Day of Pentecost Proper C
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Romans 8:14-17 Sermon
May 19, 2013
Click here for internet service broadcast/podcast.
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal):
227 "Come Holy Ghost In Love"
226 "Come, Oh Come Thou Quickening Spirit"
236 "Creator Spirit, By Whose Aid"
234 "Holy Ghost, With Light Divine"
BEING LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD
TEXT: "14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him."
It’s severe weather alert season! If you’ve been watching television at all over the past month or so, we are being reminded of this. The various TV stations run promotional spots during their normal programming to let you know that their expert meteorologists are on top of things, and that they will let you know right away when there is something of which you need to be aware.
And so with this in mind, you can expect to hear a series of five short beeps on your television, which calls attention to a small weather radar map and a banner across the bottom of your screen. This lets you know what kind of a weather situation you can expect. And quite often, there will be an interruption of your regular program as they break in with special weather bulletins.
We live in Nebraska; and because we do, we are quite accustomed to various weather phenomena common to the Midwestern states. There’s the old joke that says, “If you don’t like the weather in Nebraska, just wait 15 minutes and it will change.” The truth of that statement is that we can experience just about every type of weather event there is.
When a storm hits, one of the most common factors is the wind that accompanies it. I’ve been through several tornadoes in my life, and the wind and rain are something the likes of which you’ll never experience otherwise.
I remember my first tornado, which touched down just southwest of Emerson. My dad took us all over to the church basement, which was next door. The church was a much sturdier structure than our weatherboard house. I was a very small boy at the time; I don’t know if I was even in school yet. But I do remember standing with my family out on the front steps of the church, watching these greenish clouds churning in the sky. The actual tornado missed us by about a mile or so, but it was still weird.
When our congregation had just formed in 2004, we were meeting in the chapel up at Heartland Park. Again there was some weird weather going on. During our worship service, heavy wind and rain began. The wind drove the rain almost horizontal as it beat against the building. The window in the chapel was a casement window, and the wind was blowing the water with such force that it was coming right through the edges of the window frame. And outside the sky was this greenish black; I knew there was severe weather going on out there. That by the way was in the evening of Saturday May 21st, the day that the tornado literally flattened the village of Hallam.
That wasn’t my only severe storm. I could relate situations that happened in Minnesota, Australia, and Georgia. I’ve been in hurricanes, cyclones, tornados, and other storms with some incredible wind speeds.
So what does this have to do with Pentecost? If we look at our Epistle reading today from Acts chapter 2, listen again to what we are told in the first four verses: “1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
I can only imagine what that sound must have been like at that first Pentecost. Having been through the storms I have, the sound of a mighty wind is familiar. But to have that happen inside of a house must have been particularly impressive. God’s power was being unleashed in grand fashion.
And then the fire came, dividing into individual tongues of fire, and resting upon each one of them. Then they began speaking in other languages, so that all who were present could understand the words and dialect of their own native tongue. It was very impressive indeed.
This morning, I’m going to give you a brief language lesson. The word that is translated “spirit” in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word, “ruach.” By itself, the word simply means “wind.” It’s not very impressive at all; it just describes a natural phenomenon that we all frequently encounter.
But in the Bible, when the word “ruach” is coupled with God’s Name, then it is a direct reference to the Holy Spirit. Literally translated, it is the “wind of God.” Maybe it sounds a bit simplistic in English, so almost all of the various translators make it a point to let us know that we’re talking about the one true God, the third person of the Trinity.
Our first encounter with the Holy Spirit is in Genesis chapter 1 verse 2: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” This is a section where some of the more liberal translators have used “Wind of God” for whatever reason; but we are fully aware that the Holy Spirit was what God was describing. That is evident.
In the New Testament, we have much the same idea. The word translated “spirit” is the Greek word “pneumatos,” which by itself means “wind” or “moving air.” This is where we get the English word, “pneumatic” for something that is operated by compressed air. However, there’s another Greek word that is added to it. That’s the word “agios,” which means “holy.” So when you put the words “agios” and “pneumatos” together, you now have the Holy Spirit.
