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LSB Pentecost Day [C] Sermon – John 14:23-31

May 15, 2016

May 15, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“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…. 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.”

Jesus’ discussion with His disciples centers on the significance of keeping and remembering His words. This would be expected, when one remembers that this discussion takes place on the night before Jesus’ betrayal, before going to the sacrificial death that had been His fate. When people reach the ends of their lives, solemnity and seriousness increases. Words of last wills and testaments are carefully chosen. Crucial information about family matters is passed down, so that the next generation may learn before the one who knows passes away. Such solemnity and seriousness isn’t limited to end of life matters. The same can be seen when other transitions take place—when a CEO retires, when presidents and governors reach the end of their term of office, when bishops or pastors take up new calls, or when a business owner sells the company.

Jesus tells His disciples: “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming.” His statement refers to what would happen in Gethsemane, the Sanhedrin hall, the Praetorium, and Golgotha—the places of His arrest, trial, torture, and death. In those locations, “the ruler of this world” would exercise his power over Jesus. But Jesus also declares: “He has no claim on Me, but I do as the Father has commanded Me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” These acts that Jesus undergoes is how He accomplishes salvation. Through them, Jesus serves as an obedient Son, whose faithful carrying out His Father’s will brings benefits for the entire household.

Before these acts take place, Jesus hands down the last and most important parts of His teaching to the disciples. He speaks of what will occur: “I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.” During this solemn discussion, Jesus stresses the importance of keeping His word: “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.” The devotion that Jesus’ disciples have to Him will lead them to treasure and revere the teaching that He has given to them. Even more so, the reason why they do so is rooted in what the disciples have come to know about Jesus’ teaching: “You have the words of eternal life.”

But during this discussion, Jesus reveals that keeping His word will not be dependent solely on the mental capacity of His disciples. Instead, Jesus speaks of a Helper that will be given to His disciples: “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all that I have said to you.” The task of keeping Jesus’ words is furthered by the work that this Helper will do for His disciples.

That help in keeping Jesus’ words is the key theme for this Festival of Pentecost which the Church celebrates today. The arrival of that Helper promised by Jesus is commemorated. You heard about how it transpired: “Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” But the chief significance of the event is not in the extraordinary details. Rather, it is in the task that Jesus’ disciples were able to begin because the Helper came, just as the crowds note: “We hear them telling own our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

Telling of the mighty works of God includes passing down to others the words that Jesus spoke concerning His identity and purpose. It most definitely includes speaking of the death and resurrection of Jesus which has brought atonement for the world’s guilt. This proclaiming of what Jesus said and did is how knowledge and belief in Jesus’ identity as Lord is brought to another generation. And the result of this is salvation, as Peter preached on that first New Testament Pentecost Day, quoting the LORD’s promise: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Jesus’ promise made to the disciples on Holy Thursday and the fulfilling of it on Pentecost is how we have been brought into the company of people who have Jesus as Lord. Because of the Holy Spirit’s work within the Church, we have heard the mighty works of God being told to us in our own language. This has taken place because the Holy Spirit has helped to preserve the words of Jesus, so that they can be spoken and taught to another generation. The first disciples kept Jesus’ words. But it isn’t a keeping in the sense of locking them up in a safe never to be read or heard again. No, it is a keeping in the sense of treasuring Jesus’ words, holding them sacred, and repeating them so that others would hear how Jesus has brought salvation to the world. Then as their audience gladly hears and learns those words of Jesus, they share in the same salvation, being united to Jesus and His disciples who lived before them.

That is what the Holy Spirit has accomplished in the Church through the generations. It is how each of you has been brought into the household of God. It also directs the chief purpose and task of the individual congregations of the Church around the world. All sorts of activities can be done by groups of Jesus’ disciples—charitable works, fellowship activities, commemorations of past members. But the Church’s greatest and chief task is to teach what Jesus has said and done, so that individuals receive His work of salvation and are guided to lead new and holy lives.

In our congregation, that teaching includes the instruction of young people in the fundamentals of the Christian faith. One milestone in that process is the affirmation of baptism—confirmation—that will take place today for four of our members. As you hear the Rite of Confirmation given, pay attention to the questions asked—questions that were asked of most of you in the past. Those questions are connected to keeping Jesus’ words: publicly affirming what the Scriptures teach about the identity of God, recognizing the Scriptures as words with divine source, acknowledging the teaching of the Church as being in agreement with those words, stating the desire to hear that word faithfully, and pledging to live according to those words. In those questions, the tie to Jesus’ statement is seen: “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.”

Why can such questions be asked? They can be asked because of what the Holy Spirit has already accomplished for us in the Church. The reason why we—and our confirmands—are able to confess the identity of God, recognize the Scriptures as being inspired, acknowledge that the Church’s teaching agrees with the Scriptures, gladly hear and learn that word, and be guided in life by it is all due to the Holy Spirit’s work being done in and among us. What Jesus promised has been fulfilled: “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.”

As a group of Jesus’ disciples, we desire to receive the Holy Spirit’s activity among us. That is why we have already prayed: “Grant us in this day by the same Spirit to have a right understanding in all things and evermore to rejoice in His holy consolation.” The hymns sung have invoked the Holy Spirit, asking for His continued work: “Come holy Light, guide divine, / Now cause the Word of life to shine. / Teach us to know our God aright / And call Him Father with delight. / From every error keep us free; / Let none but Christ our master be / That we in living faith abide, / In Him, our Lord, with all our might confide.” And during the Rite of Confirmation, intercessions for the Holy Spirit’s work will be offered for those who confess their faith today and for all who have affirmed it in the past.

All those prayers will be answered, when the Helper continues to teach you and bring to remembrance all that Jesus has said. As the Holy Spirit performs His work, then what Jesus says will be done: “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.” That home will be in the eternal dwelling places prepared for you by Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. Hearing, trusting, and keeping His word of promise, it shall be so for you and all others who love Jesus and who have been loved by the Father.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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