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Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A

262017884xGMKlo_phThe Spirit of Truth

We live in a pluralist society. It is becoming ever more difficult to talk about our Christian faith. Persecutions of Christians are on the rise, even in America. Moreover, there are alternative messages to the Gospel that spew out on the airways and over the internet. False doctrines have supplanted Biblical truths. Deception, misinformation, disinformation, and down right lies are the order of the day. Some might even say psyops, brainwashing, and group think. Satan has taken over the culture of today.

We are living in a very dark time indeed. Who is telling the truth? What is truth? People are begging for the truth, rather they realize it or not. That is where Christian comes in. Are we prepared to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

The Apostle Peter laid down this challenge:

Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.   (1 Peter 3:15-16)

God has done great things for us. Will we boldly share with others what he has done? The psalmist wrote:

Come and listen, all you who fear God,
and I will tell you what he has done for me.

I called out to him with my mouth,
and his praise was on my tongue.   (Psalm 66:14-15)

If we are to give witness to the Christian way of life, then we must be living the Christian way of life. We must be different from the world. This is no time for shallow or nominal Christians. We must be walking with Jesus on a daily basis. We cannot truly witness the Christian faith without his help. The good news is that he has promised to help us. We read in today’s Gospel:

Jesus said, ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.   (John 14:15-17)

Jesus has given us supernatural help by way of the Parakletos, which is a Greek word often translated as “helper.” The Holy Spirit is our helper and guide who leads us to the truth. He is the Spirit of Aletheia, in the Greek, which means standing against corrupt opinions and precepts of false teachers. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth.

The Spirit of truth helps us to understand and interpret God’s Word and relate it to our lives. With the Spirit we are not in the dark. Without the Spirit we are part of the darkness.

Jesus promised:

I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”   (John 14:18-21)

Have we received the Spirit? He is continually available to us. But we must ask for him. We must ask for his help. And we must also seek to keep the commandments of God. Deliberate sin is not compatible with the Spirit because this type of living is not truthful. It does not show the world what God has done for us. To speak the truth we need the Spirit of truth and we need to live in truth daily.

We are living in critical times. God is bringing the Church age to the close. Are we ready for that day when God judges the earth? How about our families and loved ones? The Apostle Paul wrote:

While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”   (Acts 17:30-31)

Jesus has risen from the dead and sits on the right hand of God the Father. He is calling us to live out our faith that the world may know that we have risen with him. We are not longer subject to this world and its compromised. We must live in the truth by the Spirit of truth to demonstrate to the world what is real and lasting. This present age is passing away. Even unbelievers sense it. Where can they go for answers? We who are living in Christ are the answer for them. Jesus is Lord of this age and in the age to come. Amen.

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Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A

The  Shepherd and Guardian of Our Souls

Without a shepherd we are lost. We are like unruly sheep. The prophet wrote:

All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.   (Isaiah 53:6)

The music of Handel’s Messiah set to this reading from Isaiah tells the story. It is so lighthearted and frivolous. As people, we can be so unconcerned about and unaware of the consequences of our actions. Who can save us? Jesus. The Apostle Peter quotes Isaiah:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.   (1 Peter 2:23-25)

As sheep we need a shepherd. We need our shepherd to be the one who laid down his life for us. He alone can forgive us and lead us into righteousness:

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.

He revives my soul
and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.   (Psalm 23:1-3)

Only Jesus can lead us along right pathways. The institutions of education, the media, the entertainment industry, and the popular culture have worked overtime to lead us astray. Group think, political correctness, demonic music, and the intimidation of free speech have worn down our inner defenses and left us vulnerable to attack from the enemy. In fact, these voices are part of the attack.

These are strange voices to which we do not want to listen of follow. Let us tune our ears to the voice of the Good Shepherd:

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.”   (John 10:3-5)

We need Jesus as a shepherd, but he is more than shepherd, He leads us along right pathway and he revives our souls. Friends, our souls are dying without his presence in our lives. Are we embracing Jesus or are we being lead astray by strangers who want to kill and destroy us?

All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”   (John 10:8-10)

Thus, we see the ministry of Jesus as being two-fold. He is our shepherd, but he is also the guardian of our souls. The Greek word for guardian here is episkopoß (episkopos). As it is used in 1 Peter, it means more of a ministry than a position in the Church. Supplementing shepherd, the term suggests the pastoral work of watching over or guarding someone. It also means one who is doing this has the fullest knowledge.

We live in a very dangerous world, one in which the Devil is prowling about, seeking whom he can devour. There is no protection apart from Jesus. We say and believe that Jesus has saved our souls. That is what we should believe. But is Jesus guarding our souls? Is he reviving our souls? He wants us to follow where he is leading us. He is leading us to safety. He knows the pitfalls which lie ahead –  the ones that we do not see and cannot anticipate.

Christianity is an endurance race. We must keep the faith to the end. Too much is at stack for us to rely solely on  ourselves. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Filed under Easter, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year A