Sunday, May 2, 2010

Homily for Cantate (Easter 5)


John 16:5-15

Cantate – The Fifth Sunday of Easter 2 May 2010

John 16:5-15

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We like to think that we know what we want and what we need and what’s best for us. After all, we’re the ones who have wants and needs, and we spend a whole lot of time looking out for me, myself, and I. And, it shouldn’t be any surprise that what we think we want and need, and what we think is best for us, are a myriad of worldly, material things, things like food, clothing, and drink, house, money, cars, education, and such, and also less tangible things from the realm of emotions and relationships, things like a loving spouse, devout children, good friends, honest co-workers, etc.; after all, we are flesh and blood, we are born into this world and we live in this world until we die, these are the things that we know and experience, these are the things that, for us, are the most real.

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that when Jesus tells His disciples that He will be going back to His Father who sent Him, they are filled with sorrow, not that He is going away, but that He had told them (in last week’s Gospel lesson) that they would experience weeping and sorrow while the world would rejoice. The disciples are sorrowful that they might lose the things that they think that they want and need. They don’t ask their Master where He is going, they’re far too consumed with counting their potential losses. And, of courses, one of their losses is the physical presence of their Master Himself.

How many times have you heard people say, “If only Jesus were here now, like He was with His disciples, then it would be so much easier to believe”? How many times have you uttered or thought such a statement yourself? But the truth is that most who had the privilege of seeing and hearing Jesus in the flesh did not believe. When Christ died on the cross, the whole world had abandoned Him. This is because, despite the wisdom of the world, seeing is not believing – hearing is believing, and hearing by the Word of God. Even Jesus’ closest disciples and friends did not believe all that Jesus taught, even after His death and resurrection, until the Day of Pentecost, when, as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon Christ’s Church.

That is why Jesus said “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 Helper is the Holy Spirit of God, sent forth from the Father and the Son, who, together with the Father and the Son, is worshipped and glorified. The Holy Spirit accompanies the Word of God and creates, sustains, and strengthens faith where and when He pleases. The Holy Spirit convicts the world concerning sin through the proclamation of God’s Holy Law. He convicts the world concerning righteousness through the proclamation of the Holy Gospel. And He convicts the world concerning judgment because the ruler of this world, Satan, has been judged. In His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ is the victor over sin, death, and Satan – and that is the truth. Ultimately, sin is unbelief and the refusal to trust in God, and without the work of the Holy Spirit, we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him. And, that is why it is to our great advantage that Jesus go away, that He might send to us the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to call us, to enlighten us with His gifts, and to sanctify and keep us in the true faith.

We too easily grieve the loss of material, relational, and emotional things while we barely give passing notice to the one thing needful – the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in Jesus. How can this be, since we come into this world with nothing and we leave this world with nothing? Everything that we have, everything that we think that we want and need, is given us as a free and perfect gift, no strings attached. And “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

And, the most important gift that the Father would give you is the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the gift of faith, forgiveness, life, and salvation in Jesus Christ. We would not have this gift were it not for the incarnation and perfect life, death, resurrection, and ascension of God’s Son, the Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ. Thus, it is to our great advantage that Jesus returned to the Father in heaven; it is to our great advantage that the Father and the Son sent forth the Holy Spirit that we not remain in our sins, clinging to worldly, material, relational, and emotional things. It is to our great advantage that Jesus went away, that we might be the recipients of the Holy Spirit who creates in us faith, convicts us in our sin, calls us unto repentance, absolves us with the forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross, and sanctifies and keeps us in the true faith until the day He raises us from the dead and gives to us eternal life. For, this is the work of the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Truth, for He guides us into all truth, speaking not on His own authority, but speaking whatever He hears from the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit only and always glorifies the Son Jesus Christ, for He takes all that belongs to Him and He declares it to us.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” It’s all gift; it’s all grace. Nothing is required of us, not even faith, for faith itself is the good and perfect gift and working of the Holy Spirit. What an advantage, indeed! Happily we find that, though God was angry with us, His anger has been turned away and He comforts us instead for the sake of Jesus Christ! Happily, by God the Father’s perfect gift of grace in Jesus Christ, we have the Holy Spirit and we find ourselves, not in a state of wrath and judgment, but in a state of grace! Happily we “sing praises to the Lord, for He has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.”

God’s gift of the Holy Spirit is present and active in Christ’s Church, calling, gathering, enlightening, sanctifying and keeping, forgiving, creating, strengthening, and sustaining faith when and where He pleases in those who do not refuse Him. Even this day He has created new faith and bestowed forgiveness, life, and eternal salvation in Jesus Christ in little Tyler and Christian Vitro in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. These little souls are the perfect illustration of how we are purely the recipients of God’s good and perfect gifts, even the good and perfect gift of faith itself.

It is to your advantage that Christ goes away to the Father. But, as the way of Christ to the Father was through the cross, so also is the way of Jesus’ disciples through the crosses He chooses for you. You will have sorrow and grief, says your Lord Jesus, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. Let us, then, have sorrow and grief for the proper things, the needful things. God the Father of lights has given you the perfect gift of the Holy Spirit, a gift of joy that no one will take from you. And, He has made you the firstfruits of His creatures, new creations. Let us, then, even in our little while of sorrow, sing to the lord a new song; let our souls praise the King of heaven, let us live boldly in the mystery of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Let us join with the Holy Spirit as he glorifies our risen Lord Jesus Christ, both now and unto eternity!

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

1 comment:

Pastor J. Sollberger said...

Thanks be to God for the good homily; thoughtful and edifying, true. Thanks in Christ, also then, to you Fr. Ellingworth. Our Lord has worked well through once again. He does all things well.

The Lord be with you, my friend.

In hopes a blessed reunion (sooner than later),
Fr. Sollberger