May 31, 2020
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
5 but now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6 Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.John 16:5-11
When you walk around the church grounds, one of the first things you notice are all the pecans lying on the ground. We have five large pecan trees and when the right time of year comes around, you could almost fill the trunk of your car full of this wonderful, healthy and free snack. Though the pecans are plentiful and good for you, there is one catch. Pecans are not easy to open. It’s possible to open them by hand, but after opening just a few your hands will be sore and you will be searching for a tool to help you. If you are just outside here at the church, a rock or even your shoe might help you open a pecan. If you are at home, a hammer might help, but one of the best tools is this clever invention. It is a nutcracker specially designed for pecans. This is the helper you need to bring with you when you are planning to gather a basket full of pecans to enjoy a tasty treat and save your hands from a lot of pain and toil.
A person, just like a pecan can be described as “a tough nut to crack.” The phrase “a tough nut to crack” means someone is stubborn and difficult to connect with. When you are dealing with a person who is a tough nut to crack, you need help. And when there are a lot of stubborn people who are difficult to connect with, you need a lot of help. This morning, we could reference any number of stubborn people who are difficult to connect with for all kinds of reasons. We could talk about the hatred and violence on our screens and in our streets. We could talk about rights and safety when it comes to politics and a pandemic. We could talk about who to blame and punish for creating and carrying on destruction and division. We could talk about you or a loved one losing a job, a marriage or a child because the regular hardships in our lives continue amidst the large-scale troubles facing our world. As you and I sit here this morning, we must confess that we are surrounded by tough nuts to crack. And, we have to admit that to others you and I are tough nuts to crack too. It is for this reason, this universal truth that you and I along with all people are stubborn, difficult to connect with people living together in a broken world that we need help. We need a helper to fix all that is wrong in our lives and in this world.
When all the troubles scattered throughout the many parts of our lives are gathered together before us, we ask God, “Who could Jesus send to help us after he went back into heaven?” Jesus’ disciples were filled with grief when he told them that he was going to leave them, but in our reading from John 16, Jesus said, 7 … “it is for your good that I am going away.” Jesus had a specific purpose for coming to this world, and when it was finished, he returned to heaven. However, his ascension into heaven, did not mean we would be left helpless. His leaving was a good thing because he sent the Holy Spirit, also known as the Helper. Jesus’ had his role as our Savior, and once he finished his work, the Holy Spirit was sent to help the world hear, understand, trust and believe what Jesus had done for the world. Jesus described how the Holy Spirit would help the world like this, 8 “When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.”
The Holy Spirit helps by telling us what the real problems are in the world. Basically, if you think of people as a pecan, the Holy Spirit explains why we have a hard shell, why we can’t be the ones to break our hard shell and who can break through our hard shell. The Holy Spirit does this work through the Word of God. When God’s Word is shared with someone, it shows how they are wrong about sin, righteousness and judgment, and then shows how to correctly understand sin, righteousness and judgment regarding Jesus. God wants this message to be shared with all people, which is what happened at the first Pentecost, the festival we recognize today, when we hear in Acts 2, 4 “All of them [disciples] were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” The miracle on Pentecost was the Holy Spirit helping the disciples to share the message of Jesus regarding sin, righteousness and judgment with people from many different countries, languages, backgrounds, etc. And for those who believed the message about Jesus, the words of the prophet Joel were fulfilled, Joel 2:32 “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
This morning, the message is still true that the Lord Jesus has saved you. Again, if you picture yourself as a one tough nut to crack, the Holy Spirit is the one who can get through your hard shell. As Jesus explained, 9 “about sin, because people do not believe in me,” the Holy Spirit exposes you as a sinner by calling something you have thought, said or done as wrong, evil and wicked by listing it as such in the Bible. He exposes you as needing to be saved from breaking his good commands, otherwise you will face death and hell. He then shows you your Savior Jesus and calls you to believe in him for forgiveness and eternal life. Then, Jesus continued to explain, 10 “about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer,” the Holy Spirit reveals why we can’t be the ones to break our hard shell. Jesus alone was born without the hard shell of sin, and lived a good, righteous and perfect life thinking about what was best for others, speaking words of healing, hope and even harsh words for the benefit of those around him, and by letting his innocent life be put to death for the sins of the world. Once Jesus finished his work to live, die and rise as the substitute and sacrifice for our hard-shell-sins, he returned to heaven. Again, not leaving us alone, but with the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to give us faith that we will be taken to heaven to be with Jesus forever. And finally, Jesus explained, 11 … “about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” the Holy Spirit breaks through our hard shell to save us from the devil. Jesus crushed the devil when he rose from the dead. The devil now stands condemned, and Jesus stands as the King of the World. By the gift of faith, you and I are now the people of King Jesus and our true homeland of heaven will be free from all sin, trouble, hardship, death and pain that surround us here.
As you face life and a world that needs help, the Helper is with you. Again, today we could identify so many problems we need help with, but instead we get to talk about who works to help us through all the problems we face. When it comes to sin and being exposed to what we are doing wrong in our lives, it is natural for us to turn away from our Savior like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden who hid from God after breaking his command. Instead, when our sins are exposed the Helper reminds us to run to our Savior who forgives and frees us from sin. When it comes to righteousness, we all get stuck believing our personal ideals and our ideas for society and how people need to change how they live to how we think they should live, but really we need to point to Jesus as the only one who lived right in this world with a true love for others and heaven as the only place where true righteousness and goodness exists. And, when you fear that the devil and the defiant against God are pushing the world into unfixable chaos, the Helper reminds us that 1 Corinthians 15 says, 54 “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Death and the devil have not won, instead Jesus won and is forever the victorious Champion and King. The message we hold to by the power of the Helper, the Holy Spirit is that Jesus is the Savior from sin, the righteous sacrifice and the Sovereign ruler over all things in heaven and on earth. As Jesus said, the world is wrong, lost and in the dark about sin, righteousness and judgment as the cause for all the problems in the lives of people and in the world as a whole, but he did not leave us without a Helper. Pray, trust and be at peace because the Helper is in the world at work through all of his people who are sharing the Word of God.
When you walk around the church grounds, one of the first things you notice are all the pecans lying on the ground. When we step onto this property as the true church, the people of God, we admit that we are a lot of tough nuts to crack. And, the devil would like nothing more than to leave us in our shells to rot and die, but that is not what God wants. God wants you to be planted in his Word. When you are planted in the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, the Helper breaks through your shell. He breaks through and as you are planted in the Word of God, he sends your roots deeper into the Word of God to grow you into a new and living tree. And as you grow, you produce fruit and that fruit is the Spirit working through you to give life to others. Do not send your roots into the world and its ideas, keep yourself planted in the Word of God and you will be blessed because the Helper is here for you. Amen.