May 20, 2018
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO
But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything and remind you of everything I told you.
In the name of + Jesus.
Once I had the opportunity to visit a charismatic church in the hill country of West Virginia. These are the churches who believe the Holy Spirit is floating around, disconnected from any definite means, whose preachers swallow the Holy Spirit, feathers and all (to borrow a phrase from Martin Luther). I recall very vividly that the preacher told us he was going to start preaching, and he wouldn’t stop until the spirit left him. And he was true to his word. The only thing is, I now question what kind of spirit it was that came upon him and left him.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is very explicit about what the Spirit will do when He comes. But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you everything and remind you of everything I told you. There are many things people attribute to the Holy Spirit—some real, some imagined—but there’s really only one thing that the Spirit does. And if it’s not this one thing, then it’s doubtful whether the spirit is of the holy variety or not. The essence of the Spirit’s work, according to Jesus, is that
The Holy Spirit Brings You the Word of Jesus
The very first public, manifest work of the Holy Spirit was precisely that. The marvels of the day were the rushing wind, the tongues of fire, and the sudden acquisition of foreign languages. But the true miracle of the day was that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was proclaimed. “In our own languages we hear them tell about God’s wonderful things,” says the crowd. The Spirit caused the Word of Jesus to be proclaimed.
If there was no Spirit, that Word would certainly never have been uttered. Just a few weeks prior to Pentecost, the disciples were afraid to be seen in public or to acknowledge that they even knew Jesus. Now that He was gone—ascended in to heaven—they had no reason whatsoever to tell his story. Their lives would have been much easier, and much more peaceful had they all returned to their old lives—James and John and Peter and Andrew to their fishing business, Matthew to collecting taxes, Thaddeus to whatever he did, and so on. They could have avoided a bunch of hardships and some pretty gruesome ends if they had given up the Gospel of Jesus. But the Holy Spirit was with them, and the Holy Spirit teaches about Jesus, and brings His words to mind. They cannot stay buried there.
So the miracle is not that they heard in their own language, but that they heard the great deeds of God. They heard of the promise of the Messiah, the fulfillment of that promise in Jesus, His death for sinners, and His resurrection in victory over death.
This is the basic message that has echoed throughout the generations of the Church. And from this message comes the comfort for which the Spirit is named. From this message comes the peace that surpasses all understanding. From this message comes justification and reconciliation with God and with neighbor. From this message come the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. From this message comes sanctification—the Holy Spirit’s work of making holy. The Holy Spirit brings the words of Jesus to mind.
The word of Jesus led to another work of the Spirit. When the people heard Peter’s sermon, they were convicted of their sins, and asked, “Fellow Jews, what should we do?” Peter answered them, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will be given the Holy Spirit. What is promised belongs to you, to your children, and to all who are far away, all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:37-39). They Holy Spirit not only causes the Word of Jesus to be proclaimed, but He also brings it to your mind by applying it personally to you.
Pentecost was a long time ago. The flames have all flickered out, the crowds have dispersed, we all speak the same language here. But the promise is not only for the crowds that day. It’s not just for a privileged few. The promise is for you, for your children, and all who are far off—not only in space, but also in time. The same promise of the Holy Spirit is for you and your children today. And the sign of that promise, the means to deliver that promise, is Holy Baptism.
So, Holy Baptism is called a washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). That is to say, the Holy Spirit is actively at work in Baptism. It cannot be just a symbolic work. The Spirit moves the waters as He did at creation, and in Holy Baptism, He makes a new creation. It’s a new life. Today we are blessed to witness the Holy Spirit at work, both in Holy Baptism and in its renewal in the rite of confirmation.
But it’s not just the kids getting wet or the folks who are making confirmation vows today who are recipients of the Holy Spirit. All Christians who have been baptized have the Holy Spirit—not in tongues of flame or in the ability to speak new languages, but in the promise of the Gospel. As the Prophet Joel prophesied long ago, “Then everyone who calls on the Lord’s name will be saved.”
The work of the Spirit is to bring to your mind the words of Jesus. He does so through the preaching of the Gospel and applies it in baptism and its remembrance. By bringing you the words of Jesus, the Spirit brings you the comfort of the forgiveness of sins, the comfort of being reconciled with God in spite of your failures. The work of the Spirit is to give you peace. And the new life He begins in you bears fruit of renewed living.
In the name of + Jesus.
Jacob W Ehrhard