6
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
If you watched television in the late 70s or early 80s, then you undoubtedly heard the following words: “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen.” Those words typically overlaid the scene a social event, perhaps a party, wherein a young professional had remarked that his broker was E. F. Hutton, causing the moderately loud party to stop all conversation to listen to him. The point conveyed was that E. F. Hutton is a voice of authority in the financial world and that, while there are many voices offering advice and counsel, Hutton’s was the only one that was worth dropping everything else for and listening to.
The Word of God is that kind of word, and much, much more. The Word of God has power; it is a performative and creative word that has power in itself to bring into being what it says. By this Word were all things made that have been made; apart from this Word was nothing made. This Word became flesh and blood, a man, Jesus. Thus, when Jesus speaks, He speaks with the authority of God. Jesus does not quote the rabbis or appeal to their authority, but what He speaks is the Word of God, authoritative in and of itself, and all creation listens, cannot help but listen, and receives His Word in faith or rejects it in unbelief. The Word has gone out of God’s mouth and will not, does not, and cannot return to Him void, but it will accomplish the purpose for which it has been sent. Whether it is in Creation, the Covenants, the Ten Commandments, the Tabernacle, the Temple, in Jesus Himself, in the Church and the Sacraments, or in the Bible, the Word of God is creative and performative, bringing into being what it says.
God’s Word is the power in, with, and under the sacraments. We were witnesses of this power just this morning as the power of God’s Word in the invocation of His Name in blessing upon young Johannes cast out Satan and replaced His occupation with that of the Holy Spirit of God. Yet again Satan’s kingdom has been plundered, it’s gates unable to stand against the advance of Christ’s Church, His kingdom and His reigning. In this way God hears and answers your prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” Thus, Luther explains in the Small Catechism, “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”
Additionally, the Holy Spirit works through Confession and Absolution to plunder Satan’s kingdom, for when God says your sins are forgiven by the mouth of His rightly called pastors, they are forgiven and will be recalled never again. And, in the proclamation of the Gospel in the lections and homily or sermon, the Holy Spirit drives out Satan from every heart that receives God’s Word and does not reject it. And, in the Holy Supper, the Holy Spirit joins you in Holy Communion with Christ your Lord and with your brothers and sisters in koinonia, fellowship, with Him, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
The Holy Spirit is the power of God in and through His Word and His Word made visible, the Blessed Sacraments. Through these means the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” The Church needs the Holy Spirit of God. You need the Holy Spirit of God. Without His gracious, performative, and creative work you would not and could not believe. Without His gracious, performative, and creative work you could not “believe in Jesus Christ, [your] Lord, or come to Him.” And that is why it was necessary that your Lord Jesus go away. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus says, “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.”
The going away to which Jesus refers is His Ascension to the right hand of His Father in heaven. Jesus’ Ascension was necessary, for it is man’s ascension, it is your ascension as well. Jesus’ death was satisfaction for your failing and inability to keep God’s Law. Jesus’ resurrection was the fruit of His faith, innocence, and perfect obedience. But, Jesus’ Ascension is restoration and exaltation of humanity before God. A man now stands in the beatific vision of the presence of God in a way in which not even our First Parents enjoyed. And, He who is your head has promised that where He is, you, His body, will one day be. However, had Jesus not ascended, then this could not be so. And so, it is good for you, it is good for the Church, that your Lord has gone away.
Your Lord has gone away, but He has not left you as orphans. Indeed, He has sent to you a comforter and a counselor, a helper, His Holy Spirit. As God gave Adam a helper in the woman Eve and joined them and blessed them to be one flesh, so Jesus gives you the Holy Spirit as a helper that, through Him, you remain in blessed communion with your Lord in heaven even while you sojourn here on earth. The Holy Spirit will always and only direct you to Jesus, for He speaks, not on His own authority, but whatever He hears He speaks, and He declares to you the things that are to come. He glorifies Jesus, for He takes what belongs to Jesus and declares those things to you. All that belongs to the Father belongs also to Jesus; these things the Holy Spirit takes and declares to you.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning sin because truth and life are revealed in Jesus Christ alone. The Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning righteousness, for Christ alone is risen from the dead and has ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven. He is the true and only way to the Father. And, the Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged and even now his kingdom is being ransacked and plundered. As the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, and enlightens through Word and Sacrament, God’s kingdom comes and is reestablished as Satan’s kingdom falls, is overtaken, and is driven out. Christ’s victory is won and even now He reigns, though Satan still occupies much of the world and the hearts and minds of men within it. But, each and every day, as the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed, infants and men are baptized, the repentant are absolved, and the faithful are fed, nourished, and strengthened, his grip is slipping, his lies and deceptions are exposed, and his kingdom dissolves all around him. He is a toothless lion who is defeated by a Word from the Lord. And, when Christ returns on the Last Day, all eyes will be opened and will see that Satan’s kingdom and rule were a lie and a deception all along, that Christ is and has been in control all along, using each and every of Satan’s weapons and afflictions against him for His own good purpose and the glory of His Father.
Therefore, do not be dismayed that you do not see the Lord, or that He delays in His return, or that the wicked may seem to prosper for a time. The victory is Christ’s, and the victory is yours in Him. He has given you His Holy Spirit as a helper during this time of the Church in which you wait and watch for His return that you may be guided to His Truth, comforted in your sorrow, and persevere through trial, tribulation, and affliction at the hands of the enemy. And He promises you this, that He is with you, even now, until the end of the age. Through His Word and Water, Body and Blood, He is with you and is as close to you as your ribs within your flesh. He fills you as the air within your nostrils and lungs. He is your life that enlivens you, and He will keep you through all things, even death, unto life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit evermore.
Glory be to God in heaven from whom comes every good and perfect gift!
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.