The Day of Pentecost (C)
June 9, 2019
Sermon Text: John 14:23-24
Peace be unto you from our loving God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
It seems so easy that even a child can do it… a baby no less… to “love Jesus,” that is. And our newest brother in Christ does exactly that right now… love Jesus. Now that he has come under the waters of Holy Baptism. Now that the he has been baptized “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
That’s it? Yes. There is nothing that we have to do or can do on our own… nothing that “coming of age” will help… to love Jesus, that is. For you see, it is all what God does… what He has done and Him alone. And because of this, to Him alone be the glory.
It is the divine Words, His Words spoken in, with and under simple water that makes all of the difference. This is true for Oliver and for us.
All of us, to a person, were born sinful and unclean, enemies of God, not lovers of God… not lovers of Jesus. There are many… most… who do not like hearing that or will accept that fact… accept that a baby, a young child or even an adult is sinful. They would like to think otherwise. They would like to think that people are intrinsically good and on their own, can do good. God’s Word says otherwise.
For example, in the 51st Psalm, King David rightly declares, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5)
No, loving Jesus is not something that we can do on our own at any age or stage of our lives. It requires something outside of us… something sacred and divine… something miraculous (which is exactly what took place a few minutes ago… a miracle in the making) and it is all the work of the Holy Spirit. It is all the power of the Holy Spirit.
How fitting to discuss the same now, today… on this the Day of Pentecost when, just as Christ promised, He sent the Holy Spirit into all the world. It must have been an amazing sight… an amazing event. And it still is in the lives of God’s people throughout the world and throughout time.
What exactly is the importance of this day? The importance of this happening? It literally means the difference between eternal life and eternal death.
This is all serious business… the celebration of the Day of Pentecost, the Sacrament of Holy Baptism… as it also will be in a few minutes as we partake of the very Body and Blood of our Lord for there is no life apart from Jesus Christ. There is no life apart from what Christ accomplished on the cross at Calvary and our having true faith in Him… saving faith.
Concomitantly, there is no coming to faith in Jesus… no loving Jesus… apart from the work of the Holy Spirit… the Spirit that is alive in all of the faithful.
And so it is that in today’s Gospel lesson, our Lord explains what loving Him is all about… what it includes… what it entails. We read, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.” (John 14:23-24)
Yikes! The fact of the matter is, anyone can say that they love Jesus. And this, on their own terms… in their own way… what THEY determine to be the parameters of the same.
The thing of it is, it doesn’t work that way. God sets the parameters on anything and everything… always has and always will. It is the “God” part and acceptance of His ultimate authority and rule that many people do not understand or except. Simply put, God defines what it means to love Him.
And our Lord does just that now… in our text. He makes it abundantly clear that truly loving Him goes hand in hand with our truly keeping His Word… ALL that He has said and recorded for us in Holy Scripture.
That is the “Yikes” part. Because perfectly loving Jesus… perfectly keeping His Word is impossible for us. And this, even after our baptism because while still here on earth, we inhabit these imperfect bodies, sinful bodies… this, our sinful flesh… our sinful minds which have such a proclivity to stray… to go the wrong way.
Thankfully… for all of the times that we do stray and fall back into sin, there is, in Christ Jesus, forgiveness… full and complete. Our sins are no more. The waters of Holy Baptism are a perpetual tide and glorious torrent making us clean again and again and again.
Our Lord reminds us, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)
Loving Jesus… loving His Word and seeking to keep the same, follow the same is possible through the mighty working of His Holy Spirit which we would do well never to underestimate or limit. We also would do well not to seek answers to the mysteries of God. They are referred to as the “sacred mysteries” for good reason… so far above our understanding and comprehension.
We simply accept them… all of them… by faith. We accept and whole heartedly believe and rejoice that now little Oliver and all of us are God’s precious children in Christ Jesus through Holy Baptism… that God has claimed and named us as His own and will never let anyone or anything snatch us out of His divine hands.
We join the Apostle Paul in declaring that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)
And so it is that we have faith in what seems from a worldly point of view to be ridiculous and illogical… indeed… incomprehensible.
You may remember the account of one of the Jews, Nicodemus, who believed that our Lord truly came from God and what our Lord said to him.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’” (John 3:3-6)
God said it. We believe it. What is more, we rejoice in our second birth which took place not in a hospital, but at the font!
Loving Jesus, keeping His Word, keeping His Commandments… all are impossible for us to do… truly do… apart from the Spirit of God, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.
But in the Spirit, by the Spirit, we can do these things… we want to do these things… and this, more and more… to love our Lord as seen in all that we do and say each and every day… throughout the day… at home… at work… at school.
And also to love and keep God’s Word… as we know it more and more… learn it more and more… grow in it more and more.
You know, there are many things that God willing, as a grandfather, I look forward to teaching Oliver. At the top of the list is how much Jesus loves him… and this with his parents doing the same, his godparents, our family, our greater Christian family… our whole Church family… all by the power of the Holy Spirit.
By the Spirit, Oliver will know, without a shadow of a doubt, about Jesus’ great love for him as poignantly seen on the cross which he will be pointed to again and again. And by the Spirit, he will be able all of his earthly life to love Jesus… to love His Word and all things pure, eternal and divine… just as we do… by the Spirit! Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“Loving Jesus” 6/9/19 The Rev. Mark H Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL.