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Sermon for Exaudi

by Christopher Esget ~ May 24th, 2009

 

Today is an in-between Sunday. The Ascension was this past Thursday, and Pentecost is next Sunday. Jesus left the disciples, and the Spirit had not yet come. They were left to themselves. What happens when you are left to yourself? When a Christian comes face-to-face with his failings, his imperfections, his selfishness, lack of love, and foolish decisions—all this is to say, when a Christian comes face to face with his sin, he is in sorrow and despair.

But the Psalms are given for us to pray, to speak to God His own answer to our sins: “Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation!” God answered this ancient prayer for help by sending Jesus, and it was further answered when Christ sent the Spirit—the Helper—from the Father.  When Jesus says, “I will send you the Helper from the Father,” we learn that no preaching of the Law, no preaching of works or commandments or ethics or personal improvement can help us. None of that is the message and testimony of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit testifies, tells us about Jesus. That is His work.

This day in the church year—the Sunday in-between the Ascension and Pentecost—is given to us as a reminder of what it means to be a Spirit-filled disciple of Jesus: our life as Spirit-filled disciples is a life of (1) clinging to the Spirit’s testimony about what Christ has accomplished, (2) a life of suffering in the world, and (3) a life of doing good to our neighbors.

First, we cling to the Spirit’s testimony. Today’s prayer anticipates Pentecost, the giving of the Holy Spirit: “Leave us not without consolation but send us the Spirit of truth.” The Holy Spirit’s consolation is precisely in testifying about Jesus. 

What are the specifics of the Holy Spirit’s comfort (or, consolation)? The devil and your own conscience will frighten you because of your sins; the world will hate your confession of the faith, your morals and your piety. That you must expect. But the Holy Spirit comforts us by pointing us to Christ. He won’t make your wallet fat, but He will enable you to say, “When I have lost everything—spouse, children, house, car, possessions, reputation, even my own life—yes, when all that is gone, still Jesus Christ for my sake was made man, died and rose again, and ascended into heaven. He is coming at the last day for me. If God’s Son suffered for me, He will certainly not be my enemy. Since He loves me and has given me such great promises, then I have everything” [Adapted from Luther].

Second, we Christians will suffer in the world. Being faithful to God’s Word is going to make you unpopular. Don’t be surprised when there is suffering that comes to you for being a Christian. “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” You may be tempted to turn back, and embrace the comfort the world will offer you. But know this: The comfort the world offers is false and counterfeit; the disciple of Jesus will find no comfort there. Our comfort is in the Holy Spirit’s testimony of Jesus. The Holy Spirit’s help and comfort is a comfort in the truth, reminding us that the suffering of this world and life endures but a short time, while the comfort of salvation and life in the kingdom of God will go on forever.

And lastly, we Christians who are looking for Christ’s return spend the remaining time of our life in worship and prayer, and in the world, doing good to our neighbor. Today, St. Peter uses the word “stewardship” to describe this life of doing works of mercy. Stewardship in common church parlance usually means money. Today we hear Peter, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, using the term to describe our responsible use of the gifts God has given to us in our intellect and personality. These are to be channelled in service to our neighbor. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” There is a variety in the gifts that God has given: some have the gift of speaking, and their speech should be announcing, and reflecting on, the oracles of God – God’s Words and deeds and promises. Others have the gift of service of various kinds: changing a diaper, changing a tire, changing a lightbulb; preparing a meal, preparing a budget; paying a bill, paying a visit. The gifts that God has given you are to be used not for yourself alone, but for your neighbors, for your church, for your world.

The remaining time of our life, the remaining time of the world is short. The Ascension reminds us that “the end of all things is at hand” (Epistle), for Christ will return in the same manner as He left. So what should we do now? Be prepared for His return. Be “self-controlled and sober-minded,” occupied in prayer. Pray that God would remove your heart of stone, and give you more and more a heart of flesh, a heart led by His Spirit, so that you walk in His ways and keep the commandments. God began that work in you at Baptism, when He sprinkled clean water on you and gave you His Holy Spirit. He who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who promises it to you is faithful, and He will do it. +INJ+

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