Exaui, the 6th Sunday after Easter + John 15:26-16:4 + May 28, 2017

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

HEAR, O || Lord, when I cry with my | voice! | - *
            Al- | le- | lu- | ia!
|| When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will | seek.” | - *
            Do not hide Your face from me. Al- | le- | lu- | ia! (Psalm 27:7a, 8-9a)
|| The Lord is my light and my sal- | va- | tion; *
            Whom | shall | I | fear?
|| The Lord is the strength of my | life; | - *
            Of whom shall I | be | a- | fraid?
|| Teach me Your way, O | Lord, | - *
            Do not deliver me to the will of my ad- | ver- | sa- | ries;
|| For false witnesses have risen a- | gainst | me, *
            And such as breathe out | vi- | o- | lence. (Psalm 27:1a, 1b, 11–12)
|| Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my | voice! | - *
            Al- | le- | lu- | ia!
|| When You said, “Seek My face,” My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will | seek.” | - *
            Do not hide Your face from me. Al- | le- | lu- | ia! (Psalm 27:7a, 8-9a)

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. 

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

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

1)         Christ makes two promises to His disciples in today’s Gospel lesson. The first is that Christ promises to send the Paraclete to His disciples. The word is translated as “Helper” in our version. Other versions translate it as “Comforter.” Both translations get at the meaning of the word. God the Holy Ghost, who proceeds from the Father, will be given to the disciples to help them and to comfort them in this world. They’ll need the Paraclete because their Lord is leaving them, in a manner of speaking. Christ must ascend to the Father to sit at His right hand and from there rule all thing visible and invisible. But this does not mean that Christ will break His promise. He had told the disciples before His ascension, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). On the night in which He was betrayed He assured them, “I will not leave you orphans” (John 14:18). Though Christ ascends into the heavens, He is with his disciples continually through His Holy Spirit, the Paraclete which He promised to send to them.
2)         Just how will the Paraclete do what His name says? The Holy Spirt is a true helper in times of temptation. When the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh want to entice us with sin and worldly pleasures, the Holy Spirit is there to help us in those moments. In temptation He helps by testifying of Christ to us. Nothing douses the flames of temptation faster than calling to mind what our Lord Jesus has endured for the sake our sins. The Holy Spirit testifies to us about what Christ suffered for our sake, for the very sins which are tempted to commit. In the moment of temptation He reminds us that Christ has united us to His death in Holy Baptism, so that we know that “our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Romans 6:6). When our flesh entices us into our favorite sins, the Holy Spirit is present to remind us that the will of God is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3), that we grow in holiness of living that “having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Romans 6:22). This is a help which the world cannot offer because the world wants to lure us into all sorts of different sins and vices. It is only the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, who helps us in the hour of temptation by testifying of Christ to us, what He has suffered for our sins and borne in His body for their sakes, and also the gifts that He gives to us by baptizing us into that death for the sins of the world. When temptation strikes in your heart, your mind, or your flesh, the Christian should turn away from the temptation and turn towards the Parclete, seeking His help since the help He gives is Christ.
3)         The Holy Spirit is also our true comforter. The comfort He offers, like the help He offers, is one that the world cannot give. The comfort He gives is the comfort of sins forgiven. All Christians have the same adversary, the Devil, who “walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). All Christians live under the Devil’s accusations, for he is “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10), who is continually bringing our sins before our eyes. The devil wants us to think on our sins at all times so that we mediate on them. He does this to drag us into either pride or despair. When the devil confronts us with our sins, pride responds by heaping up all sorts of good deeds to try to outweigh the evil we’ve done. Pride tries to silence the accusations of the devil by smothering those accusations with more and more good works.  Those that see they have no good works because “all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) go the opposite direction and despair of their sins, thinking that they are beyond salvation because of the wicked, vile things they have done time and again. The comfort that we need is not one that the world can give. Job discovered this when his three friends could not offer him any comfort or help in his suffering. He said, “Miserable comforters are you all!” (Job 16:2) because his friends only wanted to dwell upon his sins and lead him into despair of God’s mercy.
