May 15, 2016 – John 14:23-31 – “Keep Christ’s Word”

Keep Christ’s Word

 

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

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

A Name For Ourselves

 

“Now the whole world had one language and the same words.” That’s the way today’s Old Testament reading begins. It’s the story we call the Tower of Babel. A group of people had gathered together to, in their own words, “Build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens.”

 

For many people this story is just a myth designed to explain why we have so many different languages. For you and me, these words from Genesis are the words of God himself. With these words, the Lord is teaching us about himself and about fallen human beings.

 

The center of the story is found in these words, “Let us make a name for ourselves.”   Their purpose in building a city was not primarily to have a place to live.  They wanted to be famous for THEIR OWN accomplishments. It was all about them wanting to be praised by the world.

 

In these people we see a reflection of ourselves. We too are people with sinful pride. We love to be praised and honored for what we claim we have accomplished on our own. If we thank God for our talents it is often thanking him for making us better, smarter, stronger, and wiser than others.

 

Only The Beginning

 

“And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do.”” It was only the beginning of where their sinful pride would lead them. What would they build next so that they could call themselves great?

 

Would they build a camp where they would eliminate those who were not like them? Would they build churches where men would marry men and women marry women? Would they build an operating room with a sign, “We believe in pro choice at all costs?”

The Lord confused their languages so that at least that group of people would be slowed down in their pursuit of glorifying themselves. This story is a warning to us about our sinful pride, about our pursuit of greatness, about our worshiping what we think we have accomplished on our own.

 

The Tower of Babel is a reminder to you and me that our sinful nature wants to exclude God from our plans and from our lives. We are not all about honoring God’s name and keeping it holy. We are about making a name for ourselves.

 

Pentecost

 

One day something very different happened. It was not the work of man, nothing done by his hands or through his will. “One day a group of men were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

 

Through the Holy Spirit, this group of men preached a message of good news to people from every nation. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, these men told this good news to people in their own languages. God was declaring good news to those who are guilty of sinful pride and wanting to make a name for themselves.

 

Peter and the other apostles began their witness of what they had seen and heard. The good news of course is all about Jesus Christ. The Son of God came down from heaven and took upon himself flesh and blood. He did this not to make a name for himself but to provide a name by which all men, women, and children can be saved.

 

The Good News

 

When we hear the story of the Tower of Babel we are troubled and afraid because it is our story. We do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. We fear that others will be liked more than us, respected more that us. We fear that we will not have the things that we think will make us happy.

 

We love ourselves first and foremost. We may help others from time to time but when the rubber hits the road it is our own needs that come first. We trust in ourselves to provide our daily needs. Yes, the people in Genesis are the people gathered here today wanting to make a name for ourselves. God’s word tells us to repent.

 

We give thanks to God, however, that we are also the people in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is here visiting us with the same good news that the apostles delivered to the crowd gather on that day years ago.

 

This whole building, this whole worship service is all about the good news of Jesus Christ for you. It is about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, taking your place. It is about him living, suffering, dying, and rising in your place.

 

Jesus did not come seeking glory for himself. He came to show God’s glory, God’s love, in a way that the world does not understand. The glory of God, God’s love is shown to you when you see Jesus hanging on the cross, covered with blood, suffering, and dying for you.

 

Jesus did not come to be served but to serve you. He came to take upon himself your sinful pride, your desire to make a name for yourself, your inclination to fear, love, and trust in yourself above all things.

 

Jesus took upon himself your sins, suffering and dying the punishment you deserve. He gives you peace, not as the world gives peace, but peace from knowing that your sins are forgiven and that you are reconciled with God.

 

Today and each day he says to you, “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Your sins are forgiven, not because of any merit or worthiness in you, but because the Father gave his son for you and the Son laid down his life for you.

 

It is a free gift to you from God’s grace. “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved [you], even when [you] were dead in [your] sins, made [you] alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.”

 

What About Keeping?

 

This is the message that the Holy Spirit proclaimed through the apostles on the day of Pentecost. This is the message that the Holy Spirit proclaims to you through the Word and Sacraments that God gives to you, members of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.

 

Each week I pray that the Holy Spirit guide and direct my words and actions so that they clearly proclaim to you the good news of Jesus Christ, the message of forgiveness and salvation as a gift from God’s grace.

 

Each week I pray that the Holy Spirit would strengthen your faith so that the words of Jesus are not drowned out by the words of the world or your own pride-filled interpretation of God’s word.

 

Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.” This is our Savior’s gracious call to keep his word, to hold on to his word, his message of Good News. He is not tell us that our salvation depends on our keeping or obeying the law. This would be a contradiction of the good news that we are saved by grace.

 

If you have a treasured piece of jewelry, you keep it, you hold on to it. If you have memories of a loved one, you keep them, you hold on to them. If a Roman soldier was told to keep a prisoner, it meant that he was to hold on to that prisoner as if the soldier’s very life depended on it.

 

Jesus wants you to keep his word, to believe it, to hold on to it as if your very life depended on it. He sends you his Holy Spirit so that your grip on the good news is strengthened. Whenever you hear the word of God, the Holy Spirit is working in your heart to strengthen your faith.

 

When you hear God’s law, it is meant to convict you, to acknowledge that you are a sinner. It is meant to have you seek God’s mercy because you know that without it you are lost and condemned.

 

Whenever you remember your baptism, the Holy Spirit works in your heart and mind, so that you believe that God has washed away your sins. Whenever Jesus gives you his very body and blood the Holy Spirit is there saying that it is through the sacrifice of Jesus that your sins are forgiven.

 

In The Name of Jesus

 

You are forgiven. A new name has been placed on you, the name of Jesus. He did not come to make a name for himself but to serve you and free you from your sin. Through him, by the power of the Holy Spirit, your concern is not making a name for yourself but serving those who need the love of Jesus shared with them.

 

In the name of Jesus your sins are forgiven, in the name of Jesus you are freed to love and serve. Go in peace, let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Hold on to the good news that your are a forgiven child of the heavenly Father.

 

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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