A myHT Fortress

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Christ Declared to You: A Homily for Easter 5

John 16:12-22

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

The year was 325. The location, a city called Nicea, in what is now Turkey. Heretics had threatened the Church with false teaching, saying that Jesus was not completely God. Others in the recent past had said that Jesus was only God, and was not truly human.

All the bishops of the Christian Church, throughout the world, gathered and debated through the summer over the issues. How would they deal with these enemies of God? And what would be the guidelines?

The answer arose from their discussions, as a creed – a formal summary of what the Church believes – was formulated. Since the second generation of the Church, they had confessed the Apostles’ Creed. But something a little more thorough was needed. Thus the Nicene Creed was formed.

A young deacon named Athanasius, from Alexandria, Egypt is credited with much of the thought that carefully crafted this creed. And sometime later, after Bishop Athanasius had been called to glory, an even more extensive creed was called for. It was a longer discussion on the Holy Trinity, whom Athanasius had defended, and so this creed was named in his honor. (That is the Athanasian Creed that we confess each year on Holy Trinity Sunday.)

And just what is this faith? And who is this God of whom these ancient bishops speak? Our Lord Jesus Himself tells us, in this morning’s Gospel. Jesus describes the Lord whom we confess, and the faith which He gives.

Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit when He says: “He will guide you in to all the truth.” Elsewhere in the Gospel according to St. John, Jesus says to God the Father, “Your Word is Truth.” God gives us His Word as a precious Gift, the Gift of truth which tells us of God’s salvation. This saving truth of the Gospel, given freely to all.

Sometimes, however, we are not so eager to hear God’s truth. There are many moments when we listen to our own thoughts more than God’s. We live in this post-modern era, when anyone can declare his or her opinion to be equally valid and truthful. We are told there are many truths – that Christianity is too close-minded and judgmental to claim the only truth.

My friends, when we rebel against God, insisting that our own opinions and so-called “truths” are just as good as His, we are grossly insubordinate, and heading down the path to hell. We often create our own heresies, by building up our own opinions and praising ourselves at the expense of Christ and His true faith. We desperately need the Holy Spirit to bring us God’s truth – the only truth which can save us!

For some, the Holy Spirit first comes through hearing this saving truth proclaimed. Our Savior’s called servants week after week deliver this saving truth, through which the Holy Spirit is working, guiding us in the faith.

For many, their first contact with God, outside the womb of their mother, is through the womb of the Church. In the saving waters of Holy Baptism, the Holy Spirit bestows the Truth of Christ. He casts out any evil spirits, opens our ears to the Gospel, and removes the stain of sin in our lives. He makes us sons of God, delivering us from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

Besides declaring us God’s children in the present, the Holy Spirit has more work, according to Jesus: “He will declare to you the things that are to come.” Now, that isn’t promising us that God is giving a fortune teller. The Holy Spirit is not some free psychic, or twisted horoscope.

But He does tell us about our future. He tells us about the new heavens and the new earth in which every Christian will someday spend eternity with the Lord. He calms us with the assurance that not one of God’s children will be lost. That we, with all of God’s baptized children, will be gathered to God when it is our time to depart this world.

What is the purpose of the Spirit telling us Christ’s truth and what is to come? Jesus says: “He will glorify Me.” How? “He will take what is Mine and declare it to you.” That is the joy of what Luther called, “The Blessed Exchange.” Jesus trades us all our guilt, sin, and imperfections, for His holy perfection. He was humbled, so we can be exalted. He died so that we can live. And now, His Word does what it says. His Word declares us forgiven saints, and so we are. It is not simply a wish; it is so!

All of the wondrous blessings which come from God are ours, simply because Christ sends the Holy Spirit to give them to us! And the Spirit gives us the faith to receive these gifts, making them known to us. And when Jesus has revealed Himself to us, by the truth of His Word, through the Holy Spirit, we rejoice that, along with those bishops of some 1,600 years ago, He has allowed us to gold the faith of what the Creed originally called the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”

You mean he leads us to the Church of Rome? No. In the last 500 years, the word “catholic” has been misunderstood as meaning only the Roman Church. In actuality, it means every Christian who holds to the entire teaching of Christ, given through His apostles – the true faith of all places in all times. It is all of Christendom.

We rejoice further that the Holy Spirit has guided us into the truth about God the Son. The Spirit sent by our Risen Jesus “calls us by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, sanctifies, and keeps us in the true faith.”

God miraculously has come into the flesh. That is the ultimate mystery of our faith. That God came into the flesh through the Blessed Virgin Mary. And that He continues to come into the flesh, when His Word is heard and when He washes us in Holy Baptism, and when He joins His Body and Blood to bread and wine on altars across the world.

If someone denies any of these, they do not hold to the historic, catholic, Christian faith. And they are lost. But thanks be to God, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit has called us to this faith, and blesses us to know Him through His gifts.

Just as He blessed Joey with this washing of new birth at the hospital this week, and as He blesses all newly baptized, with the gift of the one, true faith, beginning to guide him in all truth, declaring to him what is to come, and glorifying Jesus Christ.

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

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