Easter 4 Cantate 2017

Cantate
May 14, 2017 A+D
John 16: 5-15

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

It’s impossible for someone who is singularly focused on justice to understand Christianity. Christianity centers on mercy. Those who are obsessed with justice cannot understand how it is that we are so concerned about doctrine when there are children starving in Africa, or how we can dare to indulge ourselves with luxuries when there are poor people. They think our religion is worthless and that we are hypocrites because we do not care about the things they do in the way they do.

They have a point. The Spirit calls us to love our neighbor, to show mercy to the poor and needy. No Christian living on this side of glory can hear the charge “hypocrite” and not cringe in guilt. We don’t do what we say that we should do and what we want to do. We say one thing and do another.

Yet, contrary to the judgment of the world and even our own judgment the Holy Scriptures declare that we, who are baptized and believe in Christ, are holy, righteous, and innocent for Christ’s sake. This is not because we have pure hearts or have done enough good works. It is because God has forgiven our sins by offering up His own Son as our Substitute, ransom, and atonement. He has declared us righteous despite our imperfections and even wickedness. You, the baptized who believe in Christ, and who daily sin much, are rightly called saints and the people of God. It is a terrible a pity, that we would forget or be ashamed to call ourselves saints. For to forget this is to forget Christ and baptism.

There is an irony here. Those who fear they are hypocrites are saints. Those who cast the stones, who claim to hate hypocrisy in others, are not.

You, who are truly sinners, don’t want to be considered sinners. You feel sin as a burden. You want to do better and even though it accuses and condemns you, you love God’s Law. You see in it what is truly good and beautiful, what you were meant for. You do not simply shrug off the charge of “hypocrite.” It is a serious danger. But at the same time, while you don’t want to be called sinner, don’t shrink from the title “saint.” To be both things at the same time is not the mark of a hypocrite, but of a Christian who has not yet been transferred to glory.

To be a Christian, you must believe in two things at the same time. You must believe the law which accuses you and calls you “sinner.” You must also believe and trust in the gospel which comforts you and calls you “saint.”

The devil will try to tell you that the sins which you commit every day offend God, and therefore you are not a saint. The devil is a liar and he is the master of half-truths. Yes, you are filthy in your sins, but even as a mother’s love is stronger than the filth and scabbiness and stink on a naughty child, so the love of God toward us is stronger than the dirt that clings to us. Although we are sinners, we do not lose our filial relation on account of our filthiness. God is our Father who has made His Son, the Lord Jesus, our Brother, that we might live in His Spirit. Unless we let our sins rule over us and give in to them, we are not hypocrites.

The devil likes theology. He will tell you that the Holy Spirit does not dwell where there are habitual sins and you have got them. He will tell you that the Bible teaches that Christians progress and grow in their sanctification and you are growing in sins, getting worse.

Again, he twists the truth. Jesus says:

“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 Holy Spirit gives away the Kingdom to sinners. He glorifies the Son in the crucifixion, where He is lifted up from the world. The Holy Spirit is a kind of Robin Hood. The Father, not the devil, offers up the Son. The Holy Spirit, who drove the Christ to the desert for temptation, kills and robs Him on the cross, takes what is His and the Father’s, and gives it to you. Do you believe this? Yes. Then you are not a hypocrite.

You are growing in sanctification. Part of that is a growth is an awareness of and sorrow over your sins. But even so, while Christ can look into the hearts of men, men can’t. You can’t even look into your own heart. Sanctification isn’t quantifiable the way that bricks and pennies are.

The Christian says: I believe and cling to Him who is in heaven as a Savior. He will come to judge the living and the dead, and if I fall into sin, I will rise again by grace. I don’t continue to sin with immunity but I live by grace. Sin doesn’t rule over me. By grace, in His Word and Sacraments, I rise up and become the enemy of sin. I hate sin. I renounce it. I ask again for mercy. I come as a child, filthy and guilty, naughty, with tears in my eyes. I have done again what my mother told me not to do. I come to her trusting that she will still love me, wash me and kiss my wounds.”

The Christian faith differs from all other religions in this: the Christian hopes even in the midst of evil and his own sins. Without the Holy Spirit natural man can’t do this. He can only seek refuge in works. To say, ‘I am a child of God,’ or I am holy, a saint of God” is not arrogant any more than saying I am an American is arrogant. For the Christian, it is not hypocrisy. You can’t see all of your good works. You can’t see the growth of your faith. But you can’t see the Holy Spirit either. You live by His Word. You trust His promises. Not all that is real is visible.

“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.”

There is something to sing about.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

*Inspired by a Luther Table Talk entry on John 16:15

 

 

Bookmark the permalink.