Date: The Day of Pentecost + 5/24/15
Text: John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15
Hail thee, festival day!
Blest day to be hallowed forever;
Day when the Holy Ghost
Shone in the world with His grace. (LSB 489)
On this festival day the Holy Church Throughout the World receives power, the power to be witnesses of Jesus, the Lord and God and King of the universe. It happened in a dramatic way on that fiftieth day after the Lord’s resurrection. The first disciples needed miraculous outward signs and days of peace in order for them to understand the meaning of Jesus’ final words to them, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20), and, “You will receive power…and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).
Some, therefore, call this day the birthday of the Church. And in a certain sense that is appropriate. But I think it was our own Martin Luther who reminded us that “the Church” has always been ever since God created Man in His own image, for “the Church” is people who live in the fellowship and love of God.
It’s certainly appropriate that we hear of the strange story of the valley of dry bones from Ezekiel. It was a vision demonstrating how God gives life. The Holy Spirit cooperated in the original creation and in your creation, too! Then there were the strange sights and sounds of the Day of Pentecost: the sound like a mighty rushing wind, tongues as of fire on each of the disciples, the speaking in the different languages to the people gathered for that day in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven. Pretty spectacular readings for today! But for the Gospel of the day we go back to where we have spent so many days in the Easter season, back to that Thursday night of Holy Week. We hear again from St. John in his account of everything Jesus said and did on that night when He was betrayed. We noticed a certain urgency in our Lord’s voice. “I still have 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” (John 16:12-13).
So we will be wrong, we will miss the boat if all we talk about today is the third Person of the Holy Trinity, the paraclete, the helper, the counselor and guide, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit never draws attention to Himself. He always draws attention to Jesus, the Son of God.
What other “many things” did Jesus have in mind that we would not learn until the days of the Promised Spirit Guide? Well, think first of what we have learned in the catechism. From Jesus we have already learned the value of the Ten Commandments. The Creed recalls the doctrine of the Trinity, Creation, Redemption, Salvation. Jesus taught us the Lord’s Prayer, commanded us to “do this,” namely, the Holy Communion of His body and blood and commanded us to make disciples by means of Holy Baptism and teaching. But what more is there that is taught us by the Spirit of Christ?
Think of the various ecumenical counsels of the early church called to correct false teaching, and then the Lutheran Confessions addressing misunderstandings first of Rome but then also of the so-called radical reformers and even disagreements among our own fellowship. And why stop there? For we still have Bible classes, conferences, symposia, district and synod conventions where the Spirit guides how to apply the truth of the gospel to seemingly never-ending new events, challenges, tragedies, and conditions of men and society. And it is to happen also personally in you! The Word of God doesn’t change but our experiences in life do. It is there, throughout your life of faith, that the Holy Spirit guides you into all truth, more truth of which maybe you were formerly aware. Here belong what many call “Aha!” moments; moments of awakening and enlightenment.
But the Helper guides us always by means of the Word of God pointing us always to Jesus our Savior. As we hear our Lord say in the Revelation to St. John, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20). By means of the Holy Spirit Jesus abides in us and is truly with us.
Jesus further says that the Spirit will do three things over and over again in the hearts of those who hear the gospel. “When he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” Sin is not just doing wrong things but is unbelief or denial of God. Righteousness is not just doing right things but being transformed by faith in the exalted Christ. Then there is judgment. The good news is that that means first that “the ruler of this world,” the devil, Satan has been judged and condemned and disarmed by God. But whether the final judgment will be good news or a stunning, fearsome surprise depends on whether you receive the risen, ascended and living Jesus Christ now, today or reject Him. “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6).
Jesus still has so many things to say to you. Listen. Listen to Him in His Word. Learn the proper understanding and distinction between the word of Law and the word of the Gospel so that you can properly judge whether it is the Lord’s voice you are hearing.
What an appropriate day also for the Rite of Confirmation for Moira Yee, and for all of us to rededicate ourselves to continued listening and witnessing to and for Jesus Christ, He is Lord of all.
On this Day we pray to Jesus the words of Jaroslav Vajda’s Ascension hymn:
To our lives of wanton wand’ring
Send Your Spirit, promised guide;
Through our lives of fear and failure
With Your pow’r and love abide;
Welcome us, as You were welcomed,
To an endless Eastertide.