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Lindemann on Cantate: Easter 5 (Fourth Sunday After)

by revalkorn ~ May 16th, 2011

CANTATE, THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER

The Third Sunday in Advent, Gaudete, is an anticipation of Christmas. The Fourth Sunday in Lent, Laetare, is a joyous anticipation of Easter. This Sunday, Cantate, is an anticipation of Pentecost. It derives its name from the summons of its Introit to sing and prepares us for the approaching high feast of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Last Sunday we were prepared for the Ascension of our Lord, today we are shown not only the Ascension but also the descent of the Spirit. We learn that there is a close connection between our Lord’s departure and the sending of the Comforter. In the Holy Gospel the Lord states that the Holy Spirit could not come unless He Himself would leave this earth. On the other hand, the Spirit would take our Lord’s place, would be the Leader, the Teacher, the Advocate of the faithful; of course, with this one difference that while our ]Lord had performed this work visibly, the Spirit would work invisibly.

The Introit. “Oh, sing unto the Lord a new song, for He hath done marvelous things! The Lord hath made known His salvation, His righteousness hath He openly showed in the sight of the heathen. His right hand and His holy arm have gotten Him the victory.”

The office of the Introit is to announce the spirit of the day, to strike the keynote for the day’s celebration. This day’s Introit is peculiarly rich and full, and it puts us in harmony with the whole Easter message. The Lord has done marvelous things. He has made known His victory, He has revealed His vindication in the sight of the nations. His victory, its declaration, its application, its perpetuation, are the work of the Holy Spirit. We are preparing for Pentecost.

The Collect. “O God, who makest the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant unto Thy people that they may love what Thou commandest and desire what Thou dost promise, that among the manifold changes of this world our hearts may be there fixed where true joys are to be found.”

This prayer is addressed to God the Father, but we may ascribe its fulfillment to the Holy Spirit, who joins the faithful into a single unit, the mystical body of Christ, with one will, one love, one desire. The objective of this union is the place where Christ went. On the unstable sea of life our hearts are anchored in heaven. There the true joys are waiting. In the Collect we make the ground for our petition the working of the Comforter in the minds of the faithful and empha-size the unity of believers in loving the commands, desiring the promises, and fixing the hearts on the true joys in Christ. The thought of having risen to newness of life at Easter is again present. “If, then, you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1-3).

The Epistle (St. James 1:16-21). So far the Epistles for the Sundays after Easter are exhortations to bring forth the fruits of the Resurrection in our life and conduct, to seek the risen life. Throughout the entire post-Easter season they are the writings of Peter, James, and John. To both Peter and James some special and personal manifestation of the risen Christ was accorded. John is the disciple who stooped down, looked, and came away believing. The harmony between this day’s Epistle and Holy Gospel is apparent. “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above,” the result of the ascended Christ’s mediation. One of the endowments and gifts is that “of His own will He brought us forth by the Word of truth.” We were born again. The thought of the Holy Spirit cannot be escaped. The conditions of reception and acceptance are stated. Let every man be patient, pure, obedient, meek. We should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures. Our conduct must be worthy of this nobility.

The Gradual. “Alleluia! Alleluia! The right hand of the Lord is exalted, the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly. Alleluia! Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. Alleluia!”

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. Alleluia! ”

The Gospel (St. John 16:5-15). The sorrow of separation is here, but also its necessity and expediency. Beyond the Ascension lies Pentecost: “If I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” Here is the promise of the Coming One. When He comes, His work will be threefold. As Convictor of the world He will convince of sin, righteousness, and judgment. As the Spirit of Truth He will guide into all truth. As the Glorifier He will, in the words of the Introit, “make known His salvation.” The Holy Gospel for this day proclaims the two messages of Christ’s going home and of the sending of the Paraclete.

The Proper Preface. “But chiefly are we bound to praise Thee for the glorious resurrection of Thy Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord; for He is the very Paschal Lamb which was offered for us and hath taken away the sins of the world; who by His death hath destroyed death and by His rising to life again hath restored to us everlasting life.”

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE EPISTLE

The Epistle for last Sunday emphasized the conflict between the risen Christian and the world in which he is an alien and exile. Today we learn that unworldliness is no mere unreasoning opposition but a necessity for those who belong to a kingdom not of this world. We are the world’s nonconformists because we are God’s conformists and because to love the world is to lack the love of the Father. The Sunday of nonconformity is therefore fitly followed by a Sunday of conformity.

The Good Will of God

A. The Will of God. It is the will of a Father and therefore of One who is in His very nature a Giver. He is “the Father” and therefore the Source whence comes “every good endowment and every perfect gift.” He is “the Father of lights,” since all bright things come from Him who made the stars – all brightness of sunshine, of health, homes, friends, pleasures, beauties. He is the Father of all the true light that exists within, of the light of truth, holiness, reason, joy, love, hope, grace, glory. Indeed there is no light of which He is not the Father. He has stores of all bright things, and nothing is really bright but it comes from Him, or dark in His sight in whom “is no darkness at all,” 1 John 1: 5. His absence alone can make “the outer darkness,” and His presence can make the darkness to be light.

B. A Will That Knows No Variation or Change. The lights of heaven change unceasingly; their Father is unceasingly the same. “With whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” The sun is visible only half the time; sometimes nearer, sometimes farther off; sometimes so high in the heavens as to give us summer heat, at other times so near the horizon as to pinch us with cold. He is never to us today precisely what he was yesterday. The moon is the very queen of change, the least dependable of all the heavenly bodies, now ab-sent, now a full-orbed shield, now a mere shred of light. So also with the planets, so named from their wanderings, and so also with the stars called fixed, which yet are never on two nights together in the same spot at the same time. How unlike these lights is their Father, His brightness undimmed and unvarying, knowing no change and suffering no eclipse, transfiguring the clouds into glory, and tears into the rainbow of hope, till at length all dark things are passed away.

C. His Will Towards Man. His will brought man forth at the first, making him partaker of His own image. The life He gave was His own life, and therefore it is in us a life of sonship’ When by misuse of will that blessed relationship had been marred on our side, and we had ceased to be sons both in feeling and character, His will was still unchanged toward us, and He brought us forth again to a life of sonship. His instrument in doing this was “the Word of truth,” by which we are to understand the whole message of the Holy Gospel, including of course the Sacraments of the Gospel, which quicken us into sonship when received in faith. So the Church of Christ is the second creation of the will of God, created anew unto good works, as the first fruits of the new heaven and earth.

D. Man’s Consequent Duty. This is, first of all, to “be quick to hear,” in order that he may learn God’s will. “Slow to speak,” to be silent till he has learned. He is to be “slow to anger,” lest he anticipate the will that slowly makes for righteousness. He is to consider himself rather than others and “put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness” from his own heart, in order that he may be able to welcome readily and submissively “the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls.”

It is a great truth that our salvation depends on the will of God, and that all that is required of us is to submit our wills to His.

OUTLINE FOR SERMON ON THE HOLY GOSPEL

The Savior comforts His disciples, who are saddened by the prospect of His departure. They are too bewildered to ask, “Where are You going?” All their thoughts are concerned with themselves and their imminent loss. They are to learn that this loss is in reality gain, since by the absence of the Man Christ Jesus the Spirit is enabled to be present. His very name of Paraclete tells of almost every spiritual blessing. He is to be their divine Helper, Comforter, and Advocate; His title is as wide as His influence. This brings us to that portion of the Holy Gospel which especially concerns the subject of this remarkable Sunday, the influence of the Spirit on the unruly wills and affections of sinful men.

The Influence of the Spirit on the Will

A. The influence of the Spirit on the World. The disciples might well wonder how in their poverty and ignorance they were to convince the world of anything. Our Lord seems to say: Present the story and the truth of it as you have seen it, and the Holy Spirit in men’s hearts will convince them of its truth. The Holy Spirit will convince men of three great verities: (1) Of Sin. He will show the world that it is in the wrong and that it has crucified the Lord of Glory. To have seen the perfect goodness and to have rejected it is the touchstone that reveals the sinful heart. Not to believe in Christ must show a perverted will. (2) Of Righteousness. The world has long asked what is righteousness, and what it is to be righteous. The Spirit gives the answer that righteousness is the likeness of Christ, and to be righteous is to be “righteous as He is righteous” (1 John 3:7). The disciples no longer would be able to present Christ to the world in visible form as the ideal of righteousness, but what they could not do the Spirit would do as Christ’s Advocate. (3) Of Judgment. The Spirit will convince the world not merely of a judgment to come, but of a judgment that has come already. The prince of this world has been cast out as a pretender by the coming of the true King. The world’s false ideals have been condemned by the very presence of the true. The darkness has been revealed by the advent of the light, and now to reject Christ is that “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). The Spirit will force this truth upon the conscience and so influence the will, mans determining power, as to lead to action in accordance with the inward convictions.

B. The Influence of the Spirit on the Church. Here the will has been convinced already and won over to the side of Christ but the Christ once accepted must ever be more fully known Therefore the Spirit presents Christ to the heart and mind of the Church for more perfect realization, enlightening the understanding to perceive, molding the heart to love, persuading the will to obey. He works not by compulsion but by guiding, leading gradually, patiently, variously, yet surely “into all the truth,” in all its scope and richness.

THE HOLY COMMUNION

When speaking of the all-embracing work of the Holy Spirit in the world, we distinguish between the work of separation and the work of endowment. A dividing line is drawn between men at the foot of the Cross. One group draws farther and farther away from God and from the power of the redemption; the other group follows Christ and is taken up into His mystical body. This great work of separation in the world is accomplished by the Holy Spirit.

The unbelieving world is convicted, but the faithful are endowed. This separation. is emphasized in the Celebration. Here the Church becomes again and again what she should be, a body of separated people. The sermon is directed to the whole world, preaching is always public, and also unbelievers are admitted to the services.

There is nothing to impress upon the believer that he is separated from the unbeliever who sits with him and hears the same sermon. There is nothing to remind him that in Holy Baptism he was admitted to something the world will never understand, that he has crossed the boundary line between the Church and the unbelieving world, and that the Church does not belong to the cosmos. But the Holy Communion reminds him that he is not of the world, but part of the Church, and the Church is not at home here. She is a colony of heaven, far out on the borders of the Empire. This alien position becomes very clear at every Celebration. The Lord’s Supper is not for the world, not public essentially, but only for the faithful. The early Church celebrated behind locked doors after carefully excluding all but the initiated, and for a time the doctrine and liturgy was carefully kept from Jews and pagan. The faithful were distinct and separate.

May then the Holy Communion remind us that we are separated people, the mystical body of Christ, members of the Church, of a very holy and divine institution in which the life of Christ pulsates. Conscious of our nobility, we shall permit the Holy Spirit to endow us with all His rich gifts in ever fuller measure.

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