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quod pro nobis traditum est

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Pentecost Homily

Day of Pentecost 4 June 2006
“Keeping Jesus’ Words” John 14:23-31

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Church was born in the resurrected Lord's appearance to His disciples in the closed room where He breathed His Spirit on them and gave them the keys of the kingdom. As promised of the Father, at Pentecost the Holy Spirit was sent in the preaching of St. Peter. All who were gathered in the hearing of God’s Word, though they were of many nationalities and languages, heard in the preaching of Peter one language, that is, they heard of God’s love and His salvation for them in Jesus Christ. This is the Man who they rejected and crucified who became for them their forgiveness and salvation. In Christ God reconciles His enemies, even you and me, who are enemies of God because of sin. Thus the death of Christ is brought about by those who think they are doing service to God but, in reality, this death is really the work of God who is doing service to man, rescuing us from sin, death and eternal condemnation. The Church, born of God’s Spirit, continues in the apostolic doctrine; that is she remains in, abides in, or keeps the words of Jesus and, gathered at the altar, proclaims the Lord's death until He comes. The Church then, in continuity with the Church at Pentecost, keeps the living tradition of the faith as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, “and they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Acts 2:42) This book has also been called, and rightly so, the Acts of the Holy Spirit.
The Church's life in the Spirit with her eyes focused on Christ, is quite practical. The believers, having been turned away from sin and unbelief, are now led by the Spirit in communion with Christ and drawn to the Father in heaven. They enjoy the life of Christ, that is His forgiveness of sins and salvation. They know God as a merciful God. Rather than being a burden, the hearing and keeping of Jesus’ words becomes the very stuff of life itself. The Lord’s Day is changed so that families can gather together in Jesus’ name and the historic liturgy bears the same Spirit that gave life to the early church and kept her in the one true faith. We are part of that same catholic tradition. For example, we are taught the Ten Commandments, the Creed and the Lord's Prayer and yet we can never fully know and understand the faith which we receive through these gifts of the Spirit. As Dr. Luther writes in the Large Catechism, "However no human wisdom can understand the Creed. It must be taught by the Holy Spirit alone (1 Cor. 2:12)." (LC, II)
The faith that we are taught is given to us in the preaching, in catechesis, in the prayerful study and meditation on the Word of God. The Divine Service is a time set apart from the world for the children of God to be gathered in reverence and receive God's Spirit through the words of Jesus. Here we are joined together with the Church of all times and places and the Church in heaven for the hearing and speaking of the one language of the Church, that is the voice of Christ, spoken to us in the Spirit. The Spirit teaches us all things and brings into our remembrance the words of Christ Himself. This is demonstrated so clearly at the Altar in the giving and receiving of Christ's Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins. This is My Body. This is My Blood. Do this in remembrance of Me. The Church remembers Christ and His words because He first remembers her and never leaves nor forsakes His bride. "If anyone loves, Me, he will keep my word; and the Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with Him." The words of the Spirit are the words of Jesus and the words of Jesus are the words of the Father. The peace Jesus leaves His disciples before He leaves to suffer and die for them and for the world is the same peace that His disciples and His Church today receive through that same death where God has truly loved us and truly reconciled us to Himself. In Christ's forgiveness and in His peace in the Holy Spirit we are strengthened and united and kept in the one language of the one true faith. Amen.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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