Exaudi (6th Sunday after Easter) + John 15:26-16:4 +May 8, 2016

Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15
Hymn #233 Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest
Hymn #467 Built on the Rock, the Church Shall Stand
Hymn #437 Who Trusts in God, A Strong Abode

Readings
Ezekiel 36:25-27
1 Peter 4:7b-11
St. John 15:26-16:4

Collect for Exaudi, the 6th Sunday after Easter


Almighty, Everlasting God, make us to have always a devout will toward Thee and to serve Thy Majesty with a pure heart; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. 

Sermon on the Old Testament Lesson



Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         The Lord prophesies the giving of the Holy Ghost through baptism in today’s first lesson. What else could He mean when He says, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols?” Ezekiel looks forward the command of God in human flesh, Jesus Christ, when He tells the eleven apostles, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matthew 28:19). The sprinkling of water combined with God’s Word saves us, Paul writes in Titus 3:5, “by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Paul teaches us that Baptism is God’s work which He works upon us. He does not locate baptism as our work by which we offer something to God, as most churches do. St. Peter writes the same thing 1 Peter 3:21. He writes, “Baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God).” Baptism is a bath by which God regenerates sinners and gives them the second birth. Baptism is a means by which He forgives our sins so that we have “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” Baptism is a means by which God, sprinkling us with water that is made clean by the Word, cleanses sinners from the filthiness of their sins and washes us from the taint of our idolatry. Thus Christ washes us, cleansing us from sin, giving us the gift of a good conscience before God, so that we can boldly say to ourselves every day of our lives, “I am baptized!” With these words, we have no doubt that we have a gracious God who cares for us and gives us all we need in Christ.

2)         Ezekiel goes on to say, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” By this the prophet shows us that God uses Baptism to make us new men altogether. The heart of stone which we all have, because all are sinners, is a heart that is lifeless and cold toward God and our neighbor. Jeremiah says that we cannot trust our hearts because “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jeremiah 17:9)? By nature, our hearts are turned away from God and turn in upon ourselves. Without the Holy Ghost sprinkling clean water on man, “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5), so that we do not worship God or expect good things from Him. The heart of stone that we all possess by nature does not want to pray to God or call upon Him in every trouble, but wants to be its own god. Nor does the lifeless heart of stone which mankind possess love God’s Word since it does not, by nature, love God. But the prophet foresees that God will remove the heart of stone and give man a heart of flesh. Usually in Scripture, “flesh” is contrasted with “spirit,” but here Ezekiel uses the metaphor of a stone heart to describe us, so that the heart of flesh which the Holy Ghost gives us is a living heart, one that beats with faith toward God and love toward neighbor.

3)         So when the Holy Ghost is given in Baptism, and He brings with Him the forgiveness of sins, He removes the cold heart of stone and gives us a living, beating heart of flesh. This is the new man, the New Adam, Christ Himself who lives in us and acts through us. St. Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” And since the Holy Ghost creates a new heart in us, which is Christ Himself, the Christian begins to truly fear God, to truly love God and to truly trust Him for every good thing in this life. The new heart desires to hallow God’s name so it begins to use God’s name properly, to “pray, praise and give thanks” to God. The new heart is moved to love God’s Word, so that it finds its daily sustenance in the Word, for the new man, with the heart of flesh, since the New Man in us live “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3). All of this He does in Holy Baptism, and all of this He continues to work in us by daily living in our baptism, which simply means to remember the promises Christ gave us in Baptism, and to believe those promises and rejoice in them, for our baptism “signifies that the old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts, and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise; who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.[1]

4)         There is yet more to this sprinkling with clean water, which Ezekiel foresees. The Lord then says through the prophet, “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will My judgments and do them.” The new heart which God the Holy Spirit creates is the man of faith, the man who looks to God for all good things and trusts God entirely. This new man, the New Adam in us, then does good works for his neighbor. He does not do them out of compulsion. He does not do them out of coercion, because the law urges him to do so. He does good works for his neighbor because God has written the law upon the heart of the New Man. The faith which God the Holy Ghost works in baptism will bring forth good works toward our fellow man. These works will not be flashy and eye-catching. These works will not be glorious in the eyes of the world. They will be the good works which God commands, works of love done according to the Ten Commandments. So the New Man, with a beating heart of flesh, begins to love God and begins to fulfill the first table of the law. This faith, though imperfect in this life, begins to bear good fruit toward one’s neighbor as well, so that we love our neighbors as ourselves, given to them as we have opportunity and giving them whatever we see they need, be it money, encouragement, help, or aid of any kind. Thus the New Man, the man of faith, begins to fulfill God’s law of love, not because He has too, but because that is simply what faith does. And more often than not, faith will bring forth its fruits spontaneously without our knowledge.

5)         But faith and love are not the only fruits which the Holy Ghost brings forth in the life of the New Man, given in Baptism and preserved through daily baptismal living. Another fruit He brings forth is that of patience in suffering. Everyone suffers in this life and the Christian, having been washed with the clean water of Holy Baptism, is no different in the fact that Christians suffer sickness, disease, and misfortune as to unbelievers. The suffering that is specific to Christians is suffering for the sake of Christ and His doctrine. Jesus describes this suffering in today’s gospel lesson. “They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service” (John 16:2). This particular cross is not one that is born by the unbaptized, the unregenerate who have not been born from above by the Holy Ghost, for Jesus says, “these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me” (John 16:3). This cross may come as martyrdom, as it did for most of the apostles. Most often is comes as ridicule for the sake the faith. At other times the world persecutes the true church because it is small because it holds to a doctrine so unlike the world’s teaching. This cross even manifests itself when people refuse to hear our gospel, shut their ears to it, and walk away from us on account of it. This cross causes many to fall away from the faith, because many wrongfully assume that the life of the baptized should be easy, or at least semi-comfortable. But this is not what Jesus promises His apostles and all whom they baptize. Rather Christ tells His apostles this “that you should not be made to stumble” (John 16:1). The new man, with the heart of flesh that beats with faith toward God, will endure under whatever cross Christ sends, because patience in affliction is a fruit of the Holy Ghost in those whom He washes with water and word.

6)         Whatever we suffer for the sake of the gospel, the loss of friends, financial loss, the loss of reputation, or even the loss of life, Christ desires that we endure it joyfully and patiently, but not of our own power. He wants us to endure patiently and joyfully, bearing our crosses, by the power of the Holy Ghost who dwells in us and was poured out on us in baptism. For Christ your Lord says, “When the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27). Christ gives you God the Holy Ghost in baptism to wash you of your sins so that you might be His. Christ sends the Holy Ghost into your hearts in baptism to remove the heart of flesh, which does not want to endure the cross, so that He might give you the heart of flesh which beats with true faith toward God and love for His Word, so that you desires to “observe all things” which Jesus has given you. The Holy Ghost testifies to you of Jesus, teaching you the gospel in the midst of cross and suffering, so that you bear up under the cross in patience and humility until God, who sent it, ends it, whether it be the suffering of sickness or the cross which follows confessing Christ before men. He gives you the Holy Ghost to teach you His gospel, to call to mind His promises, to enkindle faith in your heart so that it continues to beat with the new life He gives, in which we trust in God above all things, love our neighbors as ourselves, and endure our crosses patiently, whatever they might be. Amen.

May the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.



[1] Luther’s Small Catechism. IV. Holy Baptism. Question #4 “What does such baptism with water signify?”

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