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Vigil of Pentecost – John 14:15-21

by pastorjuhl ~ May 29th, 2009

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

Don’t you love Jesus? Think of all He does for us. He becomes man to die for our sin and rise from the dead. He institutes the office of preaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments in order that we might receive the benefits of His perfect offering for our sin. Jesus promises that He will be with us always, even to the end of time. We can’t help but sing His praises in hymns and psalms. Take for example tonight’s Introit from Psalm 68: Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up. God is our salvation. Awesome is God from His sanctuary; He is the one who gives power and strength to His people. Blessed be God!

We love Jesus, but we don’t love Him too much. Jesus says twice in tonight’s Holy Gospel if you love Me, keep My commandments. Jesus also says he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to Him. Jesus makes Himself manifest to us in Word and Sacraments, yet for all His love for us, we do not love Him in return. We do not keep His commandments. We go about our business, loving some and not loving others. We say we love everyone, but there are those in our lives whom we merely tolerate. The most we can say about those whom we tolerate is that they take up space in the universe. They breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Anything more that we say about those we tolerate would be against what mom and dad taught us: “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.” So we play the passive-aggressive card. We make people believe we like them while really disliking them. We can try to influence others to see things our way by acting a certain way around certain people and hope our friends see how much we dislike our neighbor and join us in our hatred.

A Christian does not praise God one minute then curse their neighbor in thought, word, or deed the next. If this were so, then our praise of God should be silenced until we love our neighbor as we love ourselves and, more importantly, as we love God. It’s nearly impossible to imagine not being able to praise God for His wonderful works on our behalf because we refuse to keep His commandments. We forget Saint Paul’s words to the church in Rome: we are debtors – not according to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Think of the debt we owe God because of sin. There’s no way we can pay it back because anything we offer God is tainted with imperfection. Even when we repent of sin and believe again the Gospel that delivers freedom from bondage, we run right back to bondage because the way of death is a more comfortable and familiar way. We might think it’s better to be a Pharisee than an unbeliever. Both Pharisee and unbeliever do not believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing in Him they have eternal life.

We did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but [we] received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Holy Spirit does not bring division but freedom among Christ’s disciples through His cross and resurrection. Three chapters after tonight’s Gospel, Jesus prays for His disciples saying I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. Because of sin, there may be those we know whom we merely tolerate. If those whom we tolerate believe that Jesus died for their sin and rose from the dead as you and I believe, then we will spend the rest of eternity with them. Therefore we all are one in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, whether Jew, Gentile, German, Danish, male, female, pastor, people, criminal, or law-abiding citizen. We are under the same condemnation, for the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus Christ kept the commandments of the Lord for us. His reward for keeping God’s commandments was to be forsaken by His Father and suffer an innocent death on behalf of the guilty. The ultimate reward is His resurrection from the dead declares that we who once were dead to sin now live in the hope of our resurrection from the dead and the life of the world to come. We believe this is true because the Spirit of God dwells in us by the power of God’s Word proclaimed in our midst; faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. The Holy Spirit points us repeatedly to Jesus Christ as our hope for salvation and eternity. The Spirit does not point us back to our hatred or mere toleration of our neighbor. The Spirit bestows the gifts of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and the fear of the LORD. These gifts were first given to Jesus Christ, the Branch of Righteousness. Because we are adopted as His sons, these gifts are ours too. The prophet Isaiah says about Jesus, and about those hidden in Jesus, His delight is in the fear of the LORD, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist.

We hear the words of Isaiah and wonder how these gifts are ours. We believe ourselves unworthy of these gifts. We are unworthy of these gifts outside of Christ. Because Jesus is worthy on our behalf, with the help of God we keep His commandments. Though we fall short of keeping His commandments perfectly, we plead the blood and righteousness of Jesus that covers us. When we have Jesus, we have the Father. When we love Jesus, we love the Father and the Father loves us. Because the Father loves us in His only-begotten Son, Jesus makes Himself manifest to us in the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. These gifts are spread to the ends of the earth, proclaiming what our heavenly Father has done to reconcile the world to Himself. The Spirit works when and where He wills to spread the reign of heaven everywhere, even to Momence.

Because the Spirit calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, makes us holy and keeps us with Jesus Christ in the one true faith, we do indeed love Jesus Christ. Because we love Jesus, we love our neighbor and especially our enemies. The Lord daily bears us up out of sin and death into His righteousness and peace. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love.

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

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