Tag Archives: Christian Hope

Another Helper – The Spirit and the World

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Biblical Text: John 14:15-21
Full Sermon Text

The text is chosen on the basis of an inclusio. An inclusio is a method in an era lacking punctuation to signal a thought grouping. We would call it a paragraph or a section break today. John writes a topic sentence – “If you love me keep my commandments” and closes the paragraph with a repeat – “whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who love me”. So, the stuff between the inclusio is the supporting evidence for the assertion in the topic.

In this case, if all we did was take the topic – “if you love me keep my commandments” – we’d be very deep into legalism. I tend to think Jesus was more of a moralist than most Lutherans, but he was also the greatest realist we’ve ever seen. After all, he made it all. You can’t get more real that that. And as that realist, telling fallen creatures to keep the law is not in the first place about keeping the law. We will fail. What it is about is driving us to some solution for our inability to keep the commandments. In John’s case, until the end of the age the solution is “another Helper”.

That “another Helper” is the paraclete or the Holy Spirit indwelling within us. What this sermon does is trace out the works and means of the Spirit. It places the moral dimension within the larger story. Jesus means “keep my commandments” within both his work and the work of the Spirit. And it looks at the final promises that this helper lasts “until that day” or “into the age”. (The forever of John 14:16 is a not the point of the εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα , which is really an eschatologogical phrase. He will be with you in this indwelling way as another Helper until the new age is fully realized.) At that point, the dwelling of God is with his people. No longer in a hidden way as with the Spirit which the world cannot see, but in a manifest way. This is the Christian Hope – we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

A Sword Will Pierce Your Soul – Pondering Cultural Lostness

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Biblical Texts: Luke 2:22-40, Romans 1:18-32, Psalm 34:4-8
Full Sermon Draft

There have been a string of national and then local tragedies. Unfortunately this sermon is something of a continuation of one just two weeks ago. I never meant for there to be a continuation, but events experienced called for it. In the middle of joyful events – like Christmas – as Simeon will say to Mary, there are swords to the heart.

I reviewed that sermon from Dec 16th a little, and I think it is the proper response for an individual. And one individual, ourselves, is all we can actually control (the fruit of the spirit of self-control – Gal 5:23). But that sermon left something unexplained or unexamined. What about the collective us? We ask questions like “what have we become?” And that question comes off the lips of a man who in no way has become what he is pondering, yet he supplies the “we”. It is another form of the “why?” question – why do such atrocities happen, one that actual betrays a developed conscience in that responsibility is placed on the right people. If we are asking “why me”, that individual question is not something that God tends to answer. But, if we are asking collectively, “why us” or “what have we become”, then I believe God has given us an answer, through St. Paul in Romans 1.

The first sin is forgetting or abandoning God. A trespass of the first commandment. From that trespass come all the others. Sin is both the cause of our troubles and the judgment. When we abandon God, He hands us over to our sins. When you are looking at a larger culture, that can get very evil very quickly. And if Paul is right (which I believe he is), the end point of that isn’t just sins but a collective culture that gives approval to their practice (Rom 1:32).

Why have we become a greedy, violent, lustful, callous, warlike and spiritually barren people? Because we have collectively abandoned the fear of God. And He has handed us collectively over to the rot of our collective culture.

What is the gospel? First, Simeon’s song. My eyes have seen your salvation/That you have prepared in the presence of all peoples/A light for revelation to the Gentiles/And the glory of your people Israel. God has sent a savior in Jesus Christ and we have seen his light. God doesn’t make false promises, and today is still a day of grace. Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near. Second, our hope is not in this flesh or this collective people. Our hope is in the resurrection and the New Jerusalem. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them (Psalm 34:7).