May 27, 2007

Pentecost Sermon - John 14.23-31


Note: The actual content of my sermon varied more from the manuscript published here than usual. In my preparation Sunday morning I noticed more items than usual that needed adjustment. Also, you will see several references to a baptism that I was privileged to administer on this day.

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Do you love Jesus? Because He says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.” Do you keep the word of Jesus? The same Jesus also said, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” And the apostle James said, “Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”

You have not kept the commandments; but our capacity for self-deception, our ability to justify our actions knows no bounds. But make no mistake; the Lord Jesus is returning, and you will have to give an account before the judgment seat. And this shall be the standard: Why did you not keep My Word?

“The ruler of this world is coming,” says Jesus in today’s Gospel. That’s the devil. He accuses you before God. And does he not have plenty to accuse you of? Your hypocrisy, your lackadaisical prayers and devotional life; your lies, gossiping, and the dark deeds done in secret. All of these he will drag out; and the truth about you shall be known. The truth you try to hide from your boss, your wife, your pastor. Hypocrite! Did you think you could keep it hidden?

What sweet news it is, then, when Jesus says, “The ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.” Meaning, there is nothing in Jesus with which he can be charged. As the Father gave Him commandment, so He did. When Jesus was reviled, He did not revile in return. As a Lamb led to the slaughter, He was silent before the shearers. This One, in whom was no sin, the Father made to be sin for us. So now, when the ruler of this world comes with your sins, your inadequacies, your failures, and throws them up against you, they do not stick. Because you are in Christ, and since he can bring no charge against Christ, he can also bring no charge against you.

And that is why the Holy Spirit comes – for the sake of those words. It’s even in the signs itself from the Day of Pentecost: wind and tongues. Wind, breath, air, combined with the tongue, make speech. So when you hear how the Holy Spirit came, in the mighty rushing wind and the flames of fire, remember for what purpose: to bring to the Apostles’ remembrance the Word of Jesus, and to speak it to the world. “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 things that I said to you.”

The miracles of Pentecost testify that the promise of Joel is fulfilled – the Lord pours out His Spirit on all flesh. But the point is not the miracles, but the conclusion of that promise prophesied by Joel: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

This is why the pastor puts his hand on the head of one about to be baptized and prays with the whole church the Our Father: because in Baptism, the Lord’s Prayer is given as a gift. Do you realize what a privilege it is to be given those words to say? In Baptism, God invites us to call upon Him as dear children call on their dear Father, with the promise that He will hear, and answer. So Rob and Allison, your vocation now as parents, even more important than clothing, feeding, and caring for Sofiya, is to teach her all the days of her life to call on that name, reminding her of that ancient promise forever made new: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Already in Acts 2 we see how that pattern runs. The Apostles are given extraordinary gifts that testify to their preaching and the coming of the Holy Spirit – but then, the self-same day the Holy Spirit came upon 3,000, not in the wind and the wonders, but in the washing of water with the Word.

Thus began the reversal of Babel, the division of mankind about which we heard. These divisions, embodied in wars, violence, greed, and idolatry, will not be remedied through better education, international peace conferences, economic advancements for the impoverished, or through the might of armies enforcing a brokered peace. The reversal of Babel—which was the pinnacle of human hubris, men seeking to make a name for himself—the reversal of Babel only comes by heeding the conclusion to Peter’s sermon: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

It is as though Peter is saying, “Peace I leave with you, the peace of Jesus I give to you; not as the world gives to I give to you.” For that is the message of the Holy Spirit.

It is easy to look at:

· the world and despair.

· Your health and despair

· Our country and despair

· Your marriage or family and despair.

· The church and despair.

· Your sins and despair.

But let not your hearts be troubled! Neither let them be afraid!

For Christ promises to send:

· The Helper for you who cannot help yourself;

· The Comforter for you who have no comfort in this world;

· The Counselor for you who see the bankruptcy of this world’s counsel;

· The Advocate for you who need a good defense before the judgment seat of God.

The Spirit comes for you, to you, on you, in you. All for your peace. All for your forgiveness. All for your life.

You receive the Spirit the same way the 3,000 did on Pentecost: in Baptism. Today was Pentecost for Sofiya. “Depart, unclean spirit, and make way for the Holy Spirit!” And the Spirit keeps on coming, in the words, the words of Peace that the Spirit utters in the church.

So when next your sins are thrown in your face, say, “I am baptized! The ruler of this world has nothing in me. It is true, my sins are great. But the Father’s love for me is greater. The Son’s death is my life. The Spirit’s words are my peace.” For you, Pentecost happened when you were baptized. You received the Holy Spirit. And Pentecost keeps on happening as the same Holy Spirit keeps on speaking to you when your transgressions are forgiven, when you receive the Sacrament, when you are dying. Therefore let not your heart be troubled, for the Spirit has given you Christ’s peace, and having that, you have everything you need.

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