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With Us Always

Sermon 1862 John 14.15-21 May 14, 2023

Come, meet the risen Christ. Think of that in these Sundays after Easter. Work on that in these Sundays after Easter.

I spent twenty-one years of my life in school. And another three teaching in a school. Sixteen of those years I attended school “away” from my hometown. So this time of year was not a good one for me. It meant I either wasn’t going to see my friends for three months or we were going our separate ways for good. Mid-May would start to look lonely.

I think the disciples were starting to feel a little bit lonely as they listened to Jesus on the night he was betrayed. John tells us Jesus knew his time had come to leave the world. He gave them examples to follow for the rest of their lives. He repeatedly told them he was going to be crucified. They would go on and do the miracles he had been doing. Things were going to change. They needed assurance. Jesus gives his lonely disciples and us the assurance we need.

With Us Always

1. The Spirit of truth (15-17).

2. The Lord of love (18-21).

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you (15-17).”

The world does not see the Spirit of truth, that other counselor. Later Jesus will say the world will not see Jesus, either, but the disciples will see him. And, for that matter, the disciples know the Spirit of truth.

Seeing, knowing—that’s faith. Luther used that image to explain the Holy Spirit’s work. “He has enlightened me with his gifts.” The Spirit makes us see.

By nature we don’t see. By nature we don’t want to see. The sinful nature in us wants to convince us that we look pretty good, certainly good enough for God. Cain thought he was doing good offering his crops to God, though his murderous heart was far from God. Caiaphas thought he was a good person all the while he was conspiring to kill Jesus. The Greeks the Apostle Paul preached to thought they could see things clearly when it came to spiritual matters. They fancied themselves open minded until Paul mentions the resurrection of the dead. Then they lost interest.

We play the same game. Look how we judge others. We can see their flaws and warts and wrinkles. Tsk. Tsk. But we cannot see the same moral imperfections in our lives. “Oh to forgive others as quickly as we forgive ourselves!”

The Holy Spirit makes us see. He gives us faith through the Gospel, the truth. The Holy Spirit makes us see the truth, he gives us the truth. That’s what Jesus said.

That same Holy Spirit is with us throughout our lives. He opens the Scriptures to us. He uses those Scriptures to empower and inspire us. A counselor advises and moves us in the direction we need to go. So every good thought we have, every good word we’ve spoken, the Holy Spirit has been behind it. Every time we pulled up short when our sinful human nature wanted to drive us over the cliff, the Holy Spirit was right there, tugging at our sleeve. He is not flashy. He does not call attention to himself. The Holy Spirit is too busy for that. But every moment of every day he is working on us, influencing us. The Holy Spirit is the steady wind in our sails. We’re going to cover a lot of ground because he is always with us.

With us always. The Spirit of truth. There’s a difference between having high school yearbook memories and having those high school friends continuing on as friends for life. No matter how far apart you’ve moved, you make time to see them. A February golf weekend in Arizona. Getting the families together for a Rocky Mountain vacation. Your friendships keep growing as you share new experiences, ideas and points of view. Faith is not a high school yearbook memory. Oh, look! There’s a picture of me at my baptism. I wonder whatever happened to Jesus. Oh, that’s funny! That’s when we all used to believe in God. Almost as sad trying to face today’s adult life problems with your six year old faith.

The Holy Spirit is always with us. He keeps our faith growing. He makes the good times better. He casts problems in a new light, God’s light, so we can find a solution different than, “try the same old thing once again.” He refreshes us.

With us always. The Spirit of truth. With us always. The Lord of love.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you (18-20).”

We often think of the Last Day when we hear Jesus’ words about not leaving us as orphans. But that idea twists his words. He spoke of the Last Day a few verses (John 14.3) prior to these words. Jesus is not senile. He doesn’t waste time repeating himself. He is talking about his Easter resurrection and his “with you always to the very end of the age” presence. Even unbelievers will see Jesus on the Last Day, but only his believers, you and me, see him now. We see him with the eyes of faith in the pages of Scripture, the “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and by believing you may have life in his name” words. That’s why we live. Jesus rose from the dead. He is alive forevermore. We live because Jesus has given us unending spiritual life. As part of our saving faith, we know and believe in the one, true God, the God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit God, our Triune God. This is eternal life.

Unlike a teary-eyed preschooler who thinks Mom has forgotten him and will never come to get him when it is but ten minutes past the closing bell at school, we don’t have to wait for Jesus to come get us. He is always with us.

This makes sense when we look at the simple words of Jesus. He is talking about the here and now. Our Lord of love is always with us. But how do we know this isn’t just talk or empty promises? After all, as parents we said all sorts of things to our sick or frightened children to get them through the next hour or the night. They’d forget it all when they woke up in the morning. Jesus shows he isn’t a conniving do-anything-to-get-the-kid-asleep parent.

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him (21).”

Love. Love is the mark of a believer. Love is the sign that the Father and the Son dwell in the hearts of believers. Love.

We are not talking about the world’s type of love, the “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” transactional love. This is a one-sided love, an unconditional love. As everything so wonderful, it shows in the smallest of ways. Take coming to church, for instance. We are happy to see each other here. Oh, there’s lots of differences. But those do not matter. We’ve had little ones when they first got to church view the pews at high jump standards. They got the idea of what to do at church after a few times. We’ve got a hymn, Earth and All Stars that talks about “loud praying members.” Not a one of us would object to someone who is a little louder than the others—and I thank you for it. I was born with an outdoor voice and you have never asked me to tone it down in my praying or in my singing all these years. And if you put up with someone like me up front I know you rejoice to have others carry the tune and join in the prayers and liturgy from the pews. Love. Love moves us to volunteer for the nursery so young mothers are not basically “unchurched” because they are distracted during the sermon by fidgety toddlers. Love moves us to become council members and leaders in the church, even though it will inconvenience us and take up some of our time. Love makes our guts hurt when we hear of a teenager in a car accident. Love makes a tear flow when we hear of a member who has been promoted to eternal life. Love doesn’t regard our age. Love doesn’t judge our clothes or sniff at our perfume.

We love. That’s the way Jesus has made us. We love. That’s a sure everyday sign that the Lord of love lives in us and rules our hearts. Of course he is

With Us Always

1. The Spirit of truth (15-17).

2. The Lord of love (18-21).

I don’t feel lonely in May any more. I’ve grown. You, like me, have our God with us always. May has become for us a springboard month to greater things.

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