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Because I Go To The Father

May 9, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: John 14:12–14:14

Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
May 10, 2020
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Easter 5
Because I Am Going To The Father

“Truly, Truly I say to you! Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and even greater works than these will he do because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name this I will do so that the Father might be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name I will do it." John 14:12-14

The chief doctrine of Christian religion is the Lord’s incarnation; that God became man in Christ – a reality we acknowledge by a deep and reverent bow as often as we recite the words, “and was made man.”

There is nothing greater than this; that God became man “for us men and for salvation.” That Jesus was born under the Law to redeem those who are under the law; so that we might receive adoption as sons. And so we are by faith in Jesus Christ.

In baptism we become children of God. New born babes. And like newborns we long for the “pure milk of the word” which is the Holy Communion we gather to celebrate today: “so that we might grow up unto salvation.” (1 Peter 2:2)

But the church’s chief doctrine does not stand alone. There is more. As the Lord brought divinity to earth by his Virgin Birth; he likewise took humanity to God by virtue of his Ascension “from which we draw strength.”

This is what the Lord has in mind in today’s gospel when he says, “ … because I am going to the Father.”

And so you see the Lord’s ascension, following his death and resurrection, is the basis for all that the church does. Because we have an omnipotent, heavenly high priest, whom Stephen saw with his own eyes “standing at the right hand of God,” the church conducts her mighty works.

During his ministry Stephen performed mighty works just like Jesus promised. And like Jesus he was dragged out of the city, and brutally put to death. But he died with a vision of the Ascended Christ on his eagle eye!

He died seeing the heavenly high priest standing at his rightful place: at the right hand of God: for now “man with God is on the throne! (TLH #218)

He also had the Lord’s words on his lips. He prayed for those who were killing him asking that God would not charge their sins against them, but forgive them. May we do the same for our Lord says in St. Mathew, “ … if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Mt. 6:14)

And Stephen died like Jesus did. Commending himself into the hands of God: may we do the same!

But that is not the only thing we learn from today’s Scriptures.

We also have St. Peter addressing the newly baptized and informing them that they are “a royal priesthood” whose work it is “to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

It is our work still today.

The sacrifice that St. Peter has in mind is the “remembrance” of the one that Jesus offered: the sacrifice of Holy Eucharist that satisfies all of our longings; that shows us the Father in the face of Christ; and that empowers us to do the mighty works that Christ promises in today’s gospel.

In the last two months, however, the words of Jesus and of St. Peter have been left behind by nearly every church in the world.

For the last two months precious few “spiritual sacrifices” have been “offered to God” and the children have gone hungry.

Dear Christians, better we should die of the plague than to let God’s children starve to death. Those “builders” who “reject the chief cornerstone” cannot possibly understand this. (1 Peter 2:7) The only life they know is this short one – but they have no concept of heaven, or the eternal pleasures at God’s right hand.

But may we who believe “love what God commands and desire what he promises” as we pray in today’s Collect. May we retain a clear vision in our minds, as clear as Stephen’s when he saw Jesus standing in heaven, calling him home.

Let us banish the fear of being stoned to death by the murderous culture and do our work because Jesus has gone to the Father; and has ordained us as his Royal Priests.

And, because short of the Flood, it is doubtful that earth has ever faced a greater spiritual crisis in her long history, as she has in the last two months: when the Light of Christ has been all but extinguished from the planet.

And so let us learn anew today what the work of the church is: to offer spiritual sacrifices to God. That is to celebrate the Blessed and Precious Sacrament of the Lord’s Body and Blood given for us Christians to eat and to drink; for the remission of sins, for the life of the world, and for the salvation of all, for we are Royal Priests!

That does not mean, as some mistakenly assume, that we all exercise the Office of the public ministry: we do not. That is conferred only by Holy Ordination and Holy Call. Only the pastor can administer the “pure spiritual milk” to feed God’s hungry children.

But he cannot do it alone.

A minister praying this liturgy apart from his fellow priests in attendance conducts a charade.

It is only together: the baptized, along with the Christ’s appointed minister; and most importantly with Christ himself graciously present as he promises, that we can do the mighty work we are doing here today.

And while St. Peter calls it a “spiritual sacrifice” be certain that “spiritual” does not mean imaginary or figurative. But that in this Holy Communion real people, in real time, using real elements of Bread and Wine receive the “true body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” which “strengthens and preserves us in the true faith unto eternal life.”

How does the church do such mighty works? By the power of Jesus who has gone to the Father from where he rules and directs all things.

This is why Christians cannot worship over the internet – and why though we might practice “social distancing” for a time that we should be careful that it does not lead to spiritual distancing. For, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us full or grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

And let us thank God today that Jesus does not distance himself from us. But that the “the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5) touches us with his Body and Blood as often as we drink this "pure spiritual milk.”

And so today, O Blessed, Happy and Fortunate People, we are fully sated.

Today, like Philip, we see the Father in the face of Christ. Today, like Stephen we behold Jesus with pure vision – and it suffices. It is enough to carry us until we attain to the resurrection of the dead.

Until all who are asleep in Jesus are awakened; and with heads “full of eyes” (Rev. 4:6-8) we behold things that will fill us with wonder that has no end!

Jesus, by treading the Way of the Cross, has prepared a place for us in his Father’s house so that where he is, we will be also.

And so let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. Amen.