In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
We have wrath. People have wronged us. For some it has been in small ways. Slights to your ego, yourself, your wife or husband, your kids, or your work. For some it has been bigger things. Your parents have abused you with words, violence, substances, or sexually. Spouses have been unfaithful. Children have been molested. We are righteously angry. We do not know if we can forgive them. That is sin on our part. We know and pray: forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. How can you expect God to forgive you your sins if you will not forgive others? We hate those who have hurt us or our loved ones. We even wish harm on them. Maybe you even wish eternal damnation on them. Repent.
For though you have not the strength to forgive Christ your mighty saviour has poured out Himself to forgive ALL. Even you, and they, and all moral filth, excessive wrath and wickedness ever done has been forgiven by Him. Even Hitler’s sins are atoned for by your God.
That is what your Saviour did when He went to heaven the first time at His death. He poured His life blood on the heavenly altar. He plunged the flaming sword of God’s wrath against sin that keeps you from the paradise of God’s unbroken presence quenching it’s wrath, fire, and fury. Ssssssssssss. It sizzles. His own flesh and blood put out the flame and opened the gates to paradise.
Having satisfied God’s righteous anger over wickedness, He put to death sin in Himself. And then He came back alive to proclaim sin and death are over! The Snake’s head is crushed. The Saviour’s death but a flesh wound. Not a deadly Achilles heal, but a simple, easily recoverable scratch. Though you are born steeped in death; though your instincts are all wrong and heap more death upon yourself, in Christ, through your baptism into His death and victory over sin you too have life! For Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
He stayed on earth just long enough. Just 40 days to warn, to train, to implant the Word of truth in His apostles. And then He ascended back to heaven. 10 days later He sent His Holy Spirit. That is what He is doing in heaven now: He is sending His Holy Spirit everywhere through His Word, through His people speaking His Word into the world, guiding, and directing His work. Working through this quiet, unseen member of the Trinity who hides Himself in simple things like bread, water, and words.
The Holy Spirit comes to earth through those three means of salvation: the Word and the two Sacraments. He convicts, accuses, exposes what is true to the world about three things: sin, justification, and judgement.
That is Christ’s work in heaven now. To guide the Holy Spirit to work in the hearts of individuals everywhere the conviction of sin, justification, and judgement. This is the Holy Spirt’s threefold work.
He must convict the world of sin because all people sin. All are under the curse of sin. How can you help anyone if they are blind to their problem? This is why the world is so awful. This We live in the valley of the shadow of death. Even when things are awesome the world is dominated by the fear of death. It manifests in our lack of satisfaction which is a mark of everyone everywhere. Who is satisfied with what they have, where they are, the relationships they have, the time they have? Who does not have regrets over lost opportunities, wasted time, etc.? It does not help anyone to dwell endlessly on those regrets. But to deny you have any is just foolish. It is not reality. Reality is: we have all messed up. We have all done things we wish we could have done better. We have flat out sinned, failed, done what is wicked.
Yet our loving God is so gracious that He has worked good even out of your sins. Therefore, it is hard to look back and imagine things differently. Sometimes we do not even want things to be different because we know and thank God for the blessings He has worked even through your mistakes. But to not own up and call them what they are is just foolishness. To recognize God’s blessings even in the midst of our sin is wisdom and faith.
So the Holy Spirit convicts all who will hear of their sin. He does this because you can not believe in your Saviour till you recognize your own need. Once you realize you are a sinner Jesus’ death in your place is the only answer and His victory over death is your joy. Once the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin through some good Christian person speaking God’s condemning law to you and you are convicted of your miserable state as a sinner then God can give you faith in His Son who saves.
Once you know you are sinner then the Holy Spirit, through some good Christian person speaking of the Divine Saviour, works conviction in your heart of the fact that God is for you and not against you . That God’s righteous wrath against sin is gone. Quenched. The fire put out by the blood of Jesus. With Jesus gone back to heaven, and His eyewitnesses having died, some divine power needs to work faith in our hearts. For you and I are flesh and blood. We are people made of earth. We are sensible, with our feet on the ground, often with our noses to the grindstone, or our eyes distracted by something that we are seeing. That is why we have to taste and see for ourselves. With Him in heaven how can we believe in what He did? The Holy Spirit must work it in our hearts. So His work up there is to send the Holy Spirit, through His three means of salvation, to defeat our natural skepticism and create saving faith in our hearts.
Once that faith is born in us by the Holy Spirit then the Spirit convinces us that Satan is judged. This means that you need not live in fear. For if God is for us, who can be against us? Death is defeated. Life is won. The Church on earth even though we are outwardly wasting away, yet in Christ, through His Holy Spirit we are more than conquerors!
While the world goes to hell in a handbasket the Church’s job is not to reform the world. Not to save it so it can merely die another day. Not to make it better. That is not the Church’s job. If our society stops being Christian, if no one believes here in Canada, if our leaders are pagans, so what? This too shall pass. The world has always been dying. It has always been on verge of extinction. It has always been in crisis. There have always been wars and rumors of wars. There have always been great cataclysms wiping out the masses. It is only God’s mercy that keeps world from obliterating itself.
The Church’s job is the midst of this is not to stop these things or make people wise up and act better. The Church’s job is to proclaim Christ crucified for sinners. So they may be convicted of their sin, receive saving faith which gives them Christ’s righteousness, and assured of Satan’s defeat. The Church is always on sure ground even when steeples are falling, even when congregations are dying, for Christ is our cornerstone, and on this rock of faith the gates of hell shall not prevail against us.
Yet, the Gospel is like a refreshing rain shower. It is here for a time. It brings life to those who receive it. And if none do, if none in faith cherish it, so that the Holy Spirit causes the living waters of conviction to well up within them, it moves on. The rain showers do not stay. Congregations come and go. But the Holy Spirit will remain. The Word of Truth endures. This faith He imparts will continue till Christ comes again. The Holy Spirit is just making known what Jesus is declaring in heaven. For where did the Spirit get this news? From Jesus! Who got it from Father. The Triune God has declared sin vanquished. Christ’s righteousness is given to those who believe. Satan is defeated and judged. That is what the Holy Spirit does in you. He convinces you it is true. He prompts you to live like it is true.
This means that as faith blossoms and blooms in you wrath gets put away from you. Forgiveness soothes your soul. You grow in maturity. You become a seeker of the truth for the truth that Heaven declares has come to you. It has changed you. Matured you. Given you ears to hear. You have heard it, believed it, been convinced by it. So you want to listen to what others are saying around you. You want hear their hurts, and speak to them the only words that can heal their hearts. Not in anger against the foolishness and wickedness of the world, but in love for them. For this is what the Holy Spirit works in us through Christ’s saving cross.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON