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Archive for April 28th, 2019

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St. John 20: And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Why are those who have not seen, and believe, blessed by the Lord?  Because they have heard the Word of the Lord and the Holy Spirit preaches the Word of Christ, and all the Words of God, into our bodies and souls to quicken us, that is, make us alive by faith through His grace. On our own we are dead and unspiritual.

So when the 11 disciples are huddled together on account  of the fear of the Jews, those disciples were unspiritual. How do we know this? 

Jesus taught, as recorded in John chapter 7,

38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

They had not yet received the Holy Spirit, for the Lord had not breathed the Spirit into them, till He is glorified, risen from the dead.  But to say these days that the disciples were unspiritual, and that only in Christ Jesus in His Sacrifice for the forgiveness of sinners, is one spiritual, is committing a secular heresy:  especially as this is applicable to all people.  As all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God, are not spiritual, that is Holy Spirit-ual, but in bondage to sin and subject to the dark powers.  What happens when unspiritual man thinks he is spiritual?  Yes, there are spiritual feelings and they are a nostalgia, a wistfulness, for something that is past and missing, a desire for something more that I can not get to, but know we need to, as…

 “…they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited. Do you think I am trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am; but remember your fairy tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us for nearly a hundred years.”, so preached C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory   

Those feelings will not direct us to our heavenly home.  I may have a strong feeling about a destination I want to go to, say a city, a state, a park, but my feelings, however pristine I think they are, won’t guide me there. Let’s say, coming to a fork in the road: “Is this the right direction? Now which way should I go here?   I will consult my feelings” No. I need a guide, a map, an instruction to consult and to set us on the right path.  ‘You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the Word” (Luther)If I think my so-called spirituality is actual ‘spirituality’, my various and sundry readings, feelings, experiences etc., then my spirituality looks like Mark and not the Lord!  It’s the way I want to go and couple that with my fallen heart, for the heart is deceitful above all things, who can trust it (Jeremiah). As Jesus what comes out of the heart are murder, greed, evil thoughts, lust etc. and these defile. So when I follow my spirituality, then I follow me: a blind guide, and hang over it the patina of ‘spirituality’.  Peter really, at one time, believed in his strong faith and spiritual feelings and he sank into the Sea of Galilee and when he exclaimed in the night the Lord was betrayed:  I won’t deny you.  Oh, he was spiritual, so he may have thought.  And  in today’s Gospel, he and his brother apostles, are locked up in fear…till the Lord shows them His Wounds, and 11 disciples beheld His actual wounds and received the actual Holy Spirit.  And the Lord is clear, the Holy Spirit is not given for our religious jollies, but for and through the Word of forgiveness, that Jesus had just won in the costly and perfect Sacrifice for them and us all just 3 days prior in His hands and feet nailed to a cross, when He said from the cross, It is finished, and He breathed His last.  Three days later, He breathes this into them the Holy Spirit.  This is true inspiration.  In-spiritus.  So that He sends them with the quickening of His own Forgiveness. Just think, in 50 days after Easter, Peter would be preaching publicly in the Temple, as heard from Acts. He was arrested and faced even death. He would not do so because he made up this story: He saw the wounds. He saw his Savior and the Lord filled him and his brothers with the Holy Spirit to forgive sin.

Like the apostles, we do not make our spirituality, we are made spiritual, really, re-made spiritually in the actual wounds of Christ’s forgiveness. Christians are not self-made, but remade in Christ and Baptism. The Lord breathing into lifeless souls of the apostles and us all, He did this before: 

“…the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” (Genesis 3)

That first time was the order of creation, in today’s Gospel, the order of redemption in Jesus Christ.  We need the mouth to mouth resuscitation of the Holy Spirit even daily in His forgiving and cleansing breath.

“…this dignity, reverence, obedience, and efficacy of the ministry depend on this, that it brings and sets forth the Word of God” (Luther)…not the words of men. It is as if the Lord is saying, “You are not to teach and preach human dreams, but the doctrines of My heavenly Father.  I shall lay My words into your mouths so that you may present them to others.” (Gerhard) You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the Word (Luther) Jesus makes this clear on the work of the Holy Spirit:

John 6:63  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life

John 14:26:But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 15:26:“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

We do not have and worship a “Word-less” Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy spirit is utterly transparent as He gives life, helps us to remember, bears witness to Christ.  His Wounds are the sign that He bore the sin of all.

The Lord is the verbose Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit preaches the Word through the words of a pastor in faithful preaching and teaching and administering of the Sacraments.  Through the reading, hearing and praying of Scripture that the priesthood of all believers can do. The Scriptures are inspired, literally, in Spiritus, breathed in by the Holy Spirit just as Jesus did to make alive His disciples.

This message of the healing wounds of Christ was foretold by Isaiah 5 centuries before the Incarnation, as we heard Isaiah 53 on Good Friday:

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.

His wounds are the faithful Word of God’s forgiveness for each and every one of us.  He opens our prisons. He comes into our hearts.  Confession and absolution is aptly titled, The Office of the Keys.  If one resists the Holy Spirit, the door is locked and shut, and sin is retained as it is not repented. When a person does not see that God’s Law is showing him his sin, he can not possibly know His Savior.  Sin not repented is retained.  It is the prospect of eternal sadness but the Lord’s goal is not judgment and sadness.  If he repents, the door is open and joy floods through His Wounds of grace for us all. A sinner repenting is the Lord and His angels rejoicing. The message of the imparting of the forgiveness of sins, in Christ, is so needed in these dark days. “The Gospel is not only a report of the salvation earned by Jesus, but it is the application of this message, the imparting of the forgiveness of sins.”- Rev. Paul Kretzman As Pastor and Professor Johann Gerhard preached on this Gospel:

“Also, when the apostles and all faithful teachers in this manner unlock or lock shut—forgive the sin or retain it—in accordance to God’s ordinance, such shall be efficacious and valid before God in heaven, whether it happens publicly or privately. Blessed are the teachers and preachers who do not all the keys to rust up, but instead use them in accordance with divine ordinance. Blessed also are the hearers who receive the Word of preaching as the Word of God.  Grant this to all of us through His Son, Christ. Amen.”

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