Day of Pentecost Proper B1
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15 Sermon
May 27, 2012
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Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
227 "Come Holy Ghost In Love"
234 "Holy Ghost, With Light Divine"
236 "Creator Spirit, By Whose Aid"
226 "Come, Oh Come Thou Quickening Spirit"
WHAT'S THE HOLY SPIRIT DOING HERE?
TEXT (16:13-15): "13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
"I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting." Do those words sound familiar to you? I would hope so, because it hasn't been but about five minutes ago that we spoke those words together in the Apostles' Creed.
Or, you can think about these words: "I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the Prophets." Those are words from the Nicene Creed, the creed we use on Communion Sundays.
Next week on the Festival of the Holy Trinity, we'll use still a different and much more lengthy creed called the Athanasian Creed. It's so long that we only use it once a year. But it too has some very specific words about the Holy Ghost, or Holy Spirit--two terms for exactly the same thing.
We can't gather for worship here without hearing about the Holy Spirit many different times. We affirm our faith in the Holy Spirit week after week after week. The work of the Holy Spirit is germane to the entire Christian Church, because if it weren't for the Holy Spirit, there would be no Holy Christian Church.
And so we call upon the Holy Spirit. If you look at our Lutheran Liturgy, we don't even get past the first couple of pages without three distinct references. At the very beginning, we have the invocation where we call upon the one true God in our worship: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Then in our confession of sins we say together: "...and by thy Holy Spirit, increase in us true knowledge of thee, and of thy will, and true obedience to thy Word, to the end that by thy grace we may come to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." When we confess our sins, we're also asking the Holy Spirit for a lot of help in our walk of faith. There's a lot of stuff here!
And then in the absolution, I announce God's forgiveness of sins to you. I remind you that you are God's children through faith, and I assure you that God has promised the Holy Spirit to you. This gives you the absolute assurance that God will give you every spiritual blessing there is to give. Through Jesus Christ, God has heard your prayer of confession and has forgiven you all of your sins. He has done this because of nothing more than faith alone. You didn't have to work for it, you didn't have to earn it, and you didn't have to buy it. Forgiveness is yours through faith in Christ Jesus, and the faith you have is a free gift of the Holy Spirit.
That's a lot of material to digest, and we only just got through pages 5 and 6 of the liturgy! That takes only five or so minutes to get through, and we still have an entire service ahead of us!
We can continue on from there. The Holy Ghost is mentioned in the Gloria Patri, the Gloria in Excelsis, and the Collect (or thematic prayer) of the day. Then there's the creed that I mentioned at the beginning. The offertory "Create in Me" after the sermon has a very special plea from Psalm 51: "And take not thy Holy Spirit from me." Then on those Sundays when we sing the Doxology, we sing praise to "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." In the closing prayer, the Holy Spirit is there again. And finally in the benediction, the Holy Spirit has a direct reference as well. That's in those parts of the service that remain pretty much the same from week-to-week. Then we can add our various Bible readings and hymns, many of which will contain references to the Holy Spirit in varying degrees, depending on the particular theme and subject.
The point of the whole matter, is that we encounter the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost over and over and over again in our worship. And well we should, because without the Holy Spirit, there would be no Holy Christian Church. There would be no Holy Christian Church, because without the work of the Holy Spirit, nobody would have faith in Jesus Christ their Saviour. There would be no Christians. Without the Holy Spirit, nobody would inherit heaven for eternity. It would be a tragic state of affairs if the Holy Spirit were not at work in the way God intends and promises.
For the past 10 minutes or so that I've been preaching, I have not stopped talking about the Holy Spirit and how important he is. We know that God the Holy Spirit is present amongst us and is hard at work.
I said all of this to lead into something a woman said to me some years back. She said and I quote, "Oh, you Lutherans don't have the Holy Spirit." Now that is a shocking statement, especially considering the explanation that I just gave you. However, her reasoning was based upon some of her own ideas and misunderstandings of how the Holy Spirit operates, which are based either on human manipulations or a complete ignorance of Biblical teaching.
In her way of thinking, the Holy Spirit is something that comes directly to you. It involves a building of emotion and a feeling of complete elation and exhilaration. She told me that you have to hold your hands up in the air and make sort of a "v" to form a funnel so you could catch the Holy Spirit, and he could enter your body. Then you need to close your eyes and sing and sway back and forth so you can fill yourself as completely as possible and thereby surrender your thoughts, emotions, and your entire being to the Spirit of God.
She's not alone in this either. If you've ever watched goings on like this on TV or on You Tube, you can see people getting very caught up in this type of emotional high. They'll have a song leader, and they'll sing some sort of praise song. Then they'll continue to sing parts over and over again, adding instruments, and getting more and more hyped up. They can spend 10, 15, or even 20 minutes on one song just to get the desired effect.
Just as a point of comparison, you can look at our final hymn for today. You might groan because it has nine stanzas; however it takes only 4 1/2 minutes to sing, and it is a very lovely prayer. It certainly isn't a continuous repetition to get you to start convulsing. But I digress.
Quite recently, a friend of mine sent me a You Tube link to a song he said that his church was going to be singing on Pentecost. It was a video of Christian singer Judy Jacobs, who is an extremely talented and gifted lady. She was performing on stage in front of a large group of people, about the size of the Pershing Center in Lincoln. The song she was singing is entitled, "The Days of Elijah." It's not a bad song as praise songs go, and I rather enjoyed it. But she was appealing to many in the audience that had the same attitude as the woman I was telling you about. Judy tends to be one that will repeat parts of the song over and over again for effect. This one wasn't as long as some can get; it only lasted 8 minutes and 27 seconds. But as you watch people in her audience, you can just see the emotional highs that people are seeking.
One of the errors that seems to be very prevalent, is that people will believe that coming to Jesus is a personal decision that someone makes of their own free will and power. Then if you want to REALLY become a Christian, you have to be baptized by the Holy Spirit after the fact. Their idea of being baptized in the Spirit comes in the form of falling down, fainting, and engaging in some sort of unintelligible babbling, something they feel is reminiscent of the first Pentecost. The truth of the matter is however, that what people like this are doing is nothing even close to what the Apostles experienced on that first Pentecost.
When we look at the Bible, Jesus doesn't say that we are to hold our hands in a "v" shape to catch the Holy Spirit. He doesn't ask us to achieve some sort of emotional high or frenzy. What he does tell us, is that the Holy Spirit will guide us in all truth. The Holy Spirit isn't something we invite into our lives, because as Christians, he is already here. Without the Holy Spirit, we couldn't come to faith in Jesus in the first place. We cannot be saved without the Holy Spirit. It's like it says in Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8-9: "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not by works, lest any man should boast." That gift of faith is what we receive from the Holy Spirit.
In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus is making some promises with regard to the Holy Spirit. He says that the Holy Spirit will come to convict. That conviction comes through the Scriptures themselves, which is the way we know for certain that the Holy Spirit will work.
First, the Holy Spirit convicts people of their sins. This conviction is for all of humanity for all time. God's word convicts you and me of our sin. When we read the Bible, we can only admit that we are sinful human beings, and that we continually transgress God's holy law. We break those commandments time after time after time. Dr. Martin Luther simply says that we "daily sin much." He knew his own sin only too well.
But the Holy Spirit does not leave us in a state of despair. Satan, the father of sin has also been judged, convicted, and defeated. This is what Jesus accomplished by his death on the cross, and his defeat of death when he rose physically from the dead.
The Holy Spirit now brings us to see Jesus for what he did; and most importantly that he did it for the likes of you and me. The Holy Spirit shows us the incomprehensible love of Jesus that took him to the cross to pay the punishment that we deserve.
However nothing can really compare to the biggest miracle of all that the Holy Spirit does. That miracle is the miracle of faith he has given to us. The Holy Spirit is able to take a stone-cold heart that has turned completely away from God and is headed straight to hell, and turn it into a heart that knows Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and is dedicated to the will of God. And how many times, humanly speaking, have we looked at somebody and said to ourselves, "Oh there's no hope for him or her. They're headed straight to hell." But God says that nothing is impossible for him. And that's when he turns unbelieving hearts into hearts of faith, one at a time.
Certainly we are to be joyful about our faith, and to be happy about what Jesus has done for us. We act in this manner out of a thankful heart, and not because we're trying to conjure up the Holy Spirit in some sort of emotional frenzy and create a new Pentecost over and over again. Pentecost happened once; and it happened in order to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world, to every land, and proclaim it in every language amongst humanity.
Today, we need to remember that the Holy Spirit is no less active than he was at the time of creation. The Holy Spirit has been active amongst people in the world since day one, and will continue to work up until the end.
The Holy Spirit produces fruits in our lives, which demonstrate that God lives within us. In Galatians chapter 5, verses 22-23 Paul reminds us: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, [and] self-control." He then concludes in verse 25: "If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit."
And then we also need to consider what are gifts of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 Paul begins in verse 3: "...no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except in the Holy Spirit." There can be no spiritual gifts given before there is a saving faith in Jesus Christ. He continues in verses 4-6: "4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone."
There are a variety of gifts too. There's teaching, wisdom, knowledge, faith, medical service, preaching, theologians, and those who can both speak and translate foreign languages. These, along with other various gifts are things that can be put to use in the service of God's kingdom. When the Holy Spirit is in charge, there's no telling just how many gifts can be put to use in God's service.
I think you can understand why I would take exception when someone says, "Oh, you Lutherans don't have the Holy Spirit." Nothing could be further from the truth. We don't need to swing and sway with our arms raised in a "v" shape trying to funnel the Holy Spirit into our souls. We don't need to attempt some sort of emotional frenzy just so we can "feel saved." In fact, we can be thankful that our faith doesn't rely upon how we feel at any given moment.
We know that we are saved by grace through faith, not based upon some emotion or feeling or notion, but based upon what God has promised us in the Bible. Jesus promises us in John chapter 6 verse 37: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Because God assures us that we are saved, we have no reason to ever doubt it.
I still find it incredible to see what lengths people will go to be anointed by the Holy Spirit. It might do us well to remember the lesson Elijah learned when he was on Mount Horeb. In 1 Kings chapter 19, verses 11-12 we read what happened: "...And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: 12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice."
There's an old joke that asks the question, "Why do some churches have weather vanes on their buildings?" The answer is, "So they can tell from which way the Holy Ghost is coming."
There's no weather vane on our church, because the Holy Spirit is already here, and he is at work amongst us. So we listen to that still small voice of God that continues to give us hope and build us up in our faith. In our congregation, we can be thankful that the Holy Spirit "keeps [us] with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives me and all believers all our sins; and at the last day He will raise up me and all the dead, and will grant me and all believers in Christ eternal life. This is most certainly true."