07 May 2015

Homily for Easter 5 - Cantate

"The Truth, the Spirit, and You"
John 16:5-15

Listen here.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Remember what Jesus says about the Holy Spirit: “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.” (Jn. 16:13-14)

We’re still celebrating the Easter season and our Lord’s Resurrection from the dead. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. By His own death He has conquered death. He gives life to all in the tomb, and all heading toward the tomb. Our Lord brings forgiveness for sins and life in the face of death. He has defeated our worst enemies—sin, death, and Satan. So how do you live with such good news? How do you live in such glorious comfort and hope? How do you walk through life as God’s holy people? Here’s why Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit teaches you the Truth, who is Christ, to comfort and sustain you.

I. What is Truth?
Just before he sentenced Jesus to be crucified, Pontius Pilate asked the question: “What is truth?” Little did he know that Truth—Truth Incarnate, the Son of God in the flesh—was standing right there in front of him. And we enlightened 21st century Americans are not that much different from Pilate. Our society teaches us to ask “What is truth?”—and in the same skeptical way that Pilate asked. We think that truth is in the eye of the beholder. You have your truth, and I have my truth, as they say. But this is a big lie.

Sadly, we in the Church start believing this lie. We might say it this way: “You believe what you want, and I’ll believe what I want.” Or we might say it this way: “That’s your interpretation of the Bible. My interpretation is this….” Or when the pastor gives us God’s Truth from the pulpit, and we don’t like it, we might say, “Well, that’s just his opinion.” We really should be ashamed of ourselves for believing and promoting lies like this. My, how we love to exchange God’s Truth for society’s lies!

The Truth of God is very simple. The Truth of God says, “All mankind are liars” (Ps. 116:11)--yes, that includes men and women, girls and boys. The Truth of God also says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Yes, that means all of us. The Truth of God also says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks after God” (Rom. 3:10-11). Yes, that includes you and me. The Truth of God tells us to “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness” (Jas. 1:21), because that filthiness and wickedness comes from us…and that’s the truth!

But the Truth of God is very simple in another way too. The Truth of God is Jesus Christ Himself—Truth in the Flesh. What does Jesus, very Truth in the Flesh tell us? He tells us to be comforted. He tells us that we are “justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). The Truth of God tells us that “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Truth also tells us this: “If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10). What wonderful and glorious Truth we have in our Lord Jesus Christ! That’s what Truth is.

II. What does the Spirit do?
God cares for His Truth very much. He wants you and me to embrace His Truth. You see, people’s lives – your lives and my life – depend on God’s Truth. So God wants us to hear His Truth correctly. He knows that all of the personal, private interpretations so popular today only confuse. That’s why our Lord Jesus sends the Holy Spirit. As Jesus told His disciples, He also tells us: “When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth….” The Holy Spirit’s “job” is to guide His people, His Church, into God’s Truth. He doesn’t just float around and give some kind of warm-fuzzy, spine-tingling, feel-good experiences. He doesn’t just sit around waiting to zap us with a language that no one else understands. The Spirit’s “job” is this: to direct our minds and hearts to Jesus, the Truth of God. When we focus on Jesus and trust Him, the Spirit is doing His work. And when we have life in the Risen Lord, we get to see that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (Jas. 1:17). How did Jesus say it? “He [the Spirit] will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.”

Jesus tells us how the Spirit guides us into all Truth. He convicts and convinces “the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” First, the Spirit must show us our sin. He must convict us of our own unbelief, our own ways of thumbing our nose at God and living by our own sinful desires. Second, the Spirit convinces us that Jesus died to forgive our sins, and He lives to give us life with God. You don’t need to make God like you. He already loves you, and He sent His Son to show the great depths of His love. Third, the Spirit keeps reminding us that Satan is defeated. He may tempt us; he may trouble us; but our Lord has conquered the old evil foe. The Truth of God always shields us from Satan’s attacks.

III. What does this mean for you?
The most important thing this means for you is that the Holy Spirit is always doing His “job.” He is always leading the Church as a whole and all Christians individually into the Truth, that is, into Christ. Remember how you learn to say it from the Small Catechism: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified me in the true faith.” When someone says, “I gave my heart to Jesus,” or “I let Jesus into my heart,” it’s not really accurate. To tell the truth: the Holy Spirit brings you to faith and enlivens you and keeps you in the faith.

The Small Catechism goes on: “In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps [her] with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.” Yes, the Spirit brings you into the Church, and she is your Mother in the Truth. Just as an earthly mother gives birth to her children, the Church gives birth to you and your brothers and sisters in Christ as she proclaims the Truth of Jesus and His mercy and salvation. Just as an earthly mother clothes and feeds her children, your spiritual Mother, the Church, clothes you in the robe of Christ’s righteousness when you are baptized. Then she feeds you on the food of Christ’s Body and Blood to sustain your soul and strengthen your faith. And just as an earthly mother corrects and comforts her children, your spiritual Mother, the Church, the Bride of Christ, corrects you by showing you your sin, and she comforts you by giving you the mercies of God in Christ.

This is why today is called “Cantate,” or “Sing! Sunday.” As we live together in the Truth—the Truth who is Jesus and the life that the Spirit gives—we can’t help but sing. As Colossians 3(:16) says: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Here’s why the Spirit gathers us together in God’s house. When you sing the liturgy and hymns, you sing not just for yourself, but also for those in the pews with you. So, sing the liturgy and those hymns with joy! Sing them with mouths wide open, with throats full of gratitude and praise! The people around you need to hear the Truth Who is Christ. When you say your “Amen” throughout the service, say it like you mean it! “Amen” is your word, your joyous participation in God’s service. Shout out your “Amens”; God loves to hear them! And your neighbor needs to hear them too.

The Spirit of Truth leads us into all Truth—into the crucified and risen Christ. Amen. This is most certainly true.

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