Pastor Hopkins preached this sermon on the seventh Sunday of Easter, 5/24/2020. The service was broadcast live on Facebook at 9am, and is now available on the FLC youtube channel. To follow along from home, the bulletin is available as a PDF: Exaudi Easter7 Bulletin
The texts for the sermon were the lessons for the day. To read the Bible texts for the seventh Sunday of Easter, click here.
On Easter Sunday, the great day of Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead, the disciples hid in the upper room, where they were waiting. The thing is, however, that they had no idea what they were waiting for.
Their grief had paralyzed them. They expected no good news. Certainly, they did not expect to receive Jesus back again, alive and victorious. And so, they were just waiting to see what terrible thing would happen next.
Then, that very night, and for 40 full days afterward, Jesus came to them. The resurrected Christ ate with them and drank with them and stayed with them. He appeared to over five hundred (1 Corinthians 15:6), but He treated His disciples like family.
Then, three days ago, 40 days after His Resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven. If you were here Thursday night, you know what this means: that the Ascension does not mark Jesus’ absence, but Jesus’ transcendent and thorough presence as the Head of His Body, the Church (Ephesians 1).
Now, the disciples are waiting again. But this time things are different. This time they are not waiting in despair. This time they are waiting in faith. This time they are waiting with trust in Christ.
As they wait, the disciples are meditating on all Jesus has told them. They are remembering how He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures – everything written about him by Moses, the Prophets, and in the Psalms.
Now, in the light of Christ, they understand what the Prophet Ezekiel was talking about. God said through His prophet that He would give them a new heart, and that He would put a new spirit within them.
This is precisely what Jesus promised to them before His crucifixion: that He would send to them the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth; and then that they would be His witnesses, His martyrs.
What Jesus promised them, and what they are waiting for, is Pentecost.
They are waiting in faith for that day when God fulfilled His promise, as He poured out His Holy Spirit on the Church.
On that day, on Pentecost, they will go out into the world as Jesus’ witnesses. And what will they say? They will bear witness with the Holy Spirit to the Truth.
They will not bear witness to a perspective or an opinion. They will not bear witness to a philosophy or an idea. They will bear witness by the Holy Spirit to the One Truth:
That Jesus is for you and not against you. That He went willingly to the cross, to suffer and die in your place; to redeem you, to purchase you with His own Blood; to bring you home.
Jesus has fulfilled all the promises of God. He has cast aside your heart of stone like the pebble that sat over the entrance to his tomb. He has taken you from your own land, and brought you into His Kingdom.
He has spoken to you, and given you His Holy Spirit, that you believe in Him and trust Him. He has sprinkled clean water on you in Holy Baptism, and made you clean where it matters.
No idols or false gods can have you. You have been placed in a new land: the Kingdom of God and His Christ.
On account of Jesus’ sacrifice, you are redeemed, your salvation is accomplished, completed, and assured. There is nothing and no one who can take it away.
But they will try. Jesus tells the disciples what to expect after His Ascension and after Pentecost. Those who do not know God and who do not love God will persecute you. There are even those who will try to kill you.
Jesus does not tell them this so that they can avoid it. He tells them so that they will expect it and prepare for it. Jesus does not want persecution to catch them by surprise.
This is also what St. Peter reminds the Church of in today’s Epistle. He says to expect trials and persecutions. The relative freedom and peace that the Church has enjoyed in the West is an anomaly. It will not last forever. The recent, inconvenient oversteps by government are not persecution. At least, I sincerely doubt that the early Church would have recognized them as persecution.
Regardless, when the freedoms we’ve had run out, and real trial comes, rejoice. Rejoice and be glad that you can share in the sufferings of Christ. And don’t be surprised when greater good comes to the world from your suffering than from your comfort.
Of course, it may very well be that it never comes to that in your lifetime. So, what does waiting in faith look like for you? What does daily martyrdom look like?
It looks like being self-controlled and sober-minded. Don’t let sin hinder your prayers. Don’t let your sin hinder the prayers of others either. What are people to think of God when His people practice no restraint or patience or reason?
Waiting in faith looks like loving one-another. It looks like loving your neighbor who knows not the Lord Jesus, or who loves Him not. It looks like being hospitable, welcoming strangers, and showing mercy. Love does not insist on its own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
The world will not be impressed with any of the above. But in all of this, God is still glorified.
Remember that you will continue to struggle with sin. Your prayers will falter. You will become anxious and worried for all sorts of reasons. Your love for others will fail.
So, waiting in faith must always mean receiving forgiveness from God. It means confessing your sins and receiving Holy Absolution. It means being daily returned to your Baptism, where you were made children of God. It means hearing God’s promises fulfilled in Jesus, and receiving His Holy Spirit continually, so that you never fall away. For those who are prepared, it means receiving Jesus’ Body and Blood in His Holy Supper, where your sins are again forgiven, and you are strengthened for your life of pilgrimage.
This is not your own work or accomplishment. It is the work of God in Christ by the Holy Spirit for you.
Now may the God of Peace Himself sanctify you completely,
And may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ,
He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24