Pentecost – A LSB #’s 849, 589, 540
Text – John 7:38
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’
RIVERS OF LIVING WATER
The Great Salt Lake & the Dead Sea are examples at the other end of the spectrum. Life giving water flows into them, yet those bodies of water are a dead end. Since the water has no further place to go, it evaporates there. This leaves behind the minerals & nutrients in such high concentrations that, rather than feeding normal plants & fish, they are poisoned instead.
Selfishness & greed have the same effect on the human soul. When we hoard the blessings God showers upon us, not allowing them to pass through us & on to others, then you & I become a dead end. All the gifts that our Lord intended for good serve to poison us & the people around us. What God intended for good becomes a curse instead.
Though still early in Jesus’ ministry, the opposition to His teaching has become hostile. The Gospel reading for today skips over all the early material in chapter 7. However, it is important for the context of the Gospel reading especially because that reading is so short.
Verse 1 tells us that Jesus could not publicly attend this major & days long celebration because the Jewish leaders there “were seeking to kill Him.” Verse 5 says that, “…not even His brothers believed in Him.” By the words of the Gospel reading, the great Feast of the Tabernacles had reached it’s climax & closing day. On that day Jesus stood up & cried out,
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me & drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38 ESV) The leaders of the Jewish people were examples at the other end of the spectrum. They were all take & no give. They taught the law, but did not practice some of the most important points of it, such as justice, mercy & faithfulness to God. They obeyed the minutiae of the law such as tithing spices, but not the more challenging matters of the law such as repentance & humility. Even though they saw Jesus do miracles that could only come from God, they refused to receive the guidance & counsel of God’s Son. Jesus came to counteract what the Jewish religion had become.
Like all other false religions, the Judaism of Jesus’ day had become focused solely upon the works of man. No matter what any purely human guru teaches, all of us know instinctively that we fall short of the glory of God. Our works are no match for earning our way to heaven. We know & we feel the weight & the number of our sins.
Every fiber of our being thirsts for relief from the brokenness of this world. Miraculously, so does our Creator. He did not simply dip His toe into the stream of human life. He took on human flesh in order to experience, as we do, as His entire creation does, the full effect of the horrors that sin brings into human existence. Jesus expressed that from the cross:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34b ESV) During those moments of time, Jesus experienced hell, for you, for me. Jesus knows what it is to be the Dead Sea: “For our sake [God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin…” And God the Father did that, “…so that in [Christ] we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)
Knowing what we know, having experienced what all human beings experience, after living in this sinful world for 30 years as one of us, Jesus cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me & drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38 ESV)
The Feast of Tabernacles, or Pentecost as we Christians refer to it, was a festival to celebrate the harvest of crops. It was similar, though many days longer, to what our Thanksgiving holiday was meant to be. It was a feast to celebrate God, with the purpose of thanking Him especially for the harvest of food that He provides. The majority of Americans no longer give any thought to the heavenly Father at our Thanksgiving holiday. And judging by the few people who believed in Jesus as Messiah in His day, it would appear that most of His fellow Jews no longer gave thought to the true God then.
That thoughtlessness regarding God the Father is but a minor symptom of the disease of sin. We have the war in Ukraine destroying the lives of millions of people. We have the hatred & bitterness of the divisions in our society. As a whole, our government & all its institutions are displaying corruption, greed & selfishness with wanton abandon.
And the worst of it – they no longer even care if it gets found out. They know they can bury it & face zero consequences in any court of law. All of our struggles in life are a direct result of the sin that lives in the heart & soul of every human being. Trying to cancel sinners will not isolate it, solve it, or in any way make up for the evil that human beings do to each other.
Only hell, for every one of us, for all of eternity can do that. So God the Father sent “His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV) That is why Jesus stood up & cried out:
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me & drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38 ESV) God has so blessed His children on earth that our well is overflowing. You & I are overloaded with the nutrients & minerals that give spiritual life to the human beings around us.
If we hoard the blessings God showers upon us, by not allowing them to pass through us & on to others, then you & I are a dead end. Then, all the gifts that our Lord intended for good serve to poison us & the people around us. What God intended for good becomes a curse. Is the culture around us filled with selfishness & greed? Certainly! Have you & I been corrupted by the same sins? Without a doubt! Along with the thief at the cross, all that we can say is, “…we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And [Jesus] said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:41-43 ESV)
Repentance is always the answer to our sin, because turning back to Jesus, & away from our sins, is the only path to life. And our heavenly Father prepares that path for us in advance. It is not a path that you & I need to hew out of the granite of our sorrows & struggles & sins. Jesus created that path with His suffering, humiliation & death. He did that for you out of love.
The world’s method of dealing with sin is demonstrated by today’s cancel culture. It says we should erase anyone who is deemed by the culture to be evil. In their minds, the epitome of that is to ban someone from Twitter, or other forms of social media. And what does the cancel culture do? It brings more sin, more bitterness, more death. Jesus brings life!
In fact, He brings rivers of it as He sends the Holy Spirit into our world, into our lives, into our heart & soul. And from there He will reach out to bless the people around us, & every other aspect of the old & broken creation in which we live. So, Jesus stood up & cried out,
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me & drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38-39 ESV) For now we live that by faith. One day, in heaven, we will live that by sight. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Speak, O Lord, Your servant listens, let Your Word to me come near; newborn life & spirit give me, let each promise still my fear. Death’s dread power, its inward strife, wars against Your Word of life; fill me, Lord, with love’s strong fervor that I cling to You forever! Lord, Your words are waters living when my thirsting spirit pleads. Lord, Your words of bread life-giving; on Your words my spirit feeds. Lord, Your words will be my light through death’s cold & dreary night; yes, they are my sword prevailing & my cup of joy unfailing. Amen. LSB 589:1, 3.
7th Sunday of Easter – A LSB #’s 566:1-3, 6; 461:1-3, 5, 8; 587
Text – John 17:8
For I have given them the words that You gave me, & they have received them & have come to know in truth that I came from You; & they have believed that You sent me.
KNOWING IN TRUTH
Last week’s sermon was titled The Spirit of Truth. Today, Jesus is concerned about our knowing in truth. Sinful creatures that we are, you & I like to feel that we know it all. Sure, we won’t claim to know anything about astrophysics, but that’s not relevant in our day-to-day existence. When it comes to groceries & the cost of gas, it’s nice to feel that we know it all.
In the school of hard knocks, experience teaches that we do not know it all. As each of you can testify, it is not an easy lesson to learn. Not that it’s as complicated as astrophysics. The fact is, we do not want to learn that lesson, which reveals a common sinful tendency within us. We do not look forward to the unfolding of God’s plan & will in our lives.
The setting of this Gospel reading is Maundy Thursday. Jesus is looking forward to the unfolding of His heavenly Father’s plan, & He is doing it in a mood of hope & joy. At the time Jesus is praying this prayer, the disciples have no clue what’s coming, but 2000 years after, you should know. Are you connecting the dots? Jesus is looking forward to His death on the cross.
And, as Jesus always does, He looks out for, & prays for, not Himself but His disciples. If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, how would you pray? I expect most of you would pray for your family & friends, at least by the end of the prayer.
By the end of His prayer, Jesus also prays for everyone who would one day believe in Him through the words of His disciples. That includes many, if not all, of us here today. Since the ending of Jesus’ prayer is not in the Gospel lesson, I’ll read parts of it: “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you & I are one – as you are in me, Father, & I am in you… I have given them the glory You gave me, so they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:20-22 NLT)
As Jesus concludes this prayer, just before He is betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus is praying that all believers would be one even as the Holy Trinity is one. And He says He accomplished that for us by giving us the glory that God the Father gave to Him. Look around you. What you see right here & now, this is the glory of God.
This is certainly not how the world would define glory, but this also may not be how you define glory. You know of churches that have far more entertaining programs going on. You know of churches that have many more people showing up to worship. You know of churches that have children in Sunday Schools & volunteers to teach them.
You know of congregations that have an amazing music ministry, that have elders who visit their members, that have human care teams reaching out to their shut-ins or to those spending time in the hospital. You know of congregations that have thriving youth ministries. And because you know of those churches, you fail to see the glory of God right here, right now.
Even if you do not believe you know it all, you do believe that you know something. And this is not how you would define the glory of God. For that Jesus forgives you, because His glory was to follow the path of lowly service culminating in the humiliation of the cross. That is the glory that God the Father gave to Jesus, & that Jesus gives to you & to me.
Historically, Lutheran theologians have always understood God’s glory in this life to be a theology or a ministry of the cross. St. Paul wrote of that in his letter to the church at Corinth:
“For Jews demand signs & Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews & folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews & Greeks, Christ the power of God & the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24 ESV) Those who are called are those who know in truth. As insignificant or hapless as this congregation may appear this is the true glory of God because Jesus says it is. As broken as your lives & service to God may be, you have the true glory of God because Jesus gave it to you. So the night before Jesus is crucified, He prays to His Father:
“…I have given them the words that You gave me, & they have received them & have come to know in truth that I came from You; & they have believed that You sent me.” (John 17:8 ESV) Jesus contrasts the disciples, who received the words from the Father, with others who rejected those words. Jesus highlights that His disciples know in truth that He came from God.
Last, Jesus describes His disciples as men of faith who believe that He was sent by God the Father. To know in truth is, as verse 3 tells us, “And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, & Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3 ESV) You know that your Redeemer lives, & knowing Jesus is to have the true life that your Creator intended for you.
And since you have the glory of God, given to you by Jesus, you can be, you will be, & you already are a witness of the heavenly Father’s love for sinners. That is the chief aspect of God’s glory, that He sent Jesus not to condemn the world, but to save it. The Holy Spirit points out our sins & calls us to repentance, not to crush us but to give us forgiveness & life.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam & Eve lost their relationship with God by disobeying Him. Jesus came to restore that relationship, that oneness with God, through His perfect obedience. Jesus prayed, “I have given them the glory You gave me, so they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:22 NLT) Our relationship with our holy heavenly Father has been restored.
That is what the Son of God prayed for the night before He went to the cross. This is what the Father gives in answer to that prayer. God glorifies Himself as He saves sinners by giving them what they do not deserve – everlasting life in paradise. God is glorified when we believe in Jesus as Messiah, & know the Father through Him. God is glorified when His people in the world are kept by His word – the word that Jesus gives to us. In the prayer from the Gospel reading, Jesus & His Father encircle & embrace us. They also invite us to learn to pray for one another.
As our saintly nature lives, we admit that we often fail to look forward to the unfolding of God’s plan & will in our lives. Too often we prefer our own plan & will. Our sinful nature causes much anxiety in our lives, so Peter wrote in the Epistle lesson:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV) Here’s an account of what that may look like in real life.
There was a famous actor giving readings to an art & literature group. One of the ladies present asked if he would recite the 23rd Psalm. He did so eloquently, with masterful flourish & diction. When he finished the entire assembly applauded him. Then, someone noticed an elderly pastor standing near the back of the hall. They asked him to recite it as well.
He demurred, saying he was no great speaker, but they finally convinced him to try. His speech was haltering, his manner was not ostentatious. Yet, when he finished, everyone was silent. Something had happened to the group. Afterwards, one of the audience asked the actor, “What happened back there? What was the difference in your two presentations?”
The actor replied thoughtfully, “I knew the psalm. The pastor knows the Shepherd.” 2000 years ago, Jesus prayed that you too would come to know the Shepherd. Amen.
I know that my Redeemer lives; what comfort this sweet sentence gives! He lives, He lives, who once was dead; He lives, my ever-living head. He lives to bless me with His love; He lives to plead for me above; He lives my hungry soul to feed; He lives to help in time of need. Amen. LSB 461:1, 3.
6th Sunday of Easter – A LSB #’s 905, 502, 979
Text – John 14:15-17
If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, & He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you & will be in you.
THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH
Six chapters earlier, in speaking to a very different crowd, Jesus said, “You belong to your father the devil, & you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar & the father of lies.” (John 8:44 ESV)
That’s in very sharp contrast to the Spirit of Truth. The Spirit of Truth comes to us as a gift from our Father in heaven. The father of lies lives within us naturally from birth, because we were conceived & born in sin.
An ancient piece of wisdom put it like this: There are two ways, one of Life & one of Death, & there is a great difference between the two. Which way are you on? It’s said, “The truth hurts.” Have you been hurting any lately? Or do you find it less painful to deny or ignore the truth? Do your feelings ever get in the way of a clear grasp of reality?
In the text for this sermon Jesus tells the disciples that God the Father will give them the Spirit of Truth. Would you expect that to hurt? Are you willing to suffer inconvenience, even pain, in order to receive the Spirit of Truth? How about making sacrifices that really cost you something, do you see that in your future? Has it been a part of your past?
“If you love Me you will obey what I command.” That’s how Jesus begins this latest teaching session, & to our sinful ears the word “obey” is such a nasty one. Obedience is okay if the person we’re supposed to obey is competent & likeable. But it seems that more often than not, the person we’re supposed to obey is incompetent, unlikable & living in some kind of dream world. Obedience is a lot to ask in that situation, & all people struggle with making that large a sacrifice. Yes, it costs us in order to obey someone we do not like or respect. Receiving the Spirit of Truth can hurt, & it will ask us to make sacrifices.
