+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti Amen. +
Text: John 14:16
Theme: The Presence of the Spirit
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
On Pentecost Jesus fulfilled His promise to His disciples to send “another Counselor to be with [them] forever- the Spirit of truth.”1 And so the church lacks no gift from God as we await Christ’s return. No one is initiated into the new covenant apart from the Spirit. A human being cannot confess Christ apart from the Holy Spirit’s work. Yes, anyone can mouth the words, say the creed, repeat the Lord’s Prayer, but only the Holy Spirit’s presence equates to a living faith. Pentecost is a most opportune time to be reminded of the catechism’s teaching in this regard. “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel.”2
Just as the Spirit was a gift to the church on Pentecost so also faith is the gift of the Spirit to the individual. Baptism involves a spiritual rebirth in which we are passive participants. The Spirit cannot be commanded or manipulated, but only obeyed or rejected. Believers give evidence of their faith by their works but much misunderstanding can develop when we attempt to gauge the Holy Spirit’s presence and work through our own subjective criteria. Works can also be falsified. But God’s truth is certain even when our grasp, assessment, or appreciation of it fails.
The Holy Spirit teaches the biblical world view. He does it firstly through the prophetic word. But He does it primarily through the Word-become-flesh, Jesus Christ. The Scripture says, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.”3 Through the perspective of the Gospel our lives are restructured, re-ordered, and re-prioritized. God teaches us to value things in life differently. Spiritual treasures replace earthly glitter. God sees the world as it really is.
But we’re not always that comfortable with the biblical world view. Many find it too archaic and out-of-touch. Perhaps the reason is not that we’re too modern, but that we’re too worldly. Humanly, we are fundamentally no different than people of any age. The problem is not that we have GPS, Broadband, mobile phones, medical technology, and automation of every sort, but that we are immersed in a way of thinking that excludes the power and presence of God. The belief of humanist philosophy is that given enough time we’ll eventually work everything out- dissecting and subduing every aspect of creation and manipulating it for the betterment of all. This is also the height of human arrogance. Ageing, sickness, and death still tower over the human race like unrestrainable monstrosities against which we are powerless. The inability to address these evils is the true measure of collective human wisdom and strength.
The wholesale pursuit of greed, the wanton engagement of hedonism, and the undiscerning acceptance of ideologies that govern the world are realities that often typify our culture. Christians are easily drawn into these behaviors and sometimes accept their principles with little intelligent forethought or spiritual caution. Humanity will be judged for its ungodliness. The Scripture says the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin. It does this through the demanding and unyielding power of God’s law. It also says the judgment begins with the household of God.4. The guilt for your sin cannot be pawned off on someone else. You stand before God solely accountable. The blood of Christ is the only resolution.
Dear friends, the Holy Spirit’s work is not a one-off occurrence in your life. And you cannot own Him like an inanimate object. His is a constant dynamic of forgiving your sins, conforming your will, and comforting your heart. His word is Christ’s truth and it is power. Jesus said, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”5 Whose words are the first words your ears receive or your lips speak each day? Are they the hurried sounds of preparation for work or school? Are they the unkind comments of selfish ambition? Should the day not begin and end with the words of the Spirit? The words of the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, into whose name we are baptized? Should we not on Monday already be yearning for the sacrament that will be offered the next Sunday?
Of course we cannot construct these desires or carry out these activities artificially. We must be aware of the folly of becoming slaves to meaningless repetition or false piety. But God’s word is living and active. It mediates our relationships, informs our ignorance, and enriches our vocations. Read, sing, and pray the words of Scripture out loud, even when you are by yourself. These are the life-giving words of the Spirit.
In the Nicene Creed the Holy Spirit is confessed as “the Lord, and giver of life.” Just as the Spirit was active at the creation in the beginning, so too He is the one who grants spiritual life. And the life He gives through the word-infused baptismal water He sustains with the promises declared in absolution, and the body and blood distributed from the altar. Forgiveness is the fuel of the Holy Spirit through which lives are powered. Luther reminds us in the Large Catechism, “The Holy Spirit must continue to do His work in us through His Word, daily applying forgiveness until we reach that life where forgiveness will no more be needed.”
The Associated Press ran a story about a man who was struggling to start his car. After some determined attempts he lifted the bonnet and found that the motor had been stolen. It was a shocking surprise and at odds with His obvious expectations. A spiritual analogy can be drawn. People might have the appearance of a fine-looking vehicle on the outside with nothing to power them on the inside. The Holy Spirit provides the power to live the baptismal life. He is the one who leads us in the struggle against temptation and defends us from the dangers of deceit and falsehood.
Dear friends, the Holy Spirit was sent not to replace an absent Jesus, but to make His presence all the more certain. The Holy Spirit perpetuates the reversal of sin’s catastrophic damage by disseminating the benefits of the cross and resurrection. What was scattered is gathered. The lost are found. The sick are healed. The ignorant are enlightened. The abandoned are drawn near to God’s presence. The panicked are quieted by His love. The weak are given strength and the dead are raised. These are but a few realities accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit.
He is called the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the mind of Christ, the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of adoption, of truth, of liberty; the Spirit of wisdom, of understanding, of counsel, of might, of knowledge, of godliness, of the fear of God. This only begins to show how unlimited He is. Pentecost draws us further into the deep sanctuary of the Father’s love for the world in Christ even as it simultaneously makes us ambassadors of that love in a dark and unbelieving world. We can make ourselves vulnerable to our neighbour because we have absolute security in His kingdom. Amen.
+ in nomine Jesu +
Day of Pentecost
23 May 2010 Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 John 14:-67
2 Luther’s Small Catechism
3 Hebrews 1:1-2
4 See 1 Peter 4:17
5 Matthew 4:4