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The Seventh Sunday of Easter – John 15:26-16:4

by pastorjuhl ~ June 2nd, 2011

Revised from 2006.

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

When Jesus ascends into heaven, the disciples were full of joy. It is not the reaction we expect. Jesus is gone. He won’t appear among His children the way He appeared those thirty-some years that we read about in the Holy Gospels. The disciples should be sad. All they have are His Words and their memories.

So it is with us when it comes to our Lord’s Ascension. Ascension Day is one of the principal high feasts of Christ. It’s a feast full of joy and anticipation. There is joy because Christ will come again the same way He left us. There is anticipation because the promised Paraclete, or Helper, will soon come to kindle the fire of Christ’s love in His bride, the Church.

Yet we treat our Lord’s Ascension as if it’s nothing special. Jesus is gone. Everybody look busy. Now that he’s gone, we can go on living our lives as if He were never here with us. Our Lord promises the Helper. But we don’t see much help in the Church today. Saint Peter says in the Epistle, be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Peter pictures a Christian congregation that loves one another. God’s children take care of each other, using the talents He gives them to bear one another’s burdens. Nevertheless, hospitality without grumbling and ministering to each other as good stewards sometimes does not happen. We know our share of stories of bickering within the congregation. We know someone who isn’t speaking to someone else. We could be helping each other with the talents God gives us, but there’s always the chance that our talents will go unnoticed. On the other hand, perhaps someone will take advantage of our gifts, expecting someone else to bear a burden for good.

Perhaps that’s why some might think our congregation isn’t “Spirit-filled”. It’s a “cold” church. Nonsense. There is no need of large bank accounts, fancy cars, and continuous revival meetings to see faith in action. This is a Spirit-filled congregation. The Holy Spirit here witnesses not Himself, but Jesus Christ. Consider the Helper a giant red neon arrow pointing back to our Lord. The Paraclete does not want to separate “true” Christians from “false” Christians through some sort of miraculous sights and sounds. The Paraclete comes to call us by the Gospel, enlighten us with His Gifts, make us holy and keep us holy in the Christian Church to life everlasting.

There is no better comfort than Jesus Christ. Jesus wins the victory over sin, death, and hell for you. His blood covers your sin, giving you His righteousness. Jesus ascends into heaven so you too might ascend with Him in body and soul on Judgment Day. As Christ reigns in heavenly joy, so shall you live and reign with Him. This joy is yours now through faith. This joy in its fullness is yet to come, when Jesus descends as He ascends. Jesus gives you forgiveness, life, and salvation in His Holy Supper. Jesus goes on your tongue, into your body, and into the world as you live according to your calling in life. He loves us with an undeserved and everlasting love. We show your neighbor this love through works of mercy as evidence that faith lives in you.

Left to their own devices, the disciples are bound to fail. With the Spirit of Truth Who proceeds from the Father, the disciples will witness everything they saw and heard concerning Jesus Christ. They saw everything our Lord did. Their eyewitness account makes them true apostles of Christ. What they saw and what they heard, they will proclaim to the ends of the earth. We walk in their footsteps. None of us, unlike the Apostles, witnessed our Lord doing marvelous signs. We have the sure and certain Word of God that proclaims Jesus’ victory over death and hell. The Christian Church preaches Jesus Christ and Him crucified. This is the comforting witness the Holy Spirit sends us.

Christ’s ascension is not a time of worry, doubt, anger, and frustration. Christ’s ascension is a time of expectant joy. As we prayed in the Introit from Psalm 27: Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud. Your face, Lord do I seek; hide not Your face from me. The Lord does not hide.  He shows Himself in Word, water, bread, and wine. When you see these Holy Things, you know and believe the Holy One of God is present not in an “I’ll be here for you” way. He is truly, bodily, certainly present. Jesus is here today to take away your sin and doubt, replacing them with everlasting life. Jesus is here to give you the sure and certain hope of comfort that comes only from the Spirit of Truth.

Today’s Collect bids the King of Glory not to leave us without consolation but send us the Spirit of truth Whom he promised from the Father. The promise of the Holy Spirit’s coming on Pentecost is the coming of consolation among the Christian Church. The Spirit’s consolation is Jesus Christ, truly present in preaching, in Baptism, in Absolution, and in His Supper. Instead of sadness, the Church rejoices because Jesus abides with us in the simplest of ways. With His simplicity there is profound joy; the joy of forgiveness and new life.

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

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