Sermon for Pentecost 2017

Peace in His Comfort. We close our series started in the first Sunday after Easter on the various means God instills peace within us. It all culminates in the coming of the Holy Spirit upon God’s people at Pentecost, fulfilling the promise of Jesus to send the Holy Spirit as our comforter. We lose our sense of peace in Jesus Christ when we seek counterfeits for comfort. In such, we will increasingly fall deeper and deeper into despair when facing troubles. Worldly comforts do not last. Jesus grants us His peace while also requiring we live in this world to proclaim His message to this world. In this proclaiming, we encounter backlash. In this reality, the comfort of the Holy Spirit helps us make it through in faith upon Christ. We do not seek comfort to receive comfort. We seek Christ and He comforts us. If we make comfort our focus, we will be disappointed every time. When Christ is our focus, He instills peace that comforts us in all situations.

Defining Comfort

            Before seeing how our passages convey the peace that God brings in His comfort, we need to define the term as it is used in the New Testament. Essentially, it means “to console, to encourage and strengthen.” As people, we do this for each other. For people though, comforting others is only to a certain point and then our weaknesses as human beings kick in and we fall short. The comfort of the Holy Spirit is perfect, bringing us peace within as we live through chaotic situations. In human terms, we fall apart. In Christ, He endured all to secure our peace and to secure our eternal comfort that means no matter what occurs to the body, we will be raised up on that last great day in glorified bodies. Yes, we experience the pain of this fallen world. It is just a tiny speck in the immensity of the comfort of an eternity in the presence of Christ. This is our comfort that brings the peace in Jesus that passes all understanding in all situations, horrible and wonderful alike.

Comfort in Belonging

            First, in our lesson from Ezekiel 11:20, we see that the Holy Spirit conveys the truth that in Jesus, we belong in His Body the Church as God's children. As verse 20 states, “And they shall be my people, and I will be heir God.”This sense of belonging enables us and encourages us to the first part of verse 20, “that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them.” Belonging is comforting. Living as becomes those that belong is comforting even though we fail periodically. It is comforting that the actions of God on our behalf, His perfect actions in Christ, determine our belonging. This instills peace.

            From our lessons today, we find three areas where God instills peaceful comfort. We see that God is on our side, willing to love us and help us as we live for Him. Ezekiel 11:19 states, “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” In Psalm 124:1-2, we read, “If it had not been the LORD who was on our side – let Israel now say – if it had not been the Lord who was on our side when the people rose up against us.” The rest of this Psalm outlines how the Lord proved to His people that He was on their side. Our status is as His to belong. In our status as His, we have the Comforter, the Holy Spirit that works within us to soften our hearts and move us from hatred to the love of God. Belonging and knowing such through the love of God is crucial. This is born out through the acts of God throughout history that proves He is on our side. This is to know that His love and faithfulness never fail.

            The second area we find comfort and peace in belonging is this from Psalm 125:2, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth forevermore.” One might wonder here and with other similar passages about this protection. There are two ways Christians have interpreted these statements from God’s Word. First, is the manner that states that no bad things can occur to God’s people IF they have enough faith, give enough money, or many other gimmicks used by false teachers. Second, the manner as outlined by Christ. This is to know that in this world, we will face attacks and unfortunate occurrences in a fallen world. This is to understand the promises of God’s protection with the background that we will suffer for the sake of God as Jesus stated several times before His Ascension. This protection is such that enables us to endure all situations in the fact that God will preserve us eternally no matter what man does to the body. Our call in faithfully living through all situations is to call upon the Lord’s gracious help to endure by responding to these realities with Christian love.

            The third area we find comfort and peace in belonging is this from Psalm 126:3, “The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.” This culminates with Jesus Christ. In order to “belong” and receive the assured peace and comfort of such belonging, Jesus did all for us that was good and right. In our sins, we cannot do anything that is good and worthy of earning the status as redeemed and saved. It is most comforting in life when someone steps in and does something good for us that is unexpected and undeserved. It humbles us. It comforts us. It brings us peace. In Christ, we experience this on the eternal level that transcends all our moments of suffering and moments of joy from a human standpoint.

Comfort in His Mighty Works

            The Lord doing good things for us brings us to our next point in how God instills peace by His comfort, through His mighty works. At the end of our lesson in Acts 11, we read, “both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians – we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” These good things are mighty things. They are mighty to the point the Holy Spirit at Pentecost indwelled the Disciples to enable them to speak in the languages of the people from all over world assembled in Jerusalem. This was a major feast day for the Jews, celebrating the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai to Moses by God, fifty days after the first Passover. In Christ with the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell His people at Pentecost, we see God writing His Law upon the hearts of His people forever. We are softened in heart to receive the Law, the fulfilled Law in Jesus Christ.

            Psalm 124:8 speaks of one area in which we have peace and comfort in His mighty works, “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” The Name of the Lord is integral in our lives. The Name of Jesus has power and dominion over all. In this wise, when we go about to live, we do all in the Name of Jesus Christ. This is why prayer is important. In prayer, we invoke the name of God to hear our prayers and to attend to our prayers. Often, we go off the rails or the narrow path of Christianity when we do things or say things in our names. This is a constant temptation we face and is one of the reasons we are often labeled as hypocrites. The point in naming the name of God for our help and all we do is to acknowledge our weakness and inability, our dire need for Jesus to save us by His mighty works. Our entire lives are marked by the work of the Holy Spirit bringing us to repentance to cling to Christ and His holy Name to save us and keep us. His Name brings comfort and peace. When facing both the good times and the bad times, we need to employ the godly practice of invoking His Name. This is not the same as using God’s name as an incantation or magical formula. This would be a form of blasphemy. Rather, calling upon the Name of the Lord in all our situations is with faithfulness, humility, reverence, and love.

            Psalm 125:5 speaks of another comfort that Jesus secured in His mighty works, “Peace be upon Israel.” This is in the context of the Lord helping us through surrounding us. As we have seen since Easter, Jesus alone brings a lasting peace that enables us to move through all times in all places in His love to His glory. Such is to confront evil in the love of Christ, in His peace. Weathering the storms of life is only possible by His peace that is upon us. The Holy Spirit continually reminds us of this peace and instills this peace.

            The mighty works of God also bring comfort in what we read in Psalm 126:1, “When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream.” Have you been in the midst of trying times where you had dreams that things would get better, or of longing for better days? Or, maybe you have been in situations where the only thoughts and dreams you had were for the very worst in outcomes? Yet, when the Lord restores us in terms of our sense of faith and peace as we go through trying times and even of lifting us out of the mire of a difficult time to better times, it is often as a very good dream. In Jesus, all that was squandered at the Fall in the Garden of Eden was restored. Most of all, this restoration was from orphaned children to fully adopted sons and daughters with eternal benefits that know no end. God the Holy Spirit nurtures us into deeper relationship and dependence upon Jesus Christ. It all centers upon Jesus and the reality of His restoration that is recalled in all our situations.

Comfort in His Love

            Lastly in our lessons today is how we are comforted and brought to peace by the love of God. Jesus said this in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” As we read earlier in Ezekiel 11, that God would remove our hearts of stone and give us a heart of flesh. The last verse of our Old Testament lesson stated that God does this to our hearts so that we may walk in His statutes, keeping His rules and obeying them. This enabling is what we celebrate today with Pentecost, the giving of the fulfilled Law in the hearts of all brought to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

            As we keep His Word by His help and grace, He gives great comfort and peace. There is much joy when we see our children choosing what is right in Christ over sinful choices. It is comforting to the child to hear simple statements such as “good job” or “thanks.” It is comforting to all of us in Christ when we have relied on God’s helping grace to withstand the temptations of sin. There is a vast difference though between comfort and peace through withstanding temptation and spiritual pride for doing what is right. Comfort and peace is humbling. Pride leads to eventual destruction.

 God knows we are weak and are in need of Him as we live in this fallen world in fallen bodies. Often, when we are afflicted by either our own actions or the sinful actions of others, we first resort to despair and trying to find solutions by our own power and might. Instead, afflictions must be viewed as occasions to cling closer to Christ in faith and obedience. We are comforted by this aspect of God’s love from John 14:18, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” The Holy Spirit calls us to repentance when afflicted by our own sins. The Holy Spirit calls us to forgive when afflicted by the sins of others. This is the call of love that Jesus has granted all of us by His Body and Blood offered for our salvation. Yes, the journey out of affliction is tough. It is only possible through staying connected to Christ as His children that belong to God through His Body the Church. This is through our worship and being present for each other in all times.

            We are comforted in the love of God in His power manifested among all peoples. This is what we read about today in our lesson from the book of Acts. Jesus instills this power through the Holy Spirit as we read in Joh14:27, “Peace I leave you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” This promise is not empty. It is continually spread throughout the earth by virtue of His reign. This peace is not as the world gives, which does not last and only seeks to satisfy physically. Jesus in the last part of verse 27 stills us and comforts us, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” This world’s peace does not calm us within. This world’s peace is always tainted by the fear of the reality that the worldly peace will end. This is not so in Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

            As we live our lives in Jesus Christ, bask in the comfort only He instills through the coming of the Holy Spirit. When life brings discomfort as it often does through telling you that you do not belong or our subpar, seek Christ in the knowledge that you are His, that you belong to God as His children. Find comfort in the fact that you belong to Him, forever. When life seeks to discomfort you through the seeming mighty works of hatred, seek Christ and His mighty by His holy Name over all that seek to discomfort you in their faith in their futile works. When the world tries to discomfort you through trying to tell you that you are not loved, seek Jesus Christ that through the Holy Spirit instills His love that passes understanding to soften our hearts to love Him through gratefully following and living by His fulfilled Law.

Let us Pray

Collect of the Week.