This is one of those areas that help us understand the thought behind the relationship between “wind” and “spirit.” Our Epistle uses “mighty rushing wind” to describe what this event was like. And then, if we look at John chapter 3, we read about the conversation Jesus is having with Nicodemus. In verse 8 Jesus tells him: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
We can’t see the wind, but we know that it’s there. And we know how powerful the wind can be. We see a lot of wind generators out there, producing electricity by wind power. Those wind generators have to be equipped with brakes, because the wind can be so powerful at times that it would tear up the generator.
Or think about the power of the wind of a tornado. It can pick up a house and set it down someplace else. It can even take a single piece of straw and drive it through a solid 4 x 4 wooden beam. The power of a tornado can do some pretty weird things.
Now think about the power of God the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can take the most stone-cold heart, and provide the gift of faith. The soul that is so full of sin and running away from God is converted by this power. The Holy Spirit does what we are powerless to do on our own. The power of the wind is no match for the power of God.
As we look at our text for today from Romans chapter 8, we see in a very few verses what the power of the Holy Spirit means for us as God’s children. Without the Holy Spirit, we are nothing, absolutely nothing at all. Without the Holy Spirit, we would be forever lost and outside of God’s family. Without the Holy Spirit, we would have no faith at all. Without the Holy Spirit, we could never know Jesus as our Saviour and believe in him. Our outlook would be dismal and hopeless if God were to leave us on our own.
The Apostle Paul puts it into profound yet concise words. In verse 14 he writes, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” There is no question here, nothing is left to doubt. If we are led by the Holy Spirit, then we are indeed God’s children. The Holy Spirit would never mislead us. In our Gospel Lesson for today from John 14, Jesus says in verses 16-17: “16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of Truth.” This is something unique to the Christian faith that no other religion has. The Holy Spirit would never ever lead anyone to become a Muslim, or Hindu, or Buddhist, or Shinto, or any of the other man-made religions, because there is nothing but false teaching there. The Holy Spirit works through God’s Word, through the Scriptures.
When Jesus spoke to a group of Jewish believers in John chapter 8, he told them in verses 31-32: “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The Spirit of Truth is at work here through the Word, because the Holy Spirit is leading us into all truth. And we believe that God would never lie to us or mislead us. The power of God’s Spirit gives freedom.
So now when we look at verse 15 of our text, it makes perfect sense when Paul writes, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons…” As children of God, we are free from the bondage of sin and Satan. Isn’t freedom one of the things we as Americans hold near and dear to our hearts? God promises us spiritual freedom that we could never otherwise receive.
So we do not need to fear. We don’t need to be concerned if we’ve done enough good deeds to get us into heaven, because Jesus has given us the way through faith alone. Even though we have sinned, the Holy Spirit has given us the saving faith that has brought us into the loving and forgiving arms of our Saviour.
We often talk about being one of God’s children and part of God’s family. We didn’t choose to be a part of God’s family any more than we chose to be a part of our own earthly family. We had no power to choose our parents or grandparents or any of our ancestors. That choice was made for us.
God gave us his Holy Spirit with the primary purpose of giving us the gift of faith. Dr. Luther says that the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies.” That describes a person and people who are indeed God’s children through faith in Jesus. Paul describes it well in I Corinthians chapter 12 verse 3 when he writes, “…no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” And you can’t get it any simpler than that.
This morning, I began by talking about the wind that accompanies storms, and what kind of power it has. Wind is nothing more than the movement of air, and we cannot see it. But even so, we know it’s there just the same. It would be foolish of us to deny that wind exists simply because we can’t see it with our own eyes. We know for sure it exists by the effect it has on things.
We can’t see God the Holy Spirit either. The Holy Spirit is indeed very powerful. But it is far more than the movement of air; it’s the very Spirit of God at work. We cannot see the Holy Spirit with our eyes, but we know when the Holy Spirit is at work. By being God’s children, we bear witness to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives through our faith in action. We boldly confess our Saviour Jesus Christ, and we eagerly hear what he says to us in his Word. We gather and give glory to his name. We continue to build up our faith through Word and Sacrament, and we gain strength to help us through the trials and tribulations of this life.
At the end, we will indeed be glorified by God as his redeemed children. We have a heavenly mansion awaiting us, and God the Holy Spirit will see to it that we are led safely to our eternal home. That’s what the power of God has done in our lives.