THE DAY OF PENTECOST [c] May 15, 2022
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. 25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But 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 that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.
Catechumens, you’ve worked toward this is the day. The sermon reports, the memory work, the essays—all toward learning your Lord’s Doctrine, confessing the faith, and, now, being brought to your Lord’s Body and Blood, as he instituted it to be given his people in the fellowship of his doctrine.
You hear your Lord’s invitation; you confess his doctrine; your Lord stands you in the world as his people; but as all this is done, your Lord knows the world he places you in.
He knows the afflictions and seductions brought to you by the devil, the temptations your world entangles you in, and the lusts and desires of your own sinful flesh. Your Lord knows it all; he knows the pain and travail of our world; he is surprised by none of it; and to you he says,
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Have no fear in your heart!
Our world is filled with fear. Fear shows us what we hold dear. When we fear losing something, or not being able to have something, we will do anything to keep it. There we may see our sin. When we see what we fear, there we find our idols—those things we will do anything to keep and protect.
But your Lord says you are to fear him only. Leviticus 5:17:
You shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God.
When we fear God only, we then look at him and we see, he is the one with nail prints in his hands for us. He’s the one speaking kindness to those who have sinned against him. He says to you,
“Let not your hearts be troubled, let them have no fear.”
What does our world hold dear and fear losing?
A successful life. Our world holds dear a life of good decisions and right directions and effectiveness and potential and all those other words of human accomplishment.
So what will the world expect from the Church? She will expect the Church will teach how to live a good life, how to make right decisions, how to be led by the spirit, how to be successful, and all the rest. But all this just brings more fear. For we will always end up short, and to end up short before the face of God, that’s fear.
For all that, no one needs the Church. You need a motivational speaker or a life-coach or a TV infomercial or something like that.
What is the Church given to teach? The forgiveness of sins. The cleansing of the conscience. The sinner brought from fear into faith.
And that, Ashley, is your confirmation verse. 1 John 1:7:
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
The Lord gathers his people to Church each Sunday for just one thing. For the forgiveness of sins. For the blood of Christ to cleanse from all sin.
If you don’t have sin, then don’t come to Church.
But if you do have sin, Jesus is for you. And where there is the forgiveness of sins, there is life and salvation.
And Jesus loves his Church.
Our world thinks of Church as just people getting together for a common interest. That makes sense. Because we do go about things that way in our world.
We can find a bunch of people with a common interest in basketball at the UNM Pit.
We can find a bunch of people with a common interest in, say, board games, or in hiking, at a club meeting that does just those things.
We can find a bunch of people with a common interest in a political candidate at his or her rally.
That’s the way we do it in our world. So our world thinks the Church is just that, a bunch of people gathering together to learn how to live better or have better lives, or whatever.
It is not.
It’s the people of Jesus having been gathered by him to be his Church, even his bride.
How does he gather these sinners into the Church? By the preaching of the Gospel, by the cleansing of the sinner. And that is Natalie’s verse. Ephesians 5:25:
Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.
The Large Catechism tells us that everything in the Church is ordered toward the forgiveness of sins. Everything in the Church is ordered toward the sinner being cleansed by the gifts of Jesus.
But do you belong here? Do you belong in the Church? Do you belong at the gifts of Jesus? How can you be sure?
If you want to justify yourself, then the Church has nothing to give to you. If you want to learn rules and principles of how to live a better life, how to be more effective and successful, Jesus didn’t die on the cross for that, and the Church has nothing for you.
But if you are a sinner, if you want to be cleansed of all guilt, all shame, if you want a conscience not in fear but at peace with God, then you belong in the Church. For the Church is Jesus gathering sinners to his Name where he is giving out all his gifts.
But can you be sure you belong here? Maybe you’re not worthy, maybe your faith is too shaky, your conscience too filled with doubt.
How can you be sure you belong in the Lord’s Church?
That, Angel, is your confirmation verse, Ephesians 1:13:
In [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had faith in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance.
Do you belong in the Lord’s Church? The Lord says you do.
This certainty that you belong in the Lord’s Church is not about your worthiness or mine, not about how close or far we feel from God, not about anything of our own decisions, choices, efforts, accomplishments, or anything we find in our own thoughts or desires.
This certainty that you belong in the Lord’s Church the Lord gives to you by giving you the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.
The Lord has marked you as his own, he has put his seal on you. You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the Word of truth, the Gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for all sins.
You were sealed in the promise of Baptism, so that you each day can rejoice in putting the old Adam of sinful flesh to death in repentance, that the new Adam of the life of faith may stand up to live before God in all his gifts. And you are sealed when your Lord Jesus says to you, Take and eat, Take and drink, this is my true Body and Blood for the forgiveness of youy sin.
We are still in the world. We still fear. That’s our life of being at the same time both sinner and saint.
Sinner, according to our life of the flesh. Saint according to our life of faith, our life of the heart cleansed by the sanctifying blood.
But we are simultaneously both. We cannot be done with the life of the flesh, with the old man of sin, that is, until our bodies go down to death.
But our Lord does not depart us. While we’re in our sinful flesh, while we’re in this world of sin, our Lord keeps us in his Word. He sends the Holy Spirit, who continually brings to us his sanctifying gifts.
We hear the Gospel proclaimed—this is the Holy Spirit bringing to us the Words of Jesus. Because Jesus promised that he would send us the Helper, the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father would send to us in the Name of Jesus. And the Holy Spirit brings to us the remembrance all Jesus’ words. John 14:27:
[Jesus said,] But 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 that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.