Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day Of Pentecost A (2011)

+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.

Text: Acts 2:1-21
Theme: The Spirit Outpoured

Dear friends in Christ Jesus,

We participate in the life of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Through the same Spirit we are adopted as sons, heirs, of the heavenly Father. Faith has no existence apart from the Spirit. Without the Spirit, sent from the Father, by and through the Son, the human soul has no connection with the divine life. This is the supreme significance of Pentecost.

Pentecost validates the sacrifice of Jesus. The final era had already been ushered in with the coming of Christ. Pentecost didn’t mark the beginning of a new era, but the intentional and unlimited presence of the triune God with His church through the Son and the Holy Spirit. The difference now is believers have access to the crucified and risen Jesus. The sacrifice of redemption is complete. Not until it was could the Holy Spirit be fully outpoured. It’s not that the Father or the Holy Spirit hadn’t previously been present or hadn’t intervened in human affairs. But at the cross reality was altered radically. The fallen creation no longer marches towards destruction without hope of rescue.

Never in the course of His ministry did Jesus claim to be a Maverick or lone-ranger. He was labeled as a heretic, a madman, and a tragic hero. He was finally deserted even by His closest followers. But never did He claim to be instituting His own agenda. He is the Son of God, sent from the Father and anointed by the Spirit. The sending of the Spirit we especially recognize today.

At Pentecost the Spirit’s work parallels His work at creation. In the beginning He set in order the chaotic mass of creation. He brought light and symmetry from darkness and commotion. He does the same spiritually. Only the Holy Spirit can bring order to the heart ruled by the chaos and darkness of sin. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”1 Here we have a call to repentance. What will you find when you search the deepest recesses of your heart? Selfishness? Dishonesty? Betrayal? Anger? Resentment? Apathy? Will you find there a person you loathe? Are you afraid to face the dark truth? Or do you look in and see only a well of generosity and a storehouse of good intentions? Do you see only what you want to see?

Dear friends, only the Holy Spirit can allow you to see with the eyes of faith more than what’s within you or what you can grasp outwardly with your senses. The Holy Spirit brings us past a barrier we could never cross. With Luther we confess, “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, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”2 “Holy Scriptures ascribe conversion, faith in Christ, regeneration, renewal, and everything that belongs to its real beginning and completion in no way to the human powers of the natural free will, be it entirely, or one-half or the least and tiniest part, but altogether and alone to the divine operation and the Holy Spirit.”3

Faith is not a matter of organizing your spiritual powers or concentrating your spiritual energy on God’s commands. It doesn’t consist of simply maintaining religious connections in your life. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit. Faith, while not denying the value of human wisdom in earthly affairs, completely rejects human wisdom as of being any value for one’s eternal status before God. It seems like a win-win situation: Christians get to benefit from philosophy in their earthly affairs while benefitting from faith in spiritual things. But this is hardly the case. You see, worldly wisdom is ALWAYS trying to usurp the jurisdiction of faith. The two do not live compatibly side-by-side. Human nature cannot help but do this because it wants to play the role of God. Reason and intellect can become the greatest barriers to salvation.

But the Holy Spirit doesn’t take orders. He is not beholden to human or angelic power. He concedes to no persuasion that we might possess. We might note the example of the traveling evangelist of yesteryear who always put on a grand finale at his revival meetings. When he was to preach at a church, he would secretly hire a small boy to sit in the ceiling rafters with a dove in a cage. Toward the end of his sermon, the preacher would shout for the Holy Spirit to come down, and the boy in the rafters would dutifully release the dove. At one revival meeting, however, nothing happened when the preacher called for the Holy Spirit to descend. He again raised his arms and exclaimed: "Come down, Holy Spirit!" Still no sign of the dove. The preacher then heard the nervous voice of the small boy call down from the rafters: "Sir, a yellow cat just ate the Holy Spirit. Shall I throw down the yellow cat?" Do not worry; no one from the balcony will throw down a yellow cat. Nor will we attempt to dramatize the Holy Spirit in that way.

Sometimes the Bible describes conversion also by its results or fruits. The person converted by the Holy Spirit turns from the former way of life. He or she seeks to do the will of God. Believers seek a life of love and service following God’s commands. The pursuit of a godly life is properly called sanctification but often the initial “turning” is included in the biblical picture. Conversion, properly defined, is only the Holy Spirit’s doing as He works through the gospel. Just remember that the living of the “post-conversion” life, the baptismal life, is always a work in progress and never perfect or complete in this life. Think of the woman who studied the New Testament thoroughly to investigate the claims of Christianity. Several months later she was baptized. Immediately following the baptism she said enthusiastically, "I know the Holy Spirit must have descended on me. I'm glad I've finally got religion. I can see things differently now. Like that uncle of mine whom I hated passionately. Once I vowed I would never go to his funeral. But now I'll be happy to go to his funeral anytime."

No, you can never be certain of your own motives. But you can always be certain of Christ’s intentions. He has washed you with baptismal water. He feeds you with heavenly manna. He promises you the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul describes the work of the Spirit in this way, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”4

Why do Christians, who must have the Spirit from the time of baptism to be believers in the first place, still pray that they are given the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is not a possession we can keep locked away in a safe place. He abides in the hearts of believers, but not as a motionless resident. Faith is the dynamic of a relationship and like all proper relationships the one is not strictly possessed by the other. The Spirit communicates the blessings of Christ to us and through them strengthens our faith. We have the supreme comfort of Jesus’ words, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth.”5 He has kept this promise. Amen.

+ in nomine Jesu +

Day of Pentecost
12th June, 2011
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt

1 Jeremiah 17:9 2 Luther’s Small Catechism
3 Solid Declaration II, 25 4 Titus 3:5-7
5 John 14:1617