Sermon for the Sunday after the Ascension 2017

Sunday after Ascension 2017

Peace in His Triumph. In meditating on how Jesus brings us peace until Pentecost Sunday, we in this Ascension season reflect on how His triumph over sin and death has secured our eternal peace. Looking at warfare from a human standpoint, even when total victory is secured, peace is still imperfect and flawed. People still in the aftermath of the war in the so-called period of peace suffer. In Jesus Christ, His triumph brings a peace that passes all understanding. The peace of Christ secured by His victory over death is present to calm us as we live. This morning, let us see the importance of seeking Christ’s peace through His victory.

Holy in Christ

            First, by virtue of Christ’s triumph, we are declared holy or set apart as God’s children. Christ granted this to us through His work. The descriptions of God’s people in our lesson from Isaiah speak to the truth of what Jesus secured for us. Verse 2 states, “In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel.” Taking this imagery to how Jesus opened our eyes to its meaning here and in other such Old Testament passages in John 15, that He is the vine and we are the branches, we can take great peace and comfort. This ties closely with what we read in verse 3, “And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem.” We are seen as beautiful through Christ.

We expect to be treated like something that barely made it through the door. After all, this is how the Prodigal Son thought he would be received when he returned to his father. This is our propensity to think we have to earn our salvation in our sin nature. Yet, this is not the case. The case is that we are fully included as God’s people by virtue of Christ’s work. There is no doubt about our status as holy. It is not a barely get through the gates ideal. We are fully part of the vine as His dear branches that He cultivates, nurtures, and prepares for good works and good fruit bearing. Psalm 100:3 reminds us of this favor, “It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.” Further in Psalm 100:5, “For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever.” The work of Jesus was love manifested to a world that was hopeless and unable to wring itself free from the power of sin and death. Jesus did this for us, forever granting us peace in a victory only He could secure.

To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

            Second, this victory is described in I Peter 4:11, “To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Often in human wars, the results are not lasting or even secure for very long. There is always instability when a nation has been defeated. Peace is not the immediate result of hostilities. Cities destroyed by warfare have to be rebuilt and so forth. Peace takes time to take root, grow, blossom, and bear fruit.

            In Christ, we experience His peace through His eternal victory and dominion. Again, from human eyes and our limited vision, it is hard for us to see the results we think we need to see. It is because we often confuse human peace with God’s peace. In Christ, as He prophesied in our Gospel from John 16:2 we read, “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” Jesus said this in the context of telling them He would send the Holy Spirit to comfort them and instill His peace as they went forth into the hostile world to proclaim the Gospel. In our sensibilities as fallen human beings, we think this type of thing is not peaceful at all. Yet, His peace that passes all understanding stills us within as we face and confront sinful men. We do not confront sinful men in the manner sinful men face each other, sin clashing against sin. We confront sinful men with what we will examine next, the love of Christ.

            The Holy Spirit conveys this peace through the love of Christ to confront the hatred of humanity. I Peter 4:8 states, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” We love others because God first loved us. We learn and are enabled to love others with Christ’s love, without sinful conditions. Yes, this is hard. Yes, we often disappoint in this area. God’s love leads us to repentance and His forgiveness to continue forward in His triumphal love.

            Peace in the triumph of Christ is through His love that conquered sin and death, saving us, covering our multitude of sins. The call to all Christians through all situations is to keep loving each other EARNESTLY. This is in the context of dealing with sin. Sometimes, we can ignore such passages or twist them to mean that we are supposed to love only those easy to love earnestly. In such, we act in sin by withholding love from fellow Christians. We must ask ourselves this question, “do I love in the love of Christ to deal with sin or am I acting hatefully in dealing with sin?” When we act in hatred, we no longer act in the triumph of Jesus and therefore reject His peace.

            Now, if some want to try to dismiss Peter’s words here as maybe an oddity that does not fit with the rest of Scripture in how to act with fellow Christians, we should turn to the words of two other Apostles on the same subject. St. Paul in I Corinthians 13:4-6 wrote, “[4] Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant [5] or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; [6] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.” When we treat others with contempt instead of earnest love to cover a multitude of sins; we act rudely, we insist on our own way, we act irritably, we act resentfully, and we rejoice in the wrongdoing of others. This is not love. This is not peace.

            St. James provides us with another passage, giving us three different testimonies about the love that the triumph of Christ instills in us to confront sin with His loving peace. James 5:20 states, “[20] let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” This patient work is an act of love. It is only through the Holy Spirit working within us that enables us to lead a sinner from their sin back to the life and peaceful triumph of Christ’s forgiveness and reconciliation.

            The love of Christ that goes contrary to all our sin-laden theories and solutions to problems gently drives us to serving each other as we see in I Peter 4:9-10, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Grumbling is to complain in serving people that we think do not deserve our love and help. Grumbling is contrary to love and peace. The triumph of Jesus, having dominion forever and ever; slowly softens our hearts away from the hardness of hatred, grumbling, irritability, resentment, insisting on our own way, and so forth that seeks to ruin peace. Our lives in Christ are a constant move closer and closer to His love and peace, submitting a little more everyday to His dominion; tossing out and confessing our sins of self-autonomy.

The Helper

            Lastly, Jesus promised the helper or the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to come guide us and bear witness about Jesus. In such, our lives are constantly confronted with what Jesus accomplished for us in His triumph over sin and death. This work of the Holy Spirit brings the help and comfort we need to restore Christ’s peace in our lives. Human understanding is tainted with list keeping and the false thought that the work of Jesus is limited to only a certain extent within us to the point we have to pull our weight to do the rest. This is false. This breeds an attitude that justifies treating other Christians with contempt. Jesus accomplished it all for us.

            The Holy Spirit helps us to understand this through reminders, through convicting us when we stray towards self-righteousness, and through answering all our acts of sin with the love of God to bring us to repent and to re-hear the wonderful message of our forgiveness and reconciliation to God.

            The Helper aids us to remind us Jesus mediates for us and intercedes for us continuously. We doubt this peace when we seek others to mediate for us before God, ignoring the truth of Scripture that Christ alone mediates for us before God. I Timothy 2:5 states, “[5] For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” The Helper renews our peace daily as He guides us in all truth, closer and closer to Christ.

            The Helper aids us in the proper reminder of bearing witness to us of the triumph Jesus secured at the Cross-, in His resurrection, and in His ascension. These ground us in Christ. Those that try to sow denial of what Jesus accomplished are akin to those that try to teach and convince people that the holocaust did not occur during World War II. We have firsthand accounts, artifacts, pictures, and reel footage as reminders that such denials are false. Further, museums of remembrance can be found all over the world that bear witness to what happened. Many bear witness to the falsity of denying these events happened.

            As Christians, we face deniers of the finished work, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ from all quarters as well. They constantly seek ways to sow doubt into our minds and hearts of the truthfulness of His triumph. Sometimes, it occurs through trying to hide or cover up even the existence of our need for salvation by denying that sin exists or is a threat. Denying that His work occurred is meant to sow a feeling of insecurity, driving peace away in favor of the pride of humanity. It is nothing new. In our sin, we would rather deny things like the holocaust occurred so that we can feel prideful about our false sense of goodness, our false sense that we do not need the triumph of Jesus. Yet, we cannot hide from the fact of our sinfulness and abject hatred that causes atrocities such as the Holocaust. The Holy Spirit bears witness even on the small scale of our lives to reveal where we need forgiveness for our sins. The more we deny our need for forgiveness and the triumph of Jesus, the more we will dive into war and destruction, both on the small personal scale and the large scale. Denying that we have a problem with rebellious sin is a recipe for more Holocausts and wars to occur on both the small scale and the large scale.

            We need Christ and His triumph to instill His peace as we face this world. The world wants us to believe we are holy and good without God. We fail at this miserably. The true freedom and peace comes in accepting and submitting to His holiness and triumph that in turn means we are His holy people in His eternal love. The world wants us to believe that it has dominion. We see this fail every day. True dominion is in Christ eternally.  Christ’s dominion converts the hearts of the cruelest of men such as Paul to become loving ambassadors for Christ. The world wants us to believe that we can help ourselves. In such, we find failure instead of success every single time. Instead, true help and comfort come from outside ourselves and is given freely through the Holy Spirit by virtue of the triumph of Jesus that stills and calms our bodies and souls to His glory. Let us pray.

 O GOD, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven; We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.