SERMON FOR THE 5th SUNDAY OF EASTER, 5-19-2019
LUTHER MEMORIAL CHAPEL, SHOREWOOD, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
Antiphon: Psalm 98
Old Testament: Isaiah 12:1-6
Psalm of the Day: Psalm 66:1-8
Epistle: James 1:16-21
Gospel: John 16:5-15
In the first reading this morning, Isaiah foretold a time when the people of God would be recognized by their hymn of joy. So this morning in the introit we sang, “Sing to the Lord a new song…break forth into joyous song and sing praises.”
Today, historically in the church year, is called Cantate Sunday. That’s a word that simply means “sing.” Because that’s what God’s people do, they sing! In our reading this morning Isaiah says, “Oh, sing unto the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.” Marvelous things, like when He sunk and destroyed Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea and yet led His people safely through on dry ground. Dripping wet with their deliverance, Moses and the Israelites, they didn’t stand around and talk about what had just happened. They just opened up their mouths and they sang! They sang about that marvelous thing that God has done.
Remember the marvelous things God did in the days of the Judges? How the Israelites cried out to God for help because of the cruelty of Sisera, that evil king of the Canaanites. Well, Rudyard Kipling has a little poem where he writes that the female of the species is more deadly than the male. And how true that proved to be when Deborah’s army destroyed the Canaanites, and another fearless woman Jael hammered a tent peg through evil Sisera’s temple! So God’s people sang. Not of their own praises but they sang the praises of the Lord. About His mighty deliverance as Savior and judge.
Oh, sing to the Lord new song, for He has done marvelous things! That’s why singing is absolutely everywhere in the Bible! Hannah sings when God gives her a baby boy, Samuel. David sings when he is delivered from Saul. Mary the mother of Our Lord, she sings too as she reflects upon the message of the angel Gabriel.
But how much singing do you hear these days? Probably not much. If you put 20 people together in a room what songs could they sing together? What hymns would they know by heart? It seems as though so many have lost their voice in our day – they don’t know how to sing – perhaps because they think there is not much to sing about. But how wrong they are!
How different it must be in Christ’s holy church. How different it is among us here with the Holy One of Israel in our very midst. For we’ve got plenty of good reasons to sing on this Fifth Sunday of Easter. Chiefly that Christ has been raised from the dead. That we’ve been delivered and set free from the bondage of evil pharaoh, by the Red Sea of Christ’s own blood. Which pardons – forgives – and sets us free. And now Christ is seated at God’s right hand, to intercede on our behalf – to deliver, save, and absolve, to say good things about us before our Father’s throne in heaven. Now that’s something to sing about!
But in our Gospel this morning you’ll notice that the disciples don’t much feel like singing. Jesus tells his disciples that’s he’s going away. Away to suffer and die. Going away to rise and ascend to the right hand of the Father. He says sorrow will fill their hearts, but it ought not be so. Jesus says: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage – it is expedient that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Helper, the Holy Spirit, will not come to you.” You see, this is no farewell speech! Our Lord is preaching about the glorious feast of Pentecost. That the best is actually yet to come.
For when the Holy Spirit comes, awesome will happen. For then Jesus will not speak with one voice but with twelve. And soon those twelve voices will multiply and fill the whole earth. So that Christ now preaches in many places, and presides at many altars around the whole world. Among all nations and tribes and languages. All through the mouths of His faithful preachers, servants of the Word whom He has called and ordained to preach in His stead. And by extension, believed, confessed, and proclaimed by every Christian, holding the name of Christ upon their lips – that the whole world would find rest and refreshment through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And what is the content of this preaching and bearing witness? Well, this morning our Lord teaches us all about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. “He,” Jesus says, “the Holy Spirit will convict the world concerning sin.” What’s that mean? Well, the Holy Spirit is in the business of preaching. For unless the Holy Spirit convicts each and every one of us of sins through the preaching of repentance, we cannot be turned from unbelief to faith in Christ. And unbelief, folks, is really the problem. Unbelief is at the root of all sin and rebellion against God. And unbelief resides deep in every human heart.
