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Sermon for May 25, 2014

John 14:15-21 (Sixth Sunday of Easter—Series A)

“I Need Help”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

May 25, 2014

 

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

 

Our text is the Gospel Lesson recorded in John 14:

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

 

            Over the years I’ve come to discover that one of the most special things a child can say to a parent is, “I need help.” It is special to me, although I freely admit that I don’t always appreciate it at the time, when Aaron or Kierstin comes to me and says, “Daddy, I need help.” As a parent is called on to help their child, the parent then becomes for their son or daughter their advocate and their champion, the one called to stand beside their child in support. You become one whose guidance and support your children can rely on.

            We see this happen all the time. As parents we help with homework. We guide our children through their questions and struggles as they grow up. We are the ones who stand up for our kids and champion their activities and accomplishments. We are our children’s advocates and helpers. That is our vocation as Christian parents.

            But even as adults, we are still children, children of our heavenly Father. And one of a child’s greatest fears is that he or she will be left alone. They are afraid that they will be orphaned without an advocate and helper. As this is true for our children, it is also true for each one of us as children of God. You and I do worry that God might leave us as orphans. We do become afraid that the Lord might abandon us and fail to be our helper in our time of need. And haven’t we said as much? Haven’t we believed it to be so? “God, where are You? God, I can’t find You! God, I feel so alone and helpless!”

            This has been the case of God’s children for centuries. Consider the psalms of lament in the Old Testament. In Psalm 10, David writes by the power of the Holy Spirit, “LORD, why do You stand so far away? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1 CSB) David writes in Psalm 22, which Jesus Himself quotes on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” (Psalm 22:1 ESV)

            And we can so relate. We know by faith that we are God’s children. He adopted us into His family and put His own name on us in Baptism. We have His promise, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1 ESV) We have His guarantee, “I am with you always,” and “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5) Yet what we know by faith we do not always experience with our senses. We become overwhelmed by the changes and chances of this life. The brokenness of sin takes its toll on us through disease, worry, grief, loneliness, fear, depression, and anxiety. In guilt we feel the separation from God because of the brokenness of our sins and our wilful rebellion against His commandments. We reach for and strive to get to God by our own means, as Paul told the men of Athens, “in hopes that they might feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet He is actually not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17:27 ESV) But our means fall short. We come to believe ourselves abandoned, orphaned, and lost.

            In the confusion of the Upper Room on the night when Jesus was betrayed, I imagine that this was how the disciples were feeling. Jesus said He was going away and where He was going they could not follow. He promised that He would not leave His disciples as orphans, and yet, He was arrested, tried, and crucified. Following His death and resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven and was no longer with them in the way that they were accustomed. From that night on, for these disciples, everything was changed. Is it any wonder that they stood gawking up into heaven when Christ ascended, not knowing where to go or what to do now? They probably felt abandoned, orphaned. “Now what do we do?” “Jesus, where are you? Jesus, I feel so alone and helpless.”

            In those moments when we are wondering where God is in the midst of life and when we feel totally alone, abandoned, and helpless, we turn our hearts and minds to the great promise of Jesus in our text. For this is our Gospel comfort and assurance, “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Helper so that He should be with you forever, the Spirit of Truth.” If there is to be “another” Helper, there must first already have been a Helper. And there was—Jesus Christ. Jesus had been the disciples’ Helper and Advocate on earth. While He was with them He had been their champion, One whose guidance and support they could rely on. But once Jesus accomplished the great saving work of His cross and resurrection, Christ would return to heaven in order to prepare a place for His people, promising to come again to take us to be with Him where He is. Another Advocate and Helper, the Holy Spirit, would then be given to the disciples to be with them permanently. The Holy Spirit would be available to the disciples, and in a way, compensate them for the loss of Jesus’ visible presence, but at the same time, actually bringing Jesus closer to the disciples than ever before. In the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, Christ would not only be with them, but also in them.

            Is not this great comfort and consolation for you and me when we feel as if God is nowhere to be found? According to the riches of God’s glory He strengthens you with power through His Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. (Eph. 3:16-17 ESV) You and I who have received the gift of faith in Jesus through the Holy Spirit are therefore never without Jesus. Because our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, so Christ also dwells in us by the same Spirit of Truth. As Christ Himself assures us in His Word today, “I will not leave you as orphans. I am coming to you.” How does Christ come to us? In the gift of the Holy Spirit.

            And the gift of the Spirit has been given to you in Holy Baptism. God the Holy Spirit used the means of water and the Gospel Word to create faith in your hearts. It is that faith that receives what Christ Jesus won for you on the cross—forgiveness of sins. It is that faith which receives from Christ Jesus what His resurrection merited for you—rescue from death and the devil, eternal salvation. Jesus’ resurrection life guarantees our unending life with Him who, by faith, is united to us through the Holy Spirit. As we confess in the Creed, the Holy Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life. He draws us to Christ by faith and brings Christ to dwell with us delivering to us His gifts of forgiveness and everlasting life.  

            Truly, the believer in Christ as Lord and Savior is never separated from Him. While Jesus is not among us physically as He was with the first disciples, Jesus is with us, even more closely, through the power and grace of God the Holy Spirit. For where the Spirit is, there is Christ. Romans 8:10-11, “But if Christ is in you . . . the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” (ESV) This means that our very bodies are members of Christ! (1 Cor. 6:15) So we read in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20 ESV) As Martin Luther would so aptly explain it in his commentary on Galatians, “But faith must be taught correctly, namely, that by [faith] you are so cemented to Christ that He and you are as one person, which cannot be separated but remains attached to Him forever and declares: “I am as Christ.” And Christ, in turn, says: “I am as that sinner who is attached to Me, and I to him. For by faith we are joined together into one flesh and one bone.” Thus Eph. 5:30 says: ‘We are members of the body of Christ, of His flesh and of His bones,’ in such a way that this faith couples Christ and me more intimately than a husband is coupled to his wife.”[1]

            This is the blessed work of our other Helper, the Holy Spirit. By faith He united us with Christ and Christ with us. Thus Jesus can absolutely guarantee, “I am with you always.” The Lord can unequivocally assure us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” By the power of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, Christ also dwells in us and we in Him, and so He is never far away from you and me at all. In Christ we do live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)  

            One of the most special things we ask of our heavenly Father is, “I need help.” And long before that prayer was ever in our minds or on our lips, it was answered. The Father sent Jesus His Son to suffer for our sins, to die our death, and to rise again guaranteeing our forgiveness and resurrection life with Him. He sent us the Holy Spirit, another Helper, to bring Christ to us by faith, along with the gifts of Christ, which we receive through Gospel Word and Sacrament—forgiveness and life. We have a Helper always with us through the Spirit, our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Let this be your confidence and assurance always—Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1:27) Amen.  

 

[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 26 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 168–169.


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