Fourth Sunday after Easter, Sermon A.
"Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee; know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts." Jeremiah 2:19.
In this second chapter, 19th verse of Jeremiah, the hardened and disobedient children hear for what reason they are chastised. No doubt the hardened children think that they are chastised without reason. But we hear in the Prophet Jeremiah's aforementioned words that because of your wickedness you are rebuked, and because of your disobedience you are chastised. God laments in many places that the children of Israel had become disobedient and did not receive the chastisement. Who knows, have the children of men now become better than then in the Old Testament, when the heavenly Parent had to chastise the children of Israel very severely, namely with wars, famine, and sickness, and nevertheless they were so hardened that they would not receive chastisement. They did not believe that God was chastising them so because of their wickedness, but they thought that God was chastising them without reason. They also often said, "The Lord does not do rightly with us." In their minds God was too severe in punishing, and was a wrong judge, who did not esteem their good works but punished meek people without reason. Therefore the children of Israel did not make repentance no matter how severely they were punished, but only hardened. They finally ceased from worshipping visible idols, when God had so severely struck them that they had no more strength to oppose. But hypocrisy and evil of the heart only became worse through God's chastisement; they would not humble themselves under the mighty hand of God, although some confessed their sins and promised to make repentance, when after the captivity of Babylon they ceased from worshipping visible idols. They then went to hypocrisy and became hypocrites like the Pharisees, who sometimes prayed in the open so they would be seen of men. But have people now become better than when God had to chastise them with harshness because of their disobedience? I think that the people of this time become worse through God's chastisement, but not better. For God has truly chastised the hardened at all times with sickness, famine, and hard times, but through that chastisement no repentance has come, not even in the outward life. The sins of drunkenness, finery, pride, or adultery have not lessened because of one or two bad years; no matter how scantily food would have been in the land, pride has not therefore been lowered, nor vanity or drunkenness lessened. Surely during bad years the people have been able to drink and fight, commit adultery and steal; no one has thought that this punishment has come from God because of our disobedience and because of our unruliness, but the more the people have increased in violence, the more God has punished them with famine and hard times. If sickness has come into the congregation, and some have fallen to the ground, pride and finery have not thereby lessened, but others have increased more in wrong-doing and also cursed when God has punished them. Devil's dung has been drunk upon the graves of the deceased, and children have quarreled over their parent's belongings. No one has stopped to think that this sickness must be a reminder from above that we must take heed of where a person's soul will go with this kind of an ungodly life.
I have seen some hardened children mock their parent's tears and say, "Ah! Come and strike me if you dare!" So also have old Adam's children mocked the heavenly Parent's tears and said, "Ah, come and strike me if you dare!" When the Parent has chastised them with famine and hard times, they have said as one peasant when he went to church on a prayer day, "Him we must worship, and this kind of a year has come!" His intention was without a doubt this, that it is fitting to worship God when a good year has come, but it would not be necessary to worship Him when a poor year comes. However, that man had the faith that it is God who gives the harvest, but all hardened do not have that faith that God gives and God takes away, but they think that man himself merits it with his work. So we therefore have seen that a person does not obey the scourge at all, although a horse or an ox goes where he is driven with a whip. But man has such a hardened skin, that no matter how God punishes him with sickness, famine, and bloodshed, he nevertheless will not flee in that direction where God wants to bring him, but he wants to live only after his own mind, no matter how wickedly he would live. Therefore the Lord also laments through the prophet Isaiah 1:3, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider."
Thus people have despised God's merciful chastisement; the natural chastisement has effected no repentance in them, for the more they are whipped, the more they have hardened.
But in the hand of the heavenly Parent there is also another scourge or spiritual chastisement, with which He has been able to get some, although few, souls to flee for shelter, but not many receive this chastisement. For when God wanted to chastise the children of Adam with His spirit, as for example Cain, they received at first a great fear of death. When the Lord severely rebuked Cain, he became frightened and said, "My punishment is greater than I can bear." That is, My sin is greater than can be forgiven. But Cain did not long remember the rebuke of God's Spirit, although he first had such a great fear of death, that he imagined that everyone was going to slay him, and then also such great doubt came to Cain, that he did not believe he could receive his sins forgiven. But this fear did not stay with him long, for Cain himself and his children became worse and worse, so that God had to say, "My Spirit shall not always strive with man, for he is flesh." And how can God's Spirit reprove man anymore, when a person hardens through that rebuke. So it then happened and so it happens now, that the Spirit of God ceases to reprove, when a person does not receive the chastisement. The Spirit of God then reproved the hardened through the mouth of the righteous Noah, but the ungodly people of that time did not receive his warnings. After that the Spirit of God rebuked through Moses, but the men of that time became angry with Moses and said, "Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses?" And some said to Moses, "Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy." In their minds, all the people were holy, although these people were proud, lascivious, stiff-necked; although they danced around the golden calf, as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and rose up to play."
The Spirit of God rebuked the world through the mouths of the prophets, but because of this rebuking the people became angry with the prophets and persecuted them. Then the Spirit of God rebuked the world through John the Baptist, but the lords of the world said, "He has a devil." Especially the meek whores were angry with John because of that barking, and one honorable whore could not get peace of conscience before John's neck was severed. Finally the Spirit of God rebuked the world through the Saviour, but then the husbandmen said, "This is the heir; come let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours." (Mark 12:7) And so they also did; they killed the King of Glory. And when the Spirit of God finally rebuked the world through the mouths of the Apostles and the Christians, then the sorrowless world really hardened and began to suck the blood of the Christians.
But those few souls, who through the rebuking of the Holy Spirit have come to realize that the former ungodly life is not acceptable, receive the merciful chastisement of the heavenly Parent with humility and thanksgiving, that He can raise them to be people. If they would become so humble that they would kiss the Father's whip, then the Parent would take them into His lap again and press them against His breast and give them a kiss, and wipe away their tears and put them to sit at His table and give them butter and honey for reconciliation. Bow your knees, you chastised children whom the Parent has taught to obey with a whip. Pray to Him, that He would forgive you all your misdeeds and sins, with which you have offended Him and wounded His heart. Hear, dear Parent, the sighs of the penitent, sorrowful and down-pressed. Our Father, who art in the heavens, etc.
The Gospel: John 16: 5-15
In our holy gospel the Saviour says to the disciples, "And when the Holy Spirit is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgement." Therefore we must, through God's grace, observe: How the Holy Spirit reproves the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgement.
We hear from today's gospel that the Holy Spirit does not reprove the disciples of Jesus, but the Holy Spirit is their Comforter and leads them in all truth. The hearts of the disciples are filled with sorrow when Jesus goes away and leaves them to weep and to lament, longing for Jesus' merciful presence. If the Holy Spirit would not come to them for a Comforter when Jesus is gone away, then they would faint because of sorrow and grief. But when the Holy Spirit comforts them and gives them that testimony that they are children of God, although the world and the enemy often want to rob them of their faith and sink them into doubts, nevertheless the Holy Spirit gives them boldness to speak of that Crucified Saviour, and because of this boldness the disciples of Jesus are hated and persecuted by the world.
The first consideration: The Holy Spirit reproves the world of sin. What sin is it now, for which the Holy Spirit reproves the world? The Saviour Himself has said that the Holy Spirit will reprove the world because of sin; surely, "because they believe not on Me." Here, we hear that the Holy Spirit reproves the world because of unbelief; and Luther has also testified that unbelief is the greatest sin against the Saviour. But the grace thieves, who own for themselves God's promises of grace without penitence, think they believe upon Jesus, and say, "We lie every day at the foot of His cross; the Holy Spirit does not reprove us of unbelief. But these awakened, who never speak of faith or love, but only come upon the people with judgement and cursing, they probably do not have much faith of their own and therefore they also want to take away from others even that spark of faith which they have." So the thieves of grace think that such ones the Holy Spirit now reproves of sin, that they do not believe upon Jesus and therefore, no doubt, they whine in church. But never mind, grace thief, although you now have a strong faith, who knows how strong your faith is if it would come under trial. If the conscience of the grace thief would awaken, then that dead faith which is now in the skull would be taken away, and then it would go with him as with Peter, who was such a hero of faith before his faith came under trial, but in time of temptation was entirely lacking. The Holy Spirit now reproves the world, and especially the grace thieves, because of sin, for they do not believe upon Jesus, although they themselves think they do, but they suck their own breasts when they think they are sucking Jesus' breasts. They lie at the foot of the devil's cross when they think they are at the foot of Jesus' cross. The devil has reversed their eyes, therefore they look at the effects of the Holy Spirit as the effects of the devil's spirit; and the Christians, in the eyes of the devil's slaves, are changed to wild spirits. The Jews also had a strong faith upon God, but all the same they have hated and persecuted the Christians. So even now there is spiritual hatred in the hearts of the grace thieves. The grace thief hates the Christians because of that matter especially, that the Holy Spirit reproves them through the mouths of the Christians because of sin. The Holy Spirit reproves them through the mouths of the Christians of drunkenness, cursing, of greed, of pride, of hatred, of adultery and finery, which all come from unbelief. But of that rebuking of the Holy Spirit the sorrowless and grace thieves become angry and say, "You are in pride, you are a wild spirit when you do not give people peace of conscience. However it happens with the grace thief as it is written in the proverb, "The crow calls its own name." He himself is in pride and thinks others are; he himself becomes angry and thinks others are angry; he himself, the grace thief, is a wild spirit and thinks others are.
The second consideration: The Holy Spirit reproves the world of righteousness, for God's righteousness is now revealed through the death of Jesus. When God has not spared His only Son, but has given Him to suffer the punishment of sin which we should have suffered, thus, then God has revealed His severe righteousness. But the sorrowless and thieves of grace do not care about God's righteousness, but they speak only of grace and think that in the Parent's heart there is no anger, but only love. But that in the Parent's heart there is a terrible anger against sin, the Heavenly Parent Himself has revealed when He sweat blood in the Garden, and also allowed His blood to flow to the last drop. How else could the severe righteousness of God have been appeased? When the Parent because of sin becomes angry with the disobedient and hardened children, who mock His tears and say, "Ah, come and strike me if you dare," but however, does not have the heart to drive such cursed whores, thieves and murderers from His house, then the grace thieves say, "The Parent's heart does not bear anger, otherwise He would have driven us away to hell if He had been angry with us, but He has not become angry with us at all, although we are whores and thieves." Is that so, has the Parent not become angry with you? But if He had not become angry with you, then He would not have needed to suffer the pain and tribulation of hell because of you. But He had become so terribly angry with the ungodly and hardened children, that if love had not prevented Him, He would have allowed them to go to hell. If there had not been anger in the Parent's heart, but only love, then He could have forgiven them their transgressions without trouble, but because of anger, or because of that severe righteousness, He had to go to hell Himself, into which the ungodly and hardened children have plunged Him. And laugh now besides, when you have plunged your Parent into hell. When the children do some damage in another's house, then the Parent must pay for the damage.
But now the Holy Spirit reproves the world because of this righteousness. Although now the damage is paid and God's severe righteousness is appeased through the death of the Saviour, the sorrowless and hardened do not even care about that, but they also laugh upon His grave and say, "Let the Parent come now to chastise us if He is angry with us." The murderers of the Parent urinate and dung upon His grave and say, "Rise up and eat now if you are hungry." I think that the devil himself must rebuke such ones, unless the Holy Spirit reproves them. But what do such hardened spirits care about reproof; they only harden the more and say as the chief priests said to Judas, "What is it to us? See thou to that."
The third consideration: The Holy Spirit reproves the world because of judgement, for the prince of this world is judged. Namely, through the suffering and death of the Saviour, the prince of the world is now judged, although that man is such a great lord that he will not receive the judgement of God. He has such a great egotism and spiritual pride, that he cannot confess himself guilty; he will not take upon himself any iniquity, but always maintains that he is the same angel of light as in the beginning. And when he will not take any sin upon himself, he thinks that God is in pride, who would throw such a meek and pious man into hell. However, he is now judged, and because of that judgement he has become terribly angry with the Heavenly Parent, not only because the Heavenly Parent has driven him out of His house, but also the devil has become angry because the Parent does not drive the penitent souls out of His house, although they are whores and thieves. So the devil, the accuser of God's children night and day, accuses God of wrong-doing and says, "I am the oldest child, and have done no wrong against you, although you have cried out to the world that I am a killer of men and the father of lies, but you have driven me out of your house, and commanded me to go to hell, and this prodigal son, who has wasted all his substance with harlots, and comes back as some rag devil, him you take back with joy. It is not done rightly," says the devil. Now God says to the devil, "I myself have stepped down into hell; I have suffered the pain and torment of hell in behalf of this prodigal son. I have, therefore, for a great and precious price redeemed him from under the dominion of the devil. What more do you expect of me? No doubt you are an upright and honorable man, although you are a great crook. No doubt you are now satisfied with that price, which you have received." But the devil is not satisfied yet with that price, but he demands that all children must be driven away from the Parent's house, although the Parent has paid the devil the full price of their redemption. And because of this redemption, the devil has no more power over those children of God who now do not deliberately give themselves into the care of the devil. But the children of the world do not want to turn back from the kingdom of the devil, although the Heavenly Parent has paid the full price of their souls' redemption in their stead. They have become so estranged from the Parent's house, that they keep that robber as their true Father, who has taken them when they were small from the true Parent's house. They have so forgotten the goodness and love of the Parent that they do not know Him anymore. If now the Parent comes with a whip and wants to bring them home from the enemy's house, then they become angry with the Parent and say, "You are not our right father when you come to whip us. Look, this is a better father who does not ever whip us." So say the children of the world when they see someone in pain of conscience, "God does not punish His children in that way, it is the devil who effects such pain." Although now the Scriptures say in many places, "Whom He loveth, him He chastiseth," the children of the world do not believe, however, that God chastises in that way, but they say that it is the devil who effects such. Now the Holy Spirit reproves the world for that reason that people do not want to turn back to the Heavenly Parent, although He has redeemed them with His precious blood and given them birth with great tribulation and shedding of blood. They always want to live in the enemy's house, although the prince of the world is judged, that he would have no power over even one soul, if all would begin to turn back to the Parent's house through true penitence and repentance. But the children of the world for so long have become accustomed to serving the devil, that they do not want to come back to the Parent, whom they have forgotten long ago. Only those few souls, who receive the chastisement when the Holy Spirit reproves them through the tribulation of conscience, come to the Parent's house poor, naked and as rag devils, like that prodigal son, who had wasted His Father's substance, and spent all his living with harlots, must finally come to the Father and say, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee, and am no more worthy to be Thy son, but make me as one of Thy poorest hired servants." Behold now, you few souls who have felt the Father's chastisement, when the Holy Spirit reproves you because of sin, and because of righteousness, and because of judgement. Behold, how the prodigal son is received with joy by the Parent, when he comes to the Parent's house humble and penitent. Pray, you few who have come back to the Parent's house as such, that He would protect you from the enemy's temptations, that the enemy could not attract you with his cunningness to go another time to the house of the enemy. Stay at home now, children; stay at home, you prodigal son. Do not go a second time away from the Father's house, so that the Parent would not have greater trouble because of you. Amen.