This week’s Eurasia Blog Wednesday Guest Devotion comes to us from Rev. James Krikava, Regional Director for Eurasia. Rev. Krikava has shared his Sunday sermon with us. He serves as the interim pastor for the English-language congregation at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Prague, Czech Republic as they await their newly called missionary pastor, Rev. Clint Hoff and family.
“But now I go away 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. 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 depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:5‑15, NKJV).
Sermon on Cantate 2016
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The word of God, which will form the basis for our meditation on this 5th Sunday of Easter, is the Holy Gospel, in which Jesus speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
In the name of Jesus, our crucified and risen Savior, dear redeemed of the Lord:
In the rhythm of the church year, there are seasons of preparation, which lead to a day of celebration. The seasons of preparation stress repentance and our need for God’s help; the very thing the day of celebration brings. The preparation can be so intense that within that time there is a need to release some of the pressure. So, the church year provides a Sunday within the season of preparation to let off some steam. Advent is the preparatory season for the celebration of the birth of Christ. It shows us our need for God’s love in sending His only-begotten Son. But the Third Sunday in Advent is called Gaudete. It means, “Take delight,” and it anticipates Christmas in the midst of the penitential season.
The same is true of Lent. It is also a penitential season culminating in betrayal, condemnation and crucifixion. But the Fourth Sunday in Lent is called Laetare, “Rejoice!” for it is a joyous anticipation of Easter and Resurrection within the solemnities of the penitential season.
The Sundays after Easter are a season of preparation for the celebration of Pentecost, and the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the Church. It is laced with instruction regarding the ministry of the Gospel, but it is also shrouded with the prospect of the Lord’s visible departure after 40 days of resurrection bliss. “In a little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father” (Jn 16:16). The disciples are confused and saddened by this word, and perhaps we are too. Why isn’t Jesus with us as He was with the 12? And so in the midst of this sadness comes today’s Sunday called Cantate, which means to “Sing!” It is an anticipation of Pentecost. It derives its name from the summons of the Introit to sing: And this prepares us for the approaching high feast of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Today we learn that there is a close connection between our Lord’s departure and the sending of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. In the Holy Gospel the Lord states that the Holy Spirit could not come unless He Himself would leave. The Spirit would make it possible for the Lord to continue His presence on earth; not just in Palestine, but everywhere through the preaching of the Word and the right administration of His sacraments. And so, the introit for this day rejoices in this truth: “Oh, sing unto the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things! The Lord has made known His salvation, He has openly showed His righteousness in the sight of the unbelieving. His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.” Therefore let us
Sing unto the Lord the new song!
What is the new song, which the church anticipated in her hymnbook, the Psalms? And what does it have to do with the resurrection and ascension of Christ to God’s Right Hand, and with the sending of the Holy Spirit? In today’s Epistle, the apostle James tells us what to expect from the Holy Spirit based on the resurrection and ascension of Christ: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights. . . . Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth . . . Therefore . . . receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (NKJV).
In short, the work of the Holy Spirit consists in the divine working in our hearts of the “word of truth”, the Holy Scriptures, and the divine working in our hearts of “the implanted word”, namely, the Gospel of forgiveness of sins which causes us to believe in Christ, as well as the sacraments: Baptism, absolution, and the Lord’s Supper, all instituted by Christ to feed and nurture the implanted word, so that our faith may remain sure and secure.
In today’s Gospel, the disciples did not yet have this word of truth implanted in their hearts. It was still lying on the surface. Jesus has to marvel at their complete lack of understanding of the gift of the Holy Spirit before the word of truth was implanted in them. Just before our Gospel He says to them: “When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds fro the Father, He will testify of Me. . . . These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble.” To all of this the disciples had nothing to say. That’s right, they didn’t because they couldn’t.
But we here today live in the post-Easter and Ascension and Pentecost glow. Through Baptism we have received “the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” Through the preaching of the Gospel, Catechism instruction, Bible study, and learning the Scriptures, God has “of His own will brought us forth by the word of truth.” Through the holy absolution, the declaration of the gracious forgiveness of our sins for Christ’s sake, and through the precious body and blood of the Savior given and poured out for us in the holy Sacrament of the Altar, we are kept in that word of truth and the implanted word is not uprooted from our hearts.
Christ even explains how this work of the Holy Spirit will take shape through the word of truth implanted in our hearts. He says: “when (the Holy Spirit) has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”
At this time he does not explain what all of this means. Therefore He says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.”
The disciples could not bear them yet, because they had not yet received the Holy Spirit. But on Pentecost they were enabled to understand; and not only understand, but also empowered, inspired, and moved by God to communicate, in writing even, that understanding to us and the rest of the world through the divinely inspired Word of the New Testament. That word is the Word of truth, the Word of God, the Holy Spirit.
That word speaks about the power of the Word to convict the world of sin. And truly it does. The word of the law, laid down in Holy Scripture, is able to convict each and every one of us of sin. The law is a mirror for mankind. When we look into it honestly, we see ourselves as we truly are: frail, weak, fallen, sinful.
Of course, we can deny this. We can claim that mankind is strong, good, moral, and righteous. Only the Holy Spirit can convince us of the truth. What do you think about yourself? Are you really strong, good, moral, and righteous before God? Or do you feel convicted of sin? If you feel convicted of sin, then the Holy Spirit is working on you.
Of course, it does not and cannot stop there. The Holy Spirit also convinces us “of righteousness” because Jesus goes to His Father. Wrapped up in this righteousness before God is the session of Jesus at the Right Hand of God. Being seated at the Right Hand of God really means that Jesus, as not only true God, but especially as a man, has fulfilled all righteousness before God. And He has done this in our place as our substitute. His perfect human righteousness is now offered to us, to be received freely by the empty hand of faith. His perfect righteousness is counted as our perfect righteousness before God; just as St. Paul says of our father, Abraham: “‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.’” (Rm. 4:3-8, NKJV).
And finally, the Holy Spirit also “convinces us of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” Here the word judgment is not a word of condemnation, the way we usually hear that word. Instead, this judgment, which the HS convinces us of, is the same as that judgment we confess in the ancient Creed: “From thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead” (Ap. Cr.). In the creeds of the Church the meaning of judgment is not a judgment that condemns. It is a judgment based on the Righteousness of Jesus Christ. He was judged as fully righteous before His heavenly father, and again, not just as the Son of God, but especially as the Son of Man. As a man He was judged innocent, without spot or wrinkle, perfect, without sin, as man was meant to be. And so Jesus was exalted to the right hand of God.
For those who believe God in this revelation of His Son, this faith will be counted to them for righteousness, too. That’s right. You, too, will be judged as righteous and innocent before God, not because of your works, your life, your connections, your position, etc., but because you believe that the righteousness of Jesus is yours. That is the judgment, which the Holy Spirit convinces us of; not the judgment of the law, but the judgment of the Gospel, the good news that your sins are forgiven for the sake of the merits and righteousness of Jesus.
That is the chief Word of God, the Gospel and the Sacraments, all of which implant forgiveness into us, so that we believe it and are saved.
In our Eurasia Region we have hit a bit of a rough patch during Lent and Eastertide. Within the last months terrorism has again raised its ugly head against us in several places where we have called workers. Innocent people have died by the brutality of the devil, and have themselves been called home to their Lord. In some of our own families sickness and death loom over loved ones, and we may be feeling a bit paralyzed and gloomy as did the disciples when Jesus spoke to them about his departure. But these are just the times when the Church sings and comforts herself all the more. She is not content to just hear the Gospel. She is compelled by it to sing it:
“Cantáte Dómino canticum novum: Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory. The LORD has made known His salvation.” Amen.