In the book of Romans, Paul wrote, “I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices… this is your spiritual act of worship.” (12:1) That kind of worship is not just going through the motions. That kind of worship is willing to pay an ongoing price for it. That kind of worship is not simply being in church an hour or two a week.
A living sacrifice is one that worships God every hour of every day of every week. A living sacrifice finds its very purpose for living in Christ. That is the obedience that flows out of love. It’s that obedience which Christ is talking about when He says, “If you love Me, you will obey what I command.” That obedience is not a chore, but a joyful pleasure.
That kind of obedience is in very sharp contrast to much of our lives, isn’t it? Even for Christians, obedience does not often strike us as joyful pleasure – not even obedience to our loving Heavenly Father. We need the Spirit of Truth to guide & advise us, to provide Godly counsel as well as strength, courage & wisdom.
That Counselor, whom Jesus sends, lives within us. All Christians are aware of His presence, even when, & maybe especially when, we do not feel like obeying Him. It’s then that our conscience, our sense of guilt, starts talking. It’s the Spirit of Truth that counsels us so we understand God & His will.
It is the Spirit of Truth who transforms you by the renewing of your mind. So the Apostle Paul calls us to conform no longer to the pattern of this world. Our sinful nature just wants to blend in. The Spirit of Truth calls us, & guides us, to stand out. Making sacrifices stands out in our society because you see or hear so little of it in the day-to-day course of events. The response of many emergency workers on 9 – 11 typified sacrifice & obedience, but those are not the routine items you find in the news. It’s only as our mind is renewed by the power of God’s love that we are able to test & approve what His will is in the specific, nuts & bolts type, activities of every day of our lives.
For some, just getting out of bed in the morning requires the guidance of the Spirit of Truth, because the father of lies is whispering in their ear, sleep in just a little longer. For others the decision to stay with, rather than bail out of, a marriage grown cold, requires the Spirit of Truth, because the father of lies is saying that any sane person would have left long ago.
The father of lies tells members of small congregations that they will never grow. What’s the use? Why bother? Just throw your hands up & surrender. The Spirit of Truth encourages us to work for God’s kingdom, not out of the hope of success, but purely in response to what Christ has done with the sacrifice of His very life.
St. Paul wrote, at Romans 12:3, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” The Spirit of Truth comes to show us our sin, so we might turn from that way of death & all the more appreciate our forgiveness – the way of life that baptism set us on.
The Spirit of Truth teaches us to live by faith & not by what our fearful & timid mind may see. In the setting of the Gospel reading, Jesus had once again told His disciples that He’d be leaving them. They were afraid & confused. They lacked the understanding that the Spirit of Truth would bring them.
Unbelievers completely lack understanding & can live only by sight, since they have no faith. They have not the Spirit of Truth & can never know pure reality or truth. When I talk with them I feel compassion because they are so obviously deceived & misguided. They know nothing of the Holy Spirit’s activities such as creating, bringing peace or healing. The world turns to Twitter & Instagram to find healing & peace through the airing out of the sin rotting within. Jesus said, “Yet a little while & the world will see me no more, but you will see me.” (John 14:19a ESV) That’s because we see by faith. The world sees only by sight.
We know truth. The world knows only lies. Martin Luther called attention to the fact that possession of the truth is one of the greatest privileges given to man in this life. Our God has given us the very Spirit of Truth. There’s nothing that is able to comfort us in trials & tribulation as much as to be certain of our position. We know that our Redeemer lives.
The knowledge of this position, that of being the eternal children of God, has made men withstand all kinds of suffering & adversity. It has even made people willing to take upon themselves a martyr’s death. The lack of truth, the presence of doubt, will bleed a man’s soul dry, & rot him from the inside out.
That’s one thing I so disliked about being involved in Top Secret operations with the Navy. We could never know for certain just what the truth was. Cover stories & lies were everywhere. Reality was a mirage – a game played with smoke & mirrors. Jesus Christ is not only the way, He is also the truth, & Jesus has given us the Spirit of that Truth.
God’s children are enabled to know the ultimate & final reality, the whole truth & nothing but the truth. In verse 20 of the Gospel reading, Jesus says, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, & you are in me, & I am in you.” Our Savior lives within us. The Spirit of Truth lives within us. We can never be rejected by God. Only we can reject Him.
To Jesus, love is not merely sentimentality, or feelings of bliss & happiness. Love, to Jesus, is a very concrete thing, a having & a keeping of the known commandments as found in the Bible. Christians often separate their love of Jesus from the Word of God only to discover in times of trouble that they have lost Him, & know not where to find Him. But Christians who love Jesus in His Word know where Jesus is whether they feel His presence or not. The revelation that Christ promises cannot be disconnected from the Word of God. The Spirit of Truth is given us in order that we might know, understand & appreciate that Word.
There is no reality to be trusted apart from the Word. Holy Scripture, as revealing Christ, is so deep & wide & high that no one during a lifetime will be able to exhaust the content of it.
Websites print memorials for people who’ve passed away, often containing a picture of the person who died, & sentiments like, “You’re not forgotten in our hearts.” Such a forlorn remembrance is not the way the Spirit of Truth reminds us of Jesus’ words. He does not memorialize Christ in some sort of divine obituary through dead words in the Bible.
The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead & brings us a living message. The Epistle lesson stated, “Christ died once for our sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18) Christ has risen from the dead, & in baptism the Holy Spirit raises you in Christ.
As Jesus said earlier in the Gospel, “…unless one is born of water & the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5 ESV) It’s the Spirit Who gives life. God has begun a good work in you that the Spirit of Truth will not fail to complete. And that Spirit comes along side us daily in order to teach us the truth.
John 14:26, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, & remind you of everything I said to you.” You are cleansed. You are forgiven. Those are words of truth that do not hurt, & they create obedience in us. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
5th Sunday of Easter – A LSB # 461 v. 1, 5, 7 & 8
Text – John 14:2
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
THE FATHER’S HOUSE
At her father’s funeral, a woman told her pastor that ever since she was a child she & her father had discussed life after death. They agreed that whoever went first would try to contact the other. They happened to discuss this again just two weeks before he died.
A few days after the funeral, the smoke alarm went off in her garage. In all the 28 years she’d lived there it had never gone off before. There was no smoke anywhere to be found, but she was not able to turn off the alarm, so she called the security company that installed it.
The next morning the smoke alarm sounded again & the reason finally dawned on her. She said aloud, “Ok Dad, I missed the signal yesterday, but I get it now! Thanks for letting me know that you’re safe on the other side. Now turn the thing off so I don’t have to call the security company again.” The smoke alarm turned off.
Immediately she called her pastor to tell him the good news. Her pastor replied, “Dear lady, if every time your father sends you a message, the smoke alarm goes off, just where do you think he’s calling from?” PAUSE
Class of 1973, let’s face it we are not getting any younger. Everyone in our class is now 50 years closer to heaven or hell, then when we were confirmed. Richard Nixon was president. A postage stamp cost 8 cents. Gasoline was 39 cents a gallon. The Dow Jones industrial average hit a high of 1051. Now, it can rise & fall that much in one day.
Not to let the rest of you off the hook, do you realize that all of you right now are older then you have ever been before? And every day you are alive that comes true all over again. “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2 ESV) Those are common words at Christian funerals, because people find comfort in them concerning the one who died. What if we look at those words – my Father’s house – as concerning ourselves, those of us who are still alive?
Are they comforting to you, or do those words speak of something you would rather not consider? My own death, your own death, what is that process going to be like? As with a lot of people, the thought of being dead does not cause me much concern. I’m confident in what Christ has done for me. But, how am I going to end up dead, that is a little more concerning.
Both my parents had rather long, drawn out journeys to their heavenly home. A good friend was killed instantly in a car accident. This spring, I officiated a funeral for a young man only 18 years after I confirmed him. There are many variations of death in between instant & long, drawn out. People die young, people die old & people die everywhere in between.
St. Peter wrote in the Epistle reading for today, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV)
As a pastor, I spend a lot of time thinking about & dealing with death. And my classmates asked me to preach for this service. Maybe right now they’re praying that God would call them out of the darkness of this sermon into His marvelous light. If so, the Gospel reading begins for them, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1a ESV)
Jesus is speaking to men whose hearts are far from tranquil. Peter has been struck by his Master’s prediction that before the rooster crows Peter will deny Him three times. Jesus had also spoken of His departure to a place where His disciples could not follow Him. Jesus knows that within a few short hours they will be shocked & stunned by His betrayal & crucifixion. Fear will overcome them & they will run away to hide. It is not a pleasant, happy time. Their lives have taken a hard left turn & they are about to go over the edge to a place they have never known. Maybe you’ve been there & it was not a horror movie that you were watching, but real life hitting you right between the eyes.
