O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Come, Holy Spirit
Come, Holy Spirit
Based on John 7:37-39
Preached on June 4, 2017
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In addition to the readings we just heard, I would add St. Paul’s words from Ephesians chapter 4 verse 30: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Yes – today is Pentecost. The day the Church celebrates the hot breath of Jesus. When, from the right hand of the Father, Christ breathed on His Church to give us breath – that we might proclaim the good news of His saving death and resurrection. It’s a day full of grace and gladness, a day of promises fulfilled.
Pentecost means “fifty.” Fifty days after the Passover came the harvest festival, the ingathering of the winter wheat. Fifty days after the death and resurrection of Christ by which He passed over from death to life in our humanity comes the ingathering of the first harvest as 3000 hear the Word and are baptized. For the Jews of that day, Pentecost was also a day to celebrate the giving of the Torah to Moses on Sinai with the wind and fire of God. And so on Pentecost, Jesus delivers the “new Torah” to His Israel, His Church, with the same accompanying signs of wind and fire.
“I will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire,” Jesus had promised His disciples. And here is the fulfillment of that promise. The sound of rushing wind and what looked like tongues of fire resting upon each of the believers who were gathered together.
Did you catch that? They were already gathered together. The Church. 120 faithful together in one place. Disciples, the twelve apostles, Mary. We’re reminded on the Day of Pentecost that corporate worship is the only kind of worship there is. Individuals may have “devotions” and prayers, please do, but only the gathered congregation can worship. Jesus promised His presence to a congregation as small as two or three - gathered in His name. Jesus appeared to His gathered disciples and not to Thomas who was off by himself. So be warned. The Scriptures say nothing about lone wolf believers – only those gathered by the Spirit as the living stones in His spiritual temple, priests in a priest-hood, members of a house-hold, parts of a body. The individualism of our day is a heresy that fights against the gathering work of the Holy Spirit. Christians gather together.
But this – Pentecost - this is the grand opening! The beginning of the time of the church, the day when the doors are opened to the world and the world hears for the first time the great good news of forgiveness, life, and salvation in the name of Jesus. It is the first day of the last days when God would pour out His Spirit and God’s priestly people would proclaim Christ and bring people to the washing of rebirth and renewal in the water of Baptism. It was a unique day with heavenly wind and Gospel fire that did not consume and the apostles preaching in languages and dialects they did not know. The ancient curse of Babel that divided humanity was partially lifted – yes, the different languages remained - but scattered people were united through one Baptism into one Lord – Jesus Christ.
The wind and fire and tongues were one time, for the grand opening celebration. The tongues popped up once or twice more in Acts, but never again wind and fire. What remained was apostolic teaching, Baptism, the Breaking of the Bread, and the prayers of the gathered believers. The Divine Service – Service of the Word – Service of the Sacrament. That’s how Pentecost continues and how the Holy Spirit comes to you. Not as a rushing wind with tongues of fire, but in the water of Baptism, Word preached in your ear, bread broken in your mouth. Your baptismal day was your Pentecost. And every Sunday is a Pentecost.
Then why don’t we see it? Why don’t we experience what those first Christians experienced? Wouldn’t that help us believe? No, it actually wouldn’t help. Seeing is not believing. Faith comes by hearing, and the work of the Holy Spirit is to preach, to broadcast Christ, literally to stick the Word of Jesus into our ears. The Spirit works hiddenly, “in, with, and under.” You won’t find Him shining the spotlight on Himself because He is shining it on Jesus. He’s the UPS deliveryman of the Trinity, taking what Jesus has from the Father and delivering it to you through the Word.
To get the proper grasp on the work of the Holy Spirit, we best hear it from the Lord Himself. John’s Gospel is a sourcebook of Holy Spirit sayings of Jesus. Together they paint the full picture of the Holy Spirit’s work:
John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, 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.
John 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 15:26 But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me.
And John 16:12 “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
When we hear these words of Christ we realize we have a problem. Our problem is that we look for the Holy Spirit where He has not promised to be, and when we do this: we grieve Him. How do we do this? How do we grieve the Holy Spirit?
We grieve the Holy Spirit when we seek Him apart from the sacramental Word. He has promised to use the Scriptures He has inspired, Baptism, the Supper, the preached Word – yet we want to find Him everywhere else. Anywhere else really. Our thoughts. Our feelings. The inner workings of our hearts. The sun on our face – the change of the wind – this sign or that sign – whatever suits our fancy – all the places He has NOT promised to be. We line up options for the devil to swing in and act like the Holy Spirit – and we are ready to believe in those things in a heartbeat – but God’s means of grace? The actual instruments He has promised to use? Word, Water, Bread and Wine. The heart of man is not interested in these things. Faith alone wants them. Yes it’s true - the Spirit is not bound to any place, but we are – we are bound to seek Him where He has promised to be found. The true Pentecostal church is the church that clings to the apostolic Word, to Baptism, and to the Holy Supper.
It grieves the Spirit when we despise the humble preaching of God’s Word and look to the church to entertain us and make us feel good about ourselves. Let’s be honest - the Spirit’s work is to convict the world on account of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Where the Spirit is at work, you aren’t going to feel good about yourself. Those who heard Peter’s Pentecost sermon were “cut to the heart” and in despair. They realized they had killed the Messiah, the Lord of glory. They cried out to Peter, “What shall we do?” Is much of what passes today as “spiritual” in our churches really the work of the Holy Spirit or is it simply the spirit of our age?
It grieves the Spirit when we fail to “test the spirits to see if they are from God” and assume that every spiritual burp and hiccup is of the Holy Spirit. When we justify our own agendas by claiming the Spirit’s inspiration, when we assume that just because the church said it or the preacher said it, it must be of the Holy Spirit, when we become so enamored with our words we no longer hear God’s Word.
It grieves the Holy Spirit when we pay lip service to our confession, when we do not do as we say, when we claim to be “poor miserable sinners” and yet do not seek the word of forgiveness or the Body and Blood of Christ whenever it is offered, when we can’t wait for our sweet hour of prayer to end so we can get back to the “more important things” of work or play.
It grieves the Holy Spirit when we see nothing more of the church than its manmade institutions, when we put our faith, hope and trust in synodical structures, church bodies, or men; when we assume that what works must necessarily be of the Holy Spirit, when we measure the Spirit’s work by how many or how much, when we equate worldly success with the Spirit’s action, when we become so preoccupied with things temporal and things visible that we lose sight of things eternal.
Finally, it grieves the Holy Spirit when Christ crucified for the justification of the sinner is not central and preached, but where Jesus is preached as an example, a guide, a guru, a coach, a model. When the Scriptures He inspired are bent to conform to our agendas and purposes - instead of transforming us by the renewing of our minds in Christ Jesus. When our worship becomes a form of entertainment conforming us to this age instead of transforming us for the age to come.
The psalmist David prayed rightly in Psalm 51: “Cast me not away from Thy presence, and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.” We must pray the same. Penitently. We have grieved the Spirit of Christ, who once blew like a mighty wind with tongues of fire. We have quenched the Spirit and He would rightly blow in another direction.
But solely for Jesus’ sake, He doesn’t. He stays with us. He will not abandon His Church who clings to His Word. You are baptized, sealed with the mark of the Spirit for the day of redemption. God does not go back on His Word. Instead, He calls us back to His Word. Continually. Daily. Through daily baptismal contrition and repentance. Killing us and making us alive. Out with the old – in with the new. He drills that Spirit-ed Word in our ears and says to us again, “Listen and live.”
Beloved, the traditional prayer for Pentecost needs to be prayed each and every day in the church and by every baptized believer. “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people and kindle in them the fire of your love.”
Come, Holy Spirit, our hearts have grown cold. Warm us with your Gospel fire.
Come, Holy Spirit, our faith has grown dim. Blow on these dimly burning wicks of faith and ignite them anew.
Come, Holy Spirit, our tongues have grown silent. Loosen them to speak the good news of Jesus in the languages and dialects of our day.
Come, Holy Spirit, our love has grown cold in these gray and latter days. Bring us your love, the love of the Father who gave His Son for us, the love of Jesus who loved us to death on a cross.
Come, Holy Spirit, quench our fevered thirst for religion, drown our sin, fill us with your baptismal grace that from our faith-filled hearts might flow streams of living water welling up to eternal life.
Come, Holy Spirit. It’s your Day, a day full of grace and gladness. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr