Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 17th, 2020

“Remember Your Hope in Christ!” John 14:15-22

      Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

      The text for our sermon meditation is the Gospel according to St John, the 14th Chapter.

15[Jesus said:] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, and especially for our three catechumens,

      Today is a most important day. Today we celebrate the Rite of Confirmation for three of God’s children. They have spent a good amount of time studying and committing to memory the Word of Life and eternal salvation. Earlier this morning these Children of God gave evidence of their studies. Well-done, but not finished.

      Nor is anyone truly finished who confesses Jesus as Lord and Savior. Such a confession is not a one-day event. Such a confession is a life-long confession of faith for those who are called by God to be His children, baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and admitted to Altar of the Lord to receive the gifts of Jesus given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

      It was somewhat difficult to decide which passage to preach upon for today. The theme of each passage, Acts, 1 Peter and John’s Gospel account is the same. We learn in Acts how Paul continued to confess salvation in Jesus Christ. We learn in 1 Peter of the effects of confessing Jesus Christ. We learn in John’s Gospel account of means by which we are able to confess faith in Jesus Christ.

      We begin with the means by which we may confess Jesus Christ. Jesus speaks to His disciples shortly before His arrest and crucifixion. He speaks of a condition by which the believer will confess salvation in Jesus Christ alone. Jesus says that if anyone loves Him they will keep His commandments. 

      To love Jesus means you must first know Jesus. This knowledge of Jesus does not come out of thin air. Jesus must be revealed to you. Such knowledge comes by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit comes only through the means by which God determines to send His Spirit. What are those means by which God sends us His Spirit? There are only three means. They are through the speaking of God’s Word. The other two means are by water, and by bread and wine which are connected to God’s spoken Word.

      Everyone in this sanctuary today, has been a beneficiary of the means by which God gives us His Spirit. At a minimum, you have all heard the Word of God. The same Word of God was applied to your life by the hands of God’s servant who washed you in the water of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit. Through this washing and teaching you were given to know and to love Jesus.

      Moreover, you were given to know the commandments of Jesus. Love one another as you are loved by Jesus. Confess your Savior before men and Jesus will confess you before His Father in heaven. Bear the cross of faith and you will receive the gift of eternal life. Take and eat the body of Jesus. Take and drink the blood of Jesus. Such are the commands which Jesus gives His disciples. These are the commands which the believer in Jesus is to keep faithfully.

      Such are the commands which you, who are gathered here today, have been taught. Not only these three young adults over the past two years, but all who have gathered in this sanctuary on the Lord’s Day to hear His Word and sing His praises. Earlier we reviewed what our Lord considers to be the foundation of faith. You heard from the mouths of these young adults the very truth of God’s salvation established for you in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Such is the means of grace by which God enables us to confess Jesus Christ.

      As the Lord gives us opportunity we are to confess our faith in Jesus. Thereby we keep the commandments of Jesus. Where will this confession of faith take place? With St Paul we see that confessing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will take place wherever we find ourselves. St Paul finds himself in Athens, specifically in the Areopagus.

      The Areopagus was a court in Athens, Greece, in which philosophers and teachers gathered to teach and discuss religion and new thoughts. Into this place St Paul brought the word of eternal life and salvation through Jesus Christ who rose from death. St Paul took the opportunity to address the spiritual ignorance under which people live. When he saw the pedestal dedicated to “The Unknown God,” Paul taught about this unknown God. He revealed to these men the truth that there is one God and only one God who created the heavens and the earth. This God took on human flesh to live, die and rise from death to bring forgiveness of sins and to impart eternal life to all who would believe in Him.

      Where will you find yourself when God gives you opportunity to witness your faith in Jesus Christ? Such things are future events for you. You will not know when God will give you opportunity. You will not know where that opportunity will be. You can be sure that such opportunities will be given you.

      When I was much younger, about your age, I lived in place far from where I wanted to be living. My father had taken a job with a company that had factories and offices in many different countries. He was sent to Sydney, Australia, and my mom, brothers and sister moved with him. While we lived there, we joined a small mission congregation in Epping, NSW. The mission congregation was named St Mark’s Lutheran Church. We started worshiping on Sundays in a boy scout hall. After a couple years, the congregation had grown so that it was able to build a sanctuary and fellowship hall. It was in that sanctuary fifty years ago, that I went through what you are doing here today.

      I checked my Confirmation Certificate after my wife mentioned this important anniversary. We were both confirmed in the same year, same month, but on different days and in different places. Fifty years ago I did not know where I would be, or what I would be doing. I did not think I would be called by God to be a pastor. I had not planned to go to seminary. Rather, I planned to work in engineering, designing machines to produce automobile parts. I planned to serve the congregation of which I was a member as a lay person. By coincidence that congregation is also named Our Saviour Lutheran Church in Hartland, Michigan.

      The Lord has plans for each child whom He grants rebirth in the water of Holy Baptism, and to whom He gives His Spirit. God gives us experiences that may not be what we want in our life, but they are what we need. St Peter also reminds us of this in his epistle. Peter encourages the believer in Jesus to be zealous for the faith, to be excited to live in righteousness and obedience to the commandments of Jesus.

      Peter also reminds us that this will not always be well received by those around us. We may face rejection and persecution for the faith we have in Jesus Christ. Why is that? It is because the world does not want to hear the truth nor abide by the truth of God’s Word. You expressed these truths in your brief life, as did your parents, siblings and all people. How many of us truly like to be shown our errors? How many of us eagerly attend to the spiritual needs of faith and the life we are to lead as God’s called people? How bold are we when we are called upon to witness to the hope that is within us? Consider Peter’s words to us today.

“14But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;…”

        Peter was not always a bold and fearless witness to his Savior, Jesus Christ. Remember what happened in Gethsemane, Peter fled in fear. He gathered his courage and followed John to the high priest’s house. Yet, when he was confronted with his relationship to Jesus, what did he say? Peter denied his Lord three times, as Jesus said he would.

        Peter learned from such experiences that confessing Jesus as Lord and savior will be difficult, but it is the work which we are given to do. Peter was restored to apostleship by Jesus and never looked back. He spoke with boldness in the righteousness of faith and gave a bold witness to the One who called him out of darkness into the marvelous light of salvation.

        Why was Peter able to make such a confession? Why will you be enabled to make such a confession? Why will any of God’s called children be able to make such a confession? It is because He who is in you, Jesus Christ, is greater than the one who is in the world, Satan.

        You have been redeemed by Jesus and washed in the Water of Life for God’s purpose. That purpose is to live in the gift of faith you have received and are ready to confess. You have been taught the very truth of God’s Word. You have committed to memory the truth of God’s Word. God will work through that Word to guard and keep you for His kingdom. He will test your faith in the rials of this world, but He will not destroy you. Rather, God will walk with you through life as you continue to lean upon Him in faith.

        God increase your faith and bring you to eternal life.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen!