O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
When God breathes...
"When God breathes... "
Based on John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Preached on Pentecost - May 27, 2012
Click on the Play button
to listen to the Sermon.
Fellow baptized saints, do you like breathing? I can see some heads nodding. Some a little more forceful than others. I guess that's a good thing. What a question eh? If you ever want to get a group of people to find common ground, that's where you start. Do you like breathing?
Yeah, I guess, Yeah, I guess I like breathing. Yeah, I agree, breathing is good. I still haven't met someone who doesn't like it. Uh uh, don't like it. Never did. Never will.
Nope, breathing can never be overrated. Not enough good things can be said about breathing. No one has ever wasted their breath when speaking well of breathing.
But enough talking about it, let's do it. Everyone take a deep breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Feels good, doesn't it? Getting that fresh oxygen down to the bottom of your lungs, and releasing all that carbon dioxide. The stress, the tension and all sorts of other things seem to go out with it. Makes you feel like you're alive.
Today, we are going to do a lot of breathing. I heard some sighs over here. We are going to look at how this act of breathing might be compared to the way the Holy Spirit works. We hear very little about this Third person of the Trinity, but on Pentecost we get this Gospel reading in which Jesus teaches us all about how the Holy Spirit is involved in our salvation. Christ is going to teach us about what the Spirit of God does in our lives, and breathing is an excellent illustration to help us understand.
Inhale - exhale - Everyone take another deep breath. Did you know the Greek word for Spirit is the same word for breath? The Greek word is pneuma. It means spirit or breath. God the Holy Spirit is like the breath of God. You may even recall after His resurrection, Jesus breathed on His disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." Breathing and Spirit always seem to go hand in hand in the Scriptures.
Now in our Gospel reading this morning, Jesus promised to send Him. He said, "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me." Jesus promised that "He", the Spirit of truth, would come and bear witness about Him. He explained further how this breathing would take place. How the inhale and exhale of this Spirit would bear witness about all that Christ had accomplished here on earth. He said, "I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment." These are the things that Christ accomplished in His earthly ministry, the things the Holy Spirit now convicts the world of.
In our illustration, it is like whenever the Spirit inhales, He convicts the world of sin. He draws us to look upon Christ and see how far we fall short, how faithless we really are. Yet, whenever He exhales, He convicts the world of righteousness. He breathes faith into our hearts so that we see Christ as our redeemer, so that we know His forgiveness is spoken to us to comfort us. Inhale - exhale.
Now most of us only like to hear about the exhale part, when the Spirit convicts us that we have Christ's righteousness, but in order to get to that work, He must first convict us of our sin. We need to understand how deeply we have offended God, in order to value His mercy. But who understands this? What is sin, and how great an evil is it anyway? This is why Christ sent the Holy Spirit, for only the Spirit can give us a full understanding of sin. Only the Spirit makes us realize we are guilty before God, that His wrath is justly upon us. For with God, sin is not simply actions that go against His Law, like lying to your parents, but it also includes the root of the sin, the inner darkness of the mind, the doubts concerning the will of God, the turning away of the human will from God and the stubbornness of the heart against the law of God. The greatest evils are ignoring and despising the Son of God, as Christ says, "The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, because they do not believe in me."
God is not trying to make us look good on the outside, He is trying to restore His rightful place on the inside. The greatest evils take place within you, against God who belongs there, but is constantly being pushed out. The Holy Spirit inhales within you, and suddenly you realize all of this. His breath is being drawn out of you, and it causes you to gasp. You can almost feel the breath being taken from you. Some have called this the thunderbolt of God, or the hammer of God. This is not fake, or acted out, but true affliction of the heart, suffering and the pain of death. It is the bitter realization that you are under God's wrath and you should be. Here a person must listen to a judgment such as this: "You are all of no account - whether you appear publicly to be sinners or saints. You must all become something different from what you are now and act in a different way, no matter who you are now and what you do. You may be as great, wise, powerful and holy as you could want, but here no one is righteous." The Holy Spirit will expose to shame before all, with the hope of bringing the world to its senses and to repentance. This deep inhale of the Holy Spirit is so you may plea for His exhale, for the Gospel is only for those who have felt the terror of the law and are fainthearted.
Everyone holding your breathe, let it out. Exhale. For this is what the Holy Spirit really wants to do for you. He wants to breath faith within you, fill you with the righteousness of Christ, bring you all of the benefits of His sacrificial death on the cross - the forgiveness, the life, the peace with God. He wants you to breathe deep of the fresh air of the Gospel, to draw in all that Christ freely offers. And this exhale of His is something you know quite well.
You may be familiar that in order to speak words you need to have some breath in you to exhale. Words and an exhaling breath work together. They always go hand in hand. Christ said the same thing in our text, "The Holy Spirit will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you." The Word of the Gospel rides on the breath of the Spirit. This life-giving exhale is what carries the Gospel to your ear. You hear God say, "I forgive you of everything," and it is the Holy Spirit that is moving within those words. He is bringing real forgiveness to you in them. All true preaching is God breathed.
Or how about these words, which are so appropriate on Confirmation Sunday, "I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." When a baby is born, there is that delicate moment that lasts from when they come out of their mother, to when they take their first breath. The first breath of new life in Holy Baptism is the exhale of the Holy Spirit who breathes life into your newborn nostrils. He enters into you and promises never to leave. He becomes your breath, that you may have the life that is in God. That your freshly filled spiritual lungs may inhale and exhale deeply all of the truth that the Spirit brings in the Word of God.
For that is why He comes into you, not so that you may find your own strength to live the way God desires, but so that He may become your strength, your breath, your life. He wants to breathe through you. To inhale and exhale in the lives of those around you. To breathe the Spirit into them also.
This is the comfort that our heavenly Father gives to His confirmed children. He promises that they have received His Spirit in Baptism, who will guide them into a deeper understanding of His Word, starting with confirmation and continuing through their whole life, and into eternity.
Well, it seems like breathing is something we are going to be doing for a long long time. Not a lot of disappointment here. The Holy Spirit is always with us in our baptism, inhaling and exhaling, causing us to gasp, and causing us to sigh, but in all things He is our breath. Therefore, for our confirmand, and for all the baptized saints of God, let us pray that He would never take His breath from us, but breathe in us the Word of God which is our life.
In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr