+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: John 14:27
Theme: Divine Peace
Dear Saints of our Risen Lord,
Christ gives a peace that the world cannot give. This is no trivial promise. You cannot give something you do not have. The world does not possess this peace. The world can strive for cessation of hostilities among nations, it can work toward economic and cultural stability, it can offer armament for personal safety- and it should pursue these things. But it cannot give the peace that passes all understanding. His peace steadies the heart and consoles the soul. It does so even when life crumbles and collapses all around because Christ is immortal, immovable, immutable: He is incarnate love.
Pentecost draws near. The Lord makes careful reference to the Holy Spirit today. The disciples need the motive and the means to be steeled with tenacity. Presently they are timid and filled with uncertainty. They are not at peace. The ascension is at hand. The heavenly coronation of their Master seems too remote to give them courage. How will they cope? Jesus promises the sending of the Spirit. The disciples cannot conjure the Spirit, as by some pious, but magical incantation. He- the Spirit- gathers them from the darkness.
As God, He comes from God. The Spirit does not proceed from the church. He is not the collective consciousness of believers. The Spirit creates the church through the word. The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The Scriptures are the Spirit’s words as much as they are Christ’s words. The Spirit speaks. And He speaks only for the purpose of making known the Son so that all who know the Son may know the love of the Father as well. The Holy Spirit does not circumvent the public record of the divine will. The Holy Scriptures are that record: The books of the Old and New Testaments of the prophets and apostles. The Spirit does not run a clandestine operation. He speaks openly through the word.
Dear friends, it’s only through God’s word that we can truly know what threatens us and where we find help. We live in a culture that increasingly exalts science and downplays sin. If evil is not real, if judgment is not certain, if hell is not substantive, then we are wasting our time being concerned with forgiveness, grace, and salvation. If the justice of God will not be rendered, we might as well kick back with levity and frivolity and invite Epicurus to dinner. Perhaps that’s why so few are in church on any given Lord’s Day. If sin is only a projection of inadequate sensitivity to others there would be no need for the peace that the world cannot give. There would be no need for grace. The church could then become a philanthropic society helping to improve life only in the here and now. There would finally be nothing to be saved from. There’s no need for a Redeemer when a therapist or breadwinner can meet your most critical needs. Ah, but what needs are really most critical?
Should the conviction prevail that human crises are really so shallow then we will find ourselves in a parallel situation to that which Paul describes when he says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”1 If we believe we only need some guidance, aid, or protection, to help us journey through this life more easily we are to be pitied for missing the deepest challenges and opportunities of existence.
Ignorance is not bliss. Not when Satan is the headmaster. Under his tutelage there is no distinguishing between heaven and hell, there is no contrast between light and darkness, there is no distinction between love and hate because all under his power are blinded by the first deception, the promise made to Eve in the Garden, “You will be like God.”2 Dear friends, the eternal Son of God did not breach time and space in abject humility to wipe our runny noses and entertain us with cups of tea. He came to prepare us for the heavenly banquet and wipe away the tears caused by sin and death. Christ has been crucified and raised to life for us and for our salvation.
It’s easy to worry about the decline of Christianity in our culture today. But would Noah agree with the lament that too few are in church? He was one of only eight on the ark. Would Elijah resonate with the concern? Only 7000 believers remained in all of Israel3 How many attended the service on the cross that first Good Friday. A handful? We need not despair. For the sake of the elect the days will be shortened. The One who had triumphed over death says, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”4
The world we live in is a world that needs Christ. What can you do? Aaron and Hur propped up the arms of Moses as he held the staff of God in his hand. Only Moses could hold the staff. But others bore the weight that was too much for him to bear. You cannot carry the cross of another but you can be the support that eases their burden. Jesus says those who offer a cup of cold water will not lose their reward. Who dare to challenge His words? You can do nothing at all apart from Him; nothing godly and spiritual, that is. But with Him and through Him you can do all things. You can move mountains because He is the mover. You can remain unmoved when Satan blows through like a tempest because He is the anchor. You can run into the fray when others run for cover because He bears your armor. You can press through the darkness because He is the light of the world. You can touch lepers because his blood cleanses from all sin.
Dear friends, Luther reminds us in his teaching on the Lord’s Prayer that the kingdom of God comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit5. Where the Spirit is there is life. Though our physical frames will succumb to the power of death, we already have spiritual life that cannot be defeated. God’s promises will all come to fulfillment. The trumpet will sound. The valley of dry bones will become a festal gathering of the heavenly banquet. The Jordan will swell into the river of life. The desert of the Negev will be transformed into a new paradise. The faithful will rise. The brave and the timid, the weak and the strong, and those who were always too tender for this harsh and cruel world. And you will stand among them, lifted by the Spirit, beholding the Son face to face. You will have peace. Amen.
Christ is risen. Alleluia!
He is Risen, indeed. Alleluia!
+ In nomine Jesu +
Sixth Sunday of Easter
1 May, 2016
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 1 Corinthians 15:17-19
2 Genesis 3:5
3 See 1 Kings 19:17
4 John 16:33
5 See Luther’s Small Catechism