28 May 2017

Homily for Easter 7 (Exaudi) - 2017

"Enabled to Bear Witness"
Ezekiel 36:22-28; 1 Peter 4:7-14; John 15:26-16:4

Listen here.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

I suppose this should come as no surprise in our insane and unhinged world. Two young white women from Portland, Oregon—Kali and Liz—took a road trip to Puerto Nuevo, Mexico. While they were there, they became fascinated with the delicious homemade white tortillas made by the women in many of the little restaurants around town. They wanted to learn how to make their own. They learned about the ingredients and the process of moving and rolling the dough, much like pizza crust is made. They did not learn too much about the technique, but they did peek into several kitchen windows and noticed how easy the Mexican ladies made it look.

Kali and Liz returned to their Portland home and decided to make and sell those same delicious white tortillas with breakfast burritos. They sold them from their food cart called “Kooks Burritos.” Then they did an interview with a local magazine. Then all heck broke loose, outrage erupted, and social media went berserk. Kali and Liz were accused of stealing recipes and something called “cultural appropriation.” Evidently white food preparers are not allowed to make or sell food that originates from so-called “people of color.” After only a few months, “Kooks Burritos” deleted everything from their social media pages and closed for good.

This incident may not speak to anything specifically biblical or religious, but it does show the cultural insanity in which we live. And that insanity does break loose and spew its outrage at Christians doing their thing in the public square. Think of the florists, bakers, and photographers who have been sued, fined, and run out of business simply for treasuring and upholding their Christian faith and life while they conduct their businesses. Yes, there’s the one T-shirt printer in Kentucky who recently received some vindication. But that’s hardly a trend. Nor is it something to place our hopes in. As the psalmist says, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (Ps. 146:3). Today those “princes” include presidents, governors, legislators, judges and justices, and even favorable public opinion.

That’s why we need our Lord’s words for us today. Here we are in the “in between time”—the time between Jesus’ Ascension (this past Thursday) and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (next Sunday); also the time between Jesus being among us visibly in His physical body and the Day when He will return physically and visibly. And while we live in this “in between time,” we live with the same uneasiness that fell upon the disciples. As Jesus said, “The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” That hour is here and most likely will only get more intense. Those who are after you and me offer willing sacrifice to their “gods” of sexual freedom and political correctness. But as Peter exhorts us: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange where happening to you.”

You see, our gracious God and Savior knows exactly what He’s doing. He has created you and me, given us body and soul, eyes, ears, and all our members, our reason and all our senses, and still takes care of them. He has put us here for such a time as this. He has promised to defend us against all danger and guard and protect us from all evil. He has sent His Son—true God and true Man—to be our Lord, to redeem us and win us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. We even get to be His own and live under Him in His eternal kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. He has sent His Holy Spirit to call us by the Gospel, enlighten us with His gifts, sanctify and keep us in the true faith. And on the Last Day he will raise you, me, and all the dead, and give eternal life to us and all believers in Christ.

Now, with such lofty, majestic, true, and comforting promises, what are we doing quaking in our shoes? What are we doing fretting with hearts aflutter over how the world may and does treat us Christians? Gone are the “I-like-Ike” days when God and country walked down the street hand-in-hand. Now it’s time for God’s redeemed people—us—to figure out how to live out our first allegiance to our Lord Jesus Himself. This weekend we certainly remember and thank God for those men and women who have made the “ultimate sacrifice” by dying in battle for our national freedoms. But there’s one sacrifice that’s truly the ultimate—that’s Jesus Himself on the cross. His sacrifice secures our freedom before God, our freedom from sin and death, our freedom to live with our true King for all eternity.

With that sacrifice in mind, we need not fear death. We need not fear whatever suffering comes our way. We need not cling to the love of ease or the love of wanting to be liked. After all, “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4). No, with Jesus’ sacrifice firmly grasped in heart, mind, and life, we can scorn the disapproval of the world. We can rejoice in the approval of God Himself. We can bravely and boldly bear witness to the love of God in Christ Jesus.

And how do we do that? Listen to Jesus: “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me. And you also will bear witness.” The Spirit enables us to bear witness to Christ even in the face of rejection and persecution. Listen again to St. Peter: “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

You see, our Lord has fulfilled the promise He gave through the prophet Ezekiel. By Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, and by the coming and working of the Holy Spirit, He has given you a new heart of flesh—a genuine heart transplant. He has put His new Spirit—the Holy Spirit—within you. He leads you in walking in His ways and following His decrees. You already dwell in His eternal land. You are already His people, and He is your God. We might even say that God has humanized us. And all of this by sprinkling clean water on you. All of this by cleansing you from all your uncleannesses in your Baptism.

I still remember one vivid story I heard on a podcast a few years back. They interviewed a Christian from Palestine, where Christians are routinely scorned, hunted, hunted down and killed for their faith. This Palestinian Christian made a bold statement bearing witness to the love of God in Christ. He appealed to the audience not to hate those who persecute and kill Christians. Then he said, “We don’t hate them; we love them; we pray for them.” That’s the Holy Spirit at work through God’s Word.

It’s how Peter exhorts us to live: “Be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.”

You and I have received the greatest gifts—Jesus, the Holy Spirit, faith, and joy. So as we live and serve in this insane and unhinged world, we get to live and serve by the strength that God supplies in the heavenly food of Jesus’ Body and Blood right here on the altar. Thus will we teach transgressors the ways of God. Thus will sinners return to Him. Thus does He restore to us the joy of His salvation and uphold us with His willing spirit. Amen.

25 May 2017

Homily for the Ascension of Our Lord

"Rejoicing on Ascension Day"
2 Kings 2:5-15; Acts 1:1-11; Luke 24:44-53

(With thanks to Dr. Joel Biermann, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, who unwittingly provided a great outline for a homily here.)

Today we see no decorated evergreens, no poinsettias. We give no gifts; we send no greeting cards. We see no lilies or colored eggs or chocolate bunnies. I’m pretty sure no one here has any kind of feast planned for the hours following this service—no hams or lambs or turkeys roasting in the oven, no tables set with the fine china and crystal, and no guests coming over. And if I were to shout the acclamation, “Christ has ascended!” what would be the proper response to shout back?

Then there’s this little fact: today is a Thursday—an odd day for gathering in God’s house…except when Christmas falls on a Thursday. It’s not just that the world ignores this festival; much of the Church has also lost interest. It’s as if Ascension Day doesn’t matter much.

Ah, but it does matter. It matters just as much as Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter. In fact, let’s push the envelope and say it matters even more. I mean, how many of us would actually walk out on a favorite, compelling two-hour movie only an hour and a half into it? We’d miss the thrilling climax that resolves the conflict, the big finish that sets everything right. Yes, Ascension Day does matter. So, let’s rejoice on this Ascension Day. Let’s ponder seven reasons to rejoice on Ascension Day.

First, Jesus ascended so that the Holy Spirit could descend. As Jesus said, “If I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you” (John 16:7). No Jesus going up in a cloud, then no Holy Spirit coming down to comfort and guide the Church. And no Holy Spirit, then no faith, no salvation, no comfort, no peace, no strengthening and sustaining. But Jesus has ascended. And so the Holy Spirit has come. And the Spirit brings to our remembrance all that Jesus has said and done for us. The Spirit bears witness to us about Jesus. He takes what belongs to Jesus and declares it to us.

Second, Jesus now reigns over everything. He is our sovereign King of the universe. Now, we Lutherans get a little skittish talking of Jesus’ sovereignty—because, after all, it can and does get used as a replacement for His grace and mercy—but He does indeed reign over everything. God the Father “put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22). We were dead in our trespasses, but God has made us alive in Jesus, His Son. He has forgiven us all our trespasses. He has cancelled the record of our debts against God, nailing it to the cross. And now God has “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in [Jesus]” (Col. 2:15). So, as someone once said, there is not one square inch of all the world over which Jesus does not say, “Mine!” That includes you and your life and me and my life. To say it another way: we and all the world belong to Him. And His grace and mercy make Him our benevolent sovereign.

A third reason to rejoice on Ascension Day: The Ascension was God’s plan from the very beginning. Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection were all foretold in the Old Testament. So was His ascension. Elijah being taken up in the whirlwind is our “preview trailer” for Jesus. Our Lord “was lifted up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight” (Acts 1:9). Jesus’ ascension is the capstone to His earthly ministry and all of His saving work for us. Jesus now sits at the Father’s right hand with His enemies of sin, death, and devil under His feet as His footstool (cf. Ps. 110:1). And there’s more. In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve to live in perfect harmony, perfect communion, perfect fellowship with Himself. God and man, divine and human—they were supposed to live together in the closest, most intimate way. Of course, Adam and Eve fell into sin and ruined all that, not only for themselves, but also for us. And we’ve been perfecting the art of the ruin ever since. But along came Jesus to live, suffer, die and rise for us and thus reunite us with our God. By grace you and I have been saved. And God “raised us up with [Jesus] and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:6). Yes, God has had a plan for you from the beginning, and that’s it: making you and your fellow Christians partakers of His divine life…even now…lasting forever.

Fourth, Jesus ascended bodily. Life with God is not just a spiritual matter—it includes and involves the body. Jesus is true God and true Man, completely God and completely human, all at the same time, all in one Person. Now a true human body is the object of all honor and worship. So Jesus’ bodily ascension gives new meaning to our human nature and our human bodies. In Him, they are very good. They will be restored and resurrected. They will go into eternity. And all the material stuff of God’s creation is good too.

Reason #5 for rejoicing in Jesus’ Ascension: The commission announced by Jesus is now in full force. When someone dies, the terms of their will go into full force. Jesus has died, Jesus has risen, and Jesus has ascended to God’s right hand—not a place, but the position of authority, which is everywhere. Think “right-hand man.” So Jesus’ last will and testament is in full force. It includes things like “Take, eat, this is My body” and “Take, drink, this is my blood.” And when we do what Jesus commissions us to do, we are blessed. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). Jesus’ will also commissions us to do other things. “It is written…that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). Jesus’ commission also says, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). And, of course, you remember the one about making disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching (cf. Matt. 28:19-20). Yes, you and I—all of us—have the high privilege of bearing witness and proclaiming the reality of Jesus to the world, right where we live and move and have our being, to the people whom God puts in the path of our day to day lives.

Reason #6: The ascension of Jesus is a preview of His promised return. Jesus went up through endless ranks of angels physically and visibly. Remember what the two angels told the disciples: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10). And how’s that? Physically and visibly. It will not be a spiritual or metaphorical return. Jesus loves us too much to have us rest our faith and our eternal life on metaphors. No, our ascended Lord will come again with His physical body. We will see Him. Everyone will see Him. No one will miss it. For us who cling to Him by faith, ever glad for His rescue from sin and death, it will be a joyous reunion. For those who don’t give Jesus the time of day by faith in the heart, well, it won’t be a good day…or eternity…for them. But Jesus will come back in the body, physically and visibly.

Finally, reason #7 to rejoice in Jesus’ ascension: Jesus is Lord. It was the confession of early Christians in the face of a Roman government hostile to the Gospel. It’s the confession us Christians today in the face of all that vexes us—everything from incurable diseases to lost jobs to government officials suing us for living out the Christian faith. Not only did Jesus come back from the dead; now  He reigns on high. He is Lord of all creation. He is Lord of your life. And, as Luther said, “The little word Lord means simply the same as redeemer. It means the One who has brought us from Satan to God, from death to life, from sin to righteousness, and who preserves us in the same” (LC, II:31). Now if Jesus has done all that for you and me, who are we to fret that the world is going to “heck in a hand basket”? Who are we to wring our hands when things do not go our way? Who are we to doubt God’s goodness? Who are we to stay silent about Jesus and all that He’s done for us? Yes, we may be sinners, but our ascended Lord has conquered the sin. He has overcome the world. He has defeated death itself. And now He guides and governs all things for our good.

So we rejoice on this understated, under-celebrated festivity. Christ has ascended! He has ascended indeed!  The King ascends to heaven. Alleluia. O come, let us worship Him. “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11). Amen.

17 May 2017

Homily for Burial of a Stillborn

"The Lord Will Not Cast Off"
Lamentations 3:22-33; 1 John 3:1-3; Mark 10:13-16

Delivered at Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO
May 17, 2017

Henry Niels Peter Adelsen. A mere 23 weeks old, as counted in utero—still in mommy’s tummy. How we wish we could have met him, and held him, and seen a smile on his face, and heard a giggle of delight burst forth. How we wish we could have gotten to know him.

But our gracious God knew him…and still knows him. Henry’s frame was not hidden from our Lord when he was being made in secret, intricately woven in the deep darkness of mommy’s tummy. The eyes of our living Lord saw Henry’s unformed substance, the days formed for him, few though they may be this side of eternity.

So we gather here today with hearts aching, minds numbed, eyes filled with tears…and yet still hopeful in the midst of loss, actually daring to rejoice in the midst of sorrow. As we prayed just minutes ago: “How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you” (Psalm 139:17-18).

Even in the midst of things we cannot understand, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” Even when we ache and cry and feel numb, “His mercies never come to an end.” Great is Jesus’ faithfulness to you, Peter, to you, Melissa, and, yes, also to Henry.

The American Pregnancy Association gives some advice about how to grieve after going through a stillbirth—things such as talking to people about how you feel, joining a support group with others who have experienced this, and writing about your feelings in a journal or in a letter to your baby. Such things can indeed help as we process our thoughts and feelings as we walk through this valley of the shadow of death. But in Christ Jesus and in His Church, we have the ultimate medicine that brings true healing to our broken hearts, genuine salve for our numbness, and the ultimate wiping away of our tears. It’s called Easter—the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

When St. Paul proclaimed the truth and the joys of Jesus’ victory over the grave, he also counted up those who actually saw the risen Lord. First, Cephas—that’s Peter. Then the Twelve. Then 500 other brothers at one time. Then James and all the sent out ones. Jesus loves to make His resurrection known to as many as possible. Then St. Paul says of himself, “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (1 Corinthians 15:8). Even though Paul had not followed Jesus before His crucifixion, even though Paul tried to snuff out the Christians after Jesus’ resurrection, the Lord Jesus still appeared to…and saved…and enlivened…the Apostle Paul.

And that Greek word for “untimely born” is quite fascinating. It literally means “miscarried” or even “still born.” It’s Paul’s way of saying that he did not at all deserve to be reborn by the risen Lord. Well, the same goes for all of us who are conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity (Psalm 51:5). The new birth of our Lord’s resurrection, the new birth of our Baptism, takes all of us who are “untimely born” and graciously makes us children of God, heirs of His eternity of life. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” And, trusting God’s rich and bountiful mercy, so is Henry. “We are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him.” And how is that? Resurrected. Living. No more tears. No more heartache. No more death.

King David also confesses Jesus’ resurrection for a time such as this. Remember how he had been absolved of his sins in “Bathsheba-gate.” And right on the heels of that affair, David’s son by Bathsheba became sick and died. David had fasted and prayed, hoping the Lord would spare the child. But, alas, no. Sometimes God just wants to call an innocent child home to Himself, you know. Then David’s advisors became alarmed. “Oh, no! He fasted and wept while the child was alive. What will he do now that the child is dead? The king may just go off the deep end.” But upon hearing that his son had died, David—liberated by God’s lovingkindness and absolution—got up, cleaned up, and ate a full meal. The advisors were flummoxed. “What in the world is going on, your Majesty?”

So David confesses the resurrection of Jesus: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23-34). Such is the comfort, such is the confidence, and such is the joy that Jesus’ resurrection works in all of God’s people. We cannot bring little Henry back. Peter and Melissa, little Henry may not return to you, but in Christ Jesus you shall go to him on that great Day of the Resurrection.

You see, this Jesus who has conquered the grave in all of its manifestations is the Son of David par excellence. He is the One who has suffered, bled, and died. He is the One who triumphantly stormed the gates of hell to release us who are held captive by the power of death. He is the One who did return to us, the One who rose victorious on the third day. He is the One to whom we go in the sleep of our death. He is the one who has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel—life and immortality for all of us, including little Henry.

So, yes, our Lord Jesus, our resurrected Savior, knows little Henry. And He holds Him in His arms until the Day of Resurrection. After all, this is the same loving Lord who said, “Let the little children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Now, Peter and Melissa, your mere 23-week old son becomes your role model for all of life. How so? Henry did nothing, but he received everything. He received life from His Creator who knew him even in the womb. Now he receives life from his Savior to carry him into eternity.

It’s how we all live—on the receiving end of God’s life-giving ways—no matter how many weeks, months, or years we are given. We receive everything from our Father’s hands, through His Son and in His Spirit. New life given in our Baptism. Life-giving healing in words of Absolution heard week in and week out. And forgiveness, life, and salvation put in our mouths with the living Body and Blood of Jesus every time we kneel at the Lord’s Table. God gives; we receive. Just like St. Paul. Just like King David. Just like little Henry.

So while the tears will flow for a time, and while the heartache and numbness may dissipate over time—though perhaps never completely this side of the Resurrection—we can actually find comfort and rejoice in the midst of sorrow. God knows you and what you now go through. Precious are His thoughts. And when you and I, and all of God’s baptized people, awake, we will see Him. After all, “The Lord will not cast off forever,” and “He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love.” Amen.

15 May 2017

Homily for Easter 5 (Cantate) - 2017

"The Next Big Thing"
John 16:5-15

Listen here.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In 2007, Apple came out with a really big thing—the iPhone. People stood in line—camped in line—for hours just to buy the very first smart phone. The first iPhone was so big that Apple sold 270,000 iPhones in the first 30 hours of sales. Four years later, came “the next big thing”—Samsung’s marketing campaign for its smart phones. And so big are all of these “next big things” that smart phones are, well, almost omni-present in our lives and culture today.

Today on the church’s calendar, we turn our attention to a “next big thing” of a completely different sort—a much more meaningful “next big thing,” a truly eternal “next big thing.” Back on the Third Sunday of Advent we had the joyous anticipation of Christmas—God the Father sending His only-begotten Son into the world. Back on the Fourth Sunday in Lent we had the joyous anticipation of Easter—the Son of God sacrificing Himself for us in His crucifixion and bringing life and immortality to light through His resurrection. Today, on this Fifth Sunday of Easter, we get the joyous anticipation of “the next big thing”—the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Teller and Teacher of Truth. In fact, He is the best and most perfect “next big thing,” the best and most perfect gift that comes from above, “coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).

This is what Jesus is telling His disciples in our Gospel reading. These words are part of His last conversation with them before the final ordeal of His suffering and death for the sins of the world. Before those dark hours of His departure, Jesus promised them that the Helper would come. The Helper, the Holy Spirit, would come only after Jesus completed His work of saving the world from sin, death, and the devil. Once Jesus removed the curse on the world, once He forgave the sins of all, then “the next big thing”—the Holy Spirit—would come. He would come to help Jesus’ followers and to provide the answer to the world’s greatest need.

Now, you would think that the people of the world would be glad to receive the offered help and deliverance. But, alas, not so! As Jesus told His disciples and still tells us: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you…. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you…. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (John 15:18, 20; 16:2).

And how did the disciples react when Jesus warned them of these things? They were disappointed. They were sad. They were despondent. They wanted to retreat. They were no longer concerned about Jesus’ future. So Jesus said, “Now I am going to Him who sent me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’” (John 16:5). The disciples were concerned only about themselves. And so sorrow filled their hearts.

It’s not so different with us, is it? As Jesus’ followers today, we’ve been given a work that goes beyond just our everyday lives, a work that goes beyond just our service to other people. We actually have the privilege of helping other people become followers of Jesus too. But we often lose interest in that task. Often we are not concerned about it. We often lack the courage to speak up. We often find it much easier to talk about anything else—the weather, the flooding, the news, the Blues, the Cardinals—rather than talk about the hope and faith that fills us. So we need Someone to inspire us, Someone to help us, Someone to speak for us.

You see, going against the opposition of the world and the powers of darkness is a lot like soldiers equipped with bows and arrows marching against an army that has jets, tanks, and machine guns. It seems like such an impossible task. But Jesus says we have Someone to help us. That Someone is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, the Helper. He is the One who counsels and assists us. He is the One who intervenes and supports us. He is the One who is able to overcome the world.

This is why 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” (John 16:7). You see, once Jesus finished His work of suffering and dying for the world’s sins, He had to rise from the dead to bring life. He also had to return to His heavenly glory in order to share and distribute the gifts of His work with all people. It would be the work of the Holy Spirit to carry out the sharing and distribution of the Jesus gifts. That’s the real, life-changing, always-meaningful “next big thing.”

And yet, the devil would be allowed to continue his work of promoting unbelief and persuading people to do and live in all sorts of evil and wickedness—for that “little while” that we heard about last week. But the Helper, the Spirit, would be sent forth to work faith and the fruit of faith—things like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). This is what Jesus promised His disciples. This is still Jesus’ promise to all His followers, including you and me, today.

So Jesus also tells us what to expect from this best and perfect gift—this “next big thing”—of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “when [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). The Spirit’s first work is to “convict the world…concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me.” Why is that? Because the world thinks lightly of sin…if they think about it at all. What else do you call killing unborn babies, or committing acts of terrorism, or turning blind eyes to criminal activity, or—most of all—thinking and acting and living like there’s no God, or if there is, like He’s an absentee landlord? But through God’s Word the Holy Spirit shows what sin really is: rebellion against God, not believing in Him. And He shows what lies at the bottom of all sins: unbelief, that is, rejection of what Jesus has done to save us, and that continuing in unbelief eventually leads to eternal doom.

The Spirit’s second work, Jesus says, is to “convict the world…concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer.” This work is most necessary. You see, the world’s idea of “righteousness” is a false one. The world sees people who appear good and charitable and respectable, and says, “That’s righteousness!” But that’s not all that God wants of people. In fact, because of sin, any and all of these outward achievements falls far short of what God seeks. God wants righteousness before Him. And righteousness before Him is possibly only through Jesus, who suffered and died to take away our sin and make us right before God once again. That right relationship—that righteousness—is a gift from God when the Holy Spirit creates and sustains faith in Jesus.

The third work of the Holy Spirit is to “convict the world…concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” It really is most distressing to see so much of the devil’s work in the world—the murders, the immorality, the conflicts, and many other evils. But “the ruler of this world is judged.” Our Lord Jesus conquered him when He died on the cross. Our Lord Jesus conquered him and the power of death when He rose from the grave.  The devil may try his hardest to rant and rave and sow his chaos. But he is like a mean Rottweiler on a chain. He and his evil minions are restricted until the Day of Judgment. At that time Satan and all who belong to him will be rejected forever from God’s presence.

This is the work of the Spirit of Truth—to convict and convince the world and bring the message of Truth to all people. It’s a message of sin and judgment. But it’s also the answer to sin and judgment. It’s the Good News of forgiveness and life through faith in Jesus Christ.

And the Spirit doesn’t just bring the message of Truth to us. He also strengthens us in the Truth. He also nurtures us in the life of love. He gives us the new birth in the waters of Baptism. He comforts, sustains, and strengthens us by feeding us the nourishing food of Jesus’ Body and Blood.

Our Father in heaven has indeed given us every good and perfect gift for body and soul, for faith and life. But the best “next big thing” and the most perfect gift of all is the Holy Spirit. He comforts us by bringing us to Jesus, by filling us with His Truth and Life, by inspiring us to share that Truth and Life with others until the Last Day. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.” Amen.