Sunday, May 17, 2020

Sixth Sunday of Easter

Sixth Sunday of Easter (A)
May 17, 2020
Text: John 14:15-21
Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!
            Because I live, you also will live,” Jesus says (John 14:19; ESV).  Now, this is certainly a promise of our bodily resurrection on the Last Day.  As Jesus is risen, bodily, so He will raise us, bodily, and give eternal life to you and me and all believers in Christ.  But this is also a promise concerning the life we have right now in Christ.  Baptized into Christ, who died, and who is risen from the dead, you have eternal life now.  Yes, now!  It is hidden.  You cannot see it, and certainly others cannot see it.  But you have it, because you are in Christ, who lives.  That is to say, you have already been raised from the dead spiritually.
            What does this mean?  In Holy Baptism, you died with Christ, and you have now been raised with Christ.  His death is your death.  His resurrection is your life.  Furthermore, in Holy Baptism, the Father has given you another Helper, as Jesus has asked Him.  The word, actually, is “Paraclete.”  “Helper,” certainly, but it could also be translated “Counselor,” or “Advocate,” or “Comforter.”  All of the above are part of the concept.  Literally, Paraclete means one “called to the side,” as in the one you call to your side in a time of trouble.  As a child calls to his mother for comfort and help when he falls off his bicycle, for physical assistance, for help with homework, or advice when times are difficult and confusing.  This helps us understand the role of the Paraclete.  He is the One we call to our side in every time of need.
            We confess the Spirit as nothing less than the Lord and Giver of life.  As God breathed into Adam… breathes into you… the breath of life, so He spirits into you the Spirit of life when you are born from above in Holy Baptism.  The Spirit gives you life.  He gives you the life of the risen Christ.  That is to say, He brings you to faith in Christ.  Living faith.  Saving faith.  And this changes everything for you, as you can imagine it would, going from a state of being dead in your trespasses and sins, to being alive… with life full and free in Christ, life eternal and abundant.
            So now by the Spirit’s work of enlivening you, you are able to do what you previously could not do in the death of your sins.  Now you live in Jesus, and you love Jesus, and you keep His Word.  When Jesus says in our text, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (v. 15), He doesn’t just mean keeping the rules, the ethical guidelines, the Ten Commandments.  He means the entirety of His Word, Law and Gospel.  And the word “keep” doesn’t only mean “obey.”  It certainly does mean that, but it also means “guard,” perhaps even “treasure.”  It is really a faith Word.  The one who has been brought to resurrection life in Jesus lives by every Word of Jesus! 
            Now, of course, in this earthly life, while you still have to contend with your fallen flesh and while you still live in a fallen world, you don’t always keep the Commandments.  You will, in heaven, and in the resurrection on the Last Day, but not yet.  Now you still have to drown Old Adam every day.  You sin.  You break faith with Jesus’ Word.  You know that about yourself.  The point isn’t that now that you live in Jesus, you can perfectly keep the Law and never sin.  No, it means you strive against your sinful nature, because that isn’t you anymore.  It means you strive to keep the Law, not to earn salvation or merit before God, but because you love Jesus.  And when you fail to keep the Law, you repent.  You confess it.  You are sorry.  You seek amendment of life.  Because you love Jesus.  You know that His Word and His will for you are good for you.  And you know that Jesus is ever faithful to forgive your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.  That is what this Christian life looks like in this world.  The continual pattern of repentance and faith in Christ, living by every Word that proceeds from His mouth. 
            And that is the Spirit in you.  That is what the resurrection of Jesus Christ does in your life at this very moment.  Because Jesus lives, you live. 
            Now, the world doesn’t see this.  The world saw Jesus during His earthly ministry when He appeared as any other man.  The world saw as Jesus was put to an ignominious death on the cross, the death of a common criminal.  The world saw Him dead and buried.  But that is as far as worldly sight goes. 
            When the Holy Spirit gives you the resurrection life of Jesus, so that you believe in Him, He opens your eyes to the new reality the world cannot see.  That Jesus didn’t stay dead.  He is risen.  He lives.  He reigns.  This is what Jesus is getting at when He says, “Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me” (v. 19).  In the 40 days following His resurrection, our Lord appeared, not to the world, but to His disciples.  It was the disciples who ate and drank with Him and poked around in His wounds.  It was the disciples who watched Him ascend into heaven.  And it is still the disciples who see Him.  You… not with your fleshly eyes, but with the eyes of faith that have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit.  You see Him as He comes to you with His gifts, in His Church, in His Word and in His Sacraments. 
            This is the fulfillment of the Promise that whoever loves Jesus will be loved by the Father and by Jesus, and that Jesus will manifest Himself to him (v. 21).  He will not leave us as orphans, He promises (v. 18).  He has given His Holy Spirit who continually cares for us, doing His work of preserving us in the holy faith of Jesus.  And Jesus Himself comes to us, as He promises.  He comes and He dwells with us under otherwise ordinary words and water, bread and wine.
            And the beautiful thing is, as Jesus is in the Father, and as we are in Jesus, and Jesus is in us, we also are in the Father.  We are safely tucked into God!  That is Jesus’ and John’s roundabout way of saying that, baptized into Christ, we, too, like Jesus, are God’s own sons and daughters.  We are brought into the unity of God Himself, into His perfect love.  Jesus is in the Father, one substance with the Father, God of God.  And we are in Jesus, being baptized into Him.  And Jesus is in us, putting His Words in our ears and His Body and Blood in our mouths.  This is not just a theoretical image, this being in Jesus, and Jesus in us, and so being in the Father.  This is the Sacramental reality.  Really, we are immersed in Christ in the baptismal water.  Really, Christ is taken into our bodies as we eat and drink Him in the Supper.  When we say God is with us, that is what we mean.  It is a union in truth, and much more concrete than the usual pious assertions that everything will turn out all right because the Big Man in the Sky is looking down on us.  We mean He is right here, in the ear and in the mouth, and we are right there in His heavenly presence.  Heaven and earth overlap one another where God meets man in His Means of Grace. 
            Did you hear that?  You have one foot in heaven!  Heaven has a hold on you.  You are already alive!  Sight just has to catch up with the reality.  And it will when Jesus comes again. 
            Now you can live confidently in that reality in spite of all appearances.  This is why you don’t have to be afraid of this pandemic or its aftermath.  I’m not saying you won’t get sick or lose your job, or even die.  I’m saying it cannot rob you of the true resurrection life you have in Jesus.  Because He lives, you live.  That is the long and the short of it.  The Spirit gives you life.  You live in Jesus.  You love Jesus.  You keep His Commandments, His Words.  The Paraclete is with you now in every trouble, reminding you that things are not as they appear.  Jesus Himself is with you and in you, with His forgiveness, life, salvation, and all His gifts.  And in Jesus, you are in the Father, who is your Father, who loves you as His own, and answers your every prayer.  Because I live, you also will live,” says Jesus.  It will be manifest on the Last Day, but it is true for you right now.  Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  Jesus is your life.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.          

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