4)         In the midst of such accusations of conscience comes the Paraclete, the Comforter whom Christ promises. He comforts believers against the devil’s accusations by testifying to Christ’s work done on behalf of sinners. When the devil wants to drag up your sins so that all you can see is their great number, their vileness, and their magnitude, that is when the Holy Spirit comforts your conscience by directing your gaze away from your many wicked sins. He redirects your attention away from your own works which could never overcome your sins. He testifies to you of Christ’s death which atones for all your sins because His death atones for the sins of the whole world. The Paraclete reminds you that Christ’s merits and innocent death is the only thing you can put between God’s wrath and you whenever you feel guilty over sins present or long past. The Holy Spirit reminds you of the Gospel and urges you flee to Christ for refuge against all the devil’s accusations. When the devil accuses you of your sins and reminds you of all that you deserve because of them, the Spirit bids you flee to Jesus and plead His works and His merits, because only His merits and suffering can calm the troubled conscience. You deserve death and Hell becaue of your sins. This is most certainly true. But Christ has died to atone for the sins of the world so “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). All Christ’s merits “shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:24-25). This is the comforter the Comforter offers in such trials of soul.
5)         There is yet one more way in which the Paraclete helps and comforts us. That is in our prayers. Christ gives us the Holy Spirit when He baptizes us so that we might receive the adoption as sons, or as Paul says in Galatians 4:6, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father.’” Without the Holy Spirit we would be unable to pray because prayer takes faith. So the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts so that learn to call God “Father” and call upon Him as our dear heavenly Father in every need. The Spirit helps us to pray and disciples us so that we “be serious and watchful in our prayers” as Peter wrote in today’s epistle lesson (1 Peter 4:7b). But even then there are times when prayer escapes us and becomes difficult if not impossible. St. Paul writes, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). He helps us in prayer by reminding us pray, leading us pray, giving us the words to pray. But for those times when words fail us, the Holy Spirit helps us in our great need by interceding for us with “groanings which cannot be uttered.” So the Spirit helps us pray and calls to mind that we truly are children of God and heirs of all the heavenly blessings with Christ Jesus, the Only-Begotten Son of God. For St. Paul says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs -- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together”  (Romans 8:16-17).
6)         That last bit of Paul there, “if indeed we suffer with Him” leads us to the second promise Christ makes to us in today’s Gospel lesson, the promise of suffering and hardship for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus tells the disciples that they will be excommunicated from the synagogues and killed for the sake of their testimony about Him. Jesus promises that they will suffer with Him, for He was cast of the synagogue in Luke 4. Already in Jesus’ lifetime people were afraid to confess Christ because John tells us in John 9:22 that “the Jews had agreed already that if anyone confessed that He was Christ, he would be put out of the synagogue.” If these things happened while Christ was with them in the flesh, they would only intensify after He ascended to the Father and was physically with them no more. Just as the prophets were killed and John the Baptist was beheaded for their testimony, so all the disciples, save one, would be persecuted and eventually murdered for their confession of Christ as the crucified and risen Messiah who takes away the sins of the world. Suffering with Christ is part of being united with Christ in Holy Baptism. Being persecuted for having the pure Word of God is something that goes along with being adopted as sons of God through faith in Christ. As it was in the Old Testament, so it was true in the New, and is still true today, something is only confirmed whenever Christians are slaughtered by Muslims and when we see the Church and her Gospel abandoned and left empty. Suffering is part of being a son of God. But this is why the Paraclete is given: to help us testify to the Gospel and confess Christ no matter the outcome, and to comfort us when we suffer any hardship for the sake of Christ.
7)         Thus we see what a great gift Christ promises us today. He sends the Holy Spirit to be our Paraclete, our Helper and our Comforter in every temptation, every trial, every affliction and need. He sends the Paraclete so that in all hardships and dangers of body and soul, whatever they might be, we fix our eyes upon the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. He testifies to us daily that by faith in Christ’s merits and death our sins are forgiven. He testifies to us that we are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus and so can call God our heavenly Father and approach Him in every trial and need. He testifies to us Christ so that we endure all things for His sakes with joy, knowing we are His and He is ours no matter what the devil, the world, or the flesh does to us. Amen.

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

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