Sermon for the Day of Pentecost, May 20, 2018
Luther Memorial Chapel, Shorewood, WI
Rev. Michael Larson
Today is 50 days since we celebrated the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ – on Easter. That Jesus is truly raised from the dead. Jesus death upon the cross paid the price for sins. Being sinless and righteous it was impossible for the grave to hold him. The father raised him up. He showed himself alive to the disciples absolving, showing himself to hundreds, announcing his victory over sin, death, and the power of the grave – a victory that belongs to us all by faith.
Ten days ago we gave attention his ascension by which we confess his position of authority from the Father to reign over all things for the sake of his church. That in ascending to the right hand of the Father, he lives and reigns with authority and power.
Now, on this Day of Pentecost we celebrate how that victory, his grace and mercy come to us. We give thanks for this day– a day in which the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostles in order that the Gospel might be proclaimed in all the earth. Today our paraments are bathed in the color red signifying the tongues of fire on Pentecost and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Red also reminds us of the blood of Christ – a blood shed for us poor sinners.
Today we confess the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified. Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity, who proceeds from the Father and the Son to give life to the world. His work – the vocation of the Holy Spirit is to proclaim Christ – to bring Him to us and to draw us into Him. The Holy Spirit is active in the world through the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments to bring sinners to faith in Christ and to sustain them in the life of faith.
Sometimes, Lutherans are falsely accused of neglecting the Holy Spirit or not speaking enough about the Holy Spirit. However, this betrays their own misunderstanding of the Holy Spirit’s work. Because the Holy Spirit is not a self-promoter. He’s not about Himself because he’ll all about Christ. This morning Jesus says, “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” The Holy Spirit’s calling is a teaching ministry. A ministry of love that takes what belongs to Christ and brings it all to you. His righteousness, his innocence, and his blessedness. Last week we heard Jesus so plainly teach that the Holy Spirit will take what is mine, what is Christ’s, and declare it all to you!
The Holy Spirit does not draw attention to Himself. He is all about Jesus. That you would be brought from the death of unbelief to the life of faith in Christ. That you would believe that Christ has won for you forgiveness of sins – and that God no longer holds those sins against you.
What the Holy Spirit does through the Word and sacraments of Christ makes you holy. What you cannot do yourself, the Holy Spirit does for you. He sanctifies you, as you are drawn into the life of the Holy Trinity. You participate in this communion of love with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and live godly lives here in time and there in eternity.
To be filled with the Holy Spirit is to confess Christ. To say that you believe in Him. That he was born for you, died for you, and rose for the likes of you. To be filled with the Holy Spirt also involves acknowledging your deep sinfulness, saying Lord I believe, but help my unbelief. I am plagued with sin, I am tempted, at times brought to the brink of despair. Even though you are afflicted and carry around sinful flesh: Be comforted, for if you were not troubled, if you did not occasionally suffer, a deep crisis of faith, what need would you have for the Holy Spirit, for the helper, at all.
God in Christ has had mercy on you. The great joy of being a Lutheran springs from the sobering reality we confess about our spiritual condition, apart from the office and work of the Holy Spirit. We don’t say “I’m a strong Christian.” We don’t say, “look at me, just look how strong my faith is.” No, our confession of belief, our creed, if you will, actually begins with a negative statement. And it’s absolutely central to getting to the truth of who God is and who we are. We say, I believe, credo, that I cannot. I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him.
That’s the reality. That’s the truth. And if that was the end, we’d be in trouble. But thanks be to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit…the catechism continues…but, the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the truth faith.
In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.
Who is calling? Who is enlightening? Who is sanctifying and keeping, and forgiving? Who is raising the dead and giving eternal life? Who is doing all those verbs. It’s not you. It’s not me. It’s the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit among us.
Today on Pentecost as you reflect on the readings. Do marvel at this miraculous event – a mighty rushing wind from heaven in the upper room! Divided tongues as of fire! Marvel at those apostles filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in languages that every nation in the world can understand. Simple amazing!
But don’t miss the ordinariness of it. A congregation gathered from many different walks of life. Here they are 9am on a Sunday morning. Peter stands up preaches a sermon from the Scriptures with Christ at the center. The congregation acknowledges their sin, and their need for a Savior. They repent. They are baptized. Even the little children confess Jesus. They devote themselves to the breaking of the bread, the Lord’s Supper. They pray, they give sacrificially. They grow in faith toward God. They live in love toward one another.
I hope you see it. Sure, the signs on that first Pentecost Sunday are dazzling, but consider the Spirit’s work among you. Just look at all of you here today, different races and faces and languages from very different backgrounds. The Scriptures are read and preached with Christ at the center. The Word of God, again calling you to repentance and faith. The joy of Pentecost continues this day. Children are baptized and confess Jesus. Marriages are strengthened and saved. Sinners are comforted from by the word of the Gospel.
Even this morning, our confirmands will stand before this congregation, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, will confess their faith - that they would rather die than fall away from the Christian faith. Miracles! Bread and wine will be declared to be the body and blood of Christ.
You are the heirs of Pentecost. The miracle of creating and sustaining faith continues. The same Spirit who hovered over the waters at the dawn of creation, who descended upon you in your baptism, remains and abides with you. Marvel also at the Spirit’s work among us.
Above all, Pentecost is a miracle of Words. Words that reverse the curse of the tower of Babel – words that unite us in the bonds of Christian fellowship and love. Words that unite us with God, and each in love, toward one another.
Marvel at the miracle of Words the Holy Spirit brings from the mouth of Jesus: words like, “your sins are forgiven.” Words like “drink of it, all of you, this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Words like “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” Words like “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” Words, like “behold, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Prayer of the Church
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
For all baptized believers, that they would be given ears to hear and an eagerness to learn all that the Holy Spirit teaches them about their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the salvation they have through Him, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For spiritual renewal in our congregation, district, Synod and the whole Church on earth, that by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, we would long to keep Christ’s Word, dwell in His peace, sing God’s praises and love our neighbors, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who serve in Christ’s Church, that all pastors may faithfully preach Law and Gospel, all missionaries be fruitful in their labors, and all church workers be faithful in their service, so that all who call on the name of the Lord may be saved, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the saints at History Trinity in downtown Milwaukee, that God would comfort them amid loss and sadness from a devastating church fire. That their hearts would neither be troubled nor afraid, knowing that nothing can separate them from the love God has for them in Christ. Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For Ilsa, Kayle, Olivia, Ruby, Elsie, Fredrik, Ezra, and George. That these catechumens would remain life-long disciples of the Word of God. Bless their parents who instruct in the Christian home, and for all present this morning – that they would come in faithful reverence and awe to the Lord’s Table, recognizing how awesome God is from His sanctuary in giving them the very body and blood of their Savior to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of their sins and the strengthening of their faith, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For our University Students and professors completing their academic year. That they would employ those gifts of God entrusted to their care to glorify God – in theology, art, and sciences, and to be of service to their neighbors in love, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who have gone before us with the sign of peace and who now rest from their labors, that we may follow them, as they followed Christ, and be found faithful by those who come after us, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, all glory, honor and worship is Yours, Almighty Father, with the Holy Spirit, both now and forevermore. Amen.