Jesus makes it all sound so simple, “Let not your hearts be troubled… In my Father’s house are many rooms.” (John 14:1a, 2a ESV) Life in heaven will be that simple. We’ll do everything right the first time with no doubts or worries, no mistakes, no failures. Our hearts will never be troubled & nothing will ever go wrong, but that is not the life we live here.
“In my Father’s house are many rooms” brings comfort to us here & now because we are not slaves of God who need to earn our keep. We are His children & He treats us with the greatest of love, especially when He allows discipline into our lives. It demonstrates that our heavenly Father is not just a fair weather friend, but one who will suffer & even die with us.
“All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness & mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” Hopefully those words still ring a bell in your heart & mind. They are from Luther’s explanation of the 1st article of the Creed. We were supposed to memorize it long it ago. I know at the time, confirmation class seemed more like discipline than a blessing.
Yet, from our more ‘mature’ perspective, I hope that you now appreciate how God blessed us during those first 14 years of our lives. We have so many memories tied to this church, this school, this community. It was the fabric of our existence for so many of our formative years. God used it, the good & the bad, to shape & mold us into who we are today.
Back then, in so many ways, we were being taught to resist Satan’s temptations to sin. Now, increasingly loud voices are encouraging people to celebrate sin, & even the destruction it brings. Many of the people preaching that ‘sermon’ have no idea what they are truly doing. They’re simply reacting to the hurt & pain caused by living in the brokenness of this sinful world. Satan’s attacks are damaging their heart & soul & mind & they need the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding. However, they’ve been taught to reject that instead of rejecting the sin. A few chapters after today’s Gospel reading, Jesus said:
“In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33b NIV) The key is, where do we find comfort when we are troubled? What solution did the God who created us, offer? Satan knows too well that even if we resist his temptations, you & I cannot eliminate sin & its effects. Sin is what sinners do, & sin does bring death. We cannot change those facts.
Peter did deny Jesus & His disciples ran away. Yet when Jesus rose from the dead, He does not celebrate their sin. He also did not condemn them. Instead, Jesus restored them in the hope that His forgiveness would change their hearts. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus’ first sermon laid out that very same plan:
“The time is fulfilled, & the kingdom of God is at hand; repent & believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15 ESV) The plan is simple. In Jesus, the kingdom of God had arrived on earth. This acknowledges the existence of sin, otherwise, God’s kingdom would already have been on earth. Now His kingdom has returned & the first order of business for us is to repent.
You & I are called, not to celebrate sin, but to turn away from it. And immediately, upon turning away from it, we are to believe that God has forgiven our sin in the death of Jesus. Repentance is not about wallowing in the misery of our sin. It’s not about earning our forgiveness through suffering humiliation & embarrassment. It is simply turning back to God.
That repentance is a gift given to us by the Holy Spirit. We were asked to memorize that from Luther’s explanation to the 3rd article of the Creed: “…but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified & kept me in the true faith.” We have not been left to repent of our sins by our own power. In fact, we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord. It is Christ our Lord who does the rescuing so that each one of you may spend eternity in the Father’s house.
As human beings we are all looking to find comfort in our struggles, & there are plenty of troubles in this life. Satan offers his solution – celebrate sin. Put darkness for light & light for darkness. Call evil good & call good evil. Satan encourages us to be our own God; to worship our every desire.
Jesus offers His solution to the troubles of this world. He says, “Take courage, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Believing in Jesus as Savior from our sins is not easy. We need, & we have, the power of God’s Spirit, to do so. Believing in Jesus as Savior from our sins, calls us to the death of ourselves so that we can be resurrected in Christ.
That is the path to true freedom & joy. It is the path to eternal freedom & joy. It is the path to the Father’s house, & Jesus promises that He will come again to take us there. The next time you hear a smoke alarm, at least consider who might be calling. Then take courage, because Jesus has overcome the world. Amen.
I know that my Redeemer lives; what comfort this sweet sentence gives! He lives, He lives, who once was dead; He lives my ever living head. He lives to silence all my fears; He lives to wipe away my tears; He lives to calm my troubled heart; He lives all blessings to impart. He lives & grants me daily breath; He lives, & I shall conquer death; He lives my mansion to prepare; Jesus lives to bring me safely there. Amen. LSB 461:1, 5 & 7.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet