April 29, 2018 A+D (revised from 2016)
St. John 16:5-15 (based on a sermon by Rev. Ralph Tausz 2006)
In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Holy Scripture is full of divine perspective. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is your guide and light in this dark world. The Word of God is always pointing you to the mighty works of God. It is in these mighty works recorded in Scripture that you find comfort in the midst of trials. The culmination of these mighty works is the death and resurrection of Jesus. On account of this, you are able to lift up your voice and sing.
“Oh, sing unto the Lord a new song.” That is what people who have come into newness of life by God’s deliverance, do. That’s what the Israelites did after they crossed the Red Sea and looked back and saw Pharaoh and all his army dead and lying on the seashore. They sang a new song, because they were given new life. No more bondage in Egypt, no more servitude to Pharaoh, no more oppressive decrees. Miriam and the women took up their tambourines and sang the new song as they went into the desert a new people.
“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song.” This is what God’s Bride the Church is commanded to do. So now you, join Miriam in singing a new song. For you have been made new in baptism. Shout joyfully to the Lord, for he has given you new life, made you a new creation in Christ Jesus. Break forth in song, for your oppressor, an enemy worse than Pharaoh has been defeated. Join the heavenly chorus in singing that new song that can only be sung by new people, the song of the Lamb who was slain and now reigns on the throne.
So, sing, but also remember. It wasn’t long before that new people faced trials and hardships in the desert through which God led them. It wasn’t long before the people grumbled and gave up hope. It wasn’t long before they wanted to return to their slavery in Egypt. It wasn’t long before they rebelled against God’s Word. Miriam used her freedom to sing love songs to a golden calf. How easy it was to go from singing new songs, back to the old songs about the old ways of unbelief (the old man).
Jesus tells us today that unbelief is the chief sin. One of the works of the Holy Spirit that Jesus talks about today is that he will convict the world of sin, because they do not believe in me. The worst sin of all is not sodomy, not sexism, not murder (even of the unborn), not rape, not slavery or racism, or theft—the worst sin of all is not to believe in Jesus. In fact, all the problems in the world, all sins that people commit have at their core this problem and common cause: Unbelief, the failure to love God, fear Him and trust him, and the temptation to take matters into your own hands. Remember the meaning to the First Commandment “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”
It’s unbelief that causes your despair. It’s unbelief that causes your fear. It’s unbelief that causes your indignant anger at others. It’s unbelief that causes you to be so inconsiderate and so hard to live with. It’s unbelief that makes you think that the world revolves around you.
Repent and believe. For you have been purchased by God’s blood and redeemed. He departed for a little while when He died and rested in the tomb, but He has come back to you alive. Now death has no power over Him, and on His account, death has no hold over you. All of the salvation accounts in the Old Testament, the great works of God, pointed forward to the ultimate salvation account when Christ, our Passover lamb was sacrificed. The deliverance of Noah and his family from the flood, the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt, and the deliverance of Judah from Babylon (and the many more) all pointed to the final deliverance of the world from bondage to Satan. You are part of the story. God has rescued you.
So sing a new song to the Lamb who was slain for all of your sins. Sing, for though God was angry with you, His anger is now turned away, because it has been poured out fully on his Son for your sake. It was poured out on His dear Son who was despised and afflicted, so that you might be comforted with the word of forgiveness. Sing, because He has followed through on yet another promise. He has gone to the one who sent Him. He has taken His place in heaven at the right hand of God, that mighty right hand and that holy arm that has worked salvation (Introit). The Lord has made known His salvation by the sending of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Now, you are not only forgiven, but you are also comforted by the Holy Spirit, the Helper, who not only convicts the world of the sin of unbelief, as Jesus said, but who also convicts the world of a righteousness that is freely given to those who have faith in the Son. And who also convicts the world of judgment, because the ruler of this world, your enemy and your oppressor, has been judged.
Every bit of unbelief that lurks in your old nature was laid upon Jesus. It was destroyed as he rose in victory from the dead; it was left behind as He ascended to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth. Jesus was willing to be treated as God’s enemy, so that you might be reckoned as God’s beloved. And that is what you now are.
Even in the midst of trials, suffering, grief, and hardship, you can sing to God, who promises that these sufferings are temporary and tailor made even for your good. You are the Church that God has planted in this world as His pilgrim people, in whose heart He has placed hope, and in whose mouth He has placed this new song, about how God who so loved the world that He gave His only Son.
The Holy Spirit now comforts and helps you by taking all of what is Christ’s and declaring to you the things that are to come. He gives you Holy perspective through the Word of Scripture and through the Sacraments of Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper. This perspective shows your coming eternal deliverance. The perfect righteousness of Christ is yours. All that the Father has is Christ’s; and all that Christ has is given to you by the Holy Spirit. Eternal life is yours. It is a divine promise and fact—it IS coming. The Lord will return to take you to be with Him. So, beloved of God—sing with joy. Sing with Miriam, and with all the saints and angels in heaven, and come to the feast of your salvation.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.