Sermon for Cantate

Sing to the Lord a new Song! Cantate Sunday. For those who could not attend, here is the sermon.

We prepare for important events in the church year. Christmas has Advent – 4 weeks to prepare for the coming of our Lord, Easter has Lent – 6 weeks to prepare for the death and resurrection of our Lord. But because of the timing of Pentecost we don’t get a specific time of preparation. Advent and Lent are penitential seasons. The call during those seasons is that we return to the Lord. But Pentecost comes 50 days after Easter – the most joyous season of the year. There is no time for a season of Repentance. Not with the joyful news of the resurrection still on our lips and in our hearts.

So the last half of Easter is a time of preparation – not in repentance, but in the middle of our Easter Joy. The Joy of Easter leads right into the festival of the Holy Spirit.

Last week we heard about the Little While of Jesus returning to the Father, before he comes back to judge the living and the dead. Ascension day preparation. Today it’s Pentecost. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit. We will also hear of the Spirit’s work on Pentecost. But the work of the Spirit deserves more than one day. The Spirit brings us to faith through the call of the Gospel, makes us Holy through the waters of Baptism, and strengthens, feeds and keeps us in the  true faith with the Holy Supper. That is worthy of at least a couple of Sundays. And so today Jesus promises the Spirit, and explains what the Spirit’s work will be.

The work of the Spirit is not a new revelation. There are many who are hoping for some further revelation. Some sort of burning in the bosom to tell us that our feelings are the way to go. But we are told in Holy Scripture that in the New Testament we now have everything necessary for our salvation until our Lord returns. There is nothing new coming before the final trumpet. The Work of the Spirit is not to bring new things to us regarding the work of Jesus. Instead the work of the spirit is to bring Jesus into focus, to let us clearly see him and his work for us on the cross.

Jesus says the Spirit will convict the world regarding sin. We already have the word of the Lord regarding sin back in Exodus 20. The Ten Commandments, the moral law, still apply. The ceremonial or Levitical law in the Old Testament – how the temple would be run with the sacrifices – is fulfilled in Jesus and is no longer required. The unclean animals, the sacrifices in the temple, even the Seventh day – the Sabbath day as a day of rest – are all fulfilled and we are not bound by those Levitical rules. (We are still bound by the Third Commandment in that God commands us to hear and learn his word, but the specific day of the Sabbath is not a requirement. We can meet any time each week to receive the gifts God gives through his church.) And the civil law given to Moses no longer applies. That was the rules for how Israel was to be governed. It was a legal code, with specific punishments for specific crimes, and included checks and balances and safeguards to insure just treatment of all. It established cities of refuge to protect the innocent who were accused of crimes and to give them a fair hearing. Today we call it change of venue, but the principle is the same. That civil law was already gone when the Southern Kingdom was taken into Exile in Babylon in 586 BC. It wasn’t even in operation during Jesus lifetime. So the ceremonial and civil code of Moses no longer apply. But the moral law, the Ten Commandments – summarized as Love God with your whole heart, love your neighbor as yourself, that still applies. It applied even before the Ten Commandments were given to Moses. It is the law written on Man’s heart since the creation. We are commanded to Love God and love our neighbor, and that is the guiding rule for all people from the creation until our Lord returns. It is not abolished in Jesus. He fulfills that law for us. He pays the penalty for when we break that law. And because of his sacrifice, his death and resurrection, we are no longer in bondage under the law. Because we break the law of God – scripture calls it sin, we are under the curse of death. Because of Jesus, we are freed from the curse of death. Jesus has overcome death hell and the devil, forgiven us our sins, and brought us into the kingdom of God and made us his children.

Brining us into the salvation earned on the cross is the work of the Spirit. Jesus says the world is judged regarding sin because they do not believe in me. The unchanging truth of God’s Law judges all who do not believe in Jesus as savior. We can’t get around it no matter how hard we try or how much we pretend it isn’t there. The first part of the Spirit’s work is to make us aware of our sin. To bring us fear and terror over sin, rather than denial and anger. When Jesus preached to the people in his own day, and they heard his promise of forgiveness, they only heard condemnation, because they thought they were righteous. If the Spirit does not bring us to contrition – sorrow over our sin – we can’t hear the Gospel. Because in our sin we have convinced ourselves we are righteous. This is a problem not just in Jesus day, not just in our own day. It is a problem from the first sin, until Jesus returns and casts Satan in the lake of fire. On our own we can not hear the Word of the Lord or receive any benefit from it. We reject it outright. We fight against it. We hear the Ten Commandments, and we rebel. Cain refused to take responsibility for his brother. Noah preached for nearly 100 years while building the ark and no one outside his own family listened. King Saul repeatedly tried to justify his sinful conduct when the Prophet Samuel brought God’s Word to him, and so on. The Jews tried to murder Jesus because he told them he brought forgiveness of sins. They didn’t think they had any sins, and so were offended. Just as it is today. The world will not hear the Law of God, rejects the Law of God, rejects those who bring His Law, because the world is convinced it is righteous, has no need of Jesus and his work. And so, the first work of the Spirit is to convict the world of sin. Either by bringing the world to judgment, or – according to the plan and purpose of our Father – by bringing those who hear the Law of God to contrition, to sorrow over their sin, to acknowledge their sin, to confess it before God, and so be prepared to hear the Gospel of forgiveness through Jesus.

The righteousness of Jesus stands for us before the Father in heaven. We receive that righteousness by faith, and the Spirit’s main work is to bring us to faith in Jesus Christ. The work of the Law exists so that we would understand how much we need Jesus, how hopeless our case is, and how useless our own works are before God. The Law is preparation for the Gospel. Because God wants to give forgiveness of sins to you through the work of Jesus proclaimed to you in the church. That’s why God gives all Holy Scripture. So that we would be directed to Jesus and his work.

This is the work of the Spirit – not to bring a new revelation, but to bring our stony hearts to believe the revelation given in Holy Scripture. To remove our hearts of stone and replace them with a heart of flesh that can hear the Gospel, that can love God. To create a new heart and spirit within us, as we hear the Word of God, as we repent of our sin – both brought to sorrow over it, and also then faith in the promise of forgiveness. That two part process is the true repentance spoken of in Scripture. It isn’t just us being sorry. That is only a beginning. Repentance is also grabbing hold of the forgiveness of sins by faith in the word of Jesus. And that is what the Spirit does for us. He creates in us a living faith. He brings us to believe and understand who Jesus is – the Son of God – and what he has done for us – died for the forgiveness of our sins.

So, Jesus says “He doesn’t speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak. He will take what is mine and will declare it to you.” The Sprit’s work is to bring us Jesus, and through Jesus to bring us, forgiven, to our loving heavenly Father. When the word is preached, then the Spirit works, where and when he will, to bring faith in that word. So we would believe and so also receive the gifts promised through them. And the gifts given through the preaching of the cross are important gifts. They save lives, bring us out of sin death and hell, and give us forgiveness, life and eternal salvation in Jesus Christ.

This is the work of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus promises it to the disciples so that they would understand and believe and not be overcome by the troubles of this world. Because the troubles of this world can be overwhelming. But we have an advocate with the Father: Jesus Christ. And Jesus is the firstfruits of salvation. He was raised just as we will one day be raised. He went through death into life, just as all those who believe in him will go through death and into life. And this powerful and wonderful promise is given to you through the preaching of the Word in Christ’s Holy church. The Spirit promises to work through the church – through the preaching and the sacraments to bring you life. The promise of God is good: the Spirit does work through the One Holy Christian and Apostolic Church to bring you forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

Thanks be to God that he sends his Spirit to us to bring us to salvation in Jesus Christ. May we always hold fast to this truth.

In Jesus name. Amen.

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