So the work of the Holy Spirit also shows us our sins. And we need that! It’s the hard truth we all must hear. For without the conviction of sin, without this preaching of the Spirit, the sinner has no use for Christ, and none of us could be helped. So the Spirit preaches to us the Law. Words like this: “Whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
Secondly, this morning Jesus says this: “The Holy Spirit will convict the world of righteousness, because I go to the Father and you will see Me no more.” Ok. What’s that mean? It means this: the death of Christ for the sins of the world simply IS the righteousness of God. Jesus went to the Father in His death to offer up Himself as the righteous offering for the sins of the world. In His death He takes our sins away, in fact makes them all His. And the death of Jesus is the only source of salvation for the whole world.
We’re Lutherans. We know and believe this to be true. It’s called objective justification. And that’s not just a fancy theological term for pastors, professors, and pre-sem Concordia students. Objective justification. And it’s absolutely marvelous! It means that God declares you, actually convicts you, of being righteous for Jesus’ sake!
This is the heart of the Holy Spirit’s work. None other than the very proclamation of the Spirit-breathed Gospel, heard here, which alone creates faith in Christ and declares you righteous for Jesus’ sake. And where there is this forgiveness taught and proclaimed, there is also resurrection, and there also is an open door to heaven – and there also is eternal splendor that knows no bounds. Now that’s something to sing about!
Finally, our Lord, in the Gospel this morning, preaches this: Jesus says, “The Holy Spirit will convict the world of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” What is our Lord teaching us here? It means that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus – plain and simple! The judgment of God that the sinner is righteous for Christ’s sake sets man free from the judgment of the Law that the devil uses to condemn the world. In other words, since God forgives you all sins and declares you righteous for Jesus’ sake, the devil can’t accuse you of anything, nor can he condemn you! How marvelous!
This, dear Christians, is the work of the Holy Spirit in your life: To glorify Christ by taking what is His – His righteousness, His holiness, His blessedness, and declaring that all He is and all He has, through faith, belongs to you. There is no other work of the Spirit than to bring Christ and His righteousness to you and to bring you to Him.
So how marvelous that this very morning the Holy Spirit conspired together with armies of angels to bring you to church, on the Lord’s Day, that you might hear the living voice of Christ proclaimed to you. And how marvelous that He’s worked the miracle of faith in you to believe it all! So that even if a thousand devils were to terrify you with your sins and accuse you – you can stand up strong – and send them all packing. You can say, “I know and believe that Jesus, out of great love, died for me and set me free. Those sins cannot even be named. Because they don’t even belong to me.” In fact, you can preach to the devil that it was the will of Jesus to do this very thing: to take all your sins, to pay for them all in His death, and triumph over them all in His resurrection.
Better yet, you can open your mouth and sing about it, and just watch the devil turn tail and run. Wherever there is forgiveness, and a good conscience, and Christians singing, that the devil cannot tolerate. He has no choice but to fly away.
So what can you learn today? What should you remember? In short, Jesus promises to send His Holy Spirit, your Comforter. Jesus has departed from us visibly to the right hand of the Father, but it’s all for your enjoyment and eternal benefit. For Jesus—who is Lord over all creation, who intercedes for us before the Father, is preparing a place for you in heaven.
The Holy Spirit calls you to repentance, faith, and a holy life. He helps you, in fact, does it all, by taking what is Christ’s and declaring it to you. Such things as love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Things like His righteousness, His innocence, and blessedness. His holiness and all that He has. All given you in your baptism.
Holy things like His body and blood that you might truly taste and see that the Lord is good. The old saying is true that you are what you eat. But how about also that you are what you sing?
So then, let us all open our mouths and sing of Christ who has done marvelous things. Let us sing with all God’s people, with angels, and archangels and all the company of heaven: “Oh, sing unto the Lord a new song, for has done marvelous things. In the name of Jesus.” Amen.