Exaudi (Easter 7; Sunday a. the Ascension)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
May 17, 2015
Central Passage
John 15:26 - 16:4

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

We have again this year come though the birth, epiphany, passion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. And throughout it all our Lord in His mercy has taught us and kept us in the truth. Now we come again to the remembrance of what comes after the Lord’s passion and ascension. Now comes the time of the Church; that holy people made holy by the word of God and prayer. It is fitting, then, that the first readings as we come again into the time of the Church, the Trinity or Pentecost Season, teach us of the office of the Holy Spirit which is the preaching office as our Lord says of the Spirit, “He will be my witness.” “He will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

The only thing that will keep you from stumbling in the faith, that will keep you from falling away, are Jesus’ words. His words are the Spirit’s words for the Spirit takes what is Jesus’ and declares it. The Holy Spirit is the divine witness to Jesus and He witnesses to Jesus through the preaching and teaching of the Church. As the Midweek kids are taught: the Office of Preaching is the Office of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes – often times – little children who come to church confuse the pastor with Jesus. We quickly correct them of course: the pastor is not Jesus. But there is something holy here when a child looks at the pastor and sees Jesus. Does not the pastor preach Jesus? Does he not welcome those who come in the name of Jesus? Does he not forgive sins and cast out demons in the name of Jesus? Moreover, doesn’t he speak to these little lambs the words of Jesus? He does, if he is a faithful pastor.

So while certainly he is not Jesus – he is not the Son of God for our salvation – he is the messenger of the Son of God. He speaks with the authority of the Holy Spirit who bears witness to Jesus. That’s what ordination is. The preaching office is not some byproduct of an institution that needs to get the word out. It is a divinely instituted and divinely inspired office. Now, to be sure, preachers can go sideways. They themselves can stop listening to the Spirit and begin to listen to their own lives or their own experience or to the lies of the world. They can fall, too. And when a preacher falls great is the sound of it because a preacher is a teacher of the ways of God. And when he goes sideways his hearers go sideways and all are in danger. That is why we need to pray for our pastors and teachers.

So we make our preachers study the word of God. We make them learn the ancient languages and we expect them to spend hours each week in study and meditation. Because we know – we have been taught by the Spirit – that the only thing that will keep us from falling away, from stumbling in our faith are the words of Jesus. And Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to remind us of His words and to teach us in the truth.

But the number of satanic arrows that are pointed at us are innumerable. The threats against our faith are all but limitless. So we need to continue to hear the Spirit, to hear Jesus, and through Him, to hear the Father. And the only true way to do that is to continue to gather to Him.

For too long our churches have taught and believed that going to church is good but not salvific; pious but not necessary for salvation. We are right in part. If going to church is thought to be a good work whereby we please God and so earn salvation, then we are right to say it isn’t that. But we are wrong – frightfully wrong – when we say that going to church is not necessary unto salvation. Because what we are saying is that the gathering of Jesus is unnecessary. Where else, though, is baptism preached and given? Where else is the Holy Communion of God Almighty given and received? And where else are the Lord Jesus’ promises found and clung to than where His Body is?

The littlest among us know the truth. And that’s why they see Jesus in the pastor. There is God’s word for them. There is God’s promise for them. So Jesus says of them, “Let the little children come unto me for of such is the kingdom of God,” and, “Unless you have the faith of a child you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” The child isn’t concerned about whether the pastor is to their liking or not, they are only concerned that they hear Jesus. Shame on us for teaching our children that this holy gathering is not the seat of salvation on earth, that it is not Immanuel, God with us; but that we have God in us so we don’t need the God outside of us. Shame on us because that is false teaching, it’s heresy.

How tragic it is too, that when they hear Jesus and want Him, we tell them that they can’t have Him because they do not yet understand. How we should tremble when we deny to the children what the Lord of all wants them to have; what He gave His life for them to have. All the voices are raging but there is one voice that does not rage, that does not change, the voice of Jesus. “This is My Body, given for you...this cup is the new testament in My blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins…drink of it, all of you.”

The only way to keep from stumbling in the faith, to keep from falling away, is to hear Jesus by the Spirit of God. So give thanks to God that He sends His Spirit to preach to you His words. Rejoice in the Lord who gathers you to Himself to remind you of these things so that you will not fall away but will cling all the more closely to Him who is the resurrection and the life. Here the Lord makes His face shine upon you by giving you His words and His Spirit who fills you will all good things and leads you in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake; the Spirit who guides you in all truth and who is the guarantee of your inheritance with Christ Jesus, our Lord.

In Nomine Iesu