Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sermon for Fifth Sunday of Easter, Cantate

Easter 5
                                                                                                            Jn. 16:5-15

            On April 17th, Lt Col Don Faith was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  Faith was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner who had fought in World War II and Korea.  Now certainly the burial of any Medal of Honor winner is notable.  But beyond that fact, it’s not surprising that someone who fought in Korea was being buried.  We know that the generation that fought in World War II is rapidly passing away, and Korea was only five years later. It’s only natural that veterans of that conflict too have reached an age where they are dying.
            However, the burial was unusual because Lt Col Faith died on Dec. 2 … 1950.  Faith had fought in North Africa and Europe during World War II and had received two Bronze Stars. He was stationed in Japan when the Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950 and immediately was sent to Korea.  After the amphibious landing at Inchon and the breakout from the Pusan perimeter, United States and United Nations forces had defeated the North Koreans and were pushing towards the Chinese border. 
            Faith was commanding a battalion of the Seventh Infantry Division on the eastern side of the Chosin Reservoir when at the end of November 1950 the Chinese army launched a massive surprise attack that encircled the Army soldiers and Marines.  When Faith’s regimental commander was killed, he took command and led them as they fought their way out.  On several occasions he personally led counterattacks to defend their position.  Finally at a hairpin curve he was mortally wounded as he led an attack against a roadblock that had stopped the pinned down column.
             Faith’s body was placed in a truck. But eventually in the desperate withdrawal the truck had to be abandoned and his body was left behind.  Originally listed as Missing in Action, his status was later reclassified as Killed in Action Body not Recovered.
            It is said that soldiers live by the creed that they “leave no man behind.”  However, sometimes circumstances force soldiers to leave those who have been killed behind.  Yet since the end of the wars the United States has fought in, our nation has made the continued effort to make sure it leaves not man behind – to make sure those killed in the service of the country are returned home for burial.  Year after year those efforts produce results, and in 2005 a group of remains were removed from burial in the Chosin Reservoir area.  Last year a U.S. lab in Hawaii was able to use DNA testing to identify some of the bones as belonging to Lt Col Faith.  And so on April 17, 2013, more than sixty three years after he was killed in Korea, Faith was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
            The continuing efforts of our country – even six decades later – to recover the remains of our service personnel and bring them back to the United States for burial shows a fitting commitment on the part of our nation to the members of the armed forces.  It is the ultimate example of the determination to “leave no man behind.”
            In our text this morning from John 16, our Lord Jesus says that he will be going away.  He will be leaving – an event that we will observe in less than two weeks at the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord.  And this raises the question about whether he has abandoned us – about whether he has left us behind.  Yet we hear in our Gospel lesson that our Lord has not abandoned us.  Instead, he has sent the Helper, the Holy Spirit.
            Our text this morning is part of John’s Gospel that is often described as Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse.”  It is the conversation that Jesus had with the disciples on the night of Maundy Thursday as they made their way from the Last Supper to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus would be betrayed and arrested.
            Jesus has told his disciples that he is going way.  And in chapter fourteen he has just said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”  Jesus has promised that he will send the Holy Spirit, whom he describes as the Helper or Encourager.
            Then, just before our text, Jesus has again mentioned the Holy Spirit.  This time he said, “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.”  Jesus tells the disciples that the Spirit will witness about him, and that the disciples will also bear witness about Christ.
            The disciples are going to bear witness – but there’s one small catch.  In the verses just before our text Jesus says, “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”
            As the disciples bear witness about Jesus, they are going to receive opposition.  It’s not just that the message about Jesus will meet with rejection.  Instead, those who oppose the Gospel will seek to harm the disciples because they don’t know God the Father – because they don’t believe in Jesus Christ who reveals him.
            In our text Jesus says, “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.”  Sorrow had filled the heart of the disciples. And they are not the only ones.  It’s filled our hearts too.
            It’s easy to wonder about whether Jesus Christ has abandoned us – about whether he has left us behind. He has ascended. We no longer see him as the disciples did.  And he has left us in a world that hates us.  Now that’s not a matter of opinion on our part.  Jesus told us that it is this way.  He said just a little earlier in this same conversation, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”
            And so sometimes we avoid that hatred by simply forgetting that Jesus has called us out of the world. We let the world set our priorities about the use of our time – so if anything conflicts with things at church we know who is going to win and who is going to lose.  We let the world set the agenda when it comes to the way we treat other people – so as the way people treat one another online gets ruder and cruder we just go along for the ride and do the same thing.  We let the world decide where and when we will talk about Jesus Christ – we accept the idea that it’s ok to speak about Jesus inside these walls on Sunday morning, but you don’t do it with your neighbor or co-worker during the week because polite people don’t speak about religion.
            In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus calls us back to a firm faith in him – a firm faith that is able to face these challenges; a faith that is able to bear the name of Christ and the world’s hatred that we receive because of Jesus.  Our Lord assures us that he has not abandoned us; he has not left us.  In fact Jesus tells us that in the unfolding of God’s saving plan it is better for us that he has ascended.
            In our text today Jesus says, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
            Our Lord says that in order for the Holy Spirit to come to them, he must depart.  Now we aren’t told why this is so – apparently it simply part of the way God works.  And first we are told what the Spirit will do.  He will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness and judgment.  He convicts the world concerning sin because they don’t believe in Jesus.  Jesus is the Lamb of God who through his death on the cross has taken away the sin of the world. To reject Jesus is to reject the forgiveness he has won.
            He will convict the world concerning righteousness because Jesus goes to the Father.  In John’s Gospel, Jesus’ resurrection and ascension are one upward movement.  Jesus is vindicated – shown to be just and right – by the fact that he rose from the dead and ascended to the Father.  Though he died on the cross for our sins, in his resurrection and ascension Jesus is vindicated as the righteous One who has given us forgiveness and eternal life. 
And finally the Spirit will convict the world concerning judgment because the ruler of this world is judged.  As Jesus prepared to be betrayed and die he said, “Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to myself.”  In his death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus has won the victory.  Satan, sin and death have been defeated and now the Spirit gives us a share in this victory through faith in Jesus.
            This is what Christ has done. And so he goes on to say to his disciples in our text, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
            The departure of the Son would permit the sending of the Spirit. And the Spirit’s job is to glorify the Son.  The Spirit’s job is to take which is of Jesus and make it known to us.  We are born again of water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism so that we are able to believe in Jesus. Through the Word the Spirit makes know to us what the Word made flesh has done for our salvation. Through that faith we partake of the forgiveness and salvation that Jesus Christ has won for us.
We rest confident in the fact that Jesus has overcome the world and its ruler.  And we rejoice in the knowledge that Jesus who has departed will come to us again.  The One who gives to us his body and blood here and now in the Sacrament will come again in glory to give us a share in his resurrection.  For Jesus said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the Last Day.

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